Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Well, I’ve had my ice cream machine for a few months now and the novelty has yet to wear off. I’ve been making ice cream so much that I get antsy waiting for the bowl to re-freeze between batches. I’ve learned — and this info might be of use to others with a Cuisinart machine — that it takes over 24 hours for my bowl to freeze completely (even though the instructions say about 4-12 hours). That’s a whole day without making ice cream, which is quite the test to my patience (but probably for the best).

I know my posting has been a bit spotty lately. Trust me, I’ve been cooking, I just haven’t had much time to share my recipes. The transition from law school to the real world and wedding planning have taken on toll on my free time, which usually consists of posting here. But fear not, I have a lot of recipes in the arsenal that are waiting to be shared.

My blog posts also suffered a bit of a setback due to a broken computer. Not a broken computer as in low memory, slow performance, a damaged hard drive, or any of that. I mean, I literally opened it up one day and the screen just collapsed and parts started falling out. It had had enough, I guess. May I just add that it is not cheap to be technologically “with it” these days? A few months ago the screen on my phone shattered. A few hundred dollars later, I had a new phone and a new, more expensive plan. Same with the computer. I’m pretty sure they design these things to have a short shelf life. There must be some pre-programmed directions telling our electronic devices to break down after a certain period of time so that we have to go out and spend more money. Oh, well.

I’ve been on a mint kick lately. I just LOVE fresh mint. I’ve been putting it in my smoothies with frozen strawberries, Chocolate Greens Superfood Powder, soy or almond milk and a few drops of vanilla stevia. It’s so delicious — and a great energy boost! But the mint really makes it special. I’ve also been putting fresh mint into my salads. Stay tuned for a tabbouleh recipe with fresh mint this weekend or early next week. This mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe is made with agave, but the chocolate chips are actually made with the NuNaturals vanilla stevia in order to reduce some of the overall sugar. I’m usually try not to mix sweeteners in recipes (just one less ingredient to have to worry about), but here, I think the agave improves the texture and creaminess of the ice cream, and the stevia adds a nice hardness to the chocolate. I took a tip from Ricki Heller over at Diet, Dessert and Dogs and added some carob powder to the recipe to cut some of the bitterness of the stevia. You can always experiment with other sweeteners if you’d like.

Finally, I hope you all are enjoying the new site design. I tried to keep the general feel the same while making the interface a bit more user-friendly. I’m still working on some things (I am definitely not a coding aficionado, by any means) but I’m hoping you’re liking the look in the meantime.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream:

1 13.5-oz. can light coconut milk

2 teaspoons potato starch

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup fresh mint, minced, tightly packed

Chocolate Chips:

1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons unsweetened carob powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla stevia

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, whish together coconut milk, agave and potato starch until starch is dissolved into mixture. Add in mint. Pour mixture into ice cream machine and turn on.

2. Meawhile, whisk together all ingredients for the chocolate chips until smooth. Set aside.

3. After ice cream has had about 10-15 minutes in the machine — or until the mixture has begun to freeze — slowly drizzle in the chocolate mixture. The coconut oil will harden the chocolate as it hits the cold ice cream, so it should break up into tiny little chips as it goes in. You may want to test with a small amount first just to make sure ice cream is cold enough.

4. After you’ve added the chocolate, continue to run machine until ice cream comes together to desired consistency. Serve.

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Applesauce Cake with “Cream Cheese” Frosting

Two newly-discovered products inspired this super easy cake. First, I was recently asked to do a review of Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour for Allergy Sense (which is a great resource if you have allergies or kids with allergies, by the way). I was interested in doing so because 1) I think it’s important, given the many allergy-friendly products that are available these days, that people are able to make informed choices before spending time and money in their cooking endeavors, and 2) well, I’ve personally been slow to accept gluten-free all-purpose flours in my diet, so I thought it was about time to explore baking with one.

How did I like it? Well, remember the days when you needed only one flour in your recipes? Remember when baking didn’t require added starches and gums? Jules got me reminiscing, which made me miss the one-type-of-flour-days myself. Why don’t I bake with all-purpose GF flours more often, I thought? For one thing, I’ve always thought it a bit of a cop-out — sort of the the gluten-free equivalent of cake mix. I know that’s not really the case, but the control-freak in me has always wanted a part in making my own flour mix, for whatever reason. After spending less than 15 minutes in the kitchen to bake, though, I started seeing the light. Second, I do actually like being able to control what types of flours I’m using to a certain extent, as I’m partial to the higher fiber — sometimes higher protein — varieties. That said, there’s definitely an appeal to shortening your list of ingredients, shorting your time in the kitchen, and shortening your grocery list once in awhile. So for my last trip to Whole Foods, I only bought one flour. I didn’t see Jules’ flour available there (hint, hint Jules, wherever you are!), so I went with Bob’s Red Mill for this particular recipe.

