Apple-Carrot-Pumpkin Paleo Magic Muffins

So, goodness, I rambled on a bit in that last post of mine. I’m going to try to make this post more recipe, less chat. Well, okay, a little bit of chat, but hopefully not too much.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been exploring not only the basics of Paleo cooking, but also of Paleo baking. I’ve been beyond surprised at just how delicious these treats can be! Now, I’m not new to gluten-free baking: almost all the the desserts we make where I work are vegan and gluten free, and we make them well. Oh, yes, they’re delicious, and I have often enjoyed eating them with gusto… but (dessert snob that I am) they’re still noticeably butterless and gluten-free to me. So I was completely astonished when the Paleo baked goods that I made, which are not only gluten-free but also entirely grain-free, dairy free, and sweetened with nothing other than honey and/or maple syrup, turned out so good I didn’t feel like anything was lacking.

Take, for instance, these muffins, which I made yesterday:

Paleo_magic_muffins

These beauties are made with almond and coconut flours: they get their sweetness from the fruit and a bit of honey and their moistness from eggs, coconut milk, and pumpkin puree.

I haven’t tried this yet since, you know, I only developed this recipe yesterday, but I imagine that it could easily be made vegan-friendly by substituting vegan yogurt for the eggs and maple syrup for the honey… if any of my vegan followers give that a try, let me know how it turns out!

And although the muffins may look dense, the truth is that they are some of the moistest, most tender, and well-textured muffins that I’ve had. I will definitely be making this recipe again… possibly soon! They are a great way to end any meal, or to just have as a snack along with some fruit or veggies or a handful of nuts. And the best part is, my body feels happy and nourished after I indulge!

Baking with coconut flour can be a little strange to adjust to for people who are used to the proportions of regular flour: it kinda has magical moisure-absorbing qualities. Now, this recipe only uses a small amount of coconut flour, so this fact isn’t as apparent when making these muffins, but you all will definitely see some counter-intuitive baking proportions in some of my later recipes that will use more coconut flour and less almond flour than this recipe does. Here’s a handy chart that I saw on Pinterest that illustrates the different proportions required when substituting coconut flour for all-purpose grain-based flours:

using_coconut_flourWowza, right?! That’s some difference!

These also take longer to bake than wheat-based muffins, largely due to the high proportion of moisture used to account for the coconut flour. So, although these don’t take much time in which you’re actively shredding and mixing, there will be a lot of passive time when they’re in the oven, so make sure you have a good book around, or a friend with whom you can laugh and plan a peaceful revolution.

With all of that said, this recipe is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, all the same rules of baking apply for Paleo baking as for non-Paleo baking: the best texture will result if your ingredients are at room temperature, careful measuring makes a difference, and it’s important to pay attention during the last several minutes of baking time to ensure that you don’t over-bake them.

And, with no further ado, the recipe:

Apple-Carrot-Pumpkin Paleo Magic Muffins

  • 2-1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1/3 c coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ t nutmeg (freshly grated is always preferable!)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and grated
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ c raisins
  • 1/3 c dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c dried cherries
  • 3 eggs (vegan alternative: coconut yogurt)
  • ½ c pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 c coconut milk
  • 1/3 c honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line two muffin tins with paper liners (Trust me, with Paleo baking, the little paper liners usually used for cupcakes make getting the muffins out of the pans a LOT easier. You could just grease the tins with a bit of coconut oil, but if you can easily get the liners, I suggest you do!)
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add carrot, apple, coconut and dried fruits and mix gently, but well.
  4. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
  5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and combine well.
  6. Portion the batter out into the muffin tins and bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. You will know they’re done when a toothpick inserted into one of the muffins towards the center of the pan comes out clean.
  7. Cool muffins in the pan for 10 or 15 minutes, and then remove to a rack to finish cooling.
  8. Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

Root and Kale Sauté

This is one of those recipes that you can make quickly, easily, and happily. The finished dish is as colorful as it is healthy (unfortunately, the picture below doesn’t come close to doing it justice, but you can trust me on this one). It makes a great main dish for a light dinner, and can also be served as a side dish: the choice is yours!

