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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Clafoutis....and thoughts for a friend.

Hello all.  I don't know about you, but one of the things I missed the most when I first went clean was custardy dessert.  Crème brulée, crème caramel, pudding, fruit tart filling, natas....I still have a hard time passing them up when they pop up on a dessert menu.

This clafoutis (along with my dairy-free crème brulée...just you wait) fills that void...and then some.  It is endlessly adaptable and über-quick to put together.  It can be made with whatever fruit is in season, fresh or frozen, and seasoned a multitude of ways.  Blueberry and cinnamon are dear friends, so I've paired them here, but I usually go with a cardamom accent for clafoutis.  Favourite past combinations include pear-mango-ginger-cardamom, rhubard-mango-lemon zest, plum-cherry-vanilla, cherry-mango-cardamom.  I add more spice or vanilla to play up whatever fruit I am using.  Please play with this recipe and let us know what combinations you try in the comments below.  You can even make savory clafoutis.

Ether way, you will get lots of antioxidants from the grapeseed oil.  I've already waxed poetic about the virtues of cinnamon, so I'll keep it short and tell you that blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant contents of any food.  They have recently been shown to improve cognitive function, more specifically memory, and to delay the onset of cognitive conditions associated with aging.  Berries have the lowest glycemic index of any fruit, so they're great for Paleo folks, as well as those with autoimmune disorders and diabetes.  Finally, recent studies have shown that freezing blueberries does no damage to their antioxidant content, so you can enjoy them all year round.  I recommend organic or wild blueberries, though, because as a thin-skinned fruit they are particularly sensitive to pesticide use.

You can lay out your fruit in a pretty pattern, which will/should  rise  to the top intact, or toss it in a jumble.  Either way, this dessert will impress.  It is perfect for company: throw it together first and let it bake as you prepare the rest of your meal and chat.  Served warm, it is very comforting.

Which is perfect right now as we are all worried about J., whose dear father is very very sick.  Please send your thoughts and prayers J.'s way as you make this, or anything else for that matter, and never forget that cooking is about feeding the people in our lives, without whom we are nothing.

Love you, J.


Blueberry Clafoutis

4 eggs
1/4 cup agave
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 vanilla bean (scraped), or 1 tsp extract
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
2-3 cups blueberries (I used frozen)

- Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease a tart pan, shallow mold, or bowl with coconut or grapeseed oil.

- Beat eggs, coconut milk, grapeseed oil and vanilla together.

- In mixing bowl, combine almond flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.

- Mix wet and dry ingredients and combine well.

- Lay fruit in the bottom of greased pan.  Gently pour mixture over fruit.

- Bake 45 to 55 mins, or until center is set.  Serve warm or chilled.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beets, two ways...for Nathalie!

Apologies are in order.  I gave away my digital camera this summer, because I prefer my old film SLR and that's what I was using at the time.  I was away, on a trip, in a beautiful setting, snapping away, with lots of time to wait for my negatives to be developed and scanned.

I underestimated how much of a problem this would be when I started this blog.  Food blogs mean food pictures.  Food pictures are difficult without a digital camera.

I am working on solving this problem.  But it's taking a while, and I've been holding off on these delicious beet salads in the meantime.  No more.  Time's a wasting.  So if you'll indulge me, I'll be putting up the next few recipes without pictures.  But be patient, dear readers.  I'll add pictures later.


Now, many people are not beet fans.  It's alright.  I wouldn't touch them myself until my late teens.  And then, I suffered through them for a while, convinced that--given their colour and weird taste--they had to be good for me.  But now I love them.  And you should, too.

These my two favourite beet recipes.  If you are a tentative beet eater, you may want to start with the cooked salad.  If not, go ahead and try the raw one.  Either way, you'll get lots of iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins A and B.  Beets are an excellent detox-booster, as they tone blood and feed red blood cells.  Enjoy!

Beet slaw

Beets can be roasted and fried, but they are most often boiled.  For a long time.  I came up with this recipe as a means of eating beets raw, which I figure preserves the maximum amount of nutrients.  Do not peel the beets if you can help it--the skin has tons of fibre.  Scrub them well and peel around any bumps and rought spots, and perhaps near the stem where the skin gets thicker.  But otherwise, leave the skin on.

5-9 beets, depending on the size
2-3 limes, depending on how many beets
1 carrot (optional, for colour)
1 large clove of garlic
3-4 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
1-2 avocadoes, ripe

- Grate the beets using the bigger setting on a cheese grater (I have a flat handheld grater and it is a god send).  Watch your fingers.  Try to grate directly into the bowl or you will have a purple kitchen.

