Castagnaccio - chestnut cake

I recently taught a couple of classes on managing blood glucose levels.  One of the recipes we cooked together was a Tuscan dish called Castagnaccio. Its a sweet/savory cake made with chestnut flour and no added sugar.


This winter I've actually had a bit of a chestnut obsession, to be honest.  I just love chestnuts and keep finding new ways to use them.  I think I'm just going to have to find space to plant a chestnut tree.


Edible  sweet chestnuts - not to be confused with horse chestnuts, nor water chestnuts, are in the beech tree family.  They are one of the lowest calorie nuts, containing no cholesterol, very little fat (mostly unsaturated) and gluten free.  They have similar carbohydrate content as rice and wheat and are the only nuts to contain vitamin C.  We always think of nuts as being high in fat - but not the chestnut.



I throw them on my salads, add  them to lots of other dishes and now am using chestnut flour in baked goods.  You can also buy them dried and reconstitute them, and pureed, and as "chips" which you can use to make a chestnut type hummus.  See - they are so much more than just a subject of Christmas songs! Get out there and buy a jar of roasted chestnuts - or roast your own, before they are all gone!



Castagnaccio is a little different from what you imagine a cake to be. It is solid with a more unusual texture - and combines the flavors of sweetness from sultanas (golden raisins), with pine nuts and then fresh rosemary.  I love the combination - but I have to say, I haven't tasted anything else quite like it.  I've tried a couple of variations using walnuts instead of the pine nuts and regular raisins or cranberries instead of the sultanas.  And with or without the orange zest. I like them all and its a great portable food that I take with me in the car on my trips to the city.



I've never had Castagnaccio from Tuscany. Have you?  I'd love to know how this recipe compares.....

Anyhow - if you are feeling like something a little different, give it a go:


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chestnut flour (I bought mine online)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 sultanas/golden raisins
1/4 pine nuts
1 large sprig of rosemary
Grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Soak the sultanas in the 1 1/2 cups warm water for approx 5 minutes.  Drain - reserving both the sultanas and the water.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the rosemary leaves from the sprig.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chestnut flour and drained warm water until smooth.
  5. Place the olive oil in a pie dish and place int he oven to just a couple of minutes to warm.
  6. Pour the batter into the pie dish and swirl with a whisk to carefully mix in the oil into the dough.  
  7. Sprinkle on the nuts, orange zest and soaked sultanas.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the whole surface is dry and a little cracked.
  9. Serve hot, warm or cold.
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Baked Oatmeal to go

I often hear people tell me that they eat oatmeal some mornings for breakfast but when they are in a rush, they often choose something less healthy and sustaining.  "Why not try baked oatmeal?" I say - so today's recipe is an easy grab and go baked oatmeal.  Make it at the beginning of the week and you have nearly a week's worth!



This recipe was also good timing for me as we leave today to go back to England for a couple of weeks.  I always take my own food on the plane so I have been thinking what to take for my in-the-air breakfast. I figured if  I baked my oatmeal in muffin cases, they would work perfectly!


And voila!  I also used up some of my quince puree too before we leave - but if you don't have quince, you can use unsweetened applesauce instead.  This quince oatmeal to go is gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and with no added sugar or fat.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 banana broken/chopped into little pieces
1/8 cup flaxseeds (whole or ground)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tbs cardamom powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup non dairy milk
1/4 cup quince puree or apple sauce/puree

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Spoon into 7 muffin cases in a muffin pan.  Bake at 375F for 35 minutes.

To serve - just grab and enjoy if you are on the go or if you do happen to be at home, you can break one up in a bowl and pour over some extra warm non-dairy milk. Store in the fridge.


(Bet you end up having them not just at breakfast time!!! I've got to make sure I don't eat them all before I fly off.)
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Rosehip, Quince and Clove granola

What a combination: Rosehip, quince and cloves!  It tastes so rich and full in the mouth.  And this granola  - while it has these three great healthy and yummy ingredients - is also happily lacking in 3 not-so-great ingredients - it doesn't have gluten, added oil nor added sugar.

Rosehip, Quince and Clove granola served with
almond milk, pomegranate seeds and homegrown passion fruit

A healthy, spicy, rich granola - perfect for fall and winter.

For this recipe, I took some of the roasted quince that I described in Monday's blog and pureed them in a blender with just a touch of water.



The recipe for the granola is as follows:

2 cups of grains (- I used 1 cup GF rolled oats plus 1 cup of GF unsweetened puffed brown rice)
4 tablespoons rosehip powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pureed quince

Mix all the ingredients together and then place on a baking sheet or shallow dish.

Bake at 375F for 10 minutes then remove and stir well.  Put back in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes until dried and starting to go crunchy. You need to keep an eye on at it during this time to check the outside parts aren't over cooking.

Remove from the oven and enjoy for breakfast or a snack.

You can add nuts and dried fruit to this recipe too. Add the nuts before cooking but add the fruit after cooking.


What a great start to the day: Serve it with non dairy milk/yoghurt and we get the fiber and catechins from the quince; more fiber from the oats and brown rice; anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects from the cloves, quince and rose hip; and plenty of vitamin C from the quince and rosehip.



And all that with NO added sugar, oil, salt and no gluten.

You will love the combination of rose hip, quince and clove.  When are you coming over for breakfast?
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A week of Quince - and its health benefits


This week I've decided I'll focus my blog posts on quince - that wonderful fruit that many people don't even know what it looks like, never mind what it tastes like.  Well, if you are one of those, you are missing out!  It is a great fruit and really is quite simple to prepare.  I'll take you through the stages today and then share some recipes on using the cooked quince throughout the week.  Yes, it is a fruit that needs to be cooked before you can enjoy it.  It is very tough when picked off the tree and too astringent to eat raw.


It's been a wonderful year for my quince tree again - with so many fruit. I've actually been keeping up with them better than before as I've perfected my cooking routine - and I've had a little help from my friends too, who took some to eat.


If you search for quince recipes, I bet every one - apart from those on this blog - will include plenty of sugar.  It seems all quince recipes involve baking the quince in a sugar syrup.  Well, I have to tell- it doesn't need any sugar at all!


How I cook mine is that I take the whole fruit, and use a vegetable peeler to get most of the peel off.



Then a put a few in a roasting dish and add some water and sprinkle some cloves over the top - or else add a couple of chai rooibos tea bags to the water to impart their flavor.


Then I put them in the simmering oven of my aga and let them roast for a few hours.  In fact, I once forgot them and they roasted overnight and were still delicious.

You can also roast them faster in a hotter oven - but as I have my aga - I love the slow roast method - often about 8 hours.


So put it in the oven and leave a note for yourself that they are in there and get on with the day. If you leave the house - you'll be greeted with a wonderful aroma of clove and quince spices as you come back in the door. "Smells like Christmas" as my husband would say - but anything with cloves smells or tastes like Christmas to him! (I try to tell him that cloves are for more than Christmas day!!!)


When they are cooked, just let them cool and then cut off the fruit from the core and either slice or puree in a blender and use in many different ways as I'll show you throughout the week.


And the health benefits of quince?

Quince is a low calorie fruit with good amounts of fiber.  There is a certain grittness in the pulp which comes from the tannins catechin and epicatechin. These are the same chemicals in green tea that contribute to its health benefits. These chemicals bind to cancer-causing toxins and chemicals in the colon and protect the mucous membrane from inflammatory bowel disease, cancers and diverticulitis.

It has many phenolic compounds in it which gives it a unique fragrance.  And has high concentrations of Vitamin C so helps boost immunity, reduce viral episodes and inflammatory conditions.

It is also a good source of copper, iron, potassium and magnesium, along with B vitamins.

So not only does it taste good - it is good for you!


As my friend just told me this week after she tried one of our quince:

"So much better than even the best baked apple I've ever eaten. What a treat, and  a happy discovery"

Get discovering for yourself and I'll share some recipes throughout the week!

It's quince time!

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Rosehip truffles revisited

I made a second batch of rosehip truffles as we have friends coming around today.  Thursday I posted the recipe - and it was one of the few recipes written by someone else that I didn't tweak and change anything on - as it seemed perfect.



