Flowered grainless granola



One of my most popular recipes is my no added sugar or oil, gluten free granola.  There are numerous variations you can made to it with different add-ins etc, so it is nice and versatile, depending on your own taste.  I still make the recipe regularly for myself - often keeping it plain and simple with 3 ingredients - oats, puffed brown rice, and unsweetened apple sauce. Then I just add whatever fruit is in season in our garden and some homemade soy yogurt - and I'm a happy girl!

However, eating grains can sometimes cause issues for people and lead to bloating, gas, pain and other symptoms.  Eliminating grains, refined sugar and dairy can sometimes help in this situation.



The reason behind this is that these food items contain fermentable carbohydrates that can promote overgrowth of bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut.

A plant based diet without grains, dairy and sugar can lead to favorable changes in the quality and quantity of intestinal microflora.  You should talk to your health care provider for more information on this so they can monitor your changes.



So while many of us eat cereal for breakfast,  if you are grain free - it gets tricky!  So today I decided to come up with my own recipe for a grain-free granola.  I'm so pleased with how it turned out. Its made with seeds, nuts and fruit - and dried flowers to make it look pretty and special.  Gluten free, no added sugar or oil. It is also suitable for those on a Paleo diet.  I love the addition of the flowers.  It gives the message that this isn't a hardship granola and you are missing out on grains. It gives something extra - a bonus of pretty flowers so there is no feeling of deprivation.

Here's the recipes:
1/2 cup raw organic almonds - roughly chopped
1/2 cup raw organic walnuts - roughly chopped
1/4 cup raw organic hazelnuts - roughly chopped
1/2 cup raw organic sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
one small pot (4oz) unsweetened, organic applesauce
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 dried edible flowers


  1. Heat the oven to 375 F
  2. Combine the nuts and seeds together and stir in the cinnamon.
  3. Add the applesauce and stir thoroughly until well combined.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and stir well, bringing the edges into the center so they don't burn.
  6. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes  - keeping an eye on it so the edges don't burn.
  7. If crispy and dry - remove from the oven.  If still a bit damp, give it another couple of minutes.
  8. Let cool.
  9. Add the raisins and edible flowers and mix.
This makes a delightful trail mix as well as a granola.

Obviously the recipe is very versatile. You can choose your own combination of seeds and nuts and fruits.  Omit the flowers or use the flowers.  Basically you need one small pot of applesauce for 1 3/4 - 2 cups of nuts/seeds.  If you use more, you'll have to add more applesauce.

If you don't have dried edible flowers, you can use a flower tea blend. There are some lovely ones out there.  So take a look and add some pretty to your breakfast!

But do bear in mind that this recipe is mainly nuts and seeds. While there is no added fat, the nuts and seeds are high in fat.  If you are trying to lose weight, this should be a consideration.  Nuts and seeds are good to having in our diet - but not too many.


It's funny how I used to have granola with milk or yogurt as the add-on.  Since making my own soy yogurt and loving it so much, I now have yogurt with granola as the add-on, that is the yogurt is the predominant factor.  This new flowery granola may switch things back - or maybe it'll even things out now - so I have equal amounts of granola and homemade yogurt!

What your favorite way to eat granola?
Comments

Book Review: The China Study Cookbook

This week, I'm reviewing a cookbook: The China Study Cookbook by Leanne Campbell.  This is the "official companion to The China Study".  If you haven't read the China Study by Colin Campbell - you should - and I'll maybe review that another day.


Anyhow this companion cookbook came out this year - 7 years after The China Study.  It is written by the daughter of Colin Campbell and features recipes for "easily prepared plant-based food with no added fat and minimal sugar and salt with the goal of promoting optimal health without sacrificing taste".

The recipes are divided into the following categories:

  • breads and muffins
  • breakfast dishes
  • appetizers and salads
  • soups
  • sandwiches
  • entrees
  • side dishes and 
  • desserts
The breads all rely on whole wheat flour and sucanat for a sweetener. It would have nice to vary the grains a little - especially offering at least one gluten free option.... maybe even just for the corn bread?

In the breakfast section there is the usual french toast, crepes, muesli, scrambled tofu, smoothies, hash.....Nothing really excited me in this section.

A big downside to this book for me was the photography.  I really didn't find the pictures to be appetizing.  They tend to be close-ups of food with no real styling at all - just the odd basil leaf thrown in. Not one photo made me want to cook that dish.  I do like to see recipe photos and rarely buy a book without them - but they have to be good photos.

