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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fudge Brownies with Himalayan Salt

HAPPY EASTER!!! -- Annie got to go plastic Easter Egg hunting for biscuits!

We have had a busy day today! I had a bit of a brownie fail yesterday (in my opinion, it is pretty hard to FAIL brownies...they were still really good with marionberry sauce and coconut ice cream), so this morning I woke up determined to figure out what I had written out incorrectly when I jotted down the ingredients from a very successful batch.

These brownies are very moist and a bit spongey the first day and become more dense as they cool down. They are a bit rich for frosting, but they are great with a fruit sauce and plain vanilla "ice cream."

Fudge Brownies with Himalayan Salt

2.5 oz cacao powder
1.5 oz sorghum flour
1.5 brown rice flour
1 oz tapioca flour
2 T ground chia seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
3.5 oz finely grated sweet potato
7 oz coconut milk
7 oz maple syrup
3 T sunflower oil
2 T agave

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl. I recommend at least sifting the cacao powder to eliminate lumps. Add the finely grated sweet potato, coconut milk, maple syrup, sunflower oil, and agave. Put the batter in an 8X8 inch baking dish lined with baking paper. Bake for 25 minutes and take it out of the oven so you can add some freshly ground Himalayan salt evenly over the top (around 1/3 of a tsp). Put back in the oven for another 10-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out fairly clean and the edges are a little darker. Let cool before attempting to cut.

After dropping off the brownies at the Sidecar for Pigs Peace, we decided to figure out if a scene from the TV series The Killing was plausible. We really enjoy the show for two reasons. 1. It's based in Seattle. 2. It's fun to try to pick out exaggerations or errors. They showed a submerged car in a pond at Discovery Park, which they claimed was a popular place for "johns" to take their prostitutes. Discovery Park is on the edge of Magnolia, which is known for being a very nice neighborhood. It's not remotely near the neighborhoods that are typically known for that kind of activity. Then again, maybe they know something I don't. We also weren't aware of ponds at Discovery Park.

Look - A pond! One of 3 near the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center and Wolf Tree Loop

While I think they may have filmed that particular scene elsewhere, there is a pretty sizable pond near an access road. I don't know the depth of the pond, but it's definitely murky enough.

After we found the ponds, we went on to better things. Watching Annie "hunt" squirrels!!!

"Is that a SQUIRREL???"

"HEY! Are there any squirrels in there??"

"I think I saw a squirrel!!!"

I would like to say that we always have a leash on Annie unless she's in a securely fenced area. She is a fast little monster and I'd hate to see what she would do with a squirrel, and we'd have a tough time getting her back.

I found something beautiful as well. Trilliums! Trilliums are a fragile flower that can occassionally be found in state parks across the northern US. It is illegal to attempt to transplant or pick them in several states because doing usually quickly kill the plant. It's best to enjoy how beautiful they are from a bit of a distance.

It was great to get outdoors and enjoy the patches of sunlight!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Snickerdoodles are my childhood favorite, but they have vexed me in the past. I've had many failed recipes - any posted previously just were not quite there. It was either a texture issue, or the flavors were a little muted or exaggerated. The snickerdoodle is the recipe I have altered or scrapped all together several times. I think perhaps my arch nemesis has fallen and I've finally achieved the trifecta - texture, taste, and appearance.

There is a fairly consistent phenomenon particular to gluten-free cookies that took me a while to adapt to. Gluten cookies are better off if you take them off the pan immediately. They hold their shape pretty well and a little aggressive spatula work may cause a couple cookies to be put in the imperfect pile (in my house that means they are eaten immediately - it's the best way to ensure no one sees those imperfect cookies, right?). If you don't get them off the pan immediately, you're scraping and soaking a pan. Gluten-free cookies will come out of the oven squishy and unstable. With this recipe, if you try to take them off the pan before they have had plenty of time to cool, you will end up with half the cookie still on the sheet and a big crumbly mess. If you let them sit for at least an hour or two, they will have that typical, hard snickerdoodle texture. These are best made the night before you plan to serve them.

makes 12 large cookies
4 oz palm oil
1/3 cup sugar
4 oz brown rice syrup
1/2 c water
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1 T ground Chia seed
3.8 oz tapioca flour
6.8 oz white rice flour
1.2 oz amaranth flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Sugar & cinnamon to coat

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar, flours, vanilla, chia seed, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Gently melt the palm oil either in the microwave or sauce pan. Combine the oil, brown rice syrup, and water with the dry ingredients. Once the ingredients are combined, take a ball of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll the dough in sugar and cinnamon. Press slightly onto the cookie sheet to form a round shape. Space the cookies at least an inch to two inches apart as they will raise and spread. Bake for 12 minutes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!!!