Then there was Xagave, the second prong of this cake’s inspiration. Now, I know certain food bloggers decline offers to try new products, but as I mentioned above, I think it’s important — especially in the allergy-free world, which is a new one to many who are living in it — for people to be able to make informed decisions about the products they’re purchasing. I know my grocery bills went up since I changed my diet, and a large part of that is due to the fact that not everything is a cheap as white flour and sugar. And not everything is as familiar, which is why I’m happy to give guidance where and when I can, and why I welcomed a sample of this agave nectar into my “test” kitchen.

The people at Xagave, it’s clear, were looking to make an agave product that goes beyond the mere “better-for-you-than-sugar” label. It would seem they sought to create a product that had actual health benefits to boot. For example, Xagave, unlike other brands, contains added inulin (a prebiotic fiber), along with calcium, iron, vitamins and minerals. Now, I’m no doctor, but I’m guessing that this can’t be a bad thing. I was particularly excited because now that I’m no longer eating dairy, I’ll take my calcium where I can get it; 17%  of the daily value in a tablespoon of Xagave ain’t  bad. Perhaps even more noteworthy for some of you out there is that Xagave is processed at 117 degrees, which they say makes it a raw food, though I’d have to do some fact-checking to make sure. This was at least interesting to me because I had literally just read an article denouncing agave nectar as “not really” a raw food (even those labeled as “raw”), since most are processed at 140 degrees, exceeding the general 104-115 degree range allowed for raw cuisine (if you ask Wikipedia). While still on the high end of this range, those following a raw regimine might certainly welcome an agave that’s heated at temperatures below those of most other brands.

So how, exactly, did an agave product inspire this cake? It was actually Xagave’s companion cookbook, Delicious Meets Nutritious, that did that. While all of the dessert recipes looked great to me, I realized that I could eat about zero of them, due to the fact that most call for eggs. But I did notice a cream cheese frosting recipe that piqued my interest. I decided to veganize the original recipe, as well as reduce the amount of agave called for, since I like mine to have a bit of tanginess to it.

My overall impression of Xagave? It’s a good bet, if you can find it. When I used the company’s store locator, I realized that exactly one store in Manhattan carries it. Plus, as far as taste and texture go, I didn’t notice any difference from other brands of agave nectars, despite claims that the taste and cooking qualities were superior. To me this means that if you’re not an agave fan to start, don’t count on Xagave being the product that changes your mind. Now, that could just be me; some of you with more discerning palates might say otherwise. I did try this cake recipe with both Xagave and another type to find that it made no apparent difference, which is why no particular brand is designated for the recipe. But overall, I would say this agave is worth looking into if  you’re interested in any of the above-mentioned health benefits — who doesn’t want a little calcium boost with their piece of cake? — and might be particularly worth checking out if you’re diabetic (re: the inulin) or following a raw regimen.

Applesauce Spice Cake:

2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour

1/4 cup flax seed meal

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 cup hot water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Whisk in agave, oil, hot water, vanilla and applesauce and stir until incorporated.

3. Pour batter into a pre-greased, 9-13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes (check after 25), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Top with vegan cream cheese frosting.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Delicious to Nutritious, by Stephen Richards): In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together 8-oz. vegan cream cheese (I use Follow Your Heart brand), 3 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup agave nectar (increase to taste). Beat until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Chocolate Mocha Ice Cream

This recipe was made possible by my future mother-in-law, who took a cue from my post about not having an ice cream maker and bought me one as a shower gift. I was so excited to get back to New York to start using it. There was one point in time where I thought ice cream makers were novelty items that collected dust in the cupboard. Then I developed a penchant for the vegan, agave-sweetened ice cream at Stogo and realized I couldn’t afford to keep up my delicious but expensive ice cream habit. That is, unless I learned to make my own.

It started with no machine ice cream — an icy yet creamy mango version was good enough to tide me over. But I knew that I couldn’t go machineless forever. So that’s where this gift came in handy. Sugar, whenever I use my new machine (which is sure to be often), I’ll think of you!