- Grate the garlic into the beets.  Raw garlic is an excellent antimicrobial (ie, a yeast killer).  Antimicrobials rid the intestines of bad bacteria, leaving room for the good ones to grow and thus boosting immune function.  If you are not a raw garlic fan you can skip it here, but I urge you to try it.  If you have a date, or are otherwise worried about garlic breath, there is a magic trick.  A mouthful of parsley after your meal, and there'll be no trace of garlic to be found.  That goes for both garlic and onions, in whatever shape or form.

- Grate your carrot in.  Squeeze your limes and toss the juice with the beets.

- Drizzle in the sunflower oil and toss well.  Season to taste.  Divide salad in serving bowls.

- Cube your avocado and serve on top.  Try to get a chunk of avocado in with each bite...

Beet and corn salad

5-9 beets, depending on the size
1 red onion (or half if very big)
2-3 handfuls of frozen corn (ie, 1/2 to 1 cup), thawed
1 bunch of parsley (I prefer flat leaf (ie, Italian) in this recipe, but that's just me)
3-4 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
Sunflower oil

- Cook your beets.  It takes a long time.  Be patient.  When a fork can make some headway in, but it feels like there would still be a bit of crunch, they're ready.

- Soak cooked beets in cold water for a minute to cool and loosen skins.  Peel.  The skins should rub off.  If they don't, scrape stubborn spots with a paring knife to loosen.

- Cube beets into bite-sized pieces.  Try not to cut your beets too small.

-  Slice your red onion thinly.  You are going for quasi-Goodfellas slivers.

- Wash and coarsely chop your parsley.

- And corn, parsley and onions to beets.  Toss.

- Add salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle with vinegar and sunflower oil.  Toss well.  Serve.


PS.  These recipes call for sunflower oil, because its flavour is milder and it allows the accents to shine.  If you swap for olive, you will taste it.  But, as always, do what you can!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great granola and a note on Paleo

Hello all,

Thanks for reading.  I know beets are supposed to be next (sorry, Nat!) but I made this delicious granola last week and I wanted to share it with you.  And I figured out a way to make it Paleo friendly.  I think.  I'm not a Paleo expert and I think quinoa is a bit of a debate in the community.  So I've included a Paleo version with, and a Paleo version without.

While I'm at it, just a quick note on Paleo.  I'm going to try to include Paleo alternatives with my recipes whenever I can, because I think it's great and I know lots of people are trying to incorporate Paleo principles in their diet.

This isn't really a recipe, it's more of a method.  You make granola by throwing a bunch of grains, nuts and seeds in a bowl, binding it with a little fat and sugar, and roasting it.  Experiment and let me know how it turns out in the comments section below!

Whatever you do put in your granola, try to include cinnamon.  Turns out that all it takes is a little hit of cinnamon to boost brain function: everything from mood to focus and recognition.  That, and cinnamon is a potent anti-oxydant  that fights free radicals.  That means cancer-preventing.  It has a myriad of anti-aging, disease fighting qualities and it lowers bad cholesterol.  Try to get organic if you can (non-organic cinnamon is usually irradicated), and buy fresh to ensure highest potency.  The stuff that's been sitting on your shelf since 1998 is elderly cinnamon and has long ago lost its ability to kick ass.

Oh, and about milk.  About once a week, or as needed, I fill a big pickle or mason jar with a box of almond milk and a can of light coconut milk.  I keep it in the fridge and shake vigorously before using.  Voilà!  Milk for drinking cereal, lattés, ect...make sure it's not cold the first time you mix it, or you coconut might solidify and make it clumpy.

Next time....beets for Nathalie!



3 c. rolled oats (not instant, never instant, it's not a whole food)
4 handfuls toasted coconut
2 handfuls pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds)
3-4 handfuls sunflower seeds
2 handfuls whole hazelnuts
2 handfuls whole almonds
2-3 handfuls pecans halves
2 handfuls flax seeds
1 handful sesame seeds

3/4 c. coconut oil, metled
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp. cinnamon
A touch of salt (optional)

2 big handfuls of any or all of the following, grossly chopped:

Dried cherries

- Preheat oven to 350C.

- Combine oats, toasted coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and sesame seeds in as large a mixing bowl as you can find.

- Put nuts in a bag, Ziplock or otherwise, and pound with a knife handle to break them up a bit.  Just a bit, because you want chunks.  Add to oat mixture.

- Add vanilla, cinnamon and salt, toss.  Add maple syrup and coconut oil and toss.

- Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper, or grease them very very slightly with coconut oil.  You want to spread the granola in as thin of a layer as possible to ensure maximum crunchiness.  Roast in oven for 20-40 mins, tossing every 10, then 5 minutes to avoid burning.  You want your granola browned but not overly will crisp up as it cools.

- Remove granola from oven and let cool a few minutes.  Mix in dried fruit, if using.  Cool completely and serve.

Paleo Tip: if you eat quinoa, replace the oats with quinoa flakes.  If you do not, omit oats and replace with an extra 1.5 c. of toasted coconut.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Squash loaf and baking...and we're live!