Today was Earth Day and there were quite a few reminders. Starbucks was offering free drip coffee and tea to those with reusable mugs, our office building was giving away free energy efficient light bulbs, and Google had a cute little design on their home page that had little critters running around as you moused over it. It was also a beautiful day in Seattle, which gave us a chance to do some work in the yard. We have a lot to do tomorrow, including drop off some brownies and snickerdoodles for the Sidecar for Pigs Peace bake sale, but I'm hoping we'll have time to sneak over to dog park.

To me, Earth Day is a day to reflect on all the wonderful things this planet has provided us with. Air, water, and beautiful scenes. It made me think of Kauai. We did a lot of hiking while we were there, and I remember hiking along the Napli Coast and inland to the Hanakapi'ai Falls. The plants were incredibly lush and fertile. Guava fruit was laying all over the pathways along with fruit from some of the palm trees. The smell was wonderful, mixed in with rich earth and the humid air.

After recalling the beautiful hike among the guava trees, my mind wandered up the Kalalau Valley at the end of the Waimea Canyon drive. I remember being filled with a sense of awe - there are so many places and scenes to enjoy. The sun was warm and we watched a large fog bank roll down to the ocean as the morning slipped by.

The Kauai coastline is gorgeous, and if you are traveling by boat, you may be lucky enough to see some humpback whales in the distance.

Today my mind also fled to the wonderful bounty the Earth gives us. Delicious, fresh foods. We are so lucky to have so many tasty options available to us.

In our household we have made some really good steps towards minimizing waste and using more environmentally friendly products. Our cars sit in the driveway most of the week because we bus too and from work, although I did get a new cute little Hyundai Elantra. The mileage is great! Our cleaning products are without harsh chemicals, cloth is replacing many paper products, and we've got our little garden in the front yard. I would love to start researching more environmentally friendly furniture and flooring. It makes me sad to think how many products are used on a daily basis that are very bad for us...

Where did your thoughts go for Earth Day? Are you planning on changing some lifestyle habits to be kinder to our planet?

Pigs Peace Bake Sale!

Tomorrow there is a bake sale at the Sidecar for Pigs Peace. If you're in the Seattle area, I will be bringing in brownies and snickerdoodles. I hope the sale does well!

Mmmm....gooey brownies

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lance and Allergies

I was starting another blog about kids and allergies, but Annie had other ideas and started jumping on the laptop keyboard. I handed Lance the laptop and asked him to blog. After a second of protesting, I suggested he share his experience with allergies and how he feels about them. You'll detect a little bit of frustration in his tone, but overall, he's taken it really well and done a pretty good job of adapting. We need to work a little on the menu reading skills and awareness of hidden gluten ingredients, but those are things we learn over time, sometimes by trial and error.

Since Annie decided to jump in Cami's lap and on the laptop as she was trying to blog, a guest writer has taken over. This is Lance, Cami's husband. As a kid, I didn't have to worry about allergies. Most of my adult life as well. In fact, since I run so much, I could pretty much eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted. I stuck with this strategy and ate a lot.

I'm not saying that I was eating nothing but ice cream, but I was unrestricted in my diet and never had to worry about the consequences of any foods. However, I started getting a red rash on both my cheeks, and it never would go away. I was gradually getting more tired then normal. So I went in for allergy testing. For the food portion this consisted of scratch tests to see how I responded, followed by three weeks without the foods I failed on before a retest to see which ones mattered.

This was a disaster. Testing nine different types of foods, I failed them all. Most of them, I didn't fail severely, but enough that I couldn't have them. Wheat, soy, milk, and eggs I failed with a four, but I also failed rice, tomatoes, yeast, and corn. Most surprising at that point, I failed potatoes. How does an Irish guy fail on a potato allergy???

So it was a long three weeks before I could try the foods again. I had it ten times better then anyone else would have been in this situation with Cami's knowledge on all the replacement grains and ingredients, and her making all the foods I had never heard of before meeting her. I was still eating well. I still dropped 10 pounds, which is pretty significant.

However, when I was waking up in the morning, I wasn't feeling tired and groggy. I wouldn't crash in the afternoons, and I started feeling better. Once I started testing things again, I started getting most of the foods back. Rice was key, and opened up many options, and I was able to get potatoes again. I had recovered everything except soy, with only the wheat test left.

For this test, I popped in a Frosted Mini Wheat. This was a favorite cereal growing up. I knew instantly that it did not go well. My nose stuffed up, my face tightened, as well as my forehead. Redness engullfed my face. Losing wheat is a tough blow. You know what's made with wheat? Everything. All the convenient foods, flour, all baked goods, bread, and beer.

Having the experience of all the other foods that were missing, however, I knew I would be OK. It turns out, there are a ton of people in the same boat I am, and just about all restraunts have options, some even with Gluten free menus.