Of course, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing from there. The whole “vegan” part of it wasn’t exactly as easy as I thought it might be. I’m still in search of a great soy-based recipe. But for now, another coconut-based version will do. The difference, I think, between the two is that coconut milk — even the light kind — has naturally more fat than soy milk. Next time I use a soy base I may try to fatten it up a bit. Plus, I’m not sure if this makes a difference or not, but the coconut milk I used was the Thai Kitchen variety, which contains guar gum as an emulsifier. Perhaps that helped create some of the creaminess of this version. I think some additional experimentation may answer some of these questions. But for tonight, I’m going to enjoy this mocha version without any further questioning as to why it turned out while the others didn’t. I’ll leave that for another day. What I am wondering is how this one turned out so creamy and rich when I used light coconut milk (which has only 45 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving) and no additional fats. I feared it would be too icy in texture, but I don’t think that’s the case. Good to know, at least, that loads of fat is not a prerequisuite for good ice cream. I did make up for the lighter ice cream by sprinkling with a few toasted pecans, as pictured.

For my next experiment, I’m curious as to some of your favorite flavors. Perhaps I could try to tackle one of those next. Growing up, I always liked “Blue Moon,” though I fear the novelty of blue ice cream has worn off with age. These days, I’m digging coffee (hence, the mocha) and simple flavors like vanilla bean and coconut with a simple fruit sauce to top it off. I’d love to know some of your favorites.

Mocha Ice Cream:

1 13.5-oz. can lite coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchens)

1 tablespoon arrowroot

1 tablespoon ground coffee

1/4 cup brewed coffee

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients except agave. Pour into a medium-sized saucepan and heat over high heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until mixture begins to simmer, whisking occassionally. Remove from heat and whisk in agave nectar. Set aside to cool.

2. When mixture has cooled, pour into a glass bowl or glass, 1-qt. measuring cup. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.

3. Pour mixture into ice cream machine and proceed according to directions.*

* my machine is a countertop Cuisinart. If you’re using a countertop machine, be sure the mixing bowl is completely chilled in refrigerator — which can take up to 24 hours — until completely frozen through.  

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Blackberry Peach Cornmeal Cobbler

Spring came a few days early. Today, the sun was shining. The weather was warm. People were out and about. The robin I spotted a few days ago must have been a sign. The streets were fittingly speckled with green. I know St. Patty’s day was the source of the green, but it might as well have been a symbol: spring has arrived. In that spirit, I may have jumped the gun seasonally with this recipe. In deciding what sweet treat to try out tonight, my mind went straight to summer. And to my mind, nothing says summer like peaches, berries and cobbler.

robinThe nice thing about frozen fruit is that your cravings don’t have to be in season for you to enjoy them. Having figured out my fruit of choice, I referenced my Joy of Cooking for some biscuit inspiration. Even though Joy is inconspicuously lacking many things gluten, dairy, egg or sugar free, it’s my go-to reference when I’m trying out new dishes. It’s just a great starting point for figuring out proportions, flavors or additions to any dessert. Joy‘s cobbler topping recipe had a variation for a cornmeal topping. I love cornmeal in sweet dishes, so that idea stuck with me as I was preparing this tonight. And when I’m baking with cornmeal, I almost always add some lemon zest. Before long, a gluten free, agave sweetened, vegan fruit cobbler was bubbling in my oven, and I was enjoying it not too long after that.

What would I do different next time? While I love Bob’s Red Mill for soooo many reasons, their cornmeal is a bit grainy for my taste (and for my teeth — I bit down on a few pieces that had a distinct, hard crunch). I think I might use a bit of a finer grind of cornmeal next time around. The middle of the cobbler was also just slightly underdone on the bottom part of the biscuit, though the top came out perfectly golden brown. I actually happen to like the biscuits this way, so I probably wouldn’t change the recipe next time around, but if you like your top a bit crisper, you may want to reduce the coconut milk to 1/4 cup. If you happen to have really ripe, fresh peaches on hand, feel free to use those. You can adjust the cooking time accordingly. I think this recipe would be great with just about any type of juicy fruit filling. The amount of agave can be adjusted depending on the type of fruit and its sweetness.

