Chocolate Ginger Feel-Good Granola, Gluten Free and Vegan

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Fairy tales often deal with the issue of temptation, wanting what is bad for us or what we shouldn’t have. Snow White almost dies for a bite of apple, and Rapunzel’s mother loses her own child for a taste of bitter greens. For those of us with IBS, given into a craving often means physical punishment. This is true for both heavy fatty food and bright fresh ones. Feel good food sometimes feels like an oxymoron. The foods we associate with emotional comfort often stress our digestive systems.

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I created this granola for those times when you’re feeling tempted but don’t want to upset your digestive system. Ginger calms irritable bellies, while chocolate does away with irritable moods. It’s lower in sugar than most granola recipes, FODMAP friendly, gluten free, and vegan. This is a treat you can feel good about: tempting, nourishing and easy to digest.

I’ve found that many granola recipes contain as much fat and sugar as cookie dough, but you can achieve sweet and crunchy granola perfection with way less. I chose molasses as my sweetener for this recipe. It has a lovely dark color and rich flavor that complement the ginger and chocolate.

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Chocolate Ginger Feel-Good Granola

 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup crystalized ginger, minced
1/2 cup dark chocolate mini chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)

Heat oven to 325°.

In a large bowl combine oats, seeds, nuts, and spice. Toss to combine.

Place oil and molasses in a small bowl and microwave 30-45 seconds, until coconut oil is fully melted. Stir to combine and pour over dry ingredients, tossing thoroughly until granola is evenly coated.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide granola between them, spreading in a thin even layer.

Bake 20 minutes, with baking sheets in the top and bottom third of the oven, switching and rotating trays after 10 minutes. Do not stir; you’ll end up with bigger clumps of granola.

Remove granola to wire racks and sprinkle with chocolate chips and crystalized ginger. Cool completely before eating or storing.

 

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Amaranth Spelt Bread

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Before going gluten free I didn’t realize how much I relied on wheat. I ate sandwiches and pizza occasionally, but I didn’t consider that wheat thickens béchamel, blankets wontons, and binds granola. Cutting wheat out of your diet doesn’t just change taste, it changes technique. You find new ways to thicken, add chewiness, make things fluffy. After spending the last month dairy free I’ve had a similar revelation.

I had stopped noticing all the ways I consumed milk products: yogurt for breakfast, milk in my tea, a sprinkle of parmesan every time I make pasta—actually a sprinkle of cheese over most meals. Milk and cheese bind sauces, smooth over rough edges. A month of topping tacos with cilantro and eating pasta sprinkled with toasted nuts made me realize how much I used dairy as a flavor crutch. Without it, I tasted other ingredients more clearly.

Wheat and dairy both flavor and structure most of our diets. Get rid of them and you have to find new methods, new tastes. When I began baking gluten free, I was obsessed with finding the perfect replacement for wheat flour, but as I experimented more I realized that the flours I was using could do far more than mimic wheat. They had their own tastes and textures.

Amaranth flour was one of the last ones I experimented with. Early in my explorations, I read on Gluten Free Girl that amaranth had a strong, grassy taste and tended to overpower other flavors, so I stayed away from it. But later on I encountered this article on the benefits of amaranth and I read elsewhere that this tiny grain made bread more tender and extended shelf life—crucial with gluten free baked goods, which seem to go stale almost immediately.

This bread isn’t gluten free, but if you don’t have celiac disease and simply find wheat difficult to digest you may want to give it a try. You can read more about why I eat spelt—and why maybe you can too—here. This boule is high fiber and high protein with a lovely earthy flavor that works beautifully plain, spread with jam, or made into a grilled cheese sandwich.

Please let me know how you like it and tell me about your own favorite alternative flours in the comments.

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Amaranth Spelt Bread

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) warm water
2 teaspoons (7 g) dry active yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey (or maple syrup to make it vegan)
2 cups white (280 ml) spelt flour
1 cup (140 ml) whole grain spelt, plus more for rolling out
1 cup (108 g) amaranth
1 1/2 teaspoons (10 g) sea salt

Mix warm water, yeast, olive oil and honey and set aside for 5-10 minutes.Stir in flours to create a shaggy dough.Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.

Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes.

Heat over to 375°.

Turn dough out onto a lightly flour surface and knead for another 2 minutes, until smooth. Shape into a ball and set on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and make 2 shallow slices in the top surface. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, another 30 minutes or so.