However, today I did do something different and I prefer it - so you may want to give it a try - or not.  I still think both versions are great.

It was just in the dusting part. Instead of mixing the rosehip powder with cocoa powder and dusting the truffles, I just used the rose hip powder.


2 reasons:

  1. I like the color of the rosehip powder showing on the outside. Its a different color - yellowy, orangey, peachy - and will attract people to them, wondering what it is.  It sets you up for it being  a more fruity taste of truffle rather than a rich chocolate truffle
  2. We don't need chocolate or cocoa to be in all our truffles. I like the idea of these being chocolate free and more fruity and spicy instead.
Here's the recipe again in case you missed it:
Makes 20 truffles:

3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup unsulphured dried apricots
4 tbsp ground rose hip powder
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp ground cinnamon
For Dusting - 2 tbsp rose hip powder

Process the nuts in the food processor to finely chop them.  Then add the rest of the ingredients, (except for the dusting rose hip powder).  Process for approx 1 minute until it forms into a ball and starts to stick together.

Place the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the fridge and divide into 1/2 tablespoon balls.  Roll the balls in your hands, compacting the mixture as you roll.

Roll the balls in the dusting mixture and then refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving.


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Rose Hip Truffles

I made a fabulous truffle recipe today from Green Kitchen Stories. It was for Rose Hip Chrismas Truffles.  Well, its definitely not Christmas yet but they still seem perfect today!


I ordered some Rose Hip powder from Amazon and was away!

They are delightfully spicy - a real kick to them from the cayenne.  They are sweetened only by the  dried apricots. The rose hip powder has high levels of Vitamin C - they are in fact one the richest sources of Vitamin C available.  They also contain lycopene, flavonoids and are anti-inflammatory. All that in a yummy truffle with a kick!

I only wish I had some rosehips to photograph them with - but alas - only roses as we are too efficient in dead-heading our roses!

Here is the recipe:

Makes about 20 truffles:

3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup unsulphured dried apricots
4 tbsp ground rose hip powder
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Rolling/Dusting mixture:
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp rose hip powder

Process the nuts in the food processor to finely chop them.  Then add the rest of the ingredients.  Process for approx 1 minute until it forms into a ball and starts to stick together.

Place the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the fridge and divide into 1/2 tablespoon balls.  Roll the balls in your hands, compacting the mixture as you roll.

Roll the balls in the dusting mixture and then refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving.


Get ready to wake up your taste buds!

I think I'll be using this recipe in my classes next week, and make some when I go back to England in a couple of weeks and.......
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Coconut lemon truffles

We picked our first ripe lemon of the season from one of our lemon trees this week.  I have missed having so many lemons within easy reach.  It'll take a few weeks for us to get into full crop - but the first just had such a lovely smell and really made me salivate.


So what to make with it that would celebrate its lovely flavor....?

Lemon truffles!


And not sweet, so you can really enjoy the acidity of the lemon juice.

So here is the recipe: (makes 25 truffles)

Ingredients
1 cup almonds
Zest of one lemon (preferable just picked off your own tree!)
Juice of one lemon
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened organic desiccated shredded coconut (plus extra for dusting the truffles)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp sweet freedom or coconut nectar (if you want more sweetness, you can add an extra tablespoon)
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Blend all the ingredients together (except the extra coconut for dusting) in a food processor until it starts to bind together to form a dough (1-2 minutes).

Take approx 1/2 tablespoon of dough, roll it into a small ball and then roll it in the extra coconut.  Continue with the rest of the dough to make approximately 25 little truffles.  Place in the fridge, if you can resist them, for half an hour.



Can be kept at room temperature or in the fridge.

They make a lovely gift for a friend.  Take her a couple of lemons, a box of truffles and the recipe to make her own.
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The Best Homemade Soy Yogurt


My life has been transformed since I successfully started making organic soy, unsweetened yoghurt!  It makes me so happy. I want to get out of bed in the mornings, just so I can eat some yogurt!  It is so creamy and delicious and only has four ingredients:
  • organic soybeans
  • water
  • organic raw cashews
  • probiotics
The "active" part of making the recipe also takes only about 5 minutes.  Then it sits and ferments for 8 hours, then goes in the fridge - and is then ready to be gobbled up!

So here is the recipe for you to give it a try.  Let me know if it changes your life too!!

Ingredients
3/4 cup raw organic cashews, soaked in water for at least 1 hour, then drained
32 oz carton of WestSoy organic, unsweetened plain soy milk
3 probiotic capsules or 1 scoop probiotic powder. I use Custom probiotics CP1 or their 6 strain powder


1. Put approx. 1 cup of soy milk and the soaked cashews into a blender and process until smooth and creamy.


2. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the remaining 3 cups of milk.  Whisk to combine.

3. Warm over a low heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture reaches a temperature of 110 degrees F (43 degrees C) or if you don't have a thermometer, until a few drops on your wrist feels slightly warm.  Remove from the heat. Don't let it go above this temperature.



4. Open the probiotic capsules and add the contents into the milk - or add the powder and whisk to thoroughly combine.

5. Pour into a yogurt maker and switch on, for 8 hours. If you don't have a yogurt maker,  leave the mixture to rest in covered jar/pot in a warm place in the kitchen, for 8 hours.  Taste to check the desired degree of tartness in flavor.  If it isn't as tart as you like it, leave it another hour or two.  Then refrigerate - it will thicken more as it cools.

6. Store covered in the refrigerator for upto 2 weeks.

Notes on the recipe:
a) Most non dairy recipes are typically not very thick. Adding the cashews thickens this one nicely, without having to add any other thickeners.

b) I use an infrared thermometer (~$15) to measure the temperature of the milk.  I bought mine a few months ago and love it.  Basically nothing has to touch the food - it just shoots an infrared beam and measures the temperature from that.  No washing up!  It's also fun to play with around the house and check room temperatures, each other, draughts, etc etc!  You can of course use a regular thermometer or do the wrist heat test - but its not as much fun!


c) I haven't tried this with other milks or changed the cashew nuts for another nut.  That's because I love it as it is and if it ain't broke, don't fix it!  If you give it a try with something else, do report back and let me know how it goes.

d) The yogurt machine holds the yogurt at a constant 108F.  If you don't have one, try leaving it in a switched off electric oven with only the inside light switched on. This should give it enough warmth to ferment.  Or just put it in a warm place in the kitchen.  I've tried it both ways and even when I did it side by side, there was no difference.  If the temperature where you leave it is not that warm, you may need to give it 10 - 12 hours to ferment instead of just 8 hours.

e) The probiotic capsules work perfectly.  The company, customprobiotics sells a yogurt starter, but I've never tried it, as I had the probiotics and they work just fine. If your yogurt doesn't ferment, its probably because you have used a different probiotic that isn't "live"!

f) I have only used WestSoy milk for this recipe as it is made from only whole organic, non-GMO soybeans and water. No other ingredients.  It has a high protein level and reasonable fat content.  Don't try fat free as you need the fat to make the yoghurt thicken.


g) Once you've made your first batch, instead of re-inoculating subsequent batches with fresh probiotic every time, you can just keep approx. 1/4 cup of the previous batch of yogurt and add that to the milk and cashews. The bugs will still be alive.  I tend to do this for a few batches, but then start afresh with fresh probiotics every 6 or so times.

h) Sometimes some liquid separates slightly from the yoghurt. You can pour this off or just stir it in.  Your choice, depending on how thick you want the yoghurt.  You can also strain the yogurt and make soft cheese from it too.

i) If it doesn't set or get sour, its probably because your probiotics are no longer active. This should be a spoonable yogurt.


I start my day with my yogurt with added fruit grown in our garden - like pears and figs right now -- and then also use it at other times through the day - add it with some turmeric to steamed cauliflower, make a salad dressing with it. How will you use yours?

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Pickled Vegetables

I was taking lunch round to a friend's house recently so made an eggless fennel quiche and decided to accompany it with some pickled vegetables.


I don't recall ever pickling vegetables before, actually.  I make chutneys and sauces, but don't normally pickle.  So it was a fun thing to try.

As my hubby hates the smell of boiling vinegar, this was a job for outside!