It requires little to no explanation. Please feel free to substitute your favorite root vegetables and greens for the potatoes, parsnips, and kale: as is true for most stir-fry-type dishes, this recipe is adaptable and forgiving.
Root and Kale Sauté

  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 purple potato, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 butter potato, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, in bite-sized pieces
  • pinch cayenne
  • 3 cloves garlic, minched
  • 1 red bell pepper, in thin slices
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 T chopped fresh lemon thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat 2 T of the olive oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until the water released from the onions has evaporated. Turn heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until transparent and sweet.
  3. Meanwhile, toss the potatoes and parsnip in the remaining oil with the cayenne, 1 t of salt, and 1/2 t of pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet until fully cooked and lightly browned (about 30 minutes), stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  4. When the onions are soft and caramelized, increase the heat to medium-high and add the garlic and bell pepper strips. Cook for a few minutes before adding the kale and the thyme. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the kale is cooked. Stir in the roasted potatoes and parsnip. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

You-Won’t-Believe-They’re-Vegan Turtle Brownies

Okay, I have a confession to make: I’ve never been a huge fan of vegan baking. Oh, sure, I’ve done a lot of it, especially while living at the Zen Center, preparing foods for special events, or entertaining at home and wanting to provide a menu that is welcoming to all my friends. But I have never had much of a desire to actually eat vegan desserts or baked goods myself: in fact, I have often prepared a non-vegan version of most of the vegan desserts I’ve made so that I could enjoy the “real” version.

Because, you see, I love butter. And cream. And cheese. And some more butter, just in case. My attachment to dairy is the major sticking-point in my otherwise mindfully-healthy diet. (Well, okay, dairy and sweets.)

But now I am a cook at the almost-exclusively vegan and gluten-free deli at Lori’s Natural Foods: you can check out the deli’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lorisnaturaldeli. It seems prudent to become as deeply familiar with all of our food as possible: as a result, I have eaten more vegan desserts and baked goods in the last couple of weeks than ever before. And I have learned that I have been unfairly maligning vegan desserts all along.

And so it was that I went to my favorite used book store’s website, http://www.betterworldbooks.com/, and ordered a few new cookbooks. One of my selections was Sinfully Vegan by Lois Dieterly. The night after it was delivered, I flipped through the pages and salivated at the many delightful-sounding recipes contained therein.

Yesterday night, I gave the first of these recipes a try. I have posted it below almost exactly as it appears in the book (except for the title: Lois calls it “Heavenly Brownie Torte”), with only a few clarifications in the directions, because the recipe is pretty much flawless.

In fact, I must confess that these are probably the best brownies I have ever had in my life. They are so decadent, so rich, so moist, so delicious, that I wouldn’t change a thing about them. They are everything I have ever wanted from a brownie and more. The fact that they are vegan goes completely without notice to my taste buds. They are positively divine.

Because I am posting this recipe pretty much unaltered, I would like to counter the possible copyright infringement with a strong suggestion that you consider acquiring a copy of Sinfully Vegan to call your own. Given the resounding success of this recipe, I am looking forward to trying the other recipes in the book.

I have a handy square cake pan with a removable bottom that came very much in handy while assembling these brownies. If you have a similar pan, I suggest employing it on this recipe.

I do recommend preparing the different components for the brownies in the order that they are listed. You want to give the caramel sauce maximum time to cool (and thereby thicken) while you prepare the brownies.

And now, with no further ado…

You-Won’t-Believe-They’re-Vegan Turtle Brownies

The caramel sauce:

  • 1/3 c light corn syrup
  • 1/3 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 t alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3  1/2  T vegan milk (I suggest almond or coconut-almond)
  • 1 c whole pecans

The brownies:

  • 1  1/3 c sugar
  • 3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 c plus 2 T almond milk
  • 2 t flax powder
  • 2 t alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 1  1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour (or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour)
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 c vegan chocolate chips

The chocolate candy topping:

  • 1/2 t alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vegan creamer (I suggest Silk brand)
  • 2 cups (12-oz.) vegan chocolate chips

Caramel Sauce:

  1. Place the corn syrup and brown sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling. Simmer without stirring until it reaches the soft-ball stage (240 degrees F).
  2. Add the vanilla, salt, and milk, and stir just until combined thoroughly. Remove from heat.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool completely at room temperature: d not refrigerate before assembling the brownies.
  4. Reserve the pecans for assembling the torte.

Brownies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, cutting a slit down to corners to ensure a smooth fit.
  2. Stir together the sugar, applesauce, and 2 T of the almond milk in a medium-sized bowl. In a small cup, mix the flax powder with the remaining almond milk. Add to the applesauce mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. In another medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Whisk together to fully combine. Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined (if using gluten-free flour, stir a bit longer, as you obviously don’t need to worry about over-processing the gluten). Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 40 minutes for chewy brownies or 45-47 minutes for more cakelike brownies.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing from the pan. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before assembling.

Before making the chocolate topping, begin to assemble the brownies:

  1. Place the completely cooled, unsliced brownie upside down on a wire rack placed atop a plate that has a diameter larger than that of the brownie.
  2. Gently pour the caramel sauce over the brownie, leaving about a 1/2-inch margin without caramel around the edge of the brownie. Reserve some of the caramel to drizzle on the plates when you serve the brownies.
  3. Place the pecans in an evenly-spaced pattern around the top of the brownie on the caramel, spacing them close together so that all the caramel is covered.
  4. Refrigerate to harden the caramel while you heat the chocolate.