Spray surface lightly with water and place in the center of pre-heated oven. Spray inside of oven with more water and bake for 40 minutes.

Cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

 

Blackberry Rhubarb Bran Muffins (Vegan) and Striving for Better-ness

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“In a time of destruction, create something.”
          —Maxine Hong Kingston

I’m job searching right now—or “on the market,” as they say in academia, which sounds a lot more optimistic. Revising my CV, compiling samples and writing cover letters raises questions about the line between self-acceptance and self-improvement. Is that article really cringe-worthy or am I just having a bad day? Should I include a photo? Do I need a more attention-grabbing format?

These are worthwhile questions, but under them lurks a sinister subtext: am I good enough? If I don’t get this job is it because I didn’t try hard enough/write well enough/present myself confidently enough? This self-doubt often comes when we strive to be better. Improving requires humility, an admission of flaws, room for growth. And there always is, but there are also pieces of every circumstance that are beyond our control.

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When it comes to my health, I generally try to accept my stomach issues. I stay away from trigger foods, but I try not to blame myself when I have a rough day. Still, I like to think that it is possible that one day I’ll be symptom free. So every so often I do something different, hoping for improvement. Currently I’m trying a month without dairy.

These muffins are adapted from a recipe shared by Deb on Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made mine with oat bran, whole grain spelt flour, a flax egg, and almond milk soured with a tablespoon of cider vinegar. For fruit, I chose seasonal rhubarb and not-so-seasonal blackberries. These feel just right for early spring, hearty enough for cold mornings with tart sweetness.  I eat them warm with a dab of vegan butter.

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Blackberry Rhubarb Bran Muffins
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/3 (315 ml) cups almond milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons hot water, mixed and rested for 5 minutes)
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup (50 g) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups (90 grams) oat bran
1 1/4 cups (175 g) whole grain spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar
1/2 cup chopped rhubarb
3/4 cup whole blackberries

Heat oven to 425°F. Put a dozen muffin liners in a standard sized muffin tin.

Stir vinegar into almond milk and prepare flax egg. Mix together in a large bowl with coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest.

In a separate bowl combine oat bran, spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir wet into dry and mix until no lumps remain.

Scoop about 2 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup. add a layer of fruit, sprinkle with half the sugar, then top with remaining batter and dust with the rest of the sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, testing frequently with a toothpick. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

My Favorite Granolas

 

You’ve probably already figured this out but I love granola. I started making my own a few years ago and now I wouldn’t even consider buying a bag of the store bought stuff. Homemade granola is healthier, tastier, makes your house smell amazing, and you can make flavors that you’ll never find in the store.

Sometimes I like to keep it simple just oats, nuts and dried fruit. My go to base recipe is this one from Cookie and Kate. It has a good balance of salt and sweetness.

I change my granola with the seasons. In the winter I love this Grapefruit Cardamom Granola. Come spring I want something bright and fruity like this Strawberry Coconut Granola or my very own Fantasy Mango Granola. In the summer I sprinkle a big bowls of fruit with Berry Crunch Granola or stir some into my Magical Muscadine Chia Seed Jam. When the leaves start to change its time for Local Pecan and Sweet Potato Granola and during the holidays I crave Gingerbread Granola.

I also love coconut so I’m a big fan of this clumpy tropical one. And then there’s the decadent and so delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola that I could happily eat every day for the rest of my life.

What are your favorite granola recipes? Any flavor combinations you’ve been wanting to try?

 

Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix (gluten free)

Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix (Gluten Free)

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Hi! It’s been a while. My apologies. I have no excuses. I’ve been busy, but despite that I’ve cooked and baked a lot over the last month. The problem is, none of it has felt blog-worthy. I have been sticking to comfortable favorites or relying on trusted books and blogs to provide me with recipes that don’t need adjustment. Our new head of state, a new year, and other, more personal changes have left me in need of stability, and cooking—an area where I usually expend creative energy—has become a haven of predictable results.

I find that happiness for me is about balancing security and excitement, having a life that feels both safe and adventurous. Sometimes achieving a reasonable equilibrium means subduing my own wildness when the world feels out of control. In times of upheaval my creativity becomes subtler. This recipe is far from avant garde, but it is my own.