I pickled pearl onions (white, yellow and red), some carrots, some radishes and beetroot.  Hands down, the onions won! They were wonderful.  But naturally, they were the most work with the peeling however!

I used a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine and the only things I changed were using coconut nectar sugar instead of white sugar and omitting the oil.

Here's the Pickled Vegetable Recipe


The recipe mentions that you do the beets last so the vinegar doesn't go red on the veggies, but actually the vinegar went red with the radish color!  The radish were my least favorite actually, as they lost all their color and just looked washed out and had lost some flavor.

So my recommendation is skip the radish and if you have the patience, do more onions!

Pickled vegetables are a good portable food, as you can put them in nice jars, and also pair really well with richer foods. They have a good crunch and the vinegar cuts through the richness of what they accompany.

And talking of Pickles, we do enjoy the comic strip Pickles - here's today's in case you don't know it:


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Shrub drinks - Strawberry and pink peppercorn shrub

I've only recently heard about shrubs.  And we aren't talking plants in the garden - but shrubs that are vinegar drinks used in cocktails or just added to sparkling water.  Have you heard of them or tried them?


I was intrigued when I read about them so decided to try making my own.


I bought some super delicious fresh organic strawberries and decided to add my favorite combo spice to them - pink peppercorns.  You may recall I've made a few strawberry and pink peppercorn things in the past - my favorite being shortbread (gluten free, dairy free).


So what are shrubs? They are basically fruit  syrup sweetened vinegars that you add to sparkling water or soda water, or use as mixers in cocktails.  It's normally a fruit syrup, added to a vinegar and left for a couple of days and then strained.

The early English version of the shrub arose from medicinal cordials in the 15th century.  The drink then gained popularity in the 1680s among smugglers who were trying to avoid paying taxes.  The smugglers would sink barrels of spirits off-shore to be retrieved when no one was looking, but the sea water ruined the taste of the alcohol somewhat, so the smugglers added fruit syrups to improve the taste.


The American version started from the preservation of berries and other fruits using vinegar, as an alternative to using citrus juice.   The fruit preserves were known as shrubs and it became popular to pour vinegar over fruit and let it infuse overnight or several days, then strain off the fruit, add a little sweetener and you have a syrup for cocktails.

Shrubs seem to have fallen out of favor with the advent of refrigeration, but came back in 2011 in some American bars and restaurants.  They now seem to be spreading to Canada and London.  The acidity of the vinegar makes for a good aperitif or as an alternative to bitters in cocktails.


I made it as something to just add interest to sparkling water. We have "cocktail" hour at home at 5pm. This is the time that my parrot Harold starts getting noisy and wants his "cocktail" which is a cashew nut.  Just like Harold's cocktail isn't a real cocktail, so ours frequently aren't either - but its a time for us to stop for the day.  I like having my shrub in water at that time.  It is an interesting taste and tastes like a "special" drink, rather than water.  My own virgin cocktail.


When I came to make my own shrub, as  most shrubs use fruit syrups which are high in sugar, I decided I'd make a sugar free version instead.

Here's my recipe
3/4 cup chopped ripe strawberries
1 tablespoon coconut nectar or sweet freedom
1 teaspoon ground pink peppercorns (I ground them in a coffee grinder)
1 cup white balsamic vinegar

In a small mixing bowl, add the chopped strawberries, sweetener and peppercorns.  Toss/mash to combine and let sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Add the vinegar and transfer the mixture to a sterilized glass jar
Allow the mixture to rest in the fridge for 2 days, then strain through a fine mesh sieve or cloth. Discard the fruit
The shrub will keep for 1 month in the fridge.
I just put a little amount in the bottom of my glass before adding sparkling water or soda water.  Its very refreshing.


Since making my own, a friend just bought me some flavored balsamic vinegars by Amphora. I got a Blenheim Apricot white balsamic vinegar and a Pomegranate balsamic vinegar.  Because they are such lovely strong fruit flavors, I'm sat here now just enjoying a dash of the apricot vinegar with my water. If you don't have a particularly sweet tooth,  I guess its the quickest, easiest shrub you can have, as long as you have good quality flavored balsamic vinegar. There are a couple of commercial shrubs available too if you want to give them a go:






Let me know what you think if you give one a go, or try making one yourself.  Try serving them at your next dinner party.


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Vegan gluten free scone recipe



In my book club this month, the chosen book was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I'd never read any Daphne Du Maurier books before but really got into Rebecca and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The person hosting our discussion decided, true to the book, that she would put on an English tea with scones - as Mr and Mrs de Winter had every day at Manderley, in the book.


As I need gluten free food and don't eat animal foods or sugar, I offered to make my own scone - rather than have her make something special for me. I've actually never made gluten free scones before, never mind vegan gluten free scones, so it seemed like a good challenge.

And I've had some success.  I did actually use a little fat in the recipe. Normally I bake without oil but I was changing so many things in a recipe that I left in the fat.

The scones have a wonderful texture to them and taste just like a good scone should.



They didn't rise in the oven however and didn't brown on top as you would expect from a traditional scone but I rolled them thick so they didn't look flat - and the taste more than made up for lack of browning.

I had them with homemade sugar free plum chia jam.  Delicious.

Here's the recipe: Makes 6
150 ml non dairy milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
270g gluten free flour mix
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp vegan margarine (I used earth balance)
25g raisins
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 425F or 220C.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
2. Add the vinegar to the milk and let sit.
3. Sieve the flour into a bowl and stir in the baking powder.
4. Rub in the margarine with your fingers until fully incorporated.
5. Stir in the sugar and raisins.
6. Add nearly all the milk solution and bring the mixture together with your hands to form a soft dough. Don't over work.
7. If necessary add the remaining milk to bind it all together.
8. Roll out gently on a floured board to a thickness of about 1 inch.
9. Cut out the dough with a pastry cutter and place the scones on the baking tray.
10. Reroll the dough scraps as needed to use it all up.
11. Bake the scones for around 20 minutes.
12. Leave to cool and enjoy with sugar free jam and coconut cream, if desired.



They are best eaten the same day that you make them. I will be trying the recipe again, without the fat and will let you know how I get on. I think I'll do savory scones next too.....with some nutritional yeast in them to give a cheesy flavor.

I hope Mrs de Winters would be satisfied and wouldn't return them to the kitchen!  I think she'd enjoy them, like I have!
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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.
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Thursday's Food as Medicine group - final class

Yesterday was the final class for my Thursday group.  10 months together.  I'll miss them.


We had  a lovely few hours - covered a lot of things and made some yummy healthy food together.  We ate a rainbow - with no added sugar, salt, or oil - and no dairy or gluten either. I'll share some of the recipes soon.

The photos are after we'd eaten most of the lunch together with only the sugar free chocolate mousse remaining.


Two new classes start in September.....so I only have one group continuing through the summer now.

Time to get planning some new things, I think.

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Food as medicine

It was our final Food as Medicine class today. The class has been going 10 months now.  Its been such fun.


Today, we discussed how to read food labels and what to look for, and then I offered them a system of assessing the food they eat each day, with a goal of getting 100 points a day.

Then we cooked together and on the menu was a pecan pate, bell pepper and tomato soup, dill and horseradish potato salad and chocolate mousse.  It all went down well, and a lovely and colorful, as well as tasty.



It was a lovely few hours - and I'll really miss the Tuesday class.  My Thursday class ends this week too, so the summer will be a little quieter.
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Apricot Chia jam - no added sugar

My parents came to stay with me last week - so I spent one afternoon doing a few things at home with my mum. One of them was making jam.

We made strawberry balsamic chia jam first - using just three ingredients - fresh, yummy, small, local strawberries, chia seeds, and balsamic vinegar. No sugar was used - the strawberries were definitely sweet enough and the chia seeds acted as the gel for the jam.


Delicious.

But then my mum asked how we could adapt the recipe to use apricots - as she loves apricots.  So we had a go, with dried apricots.  It worked well.  Instead of the balsamic vinegar, we used ginger - so apricot and ginger chia jam - with no added sugar!



