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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Girl Food: Fennel Carrot Soup

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I’m sure there are plenty of men who love salads and women who would pick a steak over a brownie, but I don’t know any of them. There are certain foods that seem to appeal only to women: Buddha bowls, taco salads, and soup. Men categorically dislike soup. I have no idea why. I could eat soup every day from October through April, and all the women in my life seem to feel the same way. This particular soup has a rich caramelized flavor that comes from oven roasting the vegetables before adding them to the pot.

 

Adapted from the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine, this recipe epitomizes what I loved about that publication: it’s easy to make, has a short ingredient list, and yet it’s impressive enough that I’ve made it for dozens of special occasions, the most recent of which was a holiday lunch with my mom, aunt and sister. My sister and I both have IBS, but our symptoms and problem foods are almost opposite. This soup, however, works for both of us.

 

The original recipe, which appeared in the November 2008 issue of Gourmet calls for an onion, which I’ve replaced with a handful of scallion tops, because I don’t tolerate onion well. I also microwave the fennel oil because it intensifies the flavor and aroma. I make this soup with an immersion blender which produces a chunkier texture that I love. If you want a silky smooth puree a traditional blender is best.

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Fennel Carrot Soup

2 large fennel bulbs with fronds
1 lb. carrots, broken into 2” pieces
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch scallions (green onions), white bulbs removed and discarded
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon fennel seed
sea salt

Heat oven to 425° with rack in the bottom third of the oven. Slice fennel bulbs 1/4” thick and spread on a rimmed baking sheet along with carrots and garlic. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sugar, and about 1/2 tsp. salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. After 20 minutes, add the scallion.

Meanwhile, chop about 1 tablespoon fennel fronds and set aside, discarding remaining fronds and stems. Grind the fennel seed in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Mix with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl and microwave 30 seconds, until fragrant.

When vegetables are caramelized and tender, transfer to a soup pot and add stock. Use an immersion blender to puree to desired consistence. Season with additional salt to taste and heat for 5 minutes or so on stovetop. Serve in wide bowls garnished with fronds and fennel oil.

 

 

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!

Dreamy Mishaps: Pecan Milk and Praline Macarons

Sometimes recipes are inspired by memories, sometimes by cravings, and some come from eccentricities. These recipes started with a cheesecake. My boyfriend got me a food processor as a gift for our two-year anniversary and, to express my gratitude, I whipped up his favorite dessert, a classic New York style cheesecake, which left me with two unused egg whites. These egg whites nagged at me until I decided I would use them to make macaroons—I had already used my new gadget to make almond milk and dried the remaining meal to produce almond flour—but I couldn’t get excited about going classic. I wanted something more exotic than chocolate or vanilla, and the withered late season peaches and tough pre-season pears at the market weren’t inspiring me to make jam. Searching for regional inspiration, I recalled my recent first experience with pralines, a buttery, cookie-shaped candy, and like macarons, gluten free. Pralines are made with pecans, which grow in abundance here in Georgia.

After my delight at the sweet, creamy deliciousness of homemade almond milk, I decided to make pecan milk from my nuts before using the powdered remains in macaroon batter. (It gave me something to do while my egg whites aged.) The pecan milk has a richer, nuttier flavor that went beautifully with a drizzle of honey and a dash of nutmeg. I’ve also been enjoying it with Minimalist Baker‘s Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola. I dried my pulverized pecans in the oven and the next day I was ready to make macarons.

At this point I should probably admit that I’ve never made macarons before. They are famously difficult. And it rained. Okay, enough excuses. These little guys are not the prettiest. They could have used another five minutes in the oven and I applied the filling when it was too hot, destroying the fragile foot that I swear showed up on about half of them. If I was a professional chef, I’d say that my macarons where a failure, but I’m a home baker and since everyone I fed these too—including my boyfriend who only likes two other desserts: warm brownies a la mode and cheesecake—loved them, in my book, that’s close enough to success to share.