Recipe http://www.thechinastudy.com/endorsed-by-t-colin-campbell/the-china-study-cookbook/recipes/

The sandwich section includes chickpea burgers which sound nice but again include vital wheat gluten and panko breadcrumbs so need quite a bit of conversion for gluten free.

I am very familiar with making recipes gluten free so its not that this book loses "marks" for me in this book. It is that I don't find it very interesting.  For example - hummus wraps: chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice to make the hummus then spread on a wrap with a bit of lettuce and tomato.

One recipe that did catch my eye was African vegetables - but the photo again was awful.  And its not that all the recipes are trying to be really easy - the majority of them have more than 12 ingredients in them!


So I have to say, this book is not my style.  The recipes don't grab me, many have lots of ingredients, there are no gluten free options (but it also doesn't suggest it is gluten free), there is quite a lot of sucanat in several recipes...and there is not one recipe that I have thought I wanted to try.

There are plenty of other plant based, no added oil, sugar or salt cookbooks I would recommend over this one.

So do yourself a favor - read The China Study and Colin Campbell's new book Whole, but skip the cookbook.
Comments

Healthy fudge recipe

If you are fancying a tasty treat, or want to make a healthy gift for a friend's birthday, try this healthy walnut fudge recipe.



Don't be put off by the ingredients - yes, it has black beans in it.  You don't taste them at all - and they provide a nice texture and great fiber in a treat.

Here is the recipe:
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 banana, cut in slices
1/2 cup raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup pitted dates
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup ground rolled oats/oat flour (grind rolled oats in coffee grinder or food processor)
2 tbs ground flax seeds
2 tbs chia seeds

Decorations:
Ground walnuts (ground in a coffee grinder or food processor)

Combine all the ingredients, except the ground walnuts, in a food processor and blend well until thoroughly mixed and a dough is formed.

Divide the mixture into 2 and from two long logs of dough on a board.

Roll each log in the ground walnuts to cover completely and as rolling, shape nicely.

Use a sharp knife to cut the logs into discs/rounds.  Store in the fridge and enjoy!

The recipe was inspired by Including Cake. It's a wonderful vegan fudge recipe with fruit, beans, no added sugar or oil, no dairy, and a good source of omega 3 plants based fats from flax and chia seeds.  They also add to the fiber content too.  In the photos, one fudge log was rolled in dessicated coconut and the other log in ground walnuts. I liked the walnut ones better than the coconut ones.  The coconut seemed to be a little overpowering and took away from the fudge, in my opinion.  You could try other ground/finely chopped ingredients too.
Comments

Bell Pepper and tomato soup


This is my new favorite soup!  I love it.  It's smooth and warming with a little kick. Today has been rainy, which is sooooooo unusual for Northern California at this time of year, so I decided to make some soup and feel all warm and cozy.



Here is the recipe:

40g or 1/4 cup red lentils
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped/crushed
5 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped or a can of tomatoes (eg Pomi chopped tomatoes)
2 peppers - one red and one yellow
400g or 1 3/4 cups water or stock
shake or two of cayenne pepper
To serve - hemp and pumpkin seeds

1. Begin by grinding the lentils into a powder/flour, using a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Put to one side.
2. Dry-fry the onion, garlic and peppers in a medium saucepan, until soft (approx 5 - 10 minutes)
3. Add the stock/water, tomatoes, ground lentils and cayenne and simmer for 12 - 15 minutes
4. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
5. Serve sprinkled with hemp and pumpkin seeds.

You can use just red peppers, but I like to use one red and one yellow - just coz they look pretty! They are a good source of Vitamin C and also carotenoids.




The lentils are used like flour, to thicken the soup.  I'd never tried using ground lentils in a recipe - but grinding them first helps you achieve a smooth texture to the soup and they cook quickly.  I can see myself using them to thicken lots of other dishes too.



It's quick and easy to make.  As the soup will be pureed, you don't have to spend a long time on chopping things finely, as the blender will do that.  And the kick of cayenne (to your taste) gets your taste buds dancing!


If you feel like you need to cozy up, give it a try.  A healthy, warming, tasty soup.
Comments

Brussels Slaw with hazelnuts and dates

I made a lovely coleslaw recipe last week - using brussels sprouts instead of cabbage.  It doesn't taste of brussels sprouts however - and my husband who doesn't like sprouts enjoyed it and then a couple of people in my food as medicine class who don't like sprouts also enjoyed it!