Basically, we cooked the apricots and ginger in water for about 5 minutes, pureed them in a blender - but still kept some texture, added some chia seeds and simmered for 15 minutes until thickened.  Voila! No added sugar apricot jam!

My mum bought us Shaun the sheep oven gloves during their visit, so they had to come in the photo too!!!


Do you know Shaun the sheep? You should!  He's cool.
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I've been tango'd!


Remember the TV advertisements in the UK with the orange man saying "you've been tango'd"?  That's how I've been feeling this week.  You see we leave for England today and I hate to see any of our homegrown fruit go to waste, so I've been busy dehydrating more oranges!


Using a mandoline to slice all the fruit, leaves me smelling strongly of oranges, but also, as they dehydrate, the whole house smells of them! I tried leaving the door closed in the room where the dehydrator was, but when I went in to check on them, it was quite heady and over powering!!!  Made you definitely feel like you had been tango'd!



Even by the time I went to bed, all I could smell was oranges!


But I have to say, I have been loving the orange slices.  I've dipped some of them in sugar free homemade raw chocolate (78%) and they taste just like Terry's chocolate oranges!  And I love that they are crispy.




I will take a few slices back with me to the UK - for my own snacking - and also so others can have a taste.


And just in case you have no idea was being "tango'd" is all about:

 Here is one of the early adverts with the orange man:



And here is a compilation of some modern versions:




Think you may have the idea now?

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Overnight oat berry breakfast parfait



While yesterday's OOO-breakfast is yummy - it is quite sweet, even though it has no added sugar - but the sweetness comes from the bananas and mango.  So I made this version of a 'pretty parfait' - OOBBP, using berries instead and changing the oats a little. If you have a sweeter tooth - you can still use this recipe but go for all strawberries - but I like a bit of tartness so added cranberries as well.


Here's the recipe: 3 servings

1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup cranberries (can be frozen)
1 cup gluten free oats
1 cup dairy free milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened organic apple sauce

Puree the strawberries and cranberries together until smooth in a food processor.

Place the oats, chia seeds, milk, vanilla and cinnamon in a bowl and stir together.  Add the apple sauce and mix thoroughly.

To assemble the parfait, divide approx. half of the oat mixture between three serving glasses/bowls.  Add a layer of strawberry/cranberry puree using approx. half of the puree.  Add the remainder of the oat mixture to make a third layer, and finally top with the remainder of the strawberry/cranberry mixture.  Top with a sprinkle of oats and chia seeds. I also added a dehydrated apple ring.



Put in the fridge overnight, during which time the oats will soften and thicken.  This will last for 3 days....if you can stop yourself eating them for lunch as well - which is what I did!

Again, this breakfast is giving you a good dose of omega 3 fatty acids from the chia seeds - and I used flax milk as well. I have found a flax milk I really like, called Good Karma Flax milk - only 25 calories  and 1200 mg omega 3 per cup serving.


You can use fresh or frozen fruit for this - and any berries that you like. I think it would be lovely with blackberries and raspberries together.  Or strawberries with cooked rhubarb - yum!

Which do you think is prettier? The mango/banana or the berry parfait?  I'd go with the berry - love that bright red coloring with the neutral colored oats.  
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Sugar-free Strawberry balsamic chia jam

I'm so excited with my new jam recipe!  For a few years now, I've been wanting to make jam without refined sugar and have tried it before with pectins to set the fruit, but its never been very successful.

Now however, I have a solution! As I've been preparing for my Food as Medicine class on fatty acids, I've been using chia seeds more and realized that I could use their gelling capacity to "set" the jam. So forget the pectin and use chia seeds instead.



It is so quick and easy to make, is high in fiber, high in essential fatty acids, you don't need the sugar, and just delicious.

Here's the recipe:

3 cups of sliced fresh strawberries
1 tbsp coconut nectar
1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan, bring the fruit and coconut nectar to a low boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Use a potato masher to mash the fruit, but leaving a few pieces larger for texture.
Stir in the chia seeds and keep simmering over low heat, until it thickens (approx 15 minutes). Stir occasionally so it doesn't stick.
When thickened, remove from the heat and add balsamic vinegar and stir.  Taste and pour into a jam jar. Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.

The balsamic vinegar really brings out the flavor of strawberries. If you use a different fruit you could add spices instead or vanilla extract.  If you use a less sweet fruit, you may need a little more coconut nectar, but wait until the end and taste it before you adjust.


You may be able to keep this jam longer than 2 weeks, but I haven't been able to, as its always eaten within a week!

I use it on toast (especially with homemade nutella), but also love a spoonful on my cereal in the morning. You could also try it on oatmeal, muesli, granola, cookies, on puddings, dairy-free ice cream.....Once you try it, you'll find lots of ways of using it.



You know I'm going to be using this idea in lots of different ways.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of the essential fatty acids - both omega 3 and omega 6, with a higher level of 3 compared to 6.
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Hot chocolate chai

I made some more tea-free chai this week and have been enjoying it with warm homemade cashew milk, but today I wanted a little change. And so I made hot chocolate chai.



Basically, raw cacao powder plus the infused chai spices. No sweetener, no milk neither dairy nor non-dairy.  I'm drinking it as I type and its like music, with such a harmony of spices.


I've never been one for hot chocolate drinks - mainly because I don't like hot milky, creamy things - so this suits me fine.  You could always add some non-dairy milk to this however to suit your taste.

But the spices come together so nicely.  There isn't any that is trying to push its way to the front. It really is perfect harmony.

It's not that cloying sweet chocolatey taste either.  I'm finding it very satisfying!

Chai spices infusing
Here is the chai recipe from a previous blog post.  I added 1 tablespoon of cacao powder to 8 ounces of chai spice mix.

Have you tried chocolate chai before?  I remember my first ever experience of chai was a chai chocolate fudge I made!  It's taken me all this time to get back to combining chocolate with chai!.
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Homemade almond yogurt

After my success with making oat yogurt, I thought I'd try my hand at almond yoghurt. I've tried it before on a few occasions, but it wasn't successful.  The previous methods were using a yogurt starter, specifically for non-dairy products, and a yogurt maker.  But this time I thought I'd just adapt the oat method and use almonds instead.


It produced a delicious creamy yogurt - that just looks like cream.  I fermented it for 12 hours on the back of my range - so a reasonably warm spot and the sourness was as I like it after that time.  After refrigerating, the yogurt thickened up and is a perfect accompaniment to my homemade muesli.

Yoghurt-in-progress - on the back of my range, keeping warm.

The only ingredients in the yogurt are almonds, water and probiotics.  If you look at the labels of bought almond yogurts, they frequently have many chemicals included plus lots of sugar. I don't think this needs any sugar.  At my class yesterday, I let my students taste both the almond and oat yogurt. They preferred the almond - and considered it tastier than any bought non-dairy yogurt.


My previous attempts all resulted in gritty yogurt, which separated a lot and gave more water than yogurt.  This has none of those issues and doesn't even need stirring before use in the morning.
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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.



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Health benefits of Chai Tea

Chai tea has many wonderful healing spices in it.  However frequently when you buy it, it includes dairy products and refined sugar.  Instead you can make your own and tailor it to your own tastes.  My own taste is that I don't like tea, so I make mine without green or black tea.  But there is still plenty of flavor in it as I include 7 different spices in my recipe - plus orange peel.

(Sorry - I forgot about photographing it and nearly drank it all!)


The spices have powerful healing capacities, not just by being antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, but also because they can switch off the Cancer Master Switch in the cells, namely the nuclear factor kappa beta (NFkB).

The spices in this recipe which have this activity are:

  • black peppercorns
  • cardomom
  • cloves
  • cinnamon
  • anise
  • nutmeg
  • and ginger

When free radicals, infections, or agents that damage DNA (eg carcinogens, toxins, etc) enter the body, they are all capable of activating NFkB which is a molecule inside the cell. On activation, NFkB increases inflammation and inhibits cancer cell death.  While pharmaceutical companies are busy looking for drugs to turn off NFkB, we need look no further than spices as many of them have this NFkB switching off capacity.

And Chai tea is an easy way to get 7 spices all in one drink.