I have an absolutely delicious pumpkin bread recipe that I've been trying to make for weeks now.  Soft, spicy, not-too-sweet, delicious crumb and crunchy's perfect.  After a few weeks of thinking about it and promising it to whomever would listen, I finally found myself in the kitchen with an hour or two to spare.  Actually, they were supposed to be for writing a take-home exam, but you know.  Same thing.

I started mixing up my flours.  I didn't have enough rice flour on hand.  No problem, I threw in some teff and wondered why I hadn't thought of it before...the slight hit of molasses would be perfect for fall.  Then I realized I didn't have any maple syrup, so I ran to the depanneur and paid way too much to disclose here.  We were still on track.  Then I realized that, for lack of xantham gum and cinnamon, I was going to have to really tweak my already-perfected pumpkin bread recipe.  And it's, well...perfect.

Strike that.  I was making carrot cake.  I pulled out Annalise Roberts' carrot cake recipe, tweaked here: maple syrup for sugar, cornstarch and teff for tapioca and some of the brown rice flour.  I was reaching in the fridge for the carrots when I saw some leftover butternut squash.  Why not, right?  Zucchini bread is tasty, and they call it the 'summer' first blog post was born.

I am telling you this pretty mundane story because it is a good introduction to an important concept in clean eating: substitution.  Substitution is the mother of all invention in gluten-free, dairy-free and clean eating.  And especially in baking.  It is a great place to start for a foodie seeking to eat clean, and a good motivator.

Because when you understand that almost everything in a recipe that you can't eat can be replaced by something that you can eat, the foods you love and miss become available to you again.  It's like looking at this long list of forbidden and much-missed foods, and all of a sudden having it shrink, halve, and maybe even disappear entirely.

I'll bet most of the things on that list are baked goods.  Cake, cookies, cupcakes, bread, brownies, muffins, pie crust, pizza.  Soft, chewy and delicious homemade ones.  From your favourite cookbook or from your grandmother's recipe cards.  Which is why learning how to substitute can really help you out...

You can use the same amount of coconut milk for milk in recipes, even savoury ones, with great results.  If substituting for yogurt, use 3/4 of the required amount of full-fat coconut milk instead.  Coconut and grapeseed oils are a perfect substitute for butter.  Cream coconut oil with your sweetener as you would butter for cookies.  Or melt it and mix it in, and then cool your finished dough for 20 mins before baking.  Use grapeseed oil, which gives a very buttery finish and is packed with anti-oxidants, the same way--but no need to melt it.

Agave, maple syrup and honey can stand for sugar in any recipe.  If using agave, use 1/2 to 2/3 of the required amount, and cut the liquid by 1/2 the amount of agave used to compensate for the extra liquid in your recipe.  Some people use brown rice syrup, but I don't because it hardens baked goods (it's fine for cookies, though).

Flour is trickier, but doable.  With time and experimentation, you will learn the different taste profiles of the many gluten-free whole-grain flours and discover which ones you prefer.  Whichever you use, you need a 70% grain (rice, quinoa, gluten-fee oat, millet, sorghum, teff, corn) to 30% starch (tapioca, sweet rice, potato, corn) mixture to replace all-purpose wheat flour in a recipe.  And you need to replace it by weight, not measure.  That is, you cannot replace 1 cup of your chosen mixture for 1 cup of flour, because different grains and starches have different weights.  You need to use 125 grams of mixture per cup of all-purpose wheat.  And there you have it.  Now you're cooking.

That's a lot of information.  I will do all that for you on this blog.  I'll give you precise measures of flours and liquids, in cups, so you can just follow the recipe.  But if you ever find yourself without some of the ingredients listed, feel free to come back to this post and perfect this squash bread recipe.  And if you do, please let me know how it turns out in the comments section below.

In the meantime, welcome to eat joyfully and happy baking!


Accidental Squash Bread

2/3 c. teff flour
1 c cornstarch
1 tbs. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cardamom (or 2 pods, crushed)

1.5 c. maple syrup
1.5 c. coconut oil (melted), plus a little more for greasing pans
4 large eggs (for tips on egg substitution, check here)
2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, scraped
2.5 c. grated butternut (or acorn) squash
1 c. almonds, chopped (or slivered or pieces)
1 c. shredded coconut

1.5 tsp ground flaxseed OR 1.5 tsp xantham flour
Boiling water, if using flaxseed

- Preheat oven to 350C.  Grease two small loaf pans with coconut oil.

- Whisk dry ingredients together (it sifts them without sifting).  If using xantham gum, include in dry ingredients.

- Whisk together maple syrup, coconut oil, eggs and vanilla.

- Mix wet and dry ingredients, beat with wooden spoon.

- Fold in squash, nuts and coconut.  Pour into prepared pans.

- Bake for 45 mins, or until toothpick/fork/skewer comes out clean.