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Pecan Milk

2 c. pecans
1/8th tsp. salt
5 c. filtered water, plus more for soaking

*You will need cheesecloth and a blender or food processor.

Cover pecans with water and let them sit overnight. Drain, rinse and combine with 5 c. water in a blender or food processor, blend on high for 30 sec. or until nuts are pulverized and liquid looks milky. Drain through 3-4 layers of cheesecloth, squeezing to release as much liquid as possible.

Spread the nut pulp in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and dry in oven on the lowest setting for 3 hours r so, until light and dry.

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Pecan Praline Macarons

(adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

For the Macarons:

200g confectioners’ sugar (approx. 2 cups)
100g pulverized, dried pecans (approx.. 1 cup)
120g room temperature egg whites (around 3 large egg whites) left out at room             temperature for at least a few hours or up to 3 days
1/8 teaspoon salt
40g sifted granulated sugar or caster sugar (approx.. 3 Tbsp.)

For the Filling:

1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp. butter
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. pulverized, dried pecans
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the macarons: Blend pecans and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until well mixed and finely textured. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat salt and egg whites slowly until stiff peaks form, then increase to high speed and add caster sugar, incorporating quickly. Do not over mix. Fold in vanilla. Sprinkle pecan mixture over egg whites and fold together gently until just incorporated. Allow mixture to rest while you prepare 2 double layered baking sheets topped with parchment paper, fit a piping bag with a round tip, and preheat oven to 325°. Pipe 2” mounds onto baking sheets, spacing about 1” apart. Rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet, then remove to rack to cool completely.

To make the filling: Set oven to 350°. Combine whipping cream, butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisking frequently. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Remove nuts from oven and stir in. Allow sauce to cool for 15 minutes, beating frequently to prevent hardening.

To Assemble: When macarons are completely cooled, stick pairs together with filling. For best results, wait 1 full day to enjoy.

Impossible Challenge Recipe: Gluten Free Bagels, Part 1

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Frequently reading fairy tales distorts my sense of what is possible. If Beauty can turn a beast into a prince, I think, surely I can make a killer gluten free bagel on the first try. This post is part of a new series “Impossible Challenge Recipes,” an apt designation I decided on before attempting my first installment.

I confess, I haven’t been baking very often and when I do, instead of baking gluten free I’ve been using spelt flour, a wheat relative that my body (thankfully) tolerates. Spelt is not a perfect substitute for wheat. It has less gluten, more protein, and absorbs more liquid than standard flour. But it’s close, close enough that it can be used on its own instead of as a part of a complicated blend, close enough that it doesn’t require the support of xanthan gum, guar gum, or psyllium husk powder, close enough that milk powder and extra eggs are not required. In short, spelt flour is a lot easier to work with than gluten free flours. It’s a great option when I’m baking just for me.

But the thing about food, and especially baked goods, is that are often meant for sharing. I get frustrated at parties when everyone else is eating fluffy cupcakes, chewy brownies, and delicious sandwiches and I’m supposed to be grateful because someone brought a quinoa salad. Of course, before I discovered my own wheat intolerance I never even considered baking anything gluten free, but now I understand how hard it can be constantly deprived of options.

So, I’ve decided to re-embrace gluten free baking, and take on the most challenging baking tasks I can think up, things that would have scared me even when I was still using wheat flour.

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This bagel was my first challenge. It combines tapioca starch, glutinous rice flour, potato starch, millet flour, and teff flour. It has both xanthan gum and psyllium husk powder. It has one egg and some ground flax seed. All of this combined to make a bagel that is very chewy and not at all fluffy.

The picture up top looks pretty good, but you can see in the one just above that I didn’t get much of a rise. Also, they cooked unevenly, with oily looking tops and crunchy, over-browned bottoms. I could feel discouraged, but if there’s one thing that fairy tales have taught me it’s that it usually takes 3 tries to get something right. Time to try again!

I’m open to suggestions and magical assistance.