Here is a recipe that originally came from Jeanne Wallace
Chai Tea

4 cups water
1 teaspoon cardamom pods – green
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves or 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon cinnamon chips
1 teaspoon dried orange peel or 4 teaspoons orange zest
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon nutmeg chips or 2 whole nutmegs
2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or 1 tablespoon dried ginger pieces
½ vanilla bean, chopped fine or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teabags or 4 tablespoons green or black tea leaves (TEA is optional!)
Coconut nectar or other unrefined sweetener to taste (optional)
Non dairy milk

Make the spice mix: bring water to boil, add spices but NOT tea, if using.  Reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes or longer for a spicier flavor.  Remove from the heat. Add tea and steep for 3 minutes.  Strain into a pitcher or container.  Keeps refrigerated for up to 10 days.
To make one cup of chai, combine ½ cup of non dairy milk with ½ cup of the spice mixture.  Heat and add sweetner to your taste.  Can be served iced in the summer.



Let me know how you tailor it to your particular taste.
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Good things come in lemon packages

So here is the dessert I have made for this evening's dinner with friends.  I've called it "Good things come in lemon packages".


It is individual lemon sparkle cheesecakes - dairy free, gluten free, refined sugar free along with a couple of pieces of homemade raw lemon chocolate - also dairy free, gluten free and refined sugar free.

Both are small in size, but that's all desserts need to be - a little taste.



The raw lemon chocolate is the one I showed in my blog post yesterday - with dehydrated lemon rind.  It is like a bark but I added a little bird motif to the other side - especially suitable this time of year as the birds are all getting busy and thinking about nest building.



Making the cheesecake was an interesting lesson in portion size. I have made it before as a large cheesecake but this time, as I was making it in little pots I made only a 1/3 of the recipe.  One third of the recipe yielded 10 little pots!  That means the full cheesecake would make 30 servings.  At most, we tend to cut a full cheesecake into 12 pieces - not 30.

I tied on little spoons for the pots of lemon sparkle as I am taking these to a friend's house for dinner and didn't want to be stuck with only large spoons that won't fit inside!  And yes, the 'sparkle' in the lemon sparkle cheesecake? There's a little surprise in the cheesecake that gives it a "sparkle"!  Can't tell you what it is as it will ruin the surprise for this evening!



Next time you make a dessert, think about how much we really need. It's great to have a little something sweet at the end of the meal with friends, but we only need a taste.
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Lemon Raw Chocolate

I'm making dessert for a friend's dinner party tomorrow.  The theme for my dessert is lemon as we still have loads on our trees and I love making food with our own produce!  I've made a nice little dessert - gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free etc, , but wanted a little something to go with it.


So I decided to make some lemon raw chocolate.  hunting around in my cupboard, I found some dehydrated lemon peel that I had dehydrated some time ago. Perfect! Adding anything liquid or moist to chocolate is dodgy - so dehydrated peel is much better than fresh zest.

The photo shows it in the process! More later when its set.

I calculated the cocoa percentage - and its around 65%.  The chocolate is raw too so full of lots of nutrients.  Sugar free as well!  I think a little taste will pair beautifully with the dessert.
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Happy Valentine's Day

I made some raw sugar free and dairy free chocolates for my sweetheart today.  I hadn't made dairy free white chocolate before...in fact, I've never made any white chocolate before!

Here they are:

Strawberry and White chocolate just poured in the molds

Above shows his box of goodies including the strawberry hearts, strawberry and coconut white chocolate bark, and then the following dark chocolate barks: pomegranate and pink peppercorn; goldenberry; and heart sprinkles.

We are off to see the movie "Amour" for Valentine's day.  Heard such good reviews about it and thought it apropos to see it on Valentine's day.

Hope you have a lovely day ie a day filled with with love.xxx
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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.


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Food as Medicine Group - Beans

My two "Food as Medicine" classes this week are focusing on the health benefits of beans/legumes/lentils.

Here are a couple of photos of two of the dessert items we will be making together.


I'll share some of the recipes later.  Both of these are gluten free, dairy free, and refined sugar free.

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And the winner is..... ME!!!!

I won the Attune Foods Gluten Free healthy recipe competition!!!

I entered a few months ago - on a whim, and didn't think much about it until last week when I got an email and phone call saying I had won the competition!

The idea of the competition was to come up with a healthy recipe using one of Attune Foods cereals.  I used their Erewhon Crispy brown rice cereal and made a marmalade granola.

The announcement just came today on Attune Foods blog:




And my prize was just delivered to my door a couple of minutes ago!  An 11-piece Circulon Symmetry Saucepan set and enough brown rice cereal to last probably the whole year!

Here's the winning recipe - I hope you like it.


GF Marmalade Granola

Ingredients:

1 cup Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice GF Cereal
1 cup GF old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup no added sugar marmalade
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Grated zest half a lemon or orange

Directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F
  2. Mix the 5 ingredients together in a bowl
  3. Place the mixture on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper or silpat
  4. Place in the oven.  Remove after 10 minutes and stir thoroughly.
  5. Put back in the oven and cook for another 5 - 10 minutes, watching to make sure the cereal at teh edges of the sheet doesn't overcook.
  6. Leave to cool, and enjoy!
Here are some suggestions for no-sugar-added marmalades:



I have friends coming up for the weekend, so I will make some for them.

It's much lower in sugar than regular granola and also no added fat, which most granolas contain.  The brown rice and oats provide good fiber, protein and help with blood glucose control and cholesterol levels.

What a way to start your day!  Add some berries and some non-dairy milk and you'll stay satisfied until lunch time :-d

Let me know if you try it.

Yeah! It's always fun to win something :-D

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Bookclub Xmas luncheon

It was our book club Xmas luncheon today.

Always a lovely day :-D

We choose our books for next year and what month we want to host, we have a Yankee swap where we each give a book, and then we have a yummy potluck lunch together with champagne and wine.


I took dessert and made a sugar free, dairy free and gluten free lemon cheesecake.  I was wondering this morning how to decorate it, so I decided on making some raw sugar free chocolate to go on top.  I had a lovely Christmas tree and reindeer chocolate transfer sheet so I put half of the raw chocolate on the sheet, then broke it into large piece and placed on the cheesecake.


This time I used "sweet freedom" as the sweetener for the chocolate.  It is a brand I bought in England. It is a natural sweetener made from apples and grapes. It worked wonderfully with the chocolate and was much easier to combine than the sticky coconut nectar. I'll be using it again!  If you live in England - give it a try.  It's great.


The rest of the chocolate I made my favorite strawberry and pink peppercorn flavor in little triangles.


It was a lovely day and I'm looking forward to all our book choices for next year.

Do you have any books you plan on reading next year?
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Food as Medicine Group

In my "food as medicine" groups this week - Tuesday and Thursday - we discussed the effects of sugar in our diet, sugar substitutions, insulin resistance, diabetes, glycemic index, glycemic load etc.

(Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, grain free) walnut roulade with pomegranates
For the cooking part of the class we learned how to bake desserts with low glycemic load foods, for those special occasions when we have treats.  Even when desserts are made healthier, they are still foods you shouldn't eat every day...but when an occasion arises, it's nice to eat something that is made from nutritious food.

The groups made some delicious food including a walnut and pomegranate roulade, a cranberry and pear tart, choux puffs and individual citrus and chocolate cakes.  They looked so beautiful too.

(Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, refined sugar free) Cranberry and Pear Tart

They were good sessions and people seemed to enjoyed the end result!  I wonder what they'll make again at home for Christmas and friends and family.

(Fat free, gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free) Individual Citrus Cake

All the dishes were gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free.  In addition,
  • the walnut roulade had no flour in it - only walnuts 
  • the cranberry tart also had no flour, and used almonds and walnuts instead, it used flaxseeds as an alternative to eggs, and used dates as its sweetener
  • the citrus cake used oat flour and replaced fat with applesauce
  • the choux buns used sorghum flour and coconut milk for their cream

Which one would you chose?
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Strawberry and pink peppercorn raw chocolate

I've been making raw chocolate today.  Yes, chocolate that has health benefits and is refined sugar free, dairy free and gluten free!

