Monday, February 9, 2009

BROWNIES! Oh yum...

So I have been following Kimi Harris at The Nourishing Gourment for some time now--I was searching for more resources based on Nourishing Traditions principles and stumbled upon her wonderful blog! I thought this would be the perfect recipe for her Nourishing Chocolate Carnival, and maybe a way to help get my blog started. I really want to develop this blog and show what I stand for in the next few months, but school and outdoor track might make it a bit tough to find time. Nevertheless, I really hope to keep posting my thoughts on nutrition, traditional diets, and more specifically, performance nutrition for endurance athletes. Hopefully time will allow me to really get started sometime!

I will admit that I have a sweet tooth, but, I don't like things that are really sweet, like too sweet. I like subtle sweetness...just enough to enhance other flavors. I hate it when all you can taste is sugary sweetness. If I wanted to just taste sugar, I suppose I would eat it by itself (I can't bear the thought of this)! There is a reason that we cook by combining flavors and targeting different tastes. Take, for example, the use of salt in baking--it plays up the sweeter flavors and creates a depth of flavor on the tongue. Anyway, where I am going with this is to say that dark chocolate is where its at--this "milk" stuff is almost fake to me, with all of its sugar. As far as just to nibble on, I can do up to about 70% or so (after that it gets quite bitter, I think), and I think the 60-70% range is about perfect...the flavor is so deep and rich and complex. I always eat it really slowly to enjoy the wonderful chocolatey mouth is watering just thinking about it. The best part about chocolate that is truly dark is the fact that it actually is quite good for the body, with all those antioxidants and such--not such a guilty pleasure after all, perhaps.

This brownie recipe is certainly the closest I have seen to one that is truly nourishing. The recipe calls for a bit of nutritious fat, either coconut oil or butter, and a few wonderful eggs to hold everything together. Some good quality dark chocolate is necessary, to achieve that wonderful deep brownie flavor, which a bit of vanilla extract enhances. There is no wheat flour, just a small amount of almond and brown rice flours (which could probably be soaked before use, but I have not tried this out), and the sweetener of choice is rapadura (completely unrefined cane juice). I wanted to note that I like to grind my rapadura in a coffee mill before I use it--it comes as little beads of brown-colored sweetness--I find that it is easier to mix it with the other ingredients this way, and is more evenly distributed throughout your goodies.

These brownies are so wonderful and yummy--they would make the perfect Valentine's day treat for your sweetie! They will never know the difference between these and conventional white flour brownies...except maybe that these will taste absolutely much more delectable, and will do the body much more good!
Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies
I love mocha flavored things, so I was thinking that a bit of coffee might be a good addition to these--it would deepen the chocolate flavor even more. You could add whatever you wanted, though, like perhaps a swirl of cream cheese, or dollops of nut butter...the possibilities are endless

5 ounces quality dark chocolate (really dark, like more than 70%)
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
2 pastured eggs
3/4-1 cup rapadura, ground
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, optional (I use Ghiradelli 60% chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with foil.

Place the dark chocolate and butter in a meduim sized bowl, and set over a pan of simmering water on the stove (make a double boiler). Stir together until melted. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs on medium high till frothy. Add the rapadura and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the melted chocolate mixture into the egg-sugar mixture a little at a time. When all of the chocolate has been added, beat the mixture for about a minute. The chocolate will look smooth and glossy--gorgeous!

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: almond meal, rice flour, fine sea salt and baking soda; whisk together. Add the dry flour mix into the chocolate mixture in two parts and then beat the mixture for about a minute. Add the vanilla and beat a bit more to incorporate it. If you are adding nuts, stir in the nuts by hand and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan Shake the pan a little bit to even out the batter. If you decide to use them, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the batter and press them in slightly. These guys are ready for the oven!
Bake in the center of a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies are set. Please, please do bot overcook these--it is way better to have brownies that are too gooey than brownies that are dry!
Cool on a wire rack; and remove the brownies from the pan by gripping the foil edges. Chill before cutting, if you can stand it. Makes 9-12 servings, and these are so fabulous--no one will ever know that they are gluten-free, or quite nourishing, for that matter!

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Twist on Pancakes

So if you have never heard of coconut flour, it is some pretty great stuff. Technically it is just dried coconut meat that has been ground super fine so that it can be used like flour. The thing is, it is packed with nutrition--hardly empty calories. First of all, it is obviously gluten-free, and is not a grain, so it has those things going for it. In addition, coconut flour has a ridiculous amount of fiber and is low in carbs, making it a great weight-loss food if that's what you are after. There are no phytates in coconut, so there is no need to soak the flour overnight, and it is naturally easy to digest. There is a good amount of protein as well, not to mention all of the other good stuff that comes with eating coconut (so good for you). Of course, it does not work to just use this stuff like you would any other flour--there is not gluten, as I have mentioned, so whatever you make would just fall apart. Recipes using coconut flour usually call for quite a few eggs, as a result, but this just adds to the nutrition, so it works out well!

