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Gluten-Free Brownies

When it comes to brownies, most people are aware that there are two schools of thought: cakey and fudgey. I am definitely a fudgey girl, though the last brownie recipe I posted here might as well have been called “fudge” because they were so dense and rich. I decided to go a bit more classic today. No mint, no coffee, no nuts, no frosting. Just plain, old fashioned brownies. They are still in the “fudgey” category, though there is a hint (just a hint) of cakeiness.

In addition to liking my brownies fudgey, I also tend to like them less than sickeningly sweet. I’m aware that “sickeningly sweet” means different things for different people, though, so feel free to play around with the amount of agave in these brownies, but be aware that it might change the texture (and moisture) the more you add.

You can, of course, add nuts or chocolate chips (1 cup of chopped, toasted walnuts proved to be very tasty here) — anything you normally like in a brownie. I do like, though, that these brownies call for very few ingredients and are relatively fuss-free, especially when you consider that they can be made using just one bowl.

Update: following some reader feedback, I’ve made some specifications below that I think will ensure these babies turn out right. First, I’ve indicated below that the bananas used should not be overripe (i.e. no brown spots). I would have noted this earlier, but I had no idea that the ripeness of the bananas would make such a difference. Thanks for prompting me to figure this one out, Lauren! . Below is a photo of a brownie from the new, improved method.

brownie

Yield: about 9-12 brownies

Brownies:

2/3 cup mashed banana (about 2 small bananas — yellow; not too ripe)

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery spread, melted

3/4 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup sorghum flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, applesauce, agave, buttery spread and vanilla. Add in flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and whisk until mixture is smooth.

3. Pour batter into a pre-greased 9×9″ or 8×8″ baking dish.* Bake for about 30-40 minutes (brownies should still be somewhat soft in the center — but shouldn’t “jiggle” when you shake the pan).

4. Let cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

* I’ve made these brownies with both sizes. The 9×9″ brownies are more chewy (more brownie-like, as pictured), while the 8×8″ will be much more thick and cakey, almost like a chocolate cake — both good!

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Citrus Jicama Salad

Ironically, while I was in the midst of testing my 4th batch of streusel bars, I actually got hungry. I was craving something light and clean to contrast the sweet and buttery bars. I usually make a jicama salad with mango and mint. But grapefruit is in season and mango is a little harder to find these days. Plus, I just read somewhere (or maybe I saw it on The Dr. Oz Show, though I’m a little ashamed to admit this) that grapefruit can speed up your metabolism. It is also quite low on the glycemic index and is high in fiber. This salad is one of those rare combinations of super-healthy and low calorie while still being sort of addictingly good. You can adjust the dressing according to your taste — more or less agave, more salt, less oil, etc. Be sure to get really juicy lemons and limes for the dressing. I didn’t measure exactly when I made mine, but I know that the lemons and limes I used yielded a lot of juice. If yours are slightly less juicy, just adjust the rest of the ingredients proportionately.

Cirtus Jicama Salad:

1 jicama, peeled and diced

1 grapefruit, segmented (membranes removed using hands)

1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffoned or minced

Dressing:

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon agave nectar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)

Directions:

Combine jicama, grapefruit and mint in a salad bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat.

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Creamy, Vegan Mac and Cheese

vegan mac and cheese

If there were a Family Feud category for “comfort foods” (and I’m sure there was at some point), how many people would go with mac and cheese as their first pick? I don’t think I’m alone on this one; mac and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. In this spirit, I created a mac and cheese that could be made in your slow cooker for those inevitable lazy nights. Only one pot needed — and you don’t even have to cook the pasta!

I know there are many nights that I get home from class and want to take Woodley for a run or run some errands, but looming in the back of my mind is making dinner when I get home. I dread working late into the night just to enjoy a home cooked meal (my college days of cereal and granola bars for dinner, I’m happy to say, are over). With this recipe, you can throw everything into the slow cooker, run some errands, and come back to a warm meal. I must warn, however, that some intermittent stirring is a must with this dish — so make the errands quick. Or even use the time to watch Oprah(ok, so not everyone is the fan I am, but you can feel free to sub in your favorite show here) or take a cat nap. This is supposed to be comfort food, after all. Why not make the rest of your evening comfortable and lazy as well?