Tahini is trendy, particularly and surprisingly in sweet preparations. Back in December I saw a recipe for Tahini Brownies on Brooklyn Supper and since then I’ve encountered tahini confections on many food blogs including Tahini Scones on Well Floured and Ginger Tahini Cookies on Vegan Richa. Tahini is slightly bitter, making it a perfect accompaniment for chocolate. It’s also subtly nutty (though made from seeds, not nuts) in a way that doesn’t dominate other flavor’s like peanut butter can.

This snack mix is a chocolatey, lightly sweet, salty, crunchy, and makes a very satisfying snack. I plan on bringing it with me to AWP (The Association of Writers and Poets Conference) where I anticipate the need for delicious gluten free snacks. I think it would even make a tasty breakfast.

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Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix

1/4 cup sorghum
3 cups rice or corn Chex
2 cups gluten free pretzels
1 cup almonds
1/4 c cacao nibs
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (white, black or a mixture)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 175°.

Heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pan with a lid (glass is best) over medium-high heat until quite hot, but not smoking. (Test with a few drops of water, they should sizzle and evaporate almost immediately.) Add sorghum to hot pan and cover. Shake gentle back and forth over heat to pop, cracking lid occasionally to release steam. Stop when pops are 10 seconds apart and pour popped sorghum into a large bowl.

Add Chex, pretzels, almonds, sesame seeds, and cacao nibs to bowl with sorghum and toss to combine.

In a small sauce pan combine tahini, honey and butter and heat together until thoroughly mixed. Pour over Chex mix and stir until evenly coated.

Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly and sprinkle on chocolate chips. They well melt slightly spreading around chocolate goodness.

Hobbies, Traditions, and Cranberry Sauce

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We tend to define ourselves by our money making ventures, but the things we do purely for pleasure are much more revealing. I’m currently reading a memoir—Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk—about a woman who copes with the loss of her father through acquiring and training a goshawk. Spending time with a fearsome animal may seem an odd way to grieve, but for her it is essential, a ritual that allows her to experience her loss without being overwhelmed by. Cheryl Strayed deals with her grief in a similar way, hiking thousands of miles while processing the death of her mother in Wild. Deaths are not the only losses that can overwhelm, and I’ve begun to think that our hobbies are an essential part of how we understand and cope with our individual stresses.

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I’ve been cooking for a long time, but I didn’t start baking regularly until the last year or so. Cooking is practical and immediately gratifying. Baking is more personal and time consuming. I share my bakes, but I don’t select them based on other people’s preferences. I make things that I like, I bake for my own joy. After decades of unhealthy relationships where I obsessed over other’s happiness, I am finally learning to value my own. Baking makes me feel capable and comforted. It’s a chance to practice slowness, carefulness, and close attention.

This sauce isn’t difficult, but it does require watchfulness. The cranberry sauce I grew up with was the kind that came out of a can, carefully slid from its metal sheath and placed in a cut crystal dish. When I finally discovered the homemade stuff in my twenties, I fell head over heels. A good cranberry sauce is beautiful, tart, and easy to make, one of those small touches that elevates the otherwise mostly brown smorgasbord of a typical Thanksgiving table. This version is less sharp than most with tangerines, cinnamon, and star anise mellowing the tart cranberries.

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Cranberry Clementine Sauce

1 package fresh cranberries
4 clementines, zested and juiced
1 cup granulated sugar
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened and cranberries have burst.

Local Pecan and Sweet Potato Granola

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I’ve believed in the importance of eating locally since first reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma a decade ago, but in recent years the issue has begun to seem a lot more complex than it did back then. In 2006, I was living in Athens, GA. It’s a town only an hour and a half from my current home in Milledgeville, but a very different sort of place. There was a well-stocked weekly farmer’s market, a sort of design-your-own CSA called Athens Locally Grown where I could order local meat, soap, and produce each week, and delicious restaurants with a farm-to-table approach. Back then, my only dietary restriction was self-imposed pescatarianism and I made a comfortable living as a hairdresser. I bought almost all of my produce and protein from local sources, walked almost everywhere I went, and I was proud of ecological savvy.

When I moved to New York a few years later, local eating began to mean something very different. The union Square farmer’s market stocked an impressive array of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and baked goods, but some were from as far away as Vermont, and all were exorbitantly expensive. On one of my first trips there I spent $35 on the ingredients for a 2-serving salad! In New York, eating anything was expensive, and eating locally substantially more so. I still frequented farmer’s markets and found a few restaurants that served sustainable regional fair and somewhat reasonable prices, but I also ordered a lot of delivery pitas and pizza, ate exotic fruits from the Chelsea Market, and bought sandwiches from the corner deli.

