YUMMY GLUTEN-FREE BREAD

I’ve tried a lot of different gluten-free baking mixes and I’m not always thrilled with the results in terms of taste and texture. I’m really fussy about my bread, and given that I do like a slice toasted almost every morning (with coconut spread and almond butter,) I’m on an almost constant mission to find the perfect mix. So, when I got send a box of Arnel’s Buckwheat Bread mix, I was extremely eager to give it a whirl.

Needless to say, it’s great! I wouldn’t bother to review it if it wasn’t. Not only does it make a soft, malty/nutty tasting loaf, but it’s soooooooo easy to make. You don’t need a bread machine and you only have to let it rise for about 1 hour.

It does help if you have a stand mixer because you can just throw in all the ingredients in the order listed on the packet instructions, and you’re good to go.

If you are sensitive to gluten, or if you’re a celiac, this will be a very happy find for you!

Apricot & Almond Crunch

I can’t get enough of apricots! But, here’s the thing: I like them cooked unless they are at peak ripeness. Cooking (grilling, baking, frying) apricots brings out that deep, unique flavor. I’ve used a lighter topping that a traditional crisp, because I wanted this summer dessert to be lighter, but still have a crunch. It took me 10 minutes to put together – so a very easy dessert.

Serves 6

6-8 apricots

1/3 cup Elderflower cordial (or fresh orange juice)

1cup almond meal

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup light brown sugar + 2tbsp for topping

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup sliced almonds

 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F

De-stone apricots and roughly slice them. Place them in a baking dish (greased generously with butter).

Pulse the topping ingredients in a food processor.

Top the apricots with the almond meal mixture.

Sprinkle the sliced almonds and the extra sugar on top.

Place in the oven for 1/2 hour or until lightly browned on top.

BEET CARPACCIO

This is my new favorite appetizer for when I’m trying to be super-healthy. You can use any kind of beet and actually this dish looks stunning if you use different colored beets, especially a golden and a red. I made this one from the Candy Stripe beets that I can only find in my farmer’s market in the Summer.

You do need a Mandolin. I purchased one of these scary slicing devices a couple of years ago and use it much more than I thought I would. However, every time my husband sees me whipping it out, he gets afraid – I did slice of the tip of my finger not so long ago!!! So, be warned, use one of those prong things to hold the food you are slicing. The great thing about beets is that they have a big thick stalk, which can kind of act as a handle.

Set your mandolin to it’s thinnest setting and slice away at your beet. You need the slices to be paper-thin.

Drizzle with walnut oil, and then top with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon, a pinch of smoked paprika and a flakey sea salt.

I also toasted a handful of walnuts, crushed them and sprinkled on top (optional).

If you can’t find walnut oil, go with a good olive oil

THE PERFECT TOMATO SANDWICH

I went out for lunch yesterday with my husband, and we paid about fifteen bucks apiece for a very mediocre/unsatisfying salad. So, this morning, I took off to the farmer’s market in search of the perfect tomato for a good old-fashioned tomato sandwich.

My husband comes from Georgia, where his father has an amazingly abundant garden – tomatoes being his speciality. As a result, my hubby was raised eating tomatoes every which way, and he believe that when you have a perfect tomato, there is no better way to eat it than in a sandwich, BUT the sandwich has to be simple and unadulterated with fancy ingredients such as Buffalo Mozzarella.

It’s all about the tomato and the bread. I happened to have a loaf of sliced Sourdough Bread (from the farmer’s market last week), so was fine in that department, plus I have a huge planter of basil which is crying out to be picked. However, the tomato?? I wandered through the market looking at all kinds of expensive heirloom varieties that I knew my husband would turn his nose up at, and then I found it – a deep red (almost scarlet) perfectly round, just-soft-to-the-touch, fruit. I knew it was the one. Although not “organic”, the farmer promised me that he never used pesticides, so I took his word. It cost me one buck.

Lunchtime rolled around and I lightly toasted the bread. Then I smeared a generous amount of Spectrum Organic Mayo on both slices (don’t skimp on the mayo). I sliced the still-warm tomato (never put it in the fridge because it will lose its flavor). I laid the slices on the toast, topped with a few large basil leaves, flakey sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

My husband agreed that it was the best lunch we’ve eaten all summer. We bit in, and the sweet juice ran down our chins. He was reminded of sitting at his mom’s kitchen counter after jumping through the sprinkler on a hair-dryer-hot day. The lunch probably cost about 50c each and there wasn’t a restaurant in Los Angeles that could have delivered a more perfect sandwich!

CAST IRON PAN

I purchased my beloved cast iron pan for under eight bucks, about six years ago, and I think it deserves a mini blog. It is one of the items in my kitchen that I absolutely cannot live without. It sits on my stovetop 24/7 because it gets used every single day. I adore cast iron because it’s non-toxic and if any actual iron rubs off onto your food, it’s probably a good thing because most of us could do with a little more iron anyway!

I fry everything in this little pan: eggs, scrambled eggs, fried tofu, tofu bacon, banana fritters, onions – to name what I’ve cooked in the last few days. Every now and again, when I can be bothered, I “cure” it. This means that I cover it in some kind of fat or thick oil (bacon fat is good, but because I don’t fry much bacon, I use coconut oil). I smother it in the fat/oil and leave it in a warm oven (that I’ve just turned off) for 12 or so hours. When I remove it, I rub it with a paper towel and that’s that. But I do this very sporadically, and most of the time, after cooking, I just rinse it under hot water with a little eco-friendly dish soap and give it a good scrub.

If you are looking for a more eco-friendly/non-toxic pan choice – I beg you to get yourself a cast iron frying pan. They can be found at any big box store and you’ll love it for life!