I made this in my Le Creuset Dutch Oven just because I’ve always wanted to bake a cobbler in that thing, really (don’t ask me why). But I imagine this could work in just about any casserole dish or even a deep pie dish.

Serves: 4-6

Blackberry Peach Filling:

20 oz. (about 4 cups) frozen sliced peaches

10 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) frozen blackberries

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons potato starch

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Cornmeal Topping:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup potato starch

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup light coconut milk (shake can before using)

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

zest of one lemon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Toss ingredients for filling in a 3 quart baking dish or oven safe enameled Dutch Oven. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredient for topping (sorghum flour through baking soda). Whisk in coconut milk, grapeseed oil, agave, lemon juice and zest. Mix until incorporated. Drop batter in large spoonfuls over filling to cover fairly evenly.

4. Bake cobbler, uncovered, in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until top is golden brown and fruit is bubbly. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There was a period of time that I thought I would never enjoy chocolate chip cookies again. The vegan chocolate chips contained sugar. The sugar-free chips contained dairy. The grain sweetened chips contained gluten and just about every chocolate bar contained sugar or was sweetened with something that hurt my stomach. So I gave up on the idea of chocolate chip cookies.

Then one day I started brainstorming. What if I turned the chocolate coating I like to use on cookies into chocolate chunks to bake inside the cookies. The first few batches turned into melty messes, but I think I finally got a good recipe down. And even though, unlike regular chocolate chip cookies, you actually have to make the chocolate chunks yourself, these cookies are surprisingly easy to make.

chocolate chunk cookies

Since it’s just the two of us here (plus Woodley, who can’t really eat chocolate), I tend to write cookie recipes that don’t yield 5 dozen cookies. It’s not that we would have any trouble finishing them off, it’s that we would likely have little trouble, and don’t really need the temptation. But, if you’re looking to make a large batch, you can easily double or triple the recipe as you see fit. The chocolate chunks are bittersweet — reminiscent of semi-sweet chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bar. Feel free to add nuts or dried fruit to the batter as you wish.

Note: This batter will seem much more thin that a normal cookie batter — this is the way you want it! Don’t refrigerate batter. You want to prepare it just prior to baking these cookies. For a less cakey, crispier, slightly more naughty cookie, omit the coconut milk and increase the shortening to 1/2 cup, the agave to 2/3 cup, and xanthan gum to 1/2 teaspoon. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown on the edges. Cookies will firm up as they cool — remove to a cooling rack when still somewhat soft.

I tend to like to find ways to reduce the fat in my baked goods. But sometimes, you just gotta let loose a little. I understand.

Yield: about a dozen cookies

Agave Sweetened Chocolate “Chip” Recipe:

1/3 cup coconut oil, liquified (warm jar in a bowl of hot water if oil is solid)

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup agave nectar

Directions:

1. Using a double boiler (or a small saucepan, filled about 1″ with water, using a glass bowl over it), melt coconut oil, cocoa powder and agave together, whisking until chocolate is shiny and smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Pour chocolate into a small dish or baking dish lined with wax paper. You can either leave chocolate thick, or spread, depending on how large you would like your chocolate chunks. Cover with lid and freeze until set, about 1 1/2 hours. When ready to use, strip wax paper from chocolate and cut chocolate block into chunks.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup Spectrum Organic Shortening

1/2 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup light coconut milk

1 recipe chocolate chunks (above)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, potato starch, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat toghether agave, shortening and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add flours and beat on a low speed. Add coconut milk and beat until smooth. Fold in chocolate chunks.

4. Drop batter by rounded tablespoon onto a large, ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (depending on whether you like your cookies more chewy or more crisp) or until slightly golden brown around the edges. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for a few minutes after removing from the oven before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Mango Ice Cream

mango ice creamI live about 5 blocks away from a dangerously good vegan ice cream shop called Stogo. All of their ice cream is agave sweetened, they use organic ingredients, and it is really good. As I said, it’s dangerously good. Every once in awhile, Gennaro, being the keeper that he is, brings me home a pint of the coffee ice cream. Just because. I remember one particularly trying finals week when I just ate Stogo’s coffee ice cream for breakfast one day before an exam. I know ice cream for breakfast — even vegan, organic, sugar free ice cream — is not really in keeping with the otherwise healthful lifestyle I’ve embraced since embarking on an allergy-free diet. But sometimes life demands demands a little reckless gratification, like coffee ice cream in the morning. Below is a photo I took of a half-eaten bowl of Stogo’s coffee ice cream over warm brownies — one of my favorite treats.

stogoAs much as I enjoy a ready-to-eat pint every once in awhile, I’ve always been curious about making my own vegan ice cream at home. What’s stopped me up until this point is the simple fact that I don’t own an ice cream maker, which I thought was a deal-breaker when it came to homemade ice cream. Turns out, I thought wrong. With the likes of Dave Lebovitz explaining that a good quality product can come straight from the freezer(with a little patience and some manual labor, that is), I was all about it.