The recipe needs a little tweaking still, but the taste is wonderful.  I don't think reworking the recipe will be too much of a hardship!



You may recall at the gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free dessert class I taught a couple of months ago, I did dried strawberry and pink peppercorn cookies. I just love the combination so tried that as one of my raw chocolate flavors.

It is yummy. I used coconut nectar as the sweetener and it didn't combine completely with the chocolate so I'll try reducing it a little next time....maybe tomorrow!


I love this new mold I bought in England. It make a perfect sized bite...4cm x 2.5 cm. And the chocolate tempered well, with a lovely glossy sheen.

I'm hoping the recipe will be good for my Food as Medicine classes next week.....

Watch out - strawberry and pink peppercorn will be a flavor combination popping up everywhere soon. Remember you heard it here first! :-D

What's your favorite flavor?
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Travel snacks - Sweetsalt Crunch

I leave for England on Wednesday - two weeks, visiting family - and lots to catch up on.  We have three new homes that family members have moved into since we were last there in February, so will enjoy seeing happy people in happy new homes....then there is my sister's 50th birthday to celebrate.....and then there are two adorable grandchildren to see and be amazed at how much they have changed since June!  Never mind catching up with a few friends too......

Here is Evelina learning the difference between penguins and ducks, and Max dressed in his tuxedo ready for a party:


To prepare for the flight, I'm making a few yummy snacks.  After bad experiences with airplane food when I'd ordered gluten free and they forgot it, I always take all my own food with me.

The first yummy snack I made today was a sweet and salty mix - my "Sweetsalt Crunch". However, at this rate, I may need to make another batch before Wednesday, as it is going down rather rapidly!

It's a lovely balance of sweetness and salty. Not too much of either. And gluten free, sugar free and dairy free. Here's the recipe:


Sweet Salt Crunch

1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt
Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together and enjoy!

Obviously you can use substitutes very easily....and I know I'll never make it the same way more than once!


Another travel snack is in the dehydrator ...so I'll show you that tomorrow.
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Tastiest food of the week - Chai fudge

I've never had anything "chai" before.....mainly because Chai normally has something to do with  tea and dairy milk - neither of which I like!!! But when I read a recipe for chai fudge it sounded so good with all those spices in it, that I had to give it a try.  It was a friend's birthday so it seemed like a good reason to make a treat for her.


The fudge is gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free - and raw, so keeps those wonderful nutrients of the raw cacao bean.  There is homemade almond milk in it, plus cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  It really is the spices that make it, oh, and the chocolate!!!

It was a little bit squishier than you would normally think of for fudge and in fact it turned out to be a lovely thick dipping fudge for some dried apples I had...but for my friend's birthday, I rolled it in crushed pecans so you could eat it without getting your fingers dirty!


The texture is divine!  So smooth and creamy yet light and kind of fluffy in a way.... I wish you could try some!

Then when I had a friend over for dinner this week, I used the same fudge inside some gluten free profiteroles I made!

I will have to experiment more with this combination of chocolate and spices.  Definitely my tastiest food of the week!...maybe month.....maybe.....
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Quince breakfast parfait

So have you been out buying up quince this week?  If you live in Northern California - just give me a call and you can have some of mine.


As I mentioned earlier in the week, I made a quince granola by baking gluten free rolled oats, quinoa flakes and puffed brown rice with quince sauce (puree). I also added some cinnamon and allspice to it. It created a nice crispy, no added oil nor refined sugar, gluten free cereal.  So I decided to use it to make a breakfast parfait this morning, layering the granola with spoonfuls of quince puree.


It looked pretty and instead of my usual throw together breakfast, it felt like I had paid attention and seemed like a treat.  If tasted yummy too with a nice contrast of the smooth puree with the crunchy granola.  I like the color of the quince too.  I know most recipes will say quince turns pink, but that seems to only occur if you add sugar.  Personally, I like it's unsweetened custardy yellow color.

So did your breakfast look this good?
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Quince time

Our quince tree has grown a lot this year and has many large quince on it.  Quince is not a fruit that you eat raw so I've been wondering what to do with all these fruit.  There must be at least a hundred quince on the tree!


In previous years I've used the few fruits we got in salads, an upside quince cake, making quince jelly etc.  When you search for quince recipes however, they all tend to involve large amounts of added sugar.  I wanted to avoid this. Also, quince are not easy to cut and prepare as they are very hard when raw.

So, I decided I would just peel them and then cook them in the simmering oven of my aga in water.


They came out beautifully. As they are so large, I could only cook 6 at a time, so did three batches today!  I guess that means I have about 6 days of cooking in total!


After cooking them, I then made them into quincesauce - which is really just like applesauce, but made with quince instead of apples!   I don't add any sweetener at all - and it really doesn't need it. Basically it is pureed cooked quince and delicious.  I love the fact that its not too sweet and can see myself using it in a lot of different dishes.


I used some to make a quince fool today and then made a big batch of quince granola - basically gluten free oats, puffed brown rice and quinoa flakes tossed in quince sauce and baked.

I think I will easily have enough quince sauce to last me the year, that is if I get around to cooking the rest of the quince! Wish me luck or maybe it's stamina I need!


Quince have high levels of fiber, are high in antioxidants and contain a lot of pectin.  They also help with digestion and relieve diarrhea and have been seen to have anti-viral effects.

Let me know if you'd like some.....
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Ceres gluten free, sugar free, dairy free dessert class

Saturday's "blissful celebrations" class was great! We made 4 different desserts plus a caramel sauce all of which were gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free.



 We made:
  •  a lemon cheescake - the base was just almonds and dates and the filling was based on cashew nuts
  • profiterole puffs made from choux pastry and filled with a coffee creme patisserie
  • strawberry and pink peppercorn quinoa cookies
  • chestnut roulade filled with coconut milk "cream" and pomegranate.



There was a lot to cook (and eat!), in a limited time span with lots of new techniques, but everyone did a great job.


Hope you enjoy the photos of the class :-D  Thanks to all who came and especially to Kendra and Alysha who volunteered to help me.
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Tastiest food of the week - strawberry and pink peppercorn

My tastiest food of the week this week was a cookie I made combining freeze dried strawberries with pink peppercorns.  I made two version and my favorite was the shortbread one.  Both versions were gluten free, refined sugar free, and dairy free.

Strawberry and pink peppercorn shortbreads (GF, DF, SF)
My sister had sent me some freeze dried strawberries as she thought I might like them. The plan was, actually, that she'd bring them to Florida with her this summer when we met up on vacation (she lives in the UK) and give them to me there.  Dutifully, we brought the strawberries all the way from the UK to the US, then forgot to give them to me, so took them all the way home again, and then mailed them!

So while the carbon footprint of these dried strawberries wasn't particularly good - their taste was. Unlike most freeze dried fruit, these were still a little chewy and not just dry.   But combining them with pink peppercorns was amazing.

Strawberry and pink peppercorn quinoa cookies (GF, SF, DF)

I used the combination in a recipe for my cooking class this weekend and people were reluctant! Those making the cookies didn't want to add them....others were talking about making them without, but when they tasted them, everyone agreed, it was a great combo!

So give it a try.  They work well with other pink fruits too, like dried cranberries, or raspberries.... Pink peppercorns aren't strong, and the combo just works well.
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Gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free dessert cooking class

Tomorrow is my GF, SF, DF "blissful celebrations" dessert cooking class at Ceres in Sebastopol.


We will be making and tasting:

Lemon (un-)cheesecake



Coffee choux puffs



Pear cake and 
Chestnut roulade.


There is still time to sign up. It's a hands on class with lots to learn.  Come join us!

And as a bonus, if we have enough time, I'll teach you have to make a "march of the penguins", perfect to adorn any winter dessert - but no one will ever eat them!!



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Healing Trees recipe

The Cancer Journey conference at Ceres on Sunday seemed to go very well. They sold out and I had some great interactions with people in the resource room.




I demo'd making my "healing tree" morsels, and share the recipe with you here:

Ingredients
1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon Matcha green tea powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1//2 tablespoons date paste *
Zest of 1 lemon
Grated fresh ginger (approx 1 inch)
15 whole raw organic almonds

Directions
[*Make the date paste first - you will only use a small portion of this.  Process 10 pitted dates with 2 tablespoons of water. This makes a thick paste that is a great substitute for refined sugar.]