Serves: 4-5

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese:

1 8-oz. box gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (uncooked)

florets from 1 head of broccoli, washed and chopped

2/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1/2 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cream cheese

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup water, divided

Directions:

1. Add all above ingredients (only 1 1/2 cups water) to your slow cooker. Stir and cover. Set on a low setting for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

2. After 1 hour has elapsed, add another 1/2 cup water. Stir. After 1 1/2 hours has elapsed, test macaroni for doneness before serving. If needed, you may add an additional 15 minutes to cooking time. Watch closely, though, to make sure pasta does not overcook.

3. If desired, to serve, toast 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes in a saute pan for a few minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle over individual servings.

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Vegan Caesar Salad

vegan caesar saladCaesar salad is one of those ubiquitous menu items. It ranges anywhere from a pre-packaged container of stale croutons and wilted lettuce at the airport to the real good stuff that’s tossed tableside, to order, at the best Italian restaurants. As a result, the legitimacy of any given Caesar is sometimes questioned, let alone a vegan Caesar.

I’m always hesitant to put together a recipe that seeks to omit an inherent ingredient in a classic dish. Look at any Caesar recipe. It may be eggless. There may or may not be anchovies. Some include mustard. But there is almost always going to be parmesan cheese. That’s what makes it so good.

I’m sorry to inform anyone that I haven’t found the magical vegan substitute for parmesan. For many vegans, a popular alternative is nutritional yeast, which I used in this recipe. It’s nutty — and, by definition, nutritious — but I wouldn’t hold your breath if you’re looking for an exact match. That said, I invite you to suspend your notion of what a “Caesar” salad should or should not taste like — or include. This is just a good, creamy, salty, nutty, tangy dressing with the spirit of a classic Caesar and without the eggs or anchovies. Or the parmesan cheese.

In lieu of croutons, I sometimes use chickpeas for a bit of texture and a touch of protein. I also like to use my focaccia recipe for croutons. I toss cubed focaccia in a little bit of olive oil and baking them at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

Use 1 head of chopped, crisp romaine lettuce for this salad. This will serve about 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as an entree salad. The dressing recipe makes plenty of dressing, so store any remaining dressing in a glass jar in refrigerator. It will definitely keep for a few days, if not longer (it’s never lasted long enough in my fridge for me to find out). 

Vegan Caesar Dressing:

1 clove raw garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 scallion, white part only

1 teaspoon capers, drained

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Blend all ingredients  for dressing in a blender until smooth. Toss romaine with just enough dressing to coat lettuce. Serve right away.

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Chocolate Espresso Cookies with Banana and Walnut

I’m off to Puerto Rico this weekend for a wedding, so this will be my last post for a few days (I know, poor me). Unfortunately, I haven’t done my bikini body any favors by deciding to test several batches of cookies prior to leaving. I’m pretty darn sure it was all worth it, though, because these may be the best flavored cookies I have ever had. Ever. Ok, maybe I’m just a little amped from the caffeine kick (there’s 1 tablespoon of ground coffee per batch), which is perfectly fine with me because I need to stay up to pack!

I like to use Spectrum Organic Shortening when baking cookies, but for some reason I’ve been having the darndest time finding it anywhere! Even my neighborhood health food store — a usually reliable shortening source — has been out of it for about a month. Has anyone else been having this problem? Please tell me this isn’t going to be a permanent thing. Anyways, I went with my second go-to: Earth Balance Buttery Spread. It’s vegan and there are several varieties, soy-free and organic options included.

I’m confident that everyone will enjoy these cookies as much as I did. They are kinda cakey in texture, but also gooey, chewy, and crisp — all the things that cookies are supposed to be. It’s essential that you toast the walnuts beforehand, because that is where the depth of the flavor comes from. The diced bananas add a nice contrast of texture and are sort of reminiscent of melted chocolate chips in texture. Oh, I just love these cookies!