In the mean time, I feel much better, am not as tired, and more productive. There are definitly times where it's hard. Like last week, when they announced that our new work offices were moving above a restaurant and brewery that has stellar beer. However, I still have options, and I'm not the last person this will happen to.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Winter Vegetables with Celerly Root Puree

I was a little pout-y about not being able to eat fruit and starchy foods, and it was about time to snap out of it and start creating some tasty, lower carbohydrate meals. Seattle is unseasonably cold right now. The plants are just starting to bud out and our little garden is under a cloth cover, which is a good thing because we've had some frosty mornings lately. The freshest foods are still the early spring crops - arugula, kale, greens, leeks, fennel, and root vegetables.

I decided to try a celery root puree with winter vegetables yesterday. I am a garlic fanatic, so added more garlic than some people may like. The puree would be a great alfredo substitute as it is very creamy. Celery Root (celeriac) has 1/3 the carbohydrates, less than half the calories, and the same amount of fiber as potatoes. It also has a very velvety texture and lends well to purees.

Winter Vegetables with Celeriac Puree

1 celery root
4 cloves garlic
2-3 T olive oil
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4+ water

Clean, peel, and dice the celery root into 1/2 inch or smaller cubes. Mince the garlic. Heat a pan over medium heat and get the olive oil hot. Put the garlic in the oil until it becomes very aromatic (less than a minute; 15-30 seconds). Add the celeriac and cook until the root is easy to pierce with a fork. Take off the heat and let cool a little. Put the celeriac and garlic in a blender, along with any of the excess olive oil. Add enough water to get the blender blades turning smoothly and add the salt and pepper.

Winter Vegetable Saute
1 leek
1 fennel bulb
1 bunch kale
1/2 tsp caraway
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
pinch salt

Thoroughly clean the leeks by slicing the leeks into rings and soaking them in a big bowl of water with a tsp of apple cider vinegar. Cut the base off the fennel and slice it with a mandolin slicer (slicing thinly with a good knife works too). Put the pan over medium heat and add some olive oil after the pan warms up. When the oil is warm, add the leeks. Once the leeks turn into a vibrant color, add the fennel, mustard seed, and caraway. Add the fennel.

Once the fennel is slightly translucent, add the kale and salt.

When I first made this, I put the saute over some kelp noodles. Noodles add nothing to this dish - it was much better with just the saute and celeriac puree.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I was going to blog about the injustices of ignoring childhood allergies, but tonight I feel like something a little lighter. Tacos! OK, maybe they aren't really "light," but it's a more uplifting topic.

Bean Prep

Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you.... You know how the rest of the rhyme goes. If you don't know how the rhyme goes, you either had very impressive digestion as a child or are extremely sheltered. Beans have a reputation for being very hard to digest. The complex sugars that encase the bean survive the environment in your stomach and often travel all the way to the large intestine, where bacteria normally present in the gut become unbalanced as they feast and multiply, releasing gas that supply us with inspiration for the aforementioned rhyme.

There are several theories on how to reduce the oligosaccharides that cause the bottom burping people fear so much. Pre-soaking, changing cooking water, boiling with kombu, and shocking the beans while boiling with cold water are all theories. I tend to use at least two methods. I try to plan ahead and use dry beans because they are very affordable and more eco-friendly than canned. It also avoids the resin lining and BPAs that seep into our food (YUMMY!). Lentils and split peas are legumes that I soak for a day or less. Adzuki, black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans are soaked for 24-48 hours, and I try to change the water and rinse them thoroughly at least 3 times a day. The beans are then cooked in at least 4 times the volume of water, which I dump out and refill after it begins to look dirty. I cook them in mid heat for at least 45 minutes to 90 minutes or until the bean is nice and squishy. I plan on also using kombu, but as someone with questionable digestive capabilities, I can say that soaking and changing the soak water frequently definitely seem to help considerably.

Taco Beans
1 yellow onion, cut into rings
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 seeded jalapeno, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 1/2 cups cooked black, pinto, or kidney beans
2 Tb coconut aminos
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped

Heat a pan over medium heat. Once the pan is nice and warm, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat the pan. When the oil is ready (rippling very slightly on the surface but definitely not smoking), add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions start to look slightly transluscent and add the jalapeno, mustard seed, and cumin. Once the spices become more aromatic and the onions are translucent, add the beans, salt, coconut aminos, and fresh ground black pepper. Once everything is heated and combined well, turn off the heat and add the lime juice and cilantro.

2 ripe avocados
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper or to taste
1/4 c finely minced onion
juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup+ rough chopped cilantro

Mash the avocado with a fork. Add the onion, salt, pepper, lime, and cilantro and combine thoroughly. Guacamole is one of my favorite dips. If I don't have fresh cilantro or lime, I'll substitute lemon juice an cumin with a pinch of red pepper. It's also great with a little jalapeno or pomegranate seeds.

