Sunday, July 21, 2013

Triple peanut butter chocolate no egg cookies!

I feel like I should be apologizing for the following recipe. It's actually pretty awesome. But I use butter, and I haven't been using butter for, hmm, years? But in the PMS cloud that overtook my mind and body last week, I did buy a pound of butter. And yes, I fully intended to make me some tasty period-friendly goodies with it. Of course, I forgot to stock my pantry with essentials for baking, such as sugar, vanilla extract, brown sugar... all I had was what I had handy, including some whole wheat flour, ground flax, an almost empty bag of powdered sugar, etc etc. No cookie recipe matched my ingredients, so I decided to MacGuyver my own peanut butter cookie recipe. The fog did, after all, demand cookies, stat.

The results are light and almost fluffy, not at all like your run o the mill, rolled in granulated sugar, chewy pb cookies you might be used to. And those "peanut butter kisses" made with Hershey's candy? I don't eat conventional candy. I had 55% Valrhona chocolate discs on hand and used those. Divine!!

Here is the recipe. I've included instructions on veganizing them... if you are so inclined.


Preheat oven to 350, or 325 convection.

Ingredients and method:

1/2 c unsalted butter or Earth Balance (or be hardcore and just use more peanut butter!!)
2/3 c no sugar all-natural stirred peanut butter
1/4 to 1/3 c fresh ground peanut butter (hey, you can also do <1 cup of whatever pb you have on hand, but let's be real, all-natural and fresh ground tastes amazing)
2 Tbs. pb2 powder (this is not totally necessary, but for few extra calories you get an extra whomp of peanut flavor and protein!)
1 tsp salt
Mix all the above together until creamy and super fluffy.

Then add, in order and mixing after each addition: 1 Tbsp molasses, 1 tsp almond extract, 1/2 c powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp ground flax,1 flax-egg (in this case, 1/4 c vanilla rice milk stirred with 1 Tbsp ground flax).

Separately stir together 1.5 Tbsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp baking soda, and 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour.

Mix flour mixture with liquid mixture until combined. Roll into balls, place on parchment or silpat on baking sheet and bake for 10 min in 325 convection oven or 350 regular. Then press chocolate discs into tops and bake for another 5 minutes.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Herbivore's newest book is a gem!

There's a lot to tell since my last post. I will have to devote a night to writing about what's going on in my household soon. For now, I want to talk about the Happy Herbivore Abroad book, the newest cookbook by Lindsay S. Nixon. I just got the book yesterday, but I've already used it for several meals (hi--no planning needed. Love her books for this very reason: healthy, low key, low maintenance, and inexpensive (many recipes feature meals you can make with simple pantry staples). I'm awful at following recipes to a T, but look at another's and get inspired. I have brownies cooling, had quick queso (kinda--added veggies to the mix and went sans gluten with the sauce) for dinner with baked no salt corn tortilla chips last night and made the migas (kinda--added tomato and jalapeƱo, and omitted the sides of refried beans and salsa) tonight. Amazing. I recommend the Happy Herbivore cookbooks to everyone, as they support a no added oil vegan diet, are extremely inexpensive recipes (often pantry-friendly--I usually add more fresh veggies, but the base is great for anyone and makes vegan cooking easy), and just are simply delish because Lindsay knows her way around a spice rack.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Easiest Gluten Free Vegan Sandwich Bread Ever

Today, on a whim, I decided I felt like baking bread. Yup, in the middle of my work day, I suddenly thought about the two packets of dry active yeast in my baking drawer, my fridge and freezer empty of anything to make a sandwich with. Must make bread. When I get a wild hair, it needs to happen.

I've made bread before. I'm kind of a big deal in the quick breads department, and in the last couple months have made quite a few loaves of beer bread. I'm no stranger to yeast and kneading either. My first ever loaves of French bread were made when I was in high school, wonderfully perfect and so simple I was a little surprised. I owned a bread machine for awhile, though I preferred kneading by hand. But what I was looking to make today was a different beast altogether.

Gluten free bread. I've been down this road before, jumping into a GF recipe with little research and it has ended disastrously more than once. Today though, I felt prepared.

Starting with the two gluten free baking books we've gotten in the last few months, I began searching for a good recipe to jump off from. Our pantry is well stocked at the moment with quite a few GF staples, but as I searched first those cookbooks and then online, I quickly realized that what I was looking for was like the holy grail of GF recipes. No eggs, no egg replacer, no flax or chia seeds (I had no idea of the movement away from xanthan and guar gum that some in the GF community are making, and these can be subbed for them--either way, I had no chia or flax on hand). No garbanzo flour or Bob's Red Mill baking mix (I had both of these on hand but find the resulting beany flavor unappealing). What I did have was a pretty decent assortment of starches, flours, whole grains, gums both guar and xanthan, and a Vitamix. And then, I found it. The perfect recipe.