Yield: about 15 cookies

Gluten Free Espresso Cookies with Banana and Walnut:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon ground coffee (your favorite roast)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (room temperature)

2/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped (see below for directions on toasting)

2/3 cup diced banana (about 1 small banana)

Directions:

1. Toast nuts: preheat oven to 350. Lay chopped nuts flat on a baking sheet. Bake nuts in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until fragrant and browned. Watch closely to make sure the nuts don’t burn. Remove nuts to cool. Leave oven temperature at 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together buttery spread, agave and vanilla until smooth and there are no lumps. Slowly add dry mixture and beat on low until incorporated. Fold in banana and toasted nuts.

3. Drop batter onto a pre-greased baking sheet in rounded tablespoon-sized drops. Leave a little space between each cookie. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes (give or take about a minute depending on whether you like them gooey or more firm). Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Pan Glazed Ginger Tofu

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of eating at Kuma Inn, a small, intimate, reasonably priced Filipino-Thai tapas restaurant (bonus: it’s also BYO). All of the dishes were quite good, but Gennaro and I both particularly liked a really delicious tofu with Thai basil in a soy-mirin broth. It reminded me of how good tofu can be. So, if you live in New York or are in for a visit, be sure to check out Kuma Inn for good food, a fun atmosphere, and good music to boot (Chef King Phojanakong doubles as DJ as well).

Inspired by Chef King’s flavorful dish, I came up with this simple yet flavorful dish, and in doing so broke out of my plain, baked tofu rut. This tofu was lick-the-plate good, with a sweet and spicy sauce that goes great with some plain rice and vegetables to round out the meal. If you like a firmer tofu, you can bake the slices before adding it to the sauce, or sear it on each side before slicing. If you’re in a tofu rut like I was, this recipe is a must-try.

Pan Glazed Tofu:

1 block extra firm tofu, halved lengthwise then cut into square slices 1/4″ thick

1 teaspoon olive oil (plus more for baking)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons reduced sodium wheat-free tamari

3 tablespoons agave nectar

3 green onions, sliced, greens topped off (save for garnish)

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

1-2 Thai chile peppers, sliced (optional)

1 teaspoon arrowroot

fresh cilantro (optional) for garnish

Directions:

1. If baking tofu first, preheat oven to 350. Lay tofu slices flat on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn, and bake for another 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients in a bowl for the sauce. Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add sauce. Heat until bubbly, then add tofu. Toss to coat and simmer until sauce has reduced to desired amount. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onion tops (optional). Serve immediately.

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Lemony Blueberry Corn Muffins

Here’s a simple, one-bowl recipe for corn muffins. These muffins are sweetened with Truvia for those looking for a break from agave nectar. They make a great breakfast muffin — with the bright note of lemon zest for added flavor. I used corn flour in this recipe instead of cornmeal, since it has a finer grain for a better overall texture.

Yield: 10-12 muffins

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins:

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill corn flour (not cornmeal)

1/4 cup flax seed meal

1/4 cup arrowroot

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 packets Truvia

1 cup lite coconut milk (shaken)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

zest of one lemon

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen and unthawed blueberries

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add milk, oil, vanilla, lemon zest and applesauce and whisk until incorporated. Fold in blueberries.

3. Fill pre-greased muffin tin cups about 3/4 full with batter. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Let rest in muffin tin for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

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Burrito-style Fresh Rolls

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. Any gluten-intolerant Mexican food fanatic like myself would understand why. You see, back in my college days, there were two kinds of people. There were Pancheros people, and there were Big Ten Burrito people. Where you fell in the divide could very well dictate who you went home with at night, who you hung out with, who you walked to tailgates with, etc.

Ok, so I’m exagerrating a little. There were some people who liked both places equally. But the take-away from all this is that there was no one who didn’t like a good burrito — no matter which burrito they felt fell under that definition. But the moment anyone gives up gluten, the burrito experience will never be the same. First, the corn tortilla, while (in my opinion) superior in flavor, is not of optimum burrito-making texture. And a brown rice tortilla, if you’re tried them, is not worth the effort taste-wise. Hence, many people seeking good, cheap take-out-style Mexican are relegated to the burrito bowl.

In addition to enjoying cheap Mexican food, I’m also a fan of the ubiquitous Asian fresh roll. I tend to order it whenever it’s on a menu, even though they all seem to taste relatively the same. There’s something refreshing, yet satisfying, about the fresh roll’s bright flavors, crunchy interior and chewy outer texture.

