Coconutmeal: A New Take on Oatmeal

November 7, 2012 § 4 Comments

Fall is nearly over; the leaves have hit the ground, filling the air with the saccharine scent of decomposition. Long walks in the ginseng-scented woods yield hens and chickens hiding on rotting trees, dilapidated bikes and a flush that rouges my cheeks. Against the setting sun the tips of the barren trees look like black lace. Once the sun is gone, the air is silent and chilling. I was lucky enough to catch some glimpses of Rhode Island’s color before it was wiped away by the brazen winds of hurricane Sandy.

The lack of warmth and daylight at this time of the year instigates (for me at least) a craving for craze sweets, breads and hearty roasts (all things I hardly ever eat). However, now more than ever it’s imperative to really dig in and feed our body things that will nourish it.

With the length of the days rapidly decreasing we can all feel winter’s threat; naturally most of us go into hibernation mode. Comfort food keeps us warm, but unfortunately many of the dishes we’ve come to know as our favorites are not exactly the best fuel for keeping us healthy. As I’m sure you know (and have read on every health-related website), whole foods (aka foods with only one ingredient in the ingredient list) are the fuel our body needs and craves. When we’re hungry, tired and stressed (common feelings for this time of the year, are they not?) we tend to make food choices that don’t benefit us. Then we’re forced to deal with the consequences of our poor food choices when we feel lethargic or get sick. Everything we put in our bodies matters, yes, every little thing.

I said all of that to say this; coconut flour is not only satiating with its high fiber, protein and fat content, but is also delicious. Coconut is indulgent and nourishing at its core and this flour proves it. Coconut flour can be used to make cookies, cakes, waffles, pancakes, tarts, “oat”meal and may be a substitute for flour when thickening sauces. But, because coconut flour holds water so well, there are some adjustments that need to be made. When using 100% coconut flour, for every one cup used, 4 eggs should be added to the recipe. By the way, coconut flour is gluten-free so consider experimenting with it if you’re cooking for someone with an intolerance.

This recipe can be made many ways, my favorite is just the fragrant coconut flour, a pinch of stevia and some hot water, but adding coconut milk (cream) an egg and vanilla extract makes for a heavier, more custard-like dish. Below I’ll provide both recipes. Experiment and enjoy!

Coconut Flour “Oat”meal

My Favorite way:
(makes one hearty vegan, gluten-free serving)

1/4 cup raw, organic coconut flour, 1 tsp organic powdered stevia, about 1 cup of hot water and fruit, nuts and nut butters for topping with cinnamon, cardamom and/or cacao powder for spicing

In a bowl mix coconut flour and stevia. Add hot water 1/2 cup at a time, mixing as you add the water. The coconut flour requires a lot of water, but to avoid making your “oat”meal too watery taste it as you go. I like mine on the drier, less soupy side.

Traditional way:
(makes one hearty gluten-free serving)

1/4 cup coconut flour, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup coconut cream or milk, 1 egg, 1 tsp stevia or other sweetener, 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract and fruit, nuts and nut butters for topping with cinnamon, cardamom and/or cacao powder for spicing

In a small sauce pan mix coconut flour, water and cream over medium heat until there are no clumps of flour. Add the egg. Immediately mix so the egg doesn’t cook. Continuously stir the mixture while you add vanilla extra, stevia and any desired spices. Top with something delicious and serve while warm.

More on Turin and Terra Madre to come. But for now, enjoy your “oat”meal.

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Sprouted Buckwheat & Date Granola

August 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

Crunchy granola. Yes, crunchy granola is right and in more ways than the one mind-blowing, muscle powering, tongue tantalizing way I’m about to share with you. This recipe basically defines crunchy granola in the flowing floral skirts, worn sliver jewlery, kombuch brewing, feathers and fern trees, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, mung bean sprouting, beeswax boiling, make love not war, downward-facing dog kind of way. This buckwheat granola was my best friend during my mountain and rock climbing excursion through New Hampshire.

While we are on the topic; I Googled “crunchy granola” and was so amused (maybe a bit too much) by the Urban Dictionary definition of “crunchy granola bar” that I felt it completely necessary to share so you can use it to spice up your everyday vernacular.

Crunch Granola Bar: a noun used to reference a very attractive “granola”  guy. They are most often found in states like Colorado, generally in the mountains, at co-ops, or canvassing for the Green Party. A Crunchy Granola Bar is a vegetarian, if not a vegan, and usually buys from local organic farmers.
Example- Beth: “Have you met Kasey’s new boyfriend Brandon?”
Heidi: “Oh that Crunchy Granola Bar? I heard he just moved here from Denver.”