Why not just buy an ice cream maker? My poor kitchen just can’t take another gadget, I’m afraid. With little space and lots of old pots and pans practically falling out of the cupboards when we open them, an ice cream maker just doesn’t seem like a  great idea right now. Maybe when we overhaul the kitchen come wedding time in August, we’ll create some extra room. But I’m afraid an ice cream maker sounds like more effort than it’s worth at the moment — the effort being finding a place to put it!

So, I’d rather transfer my effort into making a slightly more labor-intensive ice cream without a machine. The end result is inevitably a bit icier, but it’s quite tasty and makes for a great low carb, no-bake vegan dessert. The intermittant blending is really to create some air and get a nice fluff. It also helps to break up the ice crystals that will tend to form when anything freezes directly from liquid to solid. Enjoy this ice cream right away out of the freezer, as it tends to melt a little quicker than traditionally-made ice cream. It’s great topped with diced, fresh mango or toasted, flaked coconut.

Vegan Mango Ice Cream:

1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk (not light)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2/3 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Ener-G egg replacer

10 oz. frozen mango chunks (about 2 heaping cups)

Directions:

1. Blend all ingredients except mango in a blender. Add mango and blend until smooth and no chunks remain. Pour into a glass baking dish with a lid. Place in freezer.

2. Freeze mixture for up to 6 hours (may take less or more time, depending on freezer), removing every hour and a half to two hours to beat mixture. Beat using handheld electric blades or an immersion blender until ice cream is fluffy. Return to freezer and repeat a few times until desired texture is reached. Best when enjoyed shortly after preparing.

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Cornmeal Pancakes

In this city, noted for its bagels and the ubiquitous Sunday brunch, it can often be a slight challenge for the “_____ free” crowd (fill in the blank; they all fit). The notion of alternating sips of coffee and orange juice as your friends nosh on pancakes, french toast and, sigh, bagels and lox sounds rather alienating — and unappealing —  if you ask me.

I’m usually a shut-in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Maybe I’ll sleep in, maybe I’m up studying, reading or drinking coffee. At any rate, I’m usually still wearing whatever I slept in the night before. Still, when my parents are in town I tend to feel rather lazy sleeping in any later than 8 a.m., at which point they’ve already woken up, walked my dog and taken a quick trip to the farmers market for some fruit and veggie essentials. Usually, we’ll go to church, then head to brunch. So I’ve picked up a few brunch tips along the way. One option is to go unconventional. Think Indian. One especially exciting discovery was the daily 12-4 brunch at Brick Lane Curry House for something like $11, which gets you all-you-can-eat access to several varieties of curries, rice, soups and sides. Caracas Arepa Bar does a weekend brunch from noon-3 that is equally filling and unique. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if you’re in New York — now or ever — GO TO CARACAS. You’ll thank me. I’ve been for brunch only once, but did appreciate how, unlike many other Mexican/Latin American restaurants, Caracas doesn’t forgo their roots by offering the usual eggs and meat fare during brunch. You can still get their famous gluten-free cornmeal arepas, just prepared in different ways. Word of warning: expect to wait outside for a table. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.

So, if you’re going out and worried about what you can eat, I’ve found that the further you can get from standard American fare, the better (that is, if you can’t eat pancakes, waffles, eggs, french toast, etc.). If you’re looking to stay in and enjoy a lazy weekend morning as I often do, try this recipe for cornmeal pancakes. In the true spirit of brunch, I’m offering a two-for-the-price-of-one recipe: a sweet and savory option. Now the only thing you’ll have to worry about is which option to go with.

Lemony Cornmeal Pancakes:

Please Note: This recipes makes a very thin, crepe-like pancake batter. It’s important to drop batter a few inches apart and that your pan is very hot before cooking pancakes, so that the batter doesn’t spread.