Yeah - a way to enjoy the healthy cruciferous vegetable Brussels Sprouts!

I used a mandoline to slice the sprouts - only slicing until you get to the more solid stalk part, then discarded the real white piece.



Here's the recipe, which I adapted from one at Feasting at home:

2 cups brussels sprouts (approx 1/2 lb)
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped (approx 5 dates)
1/8 cup finely diced red onion
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut nectar or liquid sweetener
1/2 tablespoon walnut butter
Zest of one orange




  1. Finely slice the brussels, beginning at the top of each one and working down to the end, discarding the hard ends.  You can do this by hand or carefully with a mandolin! Place in a bowl.
  2. Slice the pitted dates and add to the brussels
  3. If not roasted, roast the hazelnuts in a dry pan for a few minutes.  Rub off the skins by placing the nuts in a tea towel and rubbing them together.  Place the roasted nuts in a ziploc bag and crush lightly with a rolling pin or back of a spoon.  Add to the brussels, along with the chopped onion and half the zest.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk the vinegar, coconut nectar and walnut butter and pour over the slaw. Mix well.  
  5. Serve in a bowl/plate, garnished with the remaining zest.
The zest of the orange seems to bring all the flavors together in harmony. I first tried it without, but it is far better with it.


It lasts a couple of days in the fridge - if you can stop eating it!

Let me know if you give it a try.  And yes, the correct term is Brussels Sprout - the S goes on the Brussels. They may have originated in Brussels, Belgium, but it is not certain.
Comments

Spring Pesto

I made a no-added-oil pesto this week to garnish a parsnip and cauliflower soup.  I felt the pesto acknowledged that it was now spring and lifted the more wintery flavors of the soup into this early April time.


But then I finished the soup and still had some parsley and spinach left, so made some more pesto and found different ways to use it!...... as a dip, on a sandwich, as a dressing, ...

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 cup baby organic spinach
1/2 cup fresh chives
1/2 cup (packed) flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. If necessary, add more water to achieve the consistency you desire. You may have to stop the processor a couple of times to scrape down the sides so that everything is combined.



Enjoy it on a variety of different dishes! The photo above shows it on a sunflower cracker with sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber and black cumin! A tasty lunch.

You won't miss the oil at all!  The taste of the parsley and lemon just excite the taste buds too much to want oil!

Parsley is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. It is rich in antioxidant flavonoids and is a good source of folic acid.  Chives are a member of the allium family and are anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral.  They also contain quercetin which helps reduce histamine and so helps with hay fever and seasonal allergies.

Whip yourself up a dose of healthy green pesto and put a spring in your step this spring time! Your body will love you for it.
Comments

Vibrant Quinoa Salad

I made this lovely green quinoa salad for some friends last week, when they visited for lunch.


It is very easy to make and seems so perfect for springtime with the lovely green colors.  It tastes nice and fresh with the lemon juice and mint.

Give it a try and let me know what you think:

Ingredients:
1/3 cup quinoa
2/3 cup water
4 scallions/spring onions, finely chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup frozen green garbanzos
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/2 bunch mint, chopped
1/4 cucumber, diced

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve to remove the bitter coating.
  2. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the quinoa.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. When its cooked, the quinoa should still have a little crunch.  Rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly.  Place in a large bowl.
  3. Put the green garbanzo beans and peas in boiling water and cook briefly for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.  Add to the quinoa.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. Serve.
  5. Will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Can be made in advance.
You can obviously add whatever vegetables you like to this dish. I like the green garbanzo beans - as they are new in the stores here, so its good to find a nice dish for them...but you could use sugar snaps or edamame or another vegetables instead.  You could also try celery, or green pumpkin seeds or green pistachios.


The dish provides a good protein source and calcium from the quinoa, and plenty of different phytonutrients from the vegetables and lemon.  The cumin is rich in phytoestrogens and may help with osteoporosis and diabetes.
Comments

All-day Long Oatmeal Bites

I have been making these oatmeal bites so frequently over the last couple of weeks...but they are always eaten before I take their photograph, so I haven't blogged about them before today!



Anyhow - they are my current favorite bite. You can eat them any time of the day  - from breakfast through to a snack to a dessert after dinner. I love them. They were inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe. They are sooooo tasty.  I made them for our choir retreat and got lots of comments, and everytime someone tastes them, they want the recipe. They are perfect for a breakfast on the go - or even a dinner on the go, as I've taken a couple to the city with me in the evening, to keep me going!


