Gluten Free Bran and Flax Pumpkin Muffins

Muffins have been getting a bad rap in recent years. One need only flip through a few fitness magazines to find some sort of article about the diet-sabotaging potential of just a single muffin. In New York, where calorie counts at fast food restaurants are now mandated by law, muffins rank among the most calorie ladden desserts. I was surpised to learn that a blueberry muffin at Dunkin Donuts had almost twice the calories of a cream-filled, gooey glazed doughnut. I knew muffins could be sneaky when it came to calories, but I didn’t know it had gotten that bad!

As someone who nearly survived on muffins for breakfast throughout college (breakfast wasn’t covered by my meal plan, nor was it served in my dorm), I object to the tarnishing of one of my favorite morning treats. Sure, some muffins out there may be the size of a small melon these days. And sure, many places selling these muffins throw in ingredients that most of us can’t even pronounce — not to mention several other ingredients most of us (food allergy sufferers, that is) can’t eat. But that shouldn’t mean that muffins lose all credibility when it comes to a sensible morning option. This recipe for gluten free, vegan and agave-sweetened muffins is ladden with fiber-boosting whole grains and flax to help fill you up in the morning. Yes, there’s fat in it — but only good fat (in the form of flax) and otherwise very little oil. Pumpkin is high in antioxidants, several key nutrients and zinc. And finally, cinnamon is said to regulate blood sugar and may even boost cognitive function and memory. Round them out with some soy milk or a shake for protein (have to do my due “protein-advocacy” diligence after years of — ahem — gentle coaxing by my mom to eat more of it) and these muffins will redeem your faith (if you had any to begin with) that muffins can have a place in a healthy diet.

Yield: 12-14 muffins

Bran and Flax Pumpkin Muffins:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup rice bran

1/2 cup potato starch

1/2 cup flax seed meal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

3/4 cup agave nectar

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or soy or rice)

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup hot water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Whisk dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together agave and grapeseed oil. Add to dry ingredients. Add almond milk, pumpkin, vanilla and hot water to the mixture and whisk until incorporated (feel free to add nuts or raisins here as well). Fill muffin tins (greased, if not using baking cups) with batter until batter almost reaches the top of each cup.

2. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

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Cranberry, Walnut and Chocolate Morsels

What is it about fresh baked cookies and a glass of milk — or soy milk — that is so enticingly comforting? I’m willing to bet that no other smell quite matches that of fresh baked cookies in eliciting warm, nostalgic memories from children and adults alike. To tell you the truth, I don’t particularly remember my mom baking many cookies when I was younger. While my mom was a wonderful baker, pies seemed — and still seem — to be her real speciality. And yet, it’s when I bake cookies — not pie — that I think of home and my childhood. Maybe it’s because no matter how hard I try, I will never bake a pie that comes close to those my mom can make, and therefore no pie I make reminds me in any way of the ones I remember my mom baking when I was a kid. Whatever the reason, during my 1000+ attempts at making these cookies, I kept getting a comforting feeling as they baked in the oven, slowly filling my apartment with sweet, chocolately wafts of air.

But unlike the cookies you likely enjoyed as a kid, these gluten free, sugar free and vegan cookies have some redeemable qualities. First, you won’t experience the ever-so-familiar sugar rush — then crash — that can be associated with too much of a good (sugary) thing. Plus, the omega-packed walnuts and antioxidant-packed cranberries are actually good for you. If you don’t do sugar and can’t find fruit-sweetened cranberries in stores (I find them at Whole Foods and at my local health food store), try ordering them here, a source recommended by Elana of Elana’s Pantry. So go ahead, enjoy more than one of these wonderful, little chocolate morsels. Your body will thank you.

Yield: about 15 small cookies

For Glaze (optional): Make chocolate coating from this recipe. When baked cookies have cooled to room temperature, lay flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and chill until sauce has hardened. Serve chilled.

Gluten Free, Sugar Free Chocolate, Cranberry and Walnut Cookies:

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup potato starch

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Spectrum organic shortening

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup light coconut milk, shaken

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup fruit sweetened dried cranberries

2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa, sorghum flour, potato starch, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.

3. In a larger bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together agave nectar, shortening and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients and whisk but do not beat (using a whisker instead of electric blades to avoid flour flying everywhere).

4. Whisk in coconut milk until incorporated. Fold in cranberries and walnuts. Batter should be more thin than a typical cookie batter.

5. Using a tablespoon for measuring, place rounded tablespoon-sized amounts of batter on a lightly greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.

6. Bake cookies in preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Tip: These cookies are quite good — I’m tempted to say even better — frozen and eaten straight from the freezer. Something about the cold concentrates the flavors and yields a nice, crisp crunch. Make a double batch and freeze half for quick treat that you can enjoy anytime.