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour

1/2 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill; medium grind)

1/4 cup flax seed meal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

1/2 cup water

zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon pure vanila extract

Warm Blueberry Sauce:

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

2 teaspoons arrowroot

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (brown rice flour through salt). Add wet ingredients and lemon zest and whisk vigorously and batter is smooth and slightly frothy on top.

2. Spray or rub large non-stick or cast-iron skillet with canola or grapeseed oil. Heat over high heat. When skillet is hot (allow a few minutes), pour batter in scant 1/4 cup-sized amounts, making sure to leave an inch or two of space between each cake. Cook 1 1/2-2 minutes on the first side, until bubbles start to form on the outside edges. Flip and cook for about another minute or two, or until the second side is golden brown. Repeat steps 1 & 2 with remaining batter.

3. To make blueberry sauce: add ingredients to a medium-sized saucepan and stir to combine. Heat over medium-high heat until bubbly and sauce begins to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Serve over pancakes.

Savory Southwestern Cornmeal Pancakes:

Same as cornmeal lemon pancakes with the following changes: omit lemon zest. Reduce water to 1/4 cup. Add: 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (drained; canned is fine); 1 4-oz can diced green chiles; 2 scallions, sliced; 1 teaspoon chile powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Serve with sliced avocado, salsa, guacamole, or anything else you think you might enjoy!

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Carrot Cake

carrot cakeThis carrot cake is one of my favorite new recipes. I made it this morning while witnessing an epic snowstorm in the making outside my window. The sweet, nostalgic smell of carrot cake somehow seemed perfect against the backdrop of billowing snow. Since I don’t have class on Fridays and am still recovering from my nasty little cold, I found being holed up in my apartment to be a perfectly fine way to spend the day. My dog, on the other hand, was a little less thrilled about the weather, since he was belly-deep in snow during much of our walk.

Anyways, back to the recipe. I love it because it’s moist and flavorful, and spongey rather than dense. Don’t get me wrong; I actually really love a dense, carrot-packed carrot cake. But this version is a foolproof cake recipe that I’m certain will satisfy all crowds. I had a “Miranda” (re: Sex and the City) moment today when — after sneaking small slices off of the sheet of cake throughout the day — I suddenly realized a quite sizeable chunk of it was missing. Whoops!

The coconut frosting I used is made from coconut-based ingredients and splashed with a hint of apple cider vinegar for some tanginess.  The way I made it, the frosting will set completely when it’s on the cake, which is why I add it in two batches. If you pour it on all at once, I think too much of the frosting mixture will seep into the warm cake. If you want to try a cream cheese frosting recipe instead, try this one from Elana’s Pantry. I haven’t tried it, but can attest to her recipes being pretty spot-on. I would suggest using Follow Your Heart vegan cream cheese and soy milk for a dairy-free version.

In other dessert-related news, I recently discovered a great blog called madcap cupcake. It is my new web obsession. I could gaze at the photographs alone for hours, and the recipes (many linked to other great blogs) — albeit not all gluten or sugar-free — are all vegan.  I’m sure madcap cupcake will be a great source of inspiration for me in the future. I also love the cruelty-free angle. I’m taking an animal law class right now, and without getting too in-depth, I’ll just say that I’ve learned enough already to know that the world could use a good, cruelty-free recipe blogger. You go, Marika!

On that note, I hope you all enjoy this gluten-free, sugar-free, “cruelty free” carrot cake as much as I did.

Tip: toast the walnuts on a flat baking sheet at 350 for 10 minutes before using

Gluten Free Carrot Cake:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup grapeseed oil

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup hot water

1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)

2 cups shredded carrot

1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup fruit sweetened dried cranberries

Coconut Frosting:

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons potato starch

2 teaspoons coconut flour

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup agave nectar

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup lite coconut milk

Directions:

1. Make frosting by blending all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Make sure coconut oil is liquified beforehand. If solidified, let jar sit in a warm bowl of water for 10 minutes. Chill frosting in refrigerator while preparing cake.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl (sorghum flour through salt). Add grapeseed oil, agave and hot water and whisk until batter is smooth. Fold in applesauce, carrot, walnuts and dried cranberries. Turn out batter into a pre-greased, 9-13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4. Let cake cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. When cake is slightly cooled, pour or spread 1/2 of the frosting mixture over cake. Cover and let cool in refrigerator until frosting is set (firm to the touch). Pour or spread the remaining mixture over the cake and let frosting set completely before serving.

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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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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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