  1. Place all the ingredients except the whole almonds in a food processor and process until smooth.  This matcha mixture should hold together when squeezed but not be too sticky. If it won't hold, process longer, or add 1/2 tablespoon more of date paste.  If too sticky, add a little more almond flour.
  2. Cut the whole almonds in half, width ways.
  3. Take approx 1 teaspoon of match mixture and shape it into your hands to form a cone shape
  4. Stand up half an almond on it's cut side and gently push the matcha cone onto the almond, so that it looks like a tree.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the matcha mixture and almond halves to create your own forest of healing trees.
  6. Can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, or else the matcha mixture can frozen before shaping.

The healing qualities of these trees come from:
the green tea has excellent anti-cancer properties and is high in anti-oxidants;
the ginger and dates settle the stomach and help with digestion;
the lemon is a great source of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals;
the almonds are a good source of easily digestible fiber, vitamins and minerals;
and finally the cute shape of the trees lifts your spirits!

These are lovely to make for yourself, but make a great gift for someone who needs some healing.
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(Mini) Grape Harvest

Linda and Stephen
Last week we harvested our Godello grapes.  We grafted this varietal on 300 vines a couple of years ago and so this is really our first harvest of any quantity of them.

Meta and Jane

Godello is a Spanish varietal of green grapes and not typically grown in the US - except here at Birdland!  We were asked to try growing it by a couple of local wine makers and it was pleasing to see a good crop for them to make our first US Birdland Godello wine.

Don - who later had a bad back!
Instead of using our usual vineyard management group to harvest these, we invited some friends to experience the fun as we were expecting only a ton or so.  However, the Godello were a little more difficult to harvest than we had imagined.

John
As bunches of grapes, they grow as a mass and are quite solid as a bunch - not individual grapes.  Most of the time you can't see where the top stalk is, where you want to cut the bunch off, and they get wound up in the wires and leaves....It therefore took us much longer than we expected to harvest the 1.5 tons.
Ken
We wore out our friends - and ourselves!  Even the harvest breakfast I made (which was all gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free) didn't quite leave us kicking up our heels! I think what would have been better would be to have had a massage therapist waiting for us all!


Tomorrow is the Big Grape Harvest, as opposed to the mini grape harvest. It is of our merlot grapes and we are expecting something like 20 tons!  It is earlier in October than usual for us - the grapes have ripened well.  
Fig Clafoutis
This time, our vineyard management crew will come in  - starting at 4am in the dark!  A few friends will help out by pulling out the leaves in the bins, but we won't be picking as we'd slow the crew down!

Kale puffs
Wish us luck for tomorrow!
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The language of flowers - Part I

It was book club at my house this morning.  I had selected the book "The language of flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I loved the book - and so did the rest of the group.


The book is about Victoria who spent her childhood in the foster-care system, moving from one place to another, never spending more than a year in any one home.  At the age of 18 she has to leave the system, even though she has no where to go.  But she gradually finds that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.  She learned the Victorian language of flowers from Elizabeth, one of her foster parents - and finds it to be a way she can communicate to others.  It follows her difficult life of learning to love when she has never been loved, going back and forth between her childhood and present day, as so many books seem to do nowadays!  It's a lovely and at times difficult read.


For my group, I decided to use the flower theme for our gathering today.  I served hibiscus tea and hibiscus sparkling water. The meaning of hibiscus is "delicate beauty" - and it's also really high in antioxidants.

I then made two desserts.  The first one was little flower pots for each person, as you see in the photos.



In tiny terra-cotta pots I made "soil" cake from quinoa, walnuts etc from a recipe I found on Golubka's blog, for ant-hill cake. I'd never heard of ant hill cake but this version is gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free.  To be honest, it was a little too solid for my liking, a bit stodgy, but the taste was OK. Then I put a sprig of mint in the pot (thanks to my neighbor Janet who supplied the mint!) and topped it with a little pink, yellow or white edible daisy.

They looked very cute!  Oh, and the Victorian meaning for daisy is "innocence".


I'll show you the other delight tomorrow!  But in the meantime, I recommend the book. 
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Sister Mary Cake - version 2

No, although this could be considered a minimalist cake with only two ingredients, it isn't for a nun or created by a nun, rather it is a recipe for my sister, Mary!  It is a gluten free, sugar free, dairy free cake recipe.


I posted a photo of a three ingredient cake on my blog a couple of weeks ago and my sister asked for the recipe as she liked the look of it.  I hadn't been totally happy with the result of that one, so thought I'd try it again with some modification - so here is version 2 - for my sister, Mary.  It's still not quite there but hopefully version 3 will bring it all together.

Version 1 was made with eggs, lemon juice and almonds.

Version 2 is made with just eggs and walnuts.  It is then decorated with raspberries - so I guess they are the third ingredient.   I won't show the recipe yet as it's not good enough.

Folding the walnuts into the eggs
This time I made the mistake of putting the mixture in too small a diameter pan and so it was too tall for the frothy eggs to support it and thus it sank in the middle (see photo below).  In version 3, I think I'll try using two pans, one for each layer or one slightly wider pan.


Also, the flavor needed a little something to lift it.  When I halved the sponge, I put "mushed" raspberries inside and then put more whole raspberries on top. They went someway to "lifting" the flavor ( and also filling the dip in the top!) but I think what it needs is some citrus, so I'll try some lemon zest in version 3, both in the cake and with the mushed raspberries!

Before photographing the current cake, I felt it needed a sprinkle of something on top. Many cakes utilize powdered/icing sugar for this, but as this is a sugar free cake, I sifted some raspberry flour on top.  Which do you prefer the look of - no sprinkle, or sprinkle?



The recipe is developing.... but not quite there yet.  I'll keep you posted.  Patience, Sister Mary!!!!
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Walnut Roulade

Yes, I'm definitely in a roulade phase! This is the third type of roulade I've made in the last few weeks. This was for an event we held on Sunday.  It is refined-sugar free, gluten free and dairy free.


I was really pleased with how it came out.  It is made with just eggs, lemon juice, xylitol* and walnuts.  Of course, I then decorated it with fresh raspberries and then drizzled a little fruit-sweetened, sugar free raw chocolate and grated lemon zest on top.

It was eaten up very quickly, but I did manage a little slice, only to check how it tasted, of course!


*Xylitol is a natural sweetener, a sugar alcohol used as a substitute for sugar.  I like it and it seems to work well.  It is a cup for cup replacement for table sugar, so it's easy to substitute in recipes.  It is also granulated like sugar but you can grind it up finer, as necessary.

Xylitol is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables and can be extracted from various berries, oats, mushrooms, as well as fibrous materials such as corn husks and birch.  Unlike other sweeteners, xylitol is actively beneficial for dental health, reducing caries to a third in regular use and it has also been shown to reduce the incidence of ear infections.


It has a much lower glycemic index than sugar - GI 7 for xylitol vs GI 80 for sugar, so it a great low calorie sugar substitute for diabetics  that doesn't cause a spike in blood glucose levels.

I don't notice any difference in taste at all between it and sugar, but I find it takes a little long to dissolve when I am cooking with it, for example if beating it with eggs, it stays granular longer so I just whisk it a little longer.

Have you ever used it? What are your thoughts?  If not, give it a go. I think you'll like it.
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Light as a feather cake

I made this cake with just three ingredients - and one of them was 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice!



It is lovely: so light as a feather.

It uses just eggs, lemon juice and almonds! How simple is that.

The frosting is pomegranate seeds in a cashew and almond cream.

I think this could be one of the recipes I use for my gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free dessert class coming up in October. I'll tell you more about that as the time gets closer and I've decided what we'll make.

Have a great weekend.  Hope your mood is as light as a feather!
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Strawberry Roulade

I had a group of British friends around last night so indulged in a yummy (not healthy) gluten free dessert - Strawberry Roulade.  But there was method behind my madness!


I am working on creating refined sugar free - and maybe even egg free - meringue style dishes.  One I wanted to try is a soft roulade where you roll the meringue into a log. But before I try changing a recipe, I want to know what it's like to do it as written, as it is then easier to know if you are on track when you make changes.