Alright, hold on. You probably want to know about the bread. Let's cut to the end. The crust was lightly crunchy, with a perfect hollow sound when I tapped it with the knife. And just underneath, when the knife crunched through, was bread, with tiny air pockets from a successful rising! When I saw that, before even taking a bite, I felt that same sense of amazement I felt with my first loaf of french bread. The texture was fairly light, yet not fluffy. It cut like... bread! No crumbling, no grittiness. It held together without being too dense. The taste was balanced with the blend of flours. It was a little sweet, but this was definitely an overall success.

This is bread you can spread peanut butter on thick. Toast it. Make French toast from it. I ate the first piece slathered with coconut Earth Balance. YUM.

Back to the recipe. I finally found it here: http://www.hopes --
what looked like an almost perfect recipe for what I had on hand (and it included a photo that looked delicious). My recipe below is essentially hers, which was adapted from another recipe, which was adapted from another recipe... phew! I subbed a few of the flours, using this helpful page explaining a little of the science behind making up your own flour mix:

My flour mix was more 50/50 than 40/60 whole grain flours to starches, because that was what the recipe called for. Once I broke down each ingredient's purpose, it made subbing different ingredients much easier. I was then able to sub in grains for flavor--since half the GF flour mix is basically flavorless starch, you want to incorporate grain flours to impart flavor. The amaranth grain has a peppery, nutty, slightly malt flavor. Teff has a flavor reminiscent of hazelnuts. The amaranth and sweet brown rice flours I whizzed up in the dry container in the vitamix.

Because I worried a little that my grains might be heavier than what was called for (and, to be honest, because I half thought it wouldn't rise at all), I increased the amount of yeast from one teaspoon to one whole packet. Next time I probably will use regular brown rice instead of sweet to make the flour, and cut the amount of sugar in half because it was just a tad sweet. Feel free to do the same, but don't take the sugar out completely. Gotta give that yeast something to eat! And the recipe is vegan if Earth Balance and vegan sugar is used. I happened to use butter, which tasted great. As it always does.

Here's my recipe. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out!

My GF flour mix, consisting of half whole grain flours:
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1/2 cup sweet brown rice flour
1 1/2 cup sorghum flour
And half starches:
1 1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 1/2 cup potato starch
*This makes more than enough GF mix for 2 loaves. Use a whisk to stir these up well in a large bowl. Bigger than you think you need. The starches get messy, and once you get the grain flours in, they really start to stick together. Once you've mixed them completely, pour into an airtight container to store, and use at room temp.

Easy Gluten Free, Vegan Sandwich Bread

1 teaspoon butter or Earth Balance (for pan)
1 tablespoon GF flour mix (for pan)
3 cups GF flour mix
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 teaspoons melted coconut oil
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon butter or Earth Balance (for buttering after baking)

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Butter and flour your loaf pan, shaking out the excess flour.

Combine GF flour mix, xanthan gum, salt, sugar, and yeast in a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil and warm water, and immediately add the dry ingredients at once. Mix on high for 2 minutes--no more, no less. Your yeast will be dissolved, activated, and all ingredients incorporated, and it will be the consistency of batter, not of bread dough.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and cover with a clean towel. Turn OFF the oven and place the covered pan in the warm oven immediately. Set timer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove pan from oven. What you should have now is what is recognizable as risen bread dough. Set it aside and keep covered. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the towel and place loaf pan in preheated oven, on the lowest rack. Bake for 50 minutes, testing with a toothpick. If still doughy, add 5-10 minutes.

Brush or rub the top of the bread with butter or Earth Balance just after removing from the oven. Remove loaf from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely before cutting. Wrap tightly to store.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gluten Free Waffle Recipe Success!

If you have tried to bake soon after transitioning to a gluten free diet, you've likely experienced the heart-dropping disappointment that occurs the moment you taste the fruits of your labor. The less research, preparation, and ingredient-replacing you've done, the bigger the disappointment. In my case, I tried making cookies three time, all with less than edible results. Sadly, it turns out that the box of "all-purpose gluten free flour mix" really can't just be substituted one for one in all your usual recipes as the back of the of brags. (At least, not without the inclusion of guar, and or xantham gums to bind the flours in place of gluten.)

Since then, I've spent a lot of time researching gluten free recipes and cookbooks. After a trip to Whole Foods to stock up on more useful essentials, I felt prepared enough to whip up a batch of waffles based on a recipe I found online. I tweaked it a bit as per usual, and they turned out delicious. (You'll notice I used only half an egg, because I didn't want to waste a big batch in case they didn't come out--well, these come out, so feel free to double the batch and use one whole egg.) Wifey and sister in law both ate them up with butter and syrup... and neither of them are huge fans of breakfast food, so they would not have eaten them if they weren't actually tasty.