Hiking and rock climbing with two crunchy granola bars is not easy, so I made a huge batch of raw sprouted, vegan (if you omit the raw local honey) buckwheat granola and figured it would be the best fuel (screw over-processed power bars) to power my butt up the mountain as fast as my boyfriend and his friend. And I must say, it worked very well. Not only did we make it up Mount Washington, but we completed the ascent, which usually takes about 4 hours, in only 2 hours and 40 minutes (including our granola eating breaks). I was impressed.

Since the “crunchy granola bars” I was hanging with both spend most of the year in the mountains of Arizona and Colorado, they are into rock climbing. Because Rumney, NH has some good spots to climb, we spent our last day there so they could remedy their climbing craving. So, for the first time I climbed outside, and have to say, it was a lot of fun – but again, without my sprouted granola I probably would not have been able to keep up and complete all the climbs that they did!

After leading the climb so I could top rope, Shann decided try a route that was unconventional before he cleaned the route.

Between climbs I came across some pretty cool looking mushrooms but decided to stick with eating the granola. I don’t think hallucinating is smart while rock climbing but what do I know? Anyways, let’s talk about this granola. Buckwheat is a serious power food. Not only is it gluten-free, but it also, according to Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, may help to lower blood glucose levels which allow those who enjoy it to stay satiated while managing and preventing diabetes. Plus, buckwheat is high in fiber, flavonoids and minerals such as magnesium. These mirconutirents harmonize to synergistically lower LDL (low density lipoproteins aka bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (high-density lipoproteins aka healthy cholesterol). Almost as impressive as our Mt. Washington ascent, huh?

This is a pretty common edible mushroom called Hen of the Woods or Maitake which is found on or near dilapidated oak trees.

Sprouted Buckwheat & Date Granola

3 1/2 cups raw buckwheat*,  25 large Medjool dates,  1 cup water,  2 Tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil,  2 Tbsp raw honey (optional),  1 Tbsp organic vanilla extract,   1 tsp Himalayan pink salt, 2 Tbsp Ceylon Cinnamon, 2 cups whole raw nuts (almonds, pecans or cashews),  1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

*the amount will increase after sprouting because the buckwheat will hold water

Optional Additions: Flax seeds (raw or sprouted), crystallized ginger,  dried Turkish or Black Mission figs, dried bananas, seeds, cacao nibs or beans, etc.

To Sprout: Rinse the buckwheat in a sieve, then put it in a baking dish or bowl fully submerged in water. Let the buckwheat sit in the water for 1 hour. After an hour, pour the buckwheat back into the sieve and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 24-48 hours (depending on how sprouted you want them) rinsing every 12 hours. When you begin to see the “tails” you can make the granola.

Date Paste: In a blender, combine 18 dates, the water, coconut oil, honey (if using), vanilla and pink salt until they for a somewhat smooth paste. Taste and adjust adding more dates, honey or vanilla depending on your preferences.

Meanwhile, chop up the remaining dates into fourths. Mix dates, nuts, coconut and cinnamon into the sprouted buckwheat. Add the date paste making sure to scrape every last drop from the blender into the buckwheat mixture.

To “Dehydrate”: Set your oven to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly coat with coconut oil. Split the buckwheat mixture into two and evenly press it out on to the baking sheets. Dehydrate for 10 to 24 hours until the date paste is dry and the buckwheat forms sheets or clusters.

Note: My oven takes about 20 hours set on the “drying” setting, but every oven will be different depending on the setting and the heat. If you have a dehydrator, set to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit and dehydrate for 3-6 hours flipping the granola over after 1.5-3 hours.

Enjoy in yogurt, tossed into a kale salad (my favorite), with some fresh figs or berries, on a peanut butter banana, in nut milk or just straight up in big handfuls! Be careful though, this stuff is addicting…. and crunchy!

P.S. for more on sprouting check out this old post or this recipe.

 

Avocado Gelato

May 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Creamy, suave, light & decadent… I’m not sure it can get much better than this. Image

Yes. That’s exactly what you expected right?  Step aside artificially colored mint chip; never mind the mind-blowing flavor, the attractive color will be a favorite as far as aesthetics go in no time. Plus, what’s ice cream without chocolate. Come to think of it, what’s dessert without chocolate, I mean really?

To get a bit more up-close and personal

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Yum.