Gosh - I got quite excited!  It was a delicious light dessert that looked so pretty too. I managed to get some of my fruit flour in the recipe too - adding strawberry flour this time!  The flour is sprinkled on the top of the meringue and also included in the filling.

This sugared version is limited to an occasional treat.  As it happens, there were about 20 of us so we each only got a little taste.  The recipe says it's for 8 - 10 people.


Today I tried the same thing but using xylitol instead of refined sugar. Xylitol is a natural sugar alternative with a low glycemic index.  I cooked it a little too long and it started to brown, but apart from that, I was pleased with how it turned out.  I'll give it another try with a shorter cooking time.  But the meringue is crispy on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle!  Here's the sugar free version photo below:


I need to work on a better dairy free filling too as the coconut cream I used in this one, was too coconutty - even with some strawberry flour added.  So the experiments continue!

I'm having fun!  Do you have a favorite meringue style dessert?
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Making Almond Milk

Following on from last week's recipe and instructions on how to make Oat Milk, this week I'll show you how to make Almond Milk.


Yes, you can buy almond milk in the supermarket, but it tends to contain lots of ingredients. My recipe uses only organic almonds and water.  In what I consider the best, unsweetened commercial almond milk you still get extras of:

  • rice starch
  • sea salt (190mg sodium)
  • vanilla
  • natural flavor
  • carrageenan
I prefer the almonds and water approach!  Here's how to do it.

  • Soak 1 cup of organic almonds in water for 24 hours or overnight if you are short of time.  Use enough water to cover the nuts. Make sure it's good quality water!
  • Drain and rinse the almonds after their soak. Remove the skins of the almonds.  This is optional but gives you a much whiter milk and is easy to do. I timed myself and it took only 3 minutes to take the skins off! Once the almonds have soaked, just use an action like you are squeezing the almond and the skin comes off whole.
  • Place the almonds in a blender (I used my Vitamix) and add 3 cups of water.  You can actually add more (up to a total of 4 cups of water) or less, depending on how creamy or liquid you want your milk.  
  • Blend until smooth. Don't over blend or the milk will start to heat up.
  • Pour into a nut bag*, suspended over a jug and squeeze the milk out using your hand. Squeeze well to get all the milk and until the pulp is crumbly.
  • There isn't a lot of pulp that remains in the nut bag so you can either discard it or use it in your oatmeal or cereal or baked goods.  
  • Now pour yourself a glass of delicious, healthy, unsweetened, organic almond milk and enjoy, or else use it in baking, or cooking as a dairy substitute or on your cereal for breakfast!
The photo below shows the lovely white color of homemade almond milk - on the right - compared to bought almond milk on the right.


The milk will last at least a week, kept in the refrigerator.


*Re: nut bags.  Nut bags are available at cook shops and are a mesh fabric that holds small particles inside and lets the liquid run through.  They are sometimes called jelly bags too - for when you leave homemade jelly to run through. Here is a source at Lakeland in the UK, or on amazon.co.uk.  In the US, there are plenty of options like this one on Amazon, or check out your local cookware store.  Alternatively, you can just pour the milk through a double layer of cheesecloth to remove the pulp.

I'll show you another dairy free milk next week.  They are much better for you than drinking dairy.  And taste yummy too!  What is your favorite?
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Apple Kisses

I spent a day developing recipes to make apple kisses.  Doesn't that sound a good way to spend a day!

The idea behind creating an "apple kiss" recipe was to make something like a cookie or little cake or tasty light sweet yummy, but use:

  • no dairy
  • no gluten
  • no refined sugar
  • no fat
  • AND find a way to incorporate my new found friends, fruit flours!  
and have something that tastes good!

The creation came first, then the name!  I decided that they needed to be filled and then they just looked like apple kisses!

I made two different types.  The first ones used a combination of brown rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch and apple flour.  I used coconut palm sugar for the sweetener, applesauce, baking powder and some cinnamon.

They were really quick to make and turned out yummy!  I cut each one in half and added some apple non-dairy whipped cream to make little kisses!


For the second variation I tried gluten free oat flour plus the apple flour. I thought it might be a bit crumbly so added some xanthum gum, but they actually ended up a little moist, so maybe this wasn't necessary. Otherwise, the same ingredients were used, but before I cooked them, I flattened them a little.  I initially filled a few with apple butter that I had made and preserved a few years ago (doesn't contain butter!), but I preferred them with the apple cream!



I ended up liking the first variation the best. The second ones were just a bit to moist and gooey for my taste.  But the recipe still needs some work with slight variations so when I've got it better, I'll let you know the recipe.

The sweetener I used has become my recent favorite - Palm sugar or coconut palm sugar.  It comes from the nectar of the coconut palm. I buy the Sweet Tree version which is organic and is not refined i.e. minimally processed.  It contains no preservatives.  It is brown (as it's not been bleached like regular sugar) so using it in an apple product seemed good.  I'm thinking for other flavors the color maybe a bit strong? But that is to try on another day.  

Palm sugar also has a low Glycemic index - of 35 (cane sugar is 68, Honey is 55) - and you can switch it for the same quantity as sugar in recipes.

It's high in potassium, magnesium, zinc and is a natural source of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C.

And it tastes good!  Brown sugar like taste with a touch of caramel!  Have you given it a try?

Fancy an apple kiss?
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Everything is tickety-boo

Another week, and another bunch of things that made me feel that life is tickety-boo:


(Gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free) Apple Kisses


  • experimenting in the kitchen and having some successes!
  • trying out fruit flours along with my other alternative gluten free flours
  • having a friend come up and stay
  • lunch out and laughing with a friend
  • getting a new camera
  • moving furniture around and it feels so different
  • teaching a family (mum and 2 daughters) how to make jewelry :-D
  • having so many people sign-up straight away for my "food as medicine" groups
  • hearing my nephew did well in his exams - a different nephew from the one I mentioned last week!
  • having 2 bright nephews!
  • picking loads of apples and dehydrating some
  • picking pears
  • eating all this home grown food - cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, pears......
UTO (Unidentified tomato object) 
Hope you've had a tickety-boo week, with lots of yummy healthy food.
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Cooking with fruit flours

I've been experimenting in the kitchen today and it still continues.  Here is one of the results - a raspberry macaron (and yes, I did make more than one!!).  Macarons, if you didn't know, are the light fluffy meringue melt-in-your-mouth confectionery, originally from France.


Macarons are naturally gluten free as they use almond flour instead of a gluten flour.  The exciting part about todays experiment's, for me at least, is that I made flour from fruit and used it in the macaron, replacing some of the almond flour.  The flour I made was from raspberries.  How cool is that - and so the little meringues taste of raspberries!  With all these alternative flours out there, I thought I'd try making some for myself and this is my first attempt.  I wonder what will come next?????

The theme of macarons is continuing in this kitchen, as I'm trying out a sugar free version.  They are just drying now.  If they are successful, you'll see them soon!

Have you ever tried using/making fruit flour?
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Recipe for healthy gluten free granola

I hope you'll enjoy the following recipe. It is to create a healthy low fat, low sugar, gluten free granola. The recipe shows you how to create a plain granola and then each morning you can add additional fresh ingredients such as fruit, nuts, seeds, etc to create the taste you desire at that time.

Ingredients:
1 cup GF rolled oats
1 cup GF puffed brown rice - I use Erewhon, unsweetened
1 small carton (4oz) unsweetened organic apple sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 375F
2. Mix the oats and rice together and stir in the apple sauce, to thoroughly combine.
3. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and stir well, bringing the edges into the center
5. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.  If it is dry and crispy, remove. If still a bit soft, stir and put back in for a couple more minutes.  Watch it carefully as the edges may burn.
6. Cool and store in a jar for a month.

It isn't sweet but the addition of fruit sweetens it enough for me.  If you prefer, you could add some stevia as sweetener.  My favorite way to eat this is with raspberries and blackberries and a little unsweetened almond milk.

It has a much lower fat and sugar content than granolas you buy - check the labels.

Let me know what you think.
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