Now that I’m back in Georgia, I’m surrounded by farm land and yet, finding local food is difficult. My last rental had a back yard that my landlady allowed me to convert into a small garden, but Now I’m back to an apartment with a small communal yard and—aside from a few tomato plants and herbs growing on my front porch—unable to cultivate my own food. The farmers market here is the 1st and 3rd Saturday mornings of every month, which means that sometimes there’s a three-week gap. Its selection is unpredictable and limited, sweet potatoes will appear one week then not be available again until a month later. Eggs are $6 a carton and often sold out by 10 am. I find myself buying most of my food at the local Kroger. I purchase out of season berries, quinoa, gluten free pasta, squash grown in South America, spinach from California. And I usually feel pretty good about my choices. After all, I eat little processed food, lots of fruit and vegetables.

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But even at the best of times, most of what I eat comes from somewhere far away. My oatmeal, yogurt, olive oil, parmesan, coffee, rice, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, and cinnamon are nowhere near local, and I’ve never troubled myself much with worrying about where they come from. I tell myself that even the strictest of locavores allow themselves a spice cabinet and a bag of imported coffee, but do I really need quinoa, millet, amaranth, and four different kinds of rice? Do I need flax seeds and chia? Do I need imported dried figs and freeze dried strawberries?

We, the growing subculture of the food-loving health-conscious carry our groceries in reusable bags to reduce waste, but we also consume imported cassava flour and goji berries en masse, without thinking about the ways our sudden demand changes the availability and affordability of these crops to the people for whom they are a local resource…

The thing is…chia seeds and psyllium husk are pretty much essential to managing my IBS-C; I’m not giving them up any time soon. Being intolerant to wheat, locally milled flour and even farmers’ maket baked goods are out of the question. But I am trying to expand my ideas about eating locally. This granola features Georgia grown sweet potatoes, local sorghum syrup, and pecans picked from my back yard. It’s not completely regional by any means, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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Local Pecan and Sweet Potato Granola

 1 large sweet potato1/2 cup amaranth
3 cups old fashioned oats (gluten free if desired)
1/2 cup pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup sorghum syrup

1.Preheat oven to 400°. Cut sweet potato in half. Place one half, cut side down, on a foil-line baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and roast for 1 hour, or until soft.

2.Meanwhile, peel and grate the other half of the sweet potato and place in large bowl.

3. Next, pop the amaranth. Heat a high-sided, heavy-bottomed, pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Place 1 tablespoon of amaranth in the pot and shimmy back and forth over burner about 10 seconds. Dump popped grain on top of shredded potatoes and repeat with remaining amaranth, popping 1 tablespoon at a time, reheating pot for 30 seconds between batches.

4. Add oats, pecans, cinnamon, salt and sugar to bowl and stir to combine.

5.When sweet potato is cooked, reduce oven temperature to 325°. Allow potato to cool slightly, then remove skin and place flesh in a small pot with coconut oil and sorghum syrup . Heat and stir over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until warmed through, them remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.

6. Pour sweet potato puree over dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spread onto 2 foil-lined baking sheets and bake for 45-55 minutes, until evenly browned and no longer stick, stirring ever 1-15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before storing or eating.

Staying Inspired & Gluten Free Biscotti Two Ways

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I try to keep my life story full of adventures, however small. On Saturday, after my usual visit to the farmer’s market I convinced my friend Tara to venture into a tiny Mexican market I recently spotted up on 441, the main thoroughfare through Milledgeville. This town doesn’t have a lot of hidden gems, and my explorations have often led to disappointment, but not this time. The tiny Lucerito was surprisingly well stocked with dried chilies, avocado leaves, and chamomile flowers. It also had a decent selection of produce, including a box of prickly pear, a fruit I’ve never seen at the local Kroger. It had a cooler full of paletas (Mexican popsicles). Despite the fact that it was 11 am, I bought and immediately consumed my favorite flavor, vanilla studded with raisins.