For a Chocolate-Free Version: Use garbanzo bean flour in place of the cocoa powder and increase the amount of potato starch to 1/3 cup.

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Gluten Free Coconut Cupcakes

Maybe it’s because I live in New York City, where seemingly every other storefront these days has sweet scents coming out of it, and a long glass window with rows of cupcakes beckoning passersby inside. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, and we tend to like our sweets pre-portioned. Maybe it’s just that they’re fun to eat. Whatever the reason, I’ve been on a cupcake-making binge lately, and I can’t get enough. I’ve already made chocolate banana cupcakes with sour cream frosting, carob cupcakes, and carrot orange cupcakes, all with their own, distinct twist. It was time, I decided, for a simple, old-fashioned cupcake. This recipe fits the bill.

There’s another, more practical, reason behind my cupcake-making streak. I have recognized that while many visiting this blog share a common list of food don’ts — gluten, sugar, dairy, wheat — other, less common, sensitivities may be present in varying degress among this larger group of visitors. I needed a recipe for those intolerant of rice flour, a frosting for those who couldn’t eat corn. This cupcake fits that description. While coconut flour is one of the more expensive flours out there, a little also goes a long way. You can keep the rest in the refrigerator and add it to other flour mixtures for cakes and cookies — you can even use it to thicken other frosting recipes, as I’ve done here. The weird thing about coconut flour is that it seems to soak up a lot of the liquid in the recipe. Therefore, while the batter may seem somewhat more dry than other cupcake batters, the cupcakes will come out nice and moist when they are done.

Please Note: Cupcakes will harden slightly in refrigerator. I happen to like them this way, but to maintain the cupcakes’ lightness, store in an airtight container at room temperature and frost just prior to serving (frosting tends to melt if left at room temperature for more than a few hours).

Yield: about 10 cupcakes

Gluten Free Vegan Coconut Cupcakes:

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour/starch

1/4 cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup dry unsweetened shredded coconut for the top

Sugar Free Vegan Coconut Frosting:

3/4 cup regular coconut milk

2 teaspoons arrowroot

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons coconut flour

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions:

1. To prepare frosting: in a small saucepan, whisk coconut milk and arrowroot over medium heat until it thickens and bubbles, about 3 mintues. Add to a blender with the rest of frosting ingredients and blend until smooth. Chill in refrigerator until thick, about 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut oil, agave nectar and coconut milk. Add to dry ingredients and fold with a spoon until incorporate. Fold in applesauce until incorporated into rest of batter.

4. Full muffin tin with cupcake liners. Using an ice cream scoop, fill baking cups with batter about halfway. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through so cupcakes cook evenly. Cupcakes will seem under-done when the come out but will harden as they cool. Let cool in pan for about 5 minutes. Then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Top cupcakes with frosting and dip tops of cupcakes into shredded coconut until covered.

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Gluten-Free, Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Covered “Sugar” Cookies

Back when I was a junior in high school, my mom, grandpa and myself visited the University of Wisconsin as part of a small series of college tours. While I didn’t choose the school, I fell in love with Madison; it was charming and friendly. And at the end of our long, cold days taking in the small city, our warm, inviting bed and breakfast left a special treat that may have just solidified our love for Madison. Crisp — yet slightly soft — pepperminty sugar cookies, lightly dipped in a thin layer of chocolate, were piled high on a plate when we walked in the door. Devouring the cookies, my mom and I looked at each other knowingly. These were no ordinary cookies. They were pure bliss. We were smart enough to get the recipe. Years later, we would continue to bake the cookies — mostly reserving the slightly labor-intensive process for Valentine’s day, when we would make several batches and send them out to all of our loved ones.

I’ve gotten over many of the food losses I suffered when I received my allergy diagnosis: my mom’s famous plum dumplings, bagels and lox, even Georgia ruebens (a guilty sandwich pleasure in college). But it saddened me to know that I would no longer be able to enjoy those cookies, which somehow represented the memory of a trip that was equally unforgettable.

I’ve tried several times to recreate the recipe using agave nectar and gluten-free flours — 13 times, to be exact. Each version was similar, but also quite obviously a little off in at least one way. Nearly defeated, this was, I told myself, going to be the last version I tried before calling it quits. As it turns out, this version came closest to the original, though not quite exact. I’m not sure I will ever reproduce cookies that mimic the original, but the following recipe merits some praise for being a gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan cookie that still actually tastes like a cookie. And looks like a cookie. And smells like a cookie when it comes out of the oven. They’re delicious cooled with chocolate hardened over them (as pictured), or warm just out of the oven. They will be really soft and flimsy immediately after being removed from the oven, but if you let them sit for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a rack, they will harden as they cool and remain intact. In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to substitute grated orange zest for the peppermint extract called for in the original (the cookies don’t exactly come out orange and black — but the idea stuck). You can use peppermint if you wish, or try experimenting with any number of other flavors. The chocolate dip would also be a great sugar-free, natural option for chocolate-covered strawberries.