Anyhow, here is the recipe:

Scant 1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1/2 cup cashew nut butter (I use Artisana brand)
1 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit


Preheat the oven to 350F

1. Mash the applesauce with the cashew butter in a bowl until combined.
2. Add all the other ingredients and stir well.
3. Use a small cookie scoop to shape approx 15 cookies on a lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 14 minutes, until the base is brown.



Comments

Lentil Cottage Pie

One of the dishes I made for the choir retreat this weekend was a lentil pie with potato topping.  It is similar to a cottage or shepherds pie that are popular in England - but is vegan.  I hadn't made it before, but was really pleased with how it came out.  So I thought I'd share the recipe.



The recipe makes enough for 10 people and it can all be prepared the day ahead.  Then you just need to heat it in the oven for 30 minutes, and its ready to serve. Or you can make it in advance and freeze it. The perfect dish for entertaining when you want to not be in the kitchen on the day!

Ingredients:

2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
1 head of celery, chopped
300g/10 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dried thyme
3 cans cooked green lentils or 500g/1lb dried green lentils
100 ml red wine
500 ml water
3 tbsp tomato puree

Topping - Barries Mash
5 large sweet potatoes
Non dairy milk
Bunch Fresh thyme

Clean the potatoes and bake them in the oven until soft (approx 45 - 60 minutes).

While the potatoes are baking, dry fry the onions, carrots, celery together in a large pan, until soft and golden.  No oil is necessary. If the vegetables start sticking to the pan, add a little water - 1 tablespoon at a time.  Use a lid to keep the moisture in.

Add the mushrooms and cook with the lid on for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the herbs and add either drained and rinsed canned lentils or the dried lentils.   Pour over the wine and stock.  If using canned lentils, cook for 10 minutes.  If using dried lentils, cook for longer, according to package instructions (normally about 30 minutes).

When the lentils are cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the tomato puree, and season to taste.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove and let cool for a while, until you can handle them.  Scrape out the potato flesh from its skin, keeping the skin for the topping.  Mash the potato flesh well, adding non dairy milk until it is the consistency you like for mash.

Chop up the skins of the potato with the leaves from fresh thyme.

The front two smaller versions didn't have potato skins on top
To assemble the pie, put the lentil mixture in a dish. If there is a lot of liquid, don't add it all. You can always have some as a sauce/gravy to serve.  (The amount of liquid will depend on whether you use cooked or dried lentils and how much they absorbed. There should be some liquid but not excessive liquid.) Top with the mashed potato.  Sprinkle the chopped potato skins over the mash.

The dish can be frozen at this time (when cooled). Defrost before baking. To serve, heat the oven to 190C or 375F and bake for 30 minutes. The potato skins will crispen up as it bakes.


The idea of using the potato skins on top of the mash came from an old recipe I used to make from my aga cookbook. It was called Barries mash.  It's a lovely way to add crunch to mash - and in this recipe, is a great alternative to the usual grated cheese put on top to crispen things up. Instead, the skins get crispy and it add a lovely texture.  I'd never done it with sweet potatoes before, but it works well.

This recipe is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, no added oil.

Comments

Gluten Free Currant Oatcakes

I've been making oatcakes for a while now.  I just love oats and this week, I've been cooking with whole oats - or oat groats or oat berries...whichever term you use.


But before I share the whole oat recipes, I thought I'd share my oatcake recipe.  It makes a lovely cracker or snack to eat on its own, or to dip into something or to spread something on. Most of the time I eat them on their own.

Previously I've made them with 1 tbsp coconut oil, but today I decided to do a no-added oil version and replaced the coconut oil with 1 tbsp of applesauce. I don't actually taste any difference or see any difference in texture or structure without the oil, so it works well.


You can add whatever dried fruit you like to them - today I used dried currants, but I particularly like dried cranberries in them, or you can use nuts instead or just omit it and make them plain.  Such flexibility! And this time I also added some ground flaxseeds too, for added fiber.

So here is the recipe - in one version - for you to play with and enjoy:


Gluten free oatcakes - makes 14 oatcakes

225g gluten free old fashioned rolled oats (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
25g dried currants (1/8 cup)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
150 ml warm water (3/4 cup)

Heat the oven to 350F/180C.

Put the oats, baking soda and salt in a bowl and mix well. Stir in the currants and flaxseed.