The taste brought me back to Chicago, where I’d first experienced my favorite Mexican foods: authentic tacos, street corn, horchata. A decade ago when I lived in uptown, there was a woman who sold tamales and spicy hot chocolate outside of my L stop on the red line. Nothing tasted better while waiting on the platform in bitter winter weather. It’s just beginning to turn cold here, and this time of year I prefer chocolate spiked with cinnamon and cayenne to played-out pumpkin spice. 

The second batch of biscotti was inspired by a box of rosemary left over from making chicken salad, and a bag of freeze-dried strawberries I’d purchased on my last excursion to Trader Joes. It’s a lighter than the chocolate cookie, perfect for dunking in a cup of afternoon tea.

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Spiced Chocolate Pecan Biscotti (GF)

90 g buckwheat flour
35 g corn starch
120 g finely ground pecans
60 g unsweetened cocoa
zest of 2 oranges
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cayenne pepper
2 T fresh orange juice
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
55 g unsalted butter
125 g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
100 g rough chopped pecans

Pour dry ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Cream butter and sugar for 2 minutes, add eggs and blend one additional minute, add flour mixture and blend on low speed until completely combined. Stir in pecans. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough in half and shape into two long flat logs. Bake in a 300° oven for 40 minutes. Remove and cool for 1/2 hour, then slice into 1” thick sections. Bake again, still at 300°, for another 30 minutes, until dry and crisp.

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Strawberry Rosemary Millet Biscotti (GF, DF)

110 g millet flour
70 g almond flour
20 g cornstarch
1 tsp psyllium husk powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
100 g sugar
1 T coconut oil (melted)
1 t almond extract
2 large eggs
3/4 c uncooked quinoa
1 c rough chopped dried strawberries

Pour dry ingredients, including sugar into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Melt coconut oil and pour over dry ingredients. Add almond extract and eggs and blend until completely combined. Stir in quinoa and strawberries. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough in half and shape into two long flat logs. Bake in a 300° oven for 40 minutes. Remove and cool for 1/2 hour, then slice into 1” thick sections, then bake for another 30 minutes at the same temperature, until crisp and golden.

 

Magical Muscadine Chia Seed Jam

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I’ve never been a big fan of chia seeds. I find the texture of chia pudding slimy and chia water gag-inducing. I’ve tried adding dried chia seeds to granola, but they turn slippery in milk or yogurt and often end up stuck between my teeth. I just don’t like their texture. But I have successfully used chia seeds as an egg replacement, and I’ve been wanting to try chia jam for quite some time.

Like most people with IBS, my digestion is at its most finicky in the mornings, which limits by breakfast choices rather severely. Yogurt and oatmeal are my go-to options. Both are fairly bland canvases that improve considerably with toppings and flavorings. I love toppings, like granola and jam, but they can add a lot of sugar. Chia jam is the perfect solution, giving a thick, jammy texture without adding sugar. And chia jam is fast! You can make it in less than 15 minutes.

Muscadine Chia Jam

Ingredients:

1 pint fresh muscadines

2 T. honey

1 T. chia seeds

1 t. lemon juice

Combine muscadines and honey in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook until grapes are softened and juice is a deep pink. Strain juice through a fine mesh strain, mashing pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in chia seeds and lemon juice, allow to set for 10 minutes, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Jam will week for 1 week in the fridge.

Surprising Harmony: Radish and Corn Salad

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This salad, like a good fairy tale romance, is a surprising union. The alliance of sweet corn and spicy radish is no less surprising or delightful than the marriage of human and beast, god and mortal, royal and peasant. Unlikely partners delight us by making the improbable possible. Sweet corn kernels and spicy radish slivers balance and contrast each other. Tart lime and fresh cayenne pepper add depth and harmony to the vegetable’s bright flavors.

I recently realized that in my excitement over gluten free challenges like bagels and macarons and I have seriously neglected anything resembling an actual meal. This dish is a little light to constitute dinner, but topped with a crumble of goat cheese and a handful of toasted pepitas it is easily elevated to an entrée. You can also scoop it up with tortilla chips, use it as a toping on tacos, or add it to a spicy Latin soup like pozole.

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Radish and Corn Salad

Ingredients:

4 c. fresh corn (from 4 ears)

10 small radishes, julienned

1/2 lime, zested and juiced

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1 fresh purple cayenne (or serrano) thinly sliced

1 tsp. chopped, fresh oregano (preferable Zorba Red)

1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves

Mix all ingredients and toss. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Enjoy!