Macadamia Sour Cream
1/2 c macadamia nuts
1/4 c water
1/2 lemon, juiced
pinch salt

Blend in a high speed blender. If the blender isn't turning well, add a little more water until smooth.

Building a Taco

Tacos are so great because it's like choose your own adventure. Add in salsa, pico de gallo, lettuce, vegan cheese, pineapple, mango, bell peppers, or anything else your heart desires. Wrap up your filling in a gluten free taco shell like my gluten free tortilla I or II wrap recipes. The key is to not overfill, which is why my husband elects to have 3-4 tacos instead of succumbing to a fork and knife.

Good News

Experts are finally starting to acknowledge that food intolerances are real and damaging to the intestines and overall immunity. They are also realizing that gluten is a hard to digest food, and Celiac is likely only an extreme on the spectrum of gluten intolerance. Many people can benefit from avoiding gluten, so if you are having abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas, mental fog, and/or fatigue, it might be worth cutting it out of your diet for a few weeks to see if there is a change. With this type of reaction, the change won't be apparent immediately.

A gluten free diet is also not healthy by default. I know someone who chooses to live on primarily corn chips and salsa and lives by the "if I don't see it on the menu or don't read the ingredients, it doesn't have gluten" rule. It's important to talk to a nutritionist about avoiding gluten and how to make a very balanced diet. While I try to find ways to sweeten with fruits and other alternatives, some of my recipes are definitely NOT health food. I enjoy those foods on rare occasion. The majority of my days are dessert free and low carb.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vegan Marionberry and Chocolate Cheezcake

Vegan cheezcakes are so decadent that it's hard to tell you aren't having the real thing. They are very creamy, smooth (if one has the right type of blender), and all of my non-vegan friends love them. My brother has even requested them in place of a traditional birthday cake. One slice is usually a full meal. Cheezcakes are packed full of nuts, other fats, and a lot of sweetener, so I try to enjoy a slice as a rare treat. When I first started a vegan diet, I indulged much more frequently, but I've noticed that my body absorbs fat more readily now. It probably has something to do with adjusting to the diet because I've heard of several other people who started out on a "gourmet" raw vegan diet that was high in fat and had to dial way back over time after they adjusted.

Vegan cheezcakes are best made the day before you intend to serve them. They need time to firm up (although the "pudding" is also delicious). I don't like to call them raw because many of the nuts we have access to in the bulk section of grocery stores are pasteurized before making it to the store. The recipe is very close to those available in Sweet Gratitude, an uncookbook by Cafe Gratitude.

Marionberry Chocolate Cheezcake

1 1/3 c. almonds or hazelnuts
5 ounces date paste
2 ounces cacao powder
1 vanilla bean, scraped
pinch salt

3 cups soaked cashews
2 cups macadamia or cashew milk (Living Harvest Vanilla Hemp Milk may work)
3/4 c agave syrup
juice from 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean scraped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 TB sunflower lecithin
1/2 c cacao butter
1/4 c coconut oil

14 oz frozen Marionberries
2 oz cacao powder

Put the cashews in a bowl to soak. Pit around 15 dates and soak them in water for 20 minutes. Butter the sides of a spring-form pan with coconut oil. After the dates are done soaking, put them in a food processor with an S-blade until the dates stick together in a ball. Split the dates in half and add the nuts, salt and vanilla. After the nuts have broken down, add the rest of the dates and process until the mixture is crumbly, but will hold together if pressed.

Press the crust into the bottom of a spring-form pan. Add 6 oz of marionberries on top of the crust.

Put the coconut oil and cacao butter in a pan on the lowest heat to melt (as soon as it's melted, remove from the heat). Add the cashews, lemon juice, nut milk, agave, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla to a high speed blender. If you have a normal blender, you will need to soak the cashews for a couple hours, split the recipe for the filling in two, and process one batch at a time. Put the filling in a large bowl and use a hand mixer to combine sunflower lecithin and oils into the filling.

Put 2 cups of filling back in the blender with 8 oz of marionberries and mix until very smooth If you have a normal blender, you may want to have thawed berries and cook for a short time to soften, then strain out the seeds. Use the hand mixer to mix the remaining plain batter with the cacao powder. Pour the chocolate batter over the marionberries and smooth out the surface.

Add the marionberry filling over the top of the chocolate filling and smooth out the surface.

Add marionberries as a garnish if you would like.

Put the cheezcake in the freezer for 2 hours and then move to the fridge. Serve after the mixture has been able to set for a minimum of 8 hours.

In other news, Annie continues her vegan leaning tendencies. My husband came to pick me up from acupuncture and said, "Well, Annie sure is your dog! We were eating at a restaurant and she was a very good girl until someone came in with a big leather purse. She barked at it! Even when I calmed her down she was still growling at the purse from time to time." I won't encourage her behavior because I want her to be a reliable citizen, but deep down I think it's just a little bit awesome.

"Bon Appetit!"