Chocolate Candy Topping:

  1. Heat the vanilla and vegan creamer in a small pan over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
  2. Slowly stir in the chocolate chips. Stir until the chips are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
  3. While the mixture is hot, gently pour over the brownie, nuts, and caramel, being careful not to dislodge the nuts or caramel. Allow the excess chocolate to drip onto the plate under the brownie.
  4. When the brownie is completely covered with chocolate, place the plate, wire rack, and brownie in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens.
  5. Remove from the refrigerator and remove any hard drips of chocolate that formed when the chocolate ran off the brownie through the wire rack (kitchen shears work well for this). Carefully move the brownie from the wire rack and onto a serving platter.
  6. When serving, drizzle some of the reserved caramel on each individual serving plate and place a slice of the brownie on top.

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

So, I was sick through most of the weekend. While I am no longer sick, I am still feeling the need for extra rest and some extra TLC.

As a result, I decided to cancel my usual Wednesday night plans, stay home, have a healthy, simple dinner, and go to bed early.

As has been true for several of my recent posts, this is a recipe that goes without much explaining: the direcctions are clear and free from confusing elements. Feel free to adapt the recipe somewhat, using whatever dried fruit suits your fancy, or substitute chopped nuts for the sesame seeds (following the proportions listed in the recipe).

I made this a complete meal by serving it along with some cooked wild rice blend mixed with some peas.

This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Acorn Squash with Fruits and Sesame Seeds

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved, seeds and strings removed
  • 1 ripe pear, cored and diced
  • 1/2 c dried fruit of your choice (raisins, cranberries, cherries, or currents can be used whole: dates, prunes, apricots, etc. should be chopped)
  • 2 T sesame seeds and 2 T ground flax seed OR 1/4 c chopped nuts
  • 1/4 c shredded coconut (optional)
  • grated zest of 2 clementines
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T apple cider
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Place the squash cut side down in a baking pan, and add 1/4″ hot water to the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the pear, apple, dried fruit, seeds or nuts, coconut (if using), zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the fruit mixture and honey and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cider. Simmer, stirring often, until the fruit is tender, 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven, carefully pour the water from the pan, and turn the squash cut side up. Fill with the fruit mixture. Bake until the squash is tender, 10-15 minutes more.

Winter Squash Bisque

Again, this is a simple recipe and I’m terribly busy nowadays, so here’s the recipe… An anecdote may be added later, or perhaps not.

·         2 T olive oil
·         1 large Vidalia or Mayan Sweet onion, finely chopped
·         1 c carrots, finely chopped
·         2 to 4 T fresh ginger root, minced
·         6 c winter squash (butternut, pumpkin, acorn, etc.), peeled and cut into large cubes
·         8 c vegetable broth
·         1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans
·         1 t salt
·         ½ t cinnamon
·         1/8 t nutmeg
·         2 T soy sauce
·         1/3 c hazelnut butter (or you can substitute with almond, sunflower or peanut butter)
·         1 T maple syrup or honey
·         Pinch black pepper
Garnish (optional):
·         2 T hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
·         2 T chopped fresh chives or Italian parsley
1.       Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent. Add the carrots and ginger and sauté for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the squash and sauté 5 minutes longer.
2.       Add the broth, beans, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the squash is tender.
3.       Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the nut butter, maple syrup and black pepper.
4.       Cool the soup to almost room temperature, then place in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth: you will have to do this in several batches. Season to taste. Garnish with toasted nuts and chopped parsley or chives.
Notes: 

  •  Depending on how sweet the squash is, more or less maple syrup may be added. You can also add a little juice and/or zest of lemon, orange or lime. 
  • Fresh sage, rosemary, and Italian parsley as well as other herbs can be added while the soup is coming to a boil for a slight undercurrent of flavor. 
  •  I strongly recommend having a few slices of a nice pumpernickel bread with a schmear of butter or Earth Balance spread on-hand to dunk in this soup. Delicious!

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans, and Walnuts

I’ve been busy because life is full and rich.

The downside: I haven’t posted in, like, forever. The upside: now that I’m posting again, you can be sure to get healthy and seasonal recipes that are quick and easy to make. Huzzah!

So, in the interest of making a post efficiently, I’m going to jump right to the recipe. I promise: future posts will include anecdotes. But this one won’t.