Please Note: If you opt to do without the chocolate, keep cookies at room temperature and store in an airtight container. The soft chocolate layer is a nice contrast to the crisp cookie underneath, but without the chocolate, the texture would be much better if left unrefrigerated.

Yield: about 30, depending on size

Chocolate Covered “Sugar” Cookies:

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour (very important to use this brand)

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

zest of one orange

3/4 cup virgin coconut oil (liquify by letting jar sit in a bowl of warm water)

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon agave nectar

Chocolate Dip:

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup virgin coconut oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours, xanthan gum and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk vanilla, orange zest, coconut oil and agave. Add wet to dry ingredients and fold batter until incorporated. Chill batter in refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until workable.

3. Using your hand, roll tablespoon-sized amounts of batter into balls and place on baking sheet. Leave space between each cookie. Using the side of your hand, press down on dough and form into round, 1/4-inch high, 2 inch-round cookies (this should be fairly easy using the inside part of your hand).

4. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Cookies should be golden brown on the outside when done. Let sit on baking sheet for a few minutes, then gently transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

5. Meanwhile, prepare chocolate sauce. Over a double boiler (I just used a glass bowl over a small saucepan filled with 1/2 cup water), melt together ingredients for dip. Whisk for about a minute until shiny and smooth. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before dunking cookies. Dip cookies halfway, then let set on wax paper in the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least three hours.

6. Serve cookies cooled — should not be left out too long or chocolate will melt.

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Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

Since being diagnosed with food allergies, the one thing I’ve really — I mean really – been missing has been lasagna, which was one of my all-time favorite comfort foods back in the day. This version is not only gluten-free and dairy-free, but also soy free. After coming across a recipe for pine nut ricotta dip in one of my favorite food blogs, Elana’s Pantry, I decided to adapt her dip recipe into a ricotta that could be used in lasagna. The results were out-of-this-world. Now when I’m craving a comforting, decadent one-dish meal, this vegetable lasagna will be my go-to recipe. Serve this meal for friends, but don’t tell them what’s not in it. You’ll fool them every time.

Gluten Free Vegan Lasagna with Pine Nut Ricotta:

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium zucchini, diced

5 button mushrooms, sliced

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon rosemary, minced

1 box gluten-free lasagna noodles (I used Tinkyada brand, which is made with brown rice)*

Pine Nut Ricotta:

1 cup raw pine nuts, soaked for 2 hours and drained

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Prepare sauce: In a large sauce pan or Dutch Oven, saute onions and garlic in one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add zucchini and mushrooms, plus another tablespoon of olive oil. Saute for another 8 minutes. Add both canned and fresh tomatoes, parsley and rosemary. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. When finished, drain any excess liquid. Mixture should be quite thick. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pasta according to package directions (I cooked mine for less time than the box called for).

3. Prepare ricotta by blending pine nuts, water, lemon juice and salt in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

4. Assemble lasagna: in a 9×13″ baking dish, start by layering noodles, side-by-side, lengthwise. Spread approximately 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over noodles. Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the top of the ricotta mixture. Repeat 3x, then top with a final layer of noodles.

5. Bake, covered in aluminum foil, for 20 minutes. Serve topped with additional parsley.

*You may need 2 boxes to fully complete the layering process. 1 box will usually be sufficient, but if there are broken pieces, one box might not always be enough. I try to keep an extra box on hand just to be on the safe side.

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Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Cake

This cake is a quick and easy one-bowl-and-you’re-done operation. I adapted it from the apple cake recipe in the Joy of Cooking, which, for all intents and purposes, is my bible (the book, not the recipe). I’ve been known to bring it to bed with me to read on more than one occasion. You’ll love the smell coming from your oven as this cake bakes. In all, this gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free cake makes the perfect dessert for a cool fall evening. Add chopped walnuts for some extra flavor and crunch if you wish. In an effort to incorporate more gluten free flours into my baking, I made this bread using sorghum flour, which is high-protein and high-fiber and reminiscent of whole wheat. That is, if you remember wheat well enough to reminisce. I’m not sure I still do…

For a twist: try this cake topped with orange vanilla frosting from the recipe for carrot orange cupcakes. Of course, it’s very good as-is, with no frosting or sauce at all.

Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Cake:

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup agave nectar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light coconut milk

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup apple, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

 Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add agave, coconut milk, oil and vanilla and whisk until batter is smooth. Fold in apple, cranberries and walnuts (if desired). Pour batter into a greased, 8-inch square baking dish.

3. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Mexican Style Quinoa Salad

 A while ago, my cousin made a delicious quinoa salad and this is a take on that. It’s a good recipe to play around with, as ingredients can be added and taken away without changing the integrity of the dish. Try adding grilled zucchini or asparagus, roasted red pepper, or diced tofu. I’d also be interested to know how this one tastes with the addition of fresh mint.

This is a really simple and healthy lunch or dinner. It’s also great as a side or served at a party. Thanks, Kelly, for the idea!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup canned corn, drained

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained

1 jalapeno, diced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste

1 avocado sliced

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl, toss corn, black beans, jalapeno, olives, grape tomatoes, and red onion. In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, cider vinegar, canola oil, chile powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt.

3. When quinoa has cooked, add to the salad mixture. Add the dressing and toss. Top with sliced avocado immediately before serving.

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Gluten Free Vegan Carob Cupcakes

carob cupcakes 3These cupcakes are a new favorite. In the words of The Moosewood Cookbook: “Carob is carob.  Chocolate is chocolate…Let carob be itself — its genuine, sweet, subtle self. You will discover it to have a charm and character of its own.” Since Moosewood has been in my family for years — given to me by my mom, pages curdled and stained from from spills,  others stuck together — I trust that Moosewood is probably right. Carob deserves to stand on its own as a worthy ingredient, and not just as a chocolate substitute. Personally, I love it. And I love chocolate as well. But since this is a site for people with food allergies, if you can’t have chocolate, these are an indulgence worthy of taking the chocolate cupcake’s place — even if carob is carob, and chocolate is chocolate.  

A quick note on coconut cream (used in the frosting): You can find it in the baking aisle of health food stores (I bought mine at Whole Foods), usually next to the shredded coconut. It’s kind of like natural peanut butter in the sense that, at room temperature, the solid separates from the liquid. When it’s cold, it completely hardens. I suggest warming the package in a bowl of warm water before using, if the cream is completely solid. When using in this recipe, you want to use, for the most part, the solid part of the coconut cream. This is what will allow the frosting to harden and form a nice glaze over the cupcakes.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Gluten Free Vegan Carob Cupcakes:

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon carob powder (not sweetened)

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 banana, mashed

Sugar Free, Dairy Free Carob Frosting:

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coconut cream (the solid part)

1/4 cup carob powder (not sweetened)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

1. Prepare frosting at least an hour or two before using so that frosting can chill and harden. To prepare, blend all ingredients in a blender. Cover and chill in refrigerator.

2. Preheat oven to 325.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat coconut milk, agave, canola oil, vanilla and banana on high. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix on a low speed until incorporated.

4. Fill cupcake tins with liners and add batter a little more than 3/4 of the way to the top of each liner. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate cupcake tin 180 degrees, and bake for another ten minutes. Cupcakes may be a little soft to the touch when you take them out, but they will harden a little more as they cool. Allow to cool five minutes in tins, then on a rack. When cupcakes have completely cooled, frost using about a tablespoon of frosting at first. Add more as needed and spread evenly over the top of the cupcake. This is not a fluffly frosting, but more of a glaze.

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Gluten Free Carrot Orange Cupcakes

006When I was younger, one of my favorite desserts was my grandma’s — which then became my mom’s — famous carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It was dense and sweet and tasty, yet incredibly loaded with vitamin packed carrots. My take on the dessert is a little less carrot-heavy, but the absence of sugar and butter and the addition of whole grains makes these cupcakes a not-so-guilty pleasure nonetheless.

I know it may seem like a lot of ingredients, but if you already do a lot of gluten-free cooking or baking, you will likely have many of the items already on hand. Plus, many of the ingredients for the cake are used in the frosting as well. As a final note, I really like to use Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour for baking because it tends to produce a less gritty final product. If you are working with what seems like a grittier flour, try throwing it in the food processor for about 30 seconds for a finer texture.

Cake Ingredients:

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour

3/4 cup white rice flour

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tbsp flax seed meal

1 tsp xanthan gum

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tsp orange zest

1 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup hot water

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

1 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the orange juice and zest, agave nectar, canola oil and vanilla extract. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Add the hot water. Fold in the apple, carrot and coconut. Do not overmix.

Line muffin tins with baking cups and fill each cup about halfway with the batter. Bake at 325 for about 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool. Then top with vanilla orange frosting. Recipe follows.

Vanilla orange frosting:

2/3 cup light coconut milk

1/4 cup white rice flour

2 tbsp orange juice

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 tbsp arrowroot

2 tsp orange zest

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp xanthan gum

Whisk rice flour and coconut milk and heat in a small saucepan over medium heat. Slowly stir until milk has thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend with remaining ingredients. If using coconut oil and your oil has hardened, place it in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes until it liquifies before adding to the blender. Chill for at least an hour.

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