This may not be a cake, or even a batch of cookies, but dammit, I'm feeling pretty proud of misself today.

These are not vegan because of the egg, but you could mash 1/4 of a banana in place of the egg, which was always my standby egg sub for any pancake or waffle mix. Anyway, here's the recipe. Enjoy.


1 cup Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour
1/4 tsp guar gum
1 1/3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs olive oil
2/3 cup milk or nondairy milk (I was out of both, so I used a couple tablespoons of vegan yogurt mixed with water totaling 2/3 cup)
1/2 beaten large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat your waffle iron on medium setting.
Stir together dry ingredients well.
Whisk wet ingredients together.
Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk together until well combined (do not overbeat).
Let stand for 5 minutes.
Pour batter into waffle iron and cook according to directions.

This made us three and a half tasty waffles, but again, these are delish, so feel free to double for more waffley goodness.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The ticky, tacky world of Gluten Free

In the three months since I've last posted, I've begun to delve into the world of the gluten free. Not for a fad diet (if I hear another customer at work ask me if gluten free is healthier and then look at the GF cookies, I may lose it--or just have yet another conversation explaining who and why should avoid gluten and why any processed food is avoidable), but because wifey and I put two and two together and realized she just may have some sort of gluten sensitivity.

Let's go back three years ago... to a time when we still lived in the South Bay with three other roommates, I had just left Starbucks to work for Whole Foods Market, and my wife was beginning to experience a few rather strange symptoms that appeared to be allergies. The worst were the welts. Seemingly out of nowhere, large swollen itchy patches would raise up on her neck, shoulders, back, or the tops of her feet, lasting about a day or so. She'd usually get only one at a time, so at first we kind of thought it might be an irritation, maybe to a bra strap or bug bite. Then we thought it must be the chemicals in the laundry detergent, so we switched from Tide Dark to all natural, fragrance-free Seventh Generation, also dropping my favorite-ever vanilla lavender scented drier sheets. Seemed to work for awhile, until she got "one of those bumps" again. It appeared to coincide with the consumption of a rather large amount of Taco Bell--the only fast food we ever ate--so we thought maybe there was some sinister and gross fast food preservative or ingredient that should be avoided. This was probably not a bad idea anyway, quitting fast food, but a bump came up again. Frustrated, in pain, and sick of not knowing when and how these welts would appear (she would come home in tears after having to walk around all day at work with a swollen foot), Wifey went to the doctor on her next day off. What occurred there at that office disturbed her so thoroughly that she had not returned to any doctor for two years. Since she didn't have a current welt at the time of the visit, she went in describing her symptoms and to the best of her knowledge, what she was doing or eating when she got them. The doctor began showing her photos of patients with growths and rashes on their genitalia.

I'm not kidding.

Despite wifey saying over and over that they were not and had never been in a private area--gesturing wildly to her shoulders and feet--the male doctor continued to insist she look at photos of STDs. He did manage to write a prescription for cortisone cream before she left, but failed to ask any real questions that might lead him to a diagnosis other than STD or random skin rash.

With her fear of that office firmly in her psyche, wifey and I continued to try to troubleshoot her puzzling symptoms on our own. She kept most of it to herself and I thought for years that the main problems were itching (soles of the feet and palms of her hands) and the welts. We did the Engine 2 diet, and she felt relieved of the symptoms, for the most part. When we went off the diet, ordering a pizza or sandwiches or something else "bad," she felt horrible the next day. She started to notice that when she was on Engine 2 and didn't cheat, she appeared to lose drastic amounts of weight very quickly. She would go down a shirt size in a week. Imagine her frustration when we slowly went back to more "normal" eating and she seemed to gain all the weight back. As time passed, she lost more and more energy, to the point that she would sit down when she got home from work and didn't want to move until she went upstairs to go to bed. I began to get frustrated with her "laziness"! Thinking she just wasn't trying to help me out around the house or go out and do things together.

When we were juicing everyday earlier this year, we noticed that her energy spiked, her shirt size went down again, she lost about 12 or so pounds in a week, and she was experiencing no bumps. Yay! But hey! Juicing is not a sustainable way to live! So despite our best efforts to try and eat "well," she went back to what had become her "normal." Which was not normal at all and was no way to live. I recall one day during the summer that I emailed her at work asking if we could take a walk together with the dogs when we both got home. Her response was, "Sure, if I can move. I can barely walk up and down the stairs here." I didn't know how bad it actually was for her, even then.