KELP NOODLE SALAD

I’ve recently discovered kelp noodles and I’m pretty smitten. I’ve seen them in Wholefoods for months now, and just passed by thinking not really knowing what on Earth I would do with them. Then, today I was rummaging around the tofu section, saw them again and noticed what it said on the packet: “Great in Salads”. I wasn’t entirely convinced, especially when I saw my husband’s expression when he caught a glimpse of them in the fridge, but I carried on regardless. The result was a divinely crunchy, light and tasty salad – I’m hooked.

It took me all of 8 minutes to make:

Serves 2

I packet of kelp noodles

1 large carrot

1 large Persian cucumber

6-8 Romaine leaves

1/2 ripe avocado

A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Dressing:1

1/4 cup miso

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and arrange them on a plate.

Cut the carrot and cucumber into thin matchsticks.

Rinse the kelp noodles under cold water and drain.

Blend the dressing ingredients and add a little water if it seems too thick.

Dress the noodles and add the carrots and cucumber.

Pile the noodles on top of the lettuce leaves and top with sliced avocado and chopped cilantro.

PROVENCAL TOMATO TARTE

I made this for an al fresco supper the other day because I was in a hurry and had four people to feed. I also had a sheet of store-bought puff pastry I wanted to use up – so I found a couple of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes in Wholefoods and whipped this up.

It’s much lighter than a pizza and the buttery pasty is sublime combined with the tomatoes and olives.

 

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1tbsp olive oil

A sheet of puff pastry (I found mine in the frozen case at Wholefoods and it was perfect)

1 cup good quality Marinara sauce (I buy Trader Joe’s Organic)

2 large tomatoes (preferably heirloom), thinly sliced

1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives

A handful of fresh basil

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Heat the olive oil and fry the onion on a very low heat for about ten minutes until caramelized. Remove from heat.

Roll out the pasty until it form a really thin (1/4 inch) square or round – whichever you prefer

Spread the Marinara sauce over the pastry (a little less than you would use for a pizza). Cover the sauce with the onions. Arrange the tomato slices over the top, followed by the cheese, olives, and basil. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.

Place on a greased baking sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are beautifully browned.

Vanilla Raspberry Gluten-free Coffee Cake

Two ingredients landed in my kitchen this week: Arnel’s all-purpose flour and a huge carton of organic raspberries (which were on sale in Pavillions. As many of you know, I’m not averse to an afternoon treat with my green tea, however, I never food that makes me feel bad (too much sugar, gluten and/or white flour), so I thought I’d have a go at making a gluten-free coffee cake that is either perfect with your mid-morning latte or afternoon treat – and way more healthy than one of those whacking scones, pastries of muffins that you’ll find at the coffee shop. The cake came out perfectly: light and slightly moist – also not too sweet. A huge thumb’s up for Arnel’s Flour. I’m going to try her buckwheat bread mix next and will keep you posted…

BTW – if you want a bigger/higher cake, you can double the ingredients and still fit it in a regular size loaf tin.

1/2 cup Earth Balance Margarine (I used the coconut one, which I love), softened

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup Arnel’s all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond meal

1tsp baking powder

1tsp vanilla essence

1 cup fresh raspberries

 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a stand mixer, cream the margarine and the syrup. Slowly add the egg, while mixing. Remove bowl from stand and mix in the dry ingredients. Finally, carefully fold in the raspberries.

Spoon into a greased loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

RIDICULOUSLY HEALTHY MUFFINS

This is a turbo-charged muffin (nutritionally speaking). It’s the healthiest muffin I’ve come up with to date and is so yummy. It’s gluten-free and sugar-free. It is very rich in fiber and omega 3′s because of the chia seeds, which you should be able to find in any health food store. I made mine in my Vitamix blender because it’s so very quick. I used the lowest speed, but literally threw the ingredients in, in the order listed below. You can obviously use a proper stand mixer if you prefer. The advantage of a high-speed blender is that the coconut oil gets whipped up real good. Remember coconut oil solidifies under a certain temperature, so if you’re not using a high-speed blender, I suggest gently warming the coconut oil by placing jar in a bowl of hot water, first.

3 tbsps virgin unrefined coconut oil

1 small ripe banana

3 organic eggs

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup almond meal

2tbsp chia seeds

1/2tsp baking powder

1/4tsp salt

1tsp vanilla essence

1tsp ground cinnamon

1/2cup coconut milk

1/2cup pecan nuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Yields 4-5 medium muffins (just enough to see me through the week…hands off everyone else!!

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F

As I said before, simply blend all the ingredients in the order listed and pour into a greased muffin pan or muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

 

 

3 tbsps virgin unrefined coconut oil

1 small ripe banana

3 organic eggs

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup almond meal

2tbsp chia seeds

1/2tsp baking powder

1/4tsp salt

1tsp vanilla essence

1tsp ground cinnamon

1/2cup coconut milk

1/2cup pecan nuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries

As I said before, simply blend all the ingredients in the order listed and pour into a greased muffin pan or muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

 

MY FAVORITE SPRING SALAD

I’m obsessed with this salad for a number of reasons: It’s really easy to prepare and contains a number of really healthy nutrients – but most importantly – it’s so tasty. I love to use candy-striped beets because they are so pretty, and because they don’t stain your hands when you grate them.

Seves 2

1 large candy-striped beet ( or regular if you can’t find the candy-sritpe)

2 cups of baby salad leaves

1/2 cup Marcona Almonds (if you live near a Trader Joe’s, you’re in luck because they carry them, roasted and salted.

1 cup of crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup really good quality olive oil

1tbsp fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and pepper