In a separate bowl or jug, mix the warm water with the applesauce.

Make a well in the center of the oat mixture and pour in the liquid. Mix, until it comes together.  It will seem wet to start with but the oats will absorb the water to give a dough.




Lightly dust the work surface with gluten free flour or ground up oats. Tip out the dough and roll to approx 5mm thick.  Use a small cutter to cut out the oatcakes.  Re roll any trimmings and continue to cut out oatcakes until all the dough it used.  (Cut oatcakes can be frozen, uncooked for up to a month. Freeze flat before packing in bags).






Place the oatcakes on lined baking sheets.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning the oatcakes every 5 - 6 minutes or so, to stop them from steaming and going soggy.

Cool and enjoy!  Let me know if you make them.


Comments

Red Pepper Hummus

I made fat free hummus today - and while that is not a surprise for me, the thing that was different about it, was that I cooked my own garbanzo beans (chickpeas)!


Yes, I bought dried beans instead of the cooked ones. I soaked them overnight and cooked them for 3 hours this morning.

I wasn't doing this just for hummus - there are a few other dishes I'm using them for, but I thought it would be interesting to try my hummus recipe and see if it was more flavorful with the home-cooked beans.

I do actually prefer it, and if I am cooking garbanzos again for another reason, I'll save some for hummus again.

Here's the recipe:

1 drained can of chickpeas - or cook your own garbanzos
Juice of two lemons
1 teaspoon of Bragg Liquid Aminos
3 tablespoons water
2 roasted red peppers - I used Mezzetta

Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy!

I served mine with poppadoms for a health snack with lots of fiber.

Most hummus has tahini in it, or olive oil - but I love the taste without and don't need the fat and extra calories.
Comments

Marmalade Granola

You may recall that I made a gluten free granola a few months ago, that had no refined sugar or add oil in it.  It was plain in flavor, which is nice when you want to change your additions each morning for breakfast.

With 3 fig trees all full of ripe fruit, you can bet I add figs to my marmalade granola breakfast!
However, this week I made a flavored granola that I am just loving.  It's marmalade flavor, made with "no sugar added" marmalade.  There are a variety of marmalades and jams available nowadays that don't use refined sugar but instead utilize just the sweetness of fruit as their sweetener.  Be careful however, some utilize artificial sweeteners instead, which aren't good for you.

My favorite is an Italian organic citrus fruit "spread".  It's by Alce Nero and contains only orange peel and pulp,  apple puree and lemons.


Here is the recipe to make gluten free, no oil added, no refined sugar marmalade granola:


1 cup GF old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened puffed brown rice
1/4 cup Alce nero Citrus fruit spread

Mix the ingredients together and spread on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Place in the oven at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Stir and replace in the oven for an additional 5 - 10 minutes, but check frequently as it can quickly go from golden brown to over done.


Enjoy every morning with your non-dairy milk.


PS I make double the quantity listed here, and of course you can vary the ratio and types of grains as you please.
Comments

Food Textures - Crispy

Texture is a very important character of every food we eat or drink.  To many people it is even more important than taste.

If we think of the different textures we distinguish, there is: crunchy, chewy, crispy, juicy, squashy, runny, solid, hard, soft, soggy, firm, creamy, fatty, etc.

The components and ingredients within foods plus the processes they go through determines their textures.

So do you have a favorite texture?  Is there one texture that you tend to prefer to a snack?  In this series of blog posts, I'll be exploring different textures and some healthy snack options that can satisfy those textures. This means that if you crave your usual snack that maybe isn't so healthful, by identifying the texture of the snack, you can try substituting a more healthful snack that has the same texture.

For me, my favorite texture is crispy.  I love that firmness and the sound as you crack through it.  When I fancy a snack, it is crisp that I tend to go for.  In my not-so-healthy eating days, potato chips would be what I'd grab.  In identifying "crisp", it seems similar to crunchy, but the difference is that crisp is something thin, whereas crunchy is a thicker texture.

So I have a few alternatives that I now go to for my crispy fix. The first is Edwards and Sons Baked Brown Rice Snaps.




They come in different flavors but my favorites are the Tamari Seaweed ones. This flavor has no added oils or preservatives. The plain unsalted ones similarly have no oil, but I find them a little too plain! Some of the other flavors have added oil, so read the label. Here are the ingredients.



They have a great snap when you bite into them. They are good for dips and worth a try! I'll share some more crispy healthy snacks with you soon.
Comments