This recipe, with the personal addition of Oaxacan chocolate I brought home from Mexico, landed in my inbox last week as a Cinco de Mayo dish curtsey of Gourmet Magazine. The second I laid eyes on it, I knew I had to give it a shot and I’m happy to say I had some serious beginner’s luck (this was my first time churning up gelato). Unfortunately, you will need an ice cream maker for this recipe, but at this point I’m convinced the world would be a heck of a lot more peaceful if everyone had the pleasure of licking a cone of homemade ice cream (or gelato) whenever they desired.

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Avocado Gelato

2 cups of organic whole milk, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 large avocados, soft to touch, 2 Tbsp organic corn starch, 500mg tablet of vitamin C, crushed, 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla, 1/4 cup chocolate (optional)

In a small sauce pan, bring1 ¾ cups milk, ½ cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Stir consistently to prevent milk from burning. Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in ¼ cup cold milk and whisk into simmering milk. Bring the simmering milk mixture to a boil over medium heat, continuing to stir constantly. Boil for one minute. Pour the milk mixture into a metal bowl and chill down in an ice bath, or in the freezer until cool to touch. 

While cooling the milk, purée the flesh of the avocados with ¼ cup sugar and the crushed vitamin C tablet. Refrigerate the avocado purée until the milk mixture has been chilled. Mix the chilled milk mixture he avocado purée and add vanilla. Freeze in an ice-cream maker. If you choose to add anything (i.e. chocolate, macadamia nuts, coconut, etc) add at the last 5 minutes of churning.

Remember to keep all of the ingredients COLD before adding them to the ice cream machine.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Cottage Cheese Muffins

December 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

In my opinion, if you can resist a muffin, you’re not human.

 Sweet Cakes, a great little cafe in Peace Dale, makes the best muffins with the most creative flavor combinations. About two weeks ago I tried a cottage cheese blueberry muffin & it sent me back to when I was younger. One bite of the muffin whisked me into nostalgia, to the days of nagging my parents for a doughnut or muffin whenever they went into Bess Eatin’ to get a coffee. I would always order blueberry & mainly because of the crunchy sugar-baked top. It’s amazing how something as simple as a flavor can instigate such a distant memory, but in any case, it prompted me to give the cottage cheese blueberry combination a shot on my own.

Although blueberry is such a classic muffin flavor, it’s easy to get blueberry muffins wrong. Actually, it’s easy to get muffins wrong in general.  We’ve all had our share of overly dense (usually very healthy) muffins, or muffins so sweet we feel like we’ve engulfed a heavily frosted cupcake – these muffins are the perfect in between. The lemon zest is really of importance for this recipe. The citrus’s sweet acidity really lightens what would otherwise be sort of overly indulgent, creamy (think butter, milk, cottage cheese) flavors.

This recipe takes a classic from the Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser & adds a little flare. These muffins are quick, delicious & make a phenomenal addition to any family breakfast – if you can keep them around that long. Just a heads up, it’s important to really beat the butter, sugar & eggs together so the that muffins come out light & airy.

Blueberry Cottage Cheese Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour (or gluten-free flour mixture)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
8 Tbsp organic unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 3 Tbsp

1/2 cup, packed, powdered sugar
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup organic whole milk

 1/2 cup organic low fat cottage cheese*

2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 cups blueberries, or assorted berries

* I used my all time favorite Kalona SuperNatural Organic cottage cheese. This stuff is delectable, it even has a golden layer of butter-esque cream on top!

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit & butter muffin cups. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt & baking powder.
Cream the butter & granulated sugar together in a large bowl. Add the powdered sugar & 1 Tbsp of lemon zest, continue mixing until light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

When completely creamed, add half of the flour mixture, then half of the milk & continue to mix, until almost fully incorporated. Add the rest of the flour mixture, milk & the cottage cheese. Fold until almost uniform, with some clumps. Fold in the blueberries.

Fill the buttered muffin tin or cups with the batter. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp of lemon zest with the remaining 3 Tbsp of sugar.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of the muffins. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool for about 30 minutes before removing them from pan. These muffins should keep well for up to two days, but should probably be left uncovered so they don’t get too moist & sticky.

Enjoy warm, with a scoop of cottage cheese or a smothering of butter.

Simple Fig Jam

October 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

The season for figs is waning away right before my eyes, which of course sets in a slight feeling of panic. No fresh figs until next July seems kind of, I don’t know, sadistic – so I did what any other person would do; I preserved them.  Now, let me tell you, buying three dozen figs at once will earn you some soliciting stares from people you don’t know.