Very recently my store hired a healthy eating specialist, and always being very interested in nutrition and diet, I would often talk to her about our attempts at eating healthy, vegan, and most recently juicing. I mentioned to her wifey's improvements while juicing. My friend looked at me and said that when she was advising clients having any kind of issue, she always first told them to try an elimination diet--and first to eliminate gluten. She said there are many common problems that clear up once gluten is out of the picture. I was curious now, but kind of thought this was a whole lot of hippy dippy nonsense--I mean, unless you have Celiac disease, why would you need to avoid gluten--and come on, I think we'd KNOW, right? My wife was a chef... she'd know if she had a food allergy! Still, I went online and googled gluten free. I found websites and blogs with people's personal stories and journeys of how they discovered they were sick. I read for hours, clicking back and forth between windows, cross referencing stories with WebMD and Wikipedia.

I was horrified.

All the stories I read involved the person being sick for years--YEARS!--nearly to the point of not being able to function, or enjoy life. And going to many doctors who never, ever suggested that gluten may be the cause! Until one day, because of one symptom or doctor or whatever, they were tested for celiac disease and eliminated gluten from their diet. So simple--yet doctors seemed to know nothing about this! What was going on?

The symptoms varied wildly and I didn't see much of a connection at first; i just kept reading because I felt for these poor people! I wasn't really convinced that this might be Wifey's issue until I read a few articles in particular that spoke of the varied symptoms, the peculiar effects on weight and how gluten causes malnutrition, and especially the autoimmune effects. These I saw my wife in. Her brother and sister both suffer from autoimmune diseases as well--gluten may even be affecting them. I began firing off the links to her work email right away.

When she got home that day, I explained that it sounded crazy, but this could explain the welts and the bloating and the weight gain and the itching. And I said, I know I bombarded you with a lot of information, but here's why I think you need to look into this... clearly I was expecting an unreceptive response. She just said that she'd read all of it. All the links I sent her. And he began to tell me more about her symptoms that she had never said anything about before. About how her joints hurt so bad that she couldn't move in the mornings and she'd have to swing one leg over the other to get out of bed. How she was so sore and tired all the time, she was certain she had cancer. I felt terrible because the whole time I'd really thought she was being lazy. But this was real pain.

She stopped eating gluten right away, and within a couple days had an appointment with a specialist recommended by a co-worker. She had blood taken for testing. Last week, she received confirmation from the tests that she has gluten sensitivity, but we'd known for weeks--when she stopped eating gluten, she suddenly was made aware of when she accidentally ingested it. Like when we went for Ethiopian food and requested gluten free injera, and she was sick the next day (they forgot and gave us injera with teff AND wheat). Or when we made cocktails and by her second drink the palms of her hands were itching--read the back of the bottle only to discover that Grey Goose is "made with the finest French wheat." Oops. But yes--we learned. We already had confirmation.

Wifey is going back today to discuss the results of the testing in depth and learn more about how to get her health back. I'm nervous but excited. It is incredibly hard to see your spouse struggle with an unknown enemy, watch them change into a different, sad person before your eyes and not know how to help them. I'm optimistic and I can't wait to jump into a new way of living, and seeing my wife be alive again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dinner is Served

Homemade veggie patty--made with SooFoo, lentils, and oat flour--open face with spinach on spelt toast, with leftover Mediterranean kale salad.

I haven't been perfect with the Engine 2 diet, in fact the other night I had cheese pizza for dinner (oops), but for the most part I check myself before I put random food in my mouth, and am enjoying eating more whole foods.

I also bought the Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook by Lindsay Nixon. I love her blog, even have used her recipes, so it's about time I bought a book of hers. What I love about this book is not only is it mostly Engine 2 compliant (although not with the salt), is that the recipes are super fast, easy, simple and CHEAP. Lindsay developed them living in St. Maarten, where she didn't have access to, say, a Whole Foods. So the ingredients aren't too exotic, and are more accessible for everyone.

Her veggie burger recipe inspired the one pictured here. (I promise to try to follow recipes more closely--but as usual, I get inspired and segue off in my own direction.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Environmentally-Friendly Oven Cleaning

My healthy eating challenge has been going well, and today on my day off I felt inspired to deep clean my kitchen. While I don't think any natural cleaner replaces bleach for things like red wine spills on our white countertops, I didn't feel like contaminating our home with caustic and toxic oven cleaner. After researching natural oven cleaner recipes online, most of which involve borax and letting the mixture sit overnight, I decided to give it a go with a cup of baking soda, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. Wow--I was surprised that this combination actually worked really well! I used a soft scrubber and used it on the interior of the oven door and glass. After only about ten minutes, it was clean. No toxic fumes, no waiting, just a lot of dipping a washcloth in water and wiping over and over to get the residue off. Voila... Clean sparkling oven, naturally. Next project is the bottom of the oven. I didn't tackle that today because it's not nearly as dirty as the door was, and was much improved with simply a wipe down with a wet paper towel. Yay!