These pancakes are quite wonderful--and vastly more nutritious than any Bisquick mix! The texture is very fluffy, but not the same "fluffy" as wheat flour pancakes. Nevertheless, I think they are spectacular. When I am on my own, I like to make a big batch and then put the leftovers in a plastic bag in the fridge. They make great snacks spread with butter and honey or topped with almond butter and bananas. The leftovers also lend themselves nicely to a quick breakfast--just like fresh, from the toaster! I love them with plenty of butter and berries, sweetened with a bit of honey or real, pure maple syrup. Oh, and yogurt or kefir also goes wonderfully on top..yum!

Coconut Flour Pancakes

The recipe yield is supposed to be six pancakes, but I always end up with more--I guess I don't make them big enough. They are easier to flip if they are smaller, though, just so you know! I imagine you could add berries or nuts, or what ever you would like, really, and they would still turn out splendidly. Oh, and isn't it neat how the recipe only uses 3 tablespoons of the flour? It still amazes me every time!

3 eggs
3 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted
3 tbsp milk (coconut, almond...whatever you fancy)
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Whisk eggs, butter, milk, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add baking powder, coconut flour, and optional cinnamon, and whisk until well mixed.

Fry in butter or coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Serve with lots of butter and honey, real maple syrup, or tangy yogurt. Enjoy your healthy pancakes!

Fabulous Banana Bread...finally!

So for my first post on this blog of mine, I have decided to share my recipe (yes, my recipe--a big deal, because I don't think I have ever actually written a recipe before) for fabulous gluten-free banana bread. Now banana bread is one of my very favorite baked goods, and even before going gluten-free, it seemed like I was constantly searching for a better recipe...every one I tried seemed to have too much of one thing, or be missing something else. To me, the perfect banana bread is exceptionally moist and dense, flecked with walnuts, and sublty tasting of sweet bananas and spicy cinnamon. Oh yum--that sounds so wonderful, especially topped with a smear of deep yellow butter! Anyway, I had begun to think that I would never find a recipe that lived up to my dream loaf, and after discovering that I could no longer eat wheat, I thought I would surely need to simply lower my standards if I was ever to eat my beloved treat again.

I tried some other recipes, only to be sorely disappointed each time...and each time my hopes sinking lower and lower. It was especially difficult to find a recipe because I did not have teff, millet, sweet rice, quinoa, or fava bean flour in my cupboard--I am a bit more simple than that. One thing that I have an issue with, concerning gluten-free baking, is that most of the recipes out there call for seven different kinds of flour, plus some kind of starch--and don't forget the xanthan gum! I am not okay with having that many different kinds of flour taking up space in my cupboard--nor do I have the money to buy them all! As a result, my goal, in the next year or so, is to experiment with and discover a few different flours (like maybe four or so) and base my recipes on those only. I want these flours to be nutritious, as well as versalite, so that I can utilize them in many different ways. Ideally, they would lend themselves to different properties and uses, and be great for mixing together as well. I have some ideas...and I used some of my possibilities in this recipe for my banana bread.

This recipe is actually quite simple...because, like I said, I enjoy simple. It is also very nutritious, with a great deal of healthy fat and protein from the almond flour, and lots of vitamins and minerals from the brown rice and buckwheat flours. The chia seeds and the walnuts (both optional) add omega-3's and fiber, as well as a little crunch, and there are even nutrients in the honey that sweetens the bread. One of my favorite parts, though, is the cinnamon swirl that decorates each slice. A bit of organic cane sugar is mixed with cinnamon and swirled into the middle of the loaf. I actually got this idea from watching a video of Erin Mckenna of Babycakes NYC bakery. She used the swirl in a teacake reciped that she made, and I thought it would be wonderful in banana bread as well. Some of the cinnamon-sugar mixture is reserved and sprinkled over the top of the bread as well, which creates a decadent, crispy crust on top--a sweet little crunch! This recipe is truly wonderful--probably better than any I have ever had with wheat, and I mean that! I hope you enjoy, and can satisfy your cravings for a dreamy loaf of banana goodness.

Cinnamon-Swirl Banana Bread

I am sure that any nut would go great in this recipe, if you didn't want to use almonds. Dark chocolate chips or raisins would be fabulous as well. Also, the flour proportions can be changed--experiment if you like, and let us know how it turns out!

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup honey (or sweetened to your taste)
2 eggs
3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup almond flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
1/4 cup almond milk, or other milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter with honey in a large bowl. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and bananas. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, and chia seeds. Combine wet and dry ingredients, add milk and walnuts, and stir until well combined. Pour into well-buttered 9x5-inch loaf pan. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup organic cane sugar with 1 heaping tsp cinnamon. Reserve 1/4 of mixture and use the remaining to make a ribbon of cinnamon-sugar down the center of the batter in the pan. Take a spoon and swirl the cinnamon into the bread however you would like, so that it is beneath the surface. Finally, take the reserved cinnamon-sugar and sprinkle it over the entire batter (this is what will create that wonderfully sweet crust on the top). Bake the bread for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes--just make sure to check it with a wooden skewer to make sure it is done. Cool in the pan a bit, if you can stand it, and then enjoy!

mmmm...look at that crust--oh yum!