None the less, this jam is worth it. It’s going to be such a relief when I pop the lid off this baby in the middle of February to enjoy the closest thing there is to fresh figs  in such a dreary month. The jam is really, truly simple. It is made with a mere four ingredients, all of which you may just have on hand, besides the fresh figs (unless you have a fig tree, in which case, let’s talk). I used honey, cane sugar & a lemon, rendering this a pectin-free recipe, my favorite kind.

Let’s talk about honey for a moment. Or better yet, let’s talk about bees. Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to take part in a late honey harvest with my boyfriend’s family. If you ever get the chance to be a part of a honey harvest, I eagerly encourage you to do it.

Bees are miraculous insects. Bees maintain a symbiotic relationship with flowers as they retrieve pollen, their protein source & nectar, their energy source. As bees fly from flower to flower picking up what they need, they loose some of the pollen that they have recently retrieved. The pollen (pollen is a flower’s gamete, or sex cell) they loose lands on the pistils of the flower (also known as the reproductive organs of the flower) & pollinates it. The bees store the nectar in their stomach then bring nectar back to the nest. While the nectar is in the bee’s stomach enzymes break it into simple sugars, fructose & glucose.

Upon arrival at the nest the bee stores the inverted nectar in six-sided cells & covers it with wax. The warmth of the hive causes the water to evaporate, leaving us, or the queen bee with a saccharine syrup, we know as honey. Honey, bee pollen & royal jelly (the food of the queen bee) contain many beneficial nutrients that can do everything from bolster our immune systems to ease our allergies.  Bees not only produce honey, but they ensure biodiversity within our ecosystems. By avoiding chemical fertilizers, herbicides & pesticides we can help to keep bees thriving the way they should be.

Getting back to the jam; go now, buy your figs & while you’re out grab a jar of local honey. Local honey helps with allergies & tastes much more bold than the stuff you are probably used to.

Fig Jam

3 dozen fresh black mission figs, stemmed & quartered, 1 2/3 cups of cane sugar, 1/3 cup local honey & 1 lemon*

* From the lemon you will need all of the juice, 2 Tbsp of zest & the rest of the rid peeled & cut into 1/2 strips.

Combine the quartered figs, lemon zest, lemon juice & the sugar. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Add the honey & the slices of lemon rind. Continue cooking & stir occasionally until the mixture thickens.

This does take some patiences, but I promise, after about 30 minutes, the mixture is sure to thicken right up (if not keep the heat up and the mixture moving). When finished, pour the jam into glass containers & store in the refrigerator for months. Upon refrigeration the jam will thicken even more.

Peg’s Favorite Zucchini Bread

September 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

The humidity that hangs crippling fall’s crisp coolness might not inspire you to turn on the oven, but those few zucchinis that linger on your counter may. After harvesting a full summer’s bounty of delicata & butternut squash, I pulled the last & final zucchini from the ground before stripping the garden bare (well almost, the eggplants are still hanging in there).

This recipe is special; it’s tried & true. It was given to me by Peg, a wise friend who has seen it all. Peg is spunky, creative & extremely thoughtful- after a conversation about what to do with lots of zucchinis, she took the time to write out her entire recipe with coordinating pictures.

I’ve modified the recipe a bit, but the outcome is still the same earthy cake-bread that promises to please. Although it’s sweet, this whole wheat & quinoa based bread is truly nourishing. If coconut oil isn’t in your pantry, organic canola oil works almost as well. The crunchy topping that forms from the cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top makes this my favorite way to eat zucchini.

Peg’s Favorite Zucchini Bread

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour,  ½ cup quinoa flour,  ¾ tsp baking powder,  ½ tsp baking soda,  ½ tsp sea salt, tsp cinnamon,  2 eggs,  ¾ cup unrefined coconut oil,   2 cups zucchini, shredded,   ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup roasted cashews, chopped &   3 Tbsp cane sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit & grease a loaf pan with coconut oil. Shred the zucchini in a food processor. Mix the 1 tsp of cinnamon with cane sugar & set aside.

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt & cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a large bowl beat eggs & brown sugar until fluffy, then fold in the shredded zucchini & the nuts.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture & fold until well fully blended. Pour the mixture into the greased loaf pan & sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the middle is dry. Let it cool completely in the pan, then slice & serve.

This bread freezes wonderfully. I “butter” it with coconut oil then quickly pan fry it until the outer edges are slightly crunchy. Enjoy!