So tonight I finally did what I’ve long been wanting to do: I combined two of my favorite “wraps” into one dish — the Fresh Roll Burrito. It’s got the light, chewy, fresh feel of the fresh summer roll, with the flavors and spirit of a burrito. Below is the method (not quite a recipe) for preparing them. You can find rice wrappers in most Asian stores, or the Asian section of your grocery store (if you’re lucky). I saw them recently at Whole Foods as well. You’ll want the bigger size — one that resembles the size of a large flour tortilla.

Fresh Roll Burritos:

4 spring rolls wrappers made from rice paper

~ 1 cup fat-free refried beans (for less moisture)

shredded vegan cheese

grape tomatoes, quartered

sliced avocado

chopped green onion

cilantro leaves

Other possible additions (not pictured):

shredded romaine lettuce

corn kernels

red pepper

cooked brown rice

Directions:

Soak 1 sheet of rice paper in a shallow dish of cold to room temperature water until soft, about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes. Remove carefully and lay flat on cutting board, pulling out any wrinkles or folded edges. On the side nearest you, spread a thin layer of refried beans at the end of the rice paper, leaving about 3/4 inch open on the left, right and side nearest you. Sprinkle beans with cheese, veggies and cilantro leaves. Fold the end of the rice paper just over the filling, tucking in filling tighly with fingers. Fold over the ends of both the left and right side. Roll the wrapper up the rest of the way tightly. Let sit for a few minutes until rice paper dries before cutting. Serve with salsa or guacamole for dipping.

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Kale Pesto Lasagna

kale pestoMy friend Christian came up with the idea of doing a green lasagna and asked if I could execute it. He gave me liberty with the “green” description — green tomatoes, green pesto, whatever worked. I went into full Top Chef mode thinking about all of the possible “green lasagnas” I could make. After two weeks of deliberation, taken Christian’s request perhaps a bit too seriously (hey, I live for this stuff, what can I say?), I decided to make a lasagna using a kale pesto. The kale is steamed to a bright green color and blended with roasted garlic, lemon zest, a little olive oil and some of the pine nuts lets over from the “ricotta.”

This kale pesto can also be used in a number of other dishes. I’m thinking over chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, or even as a dressing for salad. This lasagna was also created in hopes that people would take some creative liberties with the recipe. For example, I used the same pine nut ricotta that I made for my gluten free, vegan lasagna recipe. But a regular ricotta could easily be used here. I also used some vegan mozarella from Follow Your Heart, but I think a regular, part-skim mozarella would be very delicious here for those who eat dairy. Want some meat? Add an extra layer of cooked ground turkey to the mix. I also added the option of parmesan cheese in the pesto. I didn’t use any and didn’t miss it, but I could imagine some parmesan being really good in there.

kale pesto lasagnaThis dish may require a few steps (fewer if you take the shortcut of using store-bought ricotta), but it’s well worth the effort and healthy to boot! Thanks for the inspiration, Christian!

Kale Pesto:

1 bunch kale, steamed to a bright green

green tops from 2 scallions, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

zest of one lemon

3 cloves garlic, roasted (baked whole in a ramekin, drizzled with olive oil for 15 minutes, cool, then peel)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more if needed)

1 tablespoon pine nut ricotta or pine nuts

(2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese)

Other Components:

1 recipe pine nut ricotta or 1 cup ricotta cheese

1 box gluten free lasagna noodles

1 cup (or more) mozarella cheese or vegan mozarella, shredded

(1 lb. cooked ground turkey)

Directions:

1. Prepare pine nut ricotta and set aside.

2. Prepare pesto in same blender (don’t have to clean it out). Add some more olive oil if necessary to blend. Set aside.

3. Prepare lasagna noodles.

4. Preheat oven to 350.

5. Assemble lasagna: place a layer of noodles on the bottom of casserole dish. Spread with 1/3 cup ricotta and about the same amount of pesto. Sprinkle with a thin layer of mozarella cheese. Repeat 2x and top with final layer of noodles and sprinkle top with parmesan. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese on top begins to bubble.

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Mango-Papaya Salsa

salsa

Mango-Papaya Salsa:

1/2 cup diced mango

1/3 cup diced papaya

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

1 jalapeno, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

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