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans and Walnuts 

1 T olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, chopped
12 oz. pasta of your choice (I used wild mushroom fettuccine from Flour City Pasta. It was delicious.)
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts

  1. Put large pot of salted water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes: saute 10 minutes, or until vegetables just begin to brown.
  3. Stir in beans, broth, and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. When water boils, cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain. 
  5. Gently fold the leek and beans mixture and the walnuts into the pasta. Serve sprinkled with feta or goat cheese, if desired.

(Adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe)

Vegan Black Bean Soup

There is a thin layer of snow on the tarp that covers the wood for our stove. The cats are sleeping, curled up in a shameless display of relaxation.  It is definitely a good night for a hot and hearty soup.

After a fairly lengthy debate with myself regarding what soup to make, I decided upon black bean soup.

Black beans have a rich, satisfying flavor that is simply perfect on a cold evening. They are an incredible source of folate (a B vitamin), dietary fiber, tryptophan (an amino acid), protein, magnesium, thiamin (another B vitamin), and phosphorus: they are also a very good source of iron. The fiber level in black beans is high enough that it has been shown in several studies to lower cholesterol levels and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Black beans also contain molybdenum, which has been shown to help detoxify sulfites. If you combine them with brown rice (and yes, this recipe is great served over rice), they supply you with complete protein amino acids. A study published in Food Chemistry and Toxicology concluded that regular consumption of black beans results in “a clear reduction in pre-cancerous cells.” Regular consumption of legumes such as black beans has also been correlated with a significant (up to 82%) reduction in the risk of heart disease. And, as if that wasn’t enough, black beans have been proven to contain 10 times the number of antioxidants in a comparable amount of oranges. Pretty nifty, eh?

(I now have visions in my head of all the healthy, not-taking-any-shit, 90+ year-old trannies that will be running around the world in the years to come, changing the world for the better, thanks to recipes like this one!)

And yet… you may be aware that beans are well-known for making a certain bodily orifice considerably more vocal and, ummmmm, fragrant. However, there is an easy way to minimize the gaseous potential of these nutritionally heroic legumes. When you cook them yourself (as you will do when you follow this recipe) instead of using canned beans, you will notice that a white foam collects on the surface of the soup. Whenever you notice a good amount of this foam, simply skim it off and discard it. It’s just that simple: now you can enjoy all of the nutritional benefits while minimizing the odorous aftermath. Huzzah!

To soak the beans, either cover them in warm water and allow them to soak overnight, or else add them to boiling water, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 1-2 hours. Either way, make sure you use enough water to cover the beans with about 3 inches of water above the surface of the beans. In addition to shortening their cooking time, this will also help reduce the amount of gas that the beans will produce.

One more thing about the beans: do not– I repeat, do not— add the salt or the lime zest and juice until after the beans are fully cooked. If you add salt or acid to the broth before the beans are cooked, they will take longer to cook and the beans themselves will be tougher. One more time: the beans will never soften properly if you add salt or acid to the broth before they are fully cooked. Got it? Good.

Regarding the lime that is used in the soup (as opposed to the one that is used for garnish): zest it before you juice it. It’s just easier that way.

This recipe also uses roasted garlic and a roasted bell pepper. For a refresher on how to roast these two ingredients, please refer to my earlier post “Spinach, Mushroom, Kalamata and Roasted Pepper White Pizza,” http://transgustatory.blogspot.com/2010/10/spinach-mushroom-kalamata-and-roasted.html.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Here’s the recipe:

Vegan Black Bean Soup

  • 1 pound dried black beans, soaked
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, diced
  • 2 Serrano chilies, minced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced at least 1/4″ thick
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 4 quarts (1 gallon) vegetable stock
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1/2-1 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 heaping t cumin
  • 1 heaping t ground coriander
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of one lime (the same lime)
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lime wedges (for serving)
  • fresh cilantro, chopped (for serving)
  • sour cream (or vegan substitute), optional
Skim this foam off of your soup, or you’ll be sorry!
  1.  While the beans are soaking, saute the onion until soft and translucent. Add the chilies and the carrots and saute 3-5 minutes longer, until the chilies are softened and the carrots are bright orange. Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes longer, until fragrant. Stir in the bell pepper and remove from heat. 
  2. Combine the beans and stock in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add the onion/chili/carrot mixture. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and oregano. 
  3. Simmer the soup, uncovered, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, skimming the surface as necessary and discarding the foam (see above). The beans should be very soft, just beginning to fall apart. Add additional water if necessary. 
  4. Puree about half of the soup with the lime zest, lime juice, and roasted garlic cloves, then stir back into the remaining soup:  make sure that there are no bay leaves in the soup that you are pureeing!! Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  5. Serve in bowls and garnish with lime wedges, cilantro, and sour cream (optional).