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Meringue

August 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

It could be nostalgia, but to me, meringues are freakishly magical. Picture this:

Everyone finishes dinner & you jump up quickly to fetch your chocolate tart from the counter. You scurry back to the table & plop down what looks like a blob of chocolate inside of a crunchy brown shell. Hey guys look, I made dessert. Hope you saved room! No one complains because hey, everyone would rather have some chocolate than none at all, but to be frank, your chocolate tart closely resembles those small graham cracker pudding pies from a box.

Now let me introduce you to the magic: sugar & egg whites. Again, picture this:

Everyone finishes dinner & you jump up quickly to fetch your chocolate tart from the counter. You scurry back to the table & set down what looks like a perfectly bronzed marshmallow perched upon a golden brown tart shell that is filled with a smooth chocolate ganache. Hey guys look, I made dessert. Hope you saved room! Fireworks explode & your guests rise to their feet applauding graciously.

Serving a pie, tart, or ice cream that has been crowned with a meringue is not only delicious, but it looks rather other-worldly.

Despite it’s slightly sophisticated appearance, this tart is extremely practical. All of the ingredients I used, I already had in the house. The crust is made from graham crackers, which is quick & yields great flavor if you choose a good quality cracker. Also, using graham crackers as a tart crust is an easy way to make a dessert gluten free, just go to your local health food store & request the tastiest gluten-free grahams they have.

When making the chocolate ganache, don’t panic if you do not have heavy cream, substitutions can be made. I have used half & half with butter & gotten the exact same results as the original recipe. One substitution you should not make is replacing dark chocolate with milk chocolate. Every element of this tart is sweet to begin with so the bitter dark chocolate is a welcome way to cut the saccharine flavor & add a bit of antioxidants (kidding, we are eating dessert after all).

Making the caramel does require a bit of confidence, but if you pay attention, turn up the heat & make sure to let the sugar brown, this crunchy layer adds something special to the tart.

Tart Shell

14 whole graham crackers, 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar*, 3 Tbsp melted organic butter,  1 large egg yoke, pinch coarse sea salt

*light/dark brown sugar or turbinado sugar work as well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom & sides of a 8 1/2″ round by 1 1/2″ deep fluted tart pan, spring form pan, or shallow pie dish (measurements can vary slightly just be sure to cover the pan with the crumb evenly). Process graham crackers in a food processor. Add sugar, melted butter & salt. Process until the crumbs begin to clump together. To test the crumbs, take a small handful & gently squeeze it. If they stay stuck together they are ready, if not, continue to process. Spread crumbs, pressing gently, to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Be sure to work the crumbs up the sides of the pan evenly. Bake for 10 minutes. When finished baking, let cool for 10 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache

250 grams 60-65% cocoa, dark chocolate, chopped,  1 cup of organic heavy cream*,  1 tsp vanilla alcohol-free flavoring

* If you do not have heavy cream, use 1 cup of half & half with 2 Tbsp of melted butter.

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, warm the cream for 5 minutes while mixing constantly. Once warm, add chopped chocolate & continue to mix until the texture is smooth. Add vanilla extract & mix until it is evenly distributed. Pour the ganache into the tart crust & place it directly in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until ready to top with the salted caramel.

Salted Caramel

3/4 cup of white sugar,  1 Tbsp organic butter,  pinch of coarse sea salt

In a light saute pan or skillet heat sugar until it begins to melt & brown. This will happen at about 285-295 degrees Fahrenheit (you can measure the temperature with a candy thermometer, but it is certainly not necessary). Once the melted sugar begins to give off a caramel-like fragrance add the butter & salt. Continue to heat while quickly, but gently mixing the with fork. Once browned, (working quickly) pour the salted caramel over the top of the chocolate ganache so that the ganache is almost completely covered. Refrigerate until meringue is ready. After refrigeration there may be some separation of the butter from the caramel, if so, gently blot it with a paper towel

Meringue Topping

3/4 cup of white sugar,  3 large egg whites

Preheat broiler to high. Combine sugar & eggs in a medium mixing bowl & whip using an electric mixer. Whip until medium peaks form & the mixture stiffens up. Once it is stiff, spoon the meringue onto the caramel layer starting at the center & working your way out to the edges. Leave a small border of caramel (or ganache) uncovered around the perimeter. (You may have some extra meringue leftover, it can be refrigerated for 2 days & used in various other ways) Smooth out the meringue with a cake spatula or spoon & broil until lightly bronzed. Be sure to check the meringue every 30 seconds until it browns. **Browning should not take more than 1 minute & should be done right before serving.

Devour!

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