Gluten-free banana blueberry coffee cake with granola topping (aka Monk’s practice birthday cake, aka “best cake ever”)

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We’ve been feasting in our living room a lot lately, and by ‘feasting’, I mean this:

guys feast

And the feasting isn’t limited to the cardboard builder’s block tables and chairs of “Chocolate Wally’s”, our 3-year old’s chosen play restaurant name which is sometimes shunted to the side in favor of “No Noggin’s” instead. In the kitchen, we’ve been gnoshing on cake. (Quick aside, isn’t “Chocolate Wally’s” the cutest, most enticing restaurant name? If it isn’t already in existence as a ‘real restaurant’, it needs to be, one day.) 

What I mean by cake, specifically, is breakfast cake which is also very important “practice” birthday cake for THE very important Monk, whose birthday is coming up in February (Valentine’s Day). This information alone should be testament enough to the scrumptious, wholesome loveliness of this cake. Anyone who knows anything about Monk knows he deserves the very best.

coffee cake

We all know anything labeled “cake”, from coffee cake to birthday cake to be a sometimes-only treat. I mean, we love them, but not on a regular basis, right? When it comes to this cake, however, there’s so much to glow about. First, its yumminess meets the standard for the BIG birthday celebration cake while the combined ingredients rise to optimistic requirements for healthiness. Chickpea flour has yet to let me down, though I’m sure I’m bound to push the boundaries eventually. Ripe bananas and just two tablespoons of honey (or maple syrup for vegan) are plenty enough sweetener when delivered parceled into the dense, moist texture the garbanzo bean flour brings. And what ties it all together and makes prep a quick cinch in the morning is the sprinkling of delectable granola baked on top. 

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This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a blogger’s event hosted by Sprouts Farmers Market and Fiona’s Natural Foods at the Fiona’s production facility in north Longmont. The building space is shared with several local brands, all of which share like-minded philosophies concerning health, sustainability, and compassion. Our group was treated to a tour of the facility, and throughout it was apparent how much meticulous care and purpose went into every corner.

fionasThe owners of Fiona’s Natural Foods, a family with combined interest and experience in agriculture and food service,  purchased Fiona’s Natural Foods from the Fiona, a woman from Boulder inspired by a family recipe. Touring and tasting product, the fact that the Fiona’s team today is committed to the original mission of good nutrition and whole health was clearly evident: slow roasting and hand-tossing to bring out the best in flavor and texture; using only quality ingredients; sweetening with organic coconut nectar, the newest in superior sweeteners that I’m just learning about. Coconut nectar comes from a painstaking process of tapping the flowering stems of the coconut blossom to draw sweet sap.  The sap is then evaporated at low temperatures, producing a raw, low glycemic syrup that provides perfect, delicate sweetness to perfect, crunchy granola…

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which also happens to provide the perfect sweet-crunchy topping for breakfast/birthday cake for the very best of friends. “Best cake ever,” Monk pronounced it. In this moment, in our house, there may be no greater foodie stamp of approval. 

 

Gluten-free blueberry banana coffee cake with granola topping
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
  2. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. pinch sea salt
  6. 2 large eggs or egg replacer equivalent (such as Bob's Red Mill)
  7. 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  8. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  9. 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
  10. ½ cup almond milk
  11. 3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
  12. 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (defrosted)
  13. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  14. 1 cup Fiona’s almond millet granola (or vanilla sunflower, or any flavor really!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch round (or square works, too) baking pan with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Make a well in center of flour mixture. (If using frozen blueberries, add to dry mixture to coat.)
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs or egg replacer, honey/maple syrup, almond milk, applesauce, banana, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Add to the flour mixture in large bowl, stirring to blend.
  4. Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top with granola.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Maple cinnamon pecan quinoa granola

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You could that at our house, Christmas 2016 started on November 1st. That’s just how things fell this year with family visits. Nanny (Dave’s Mum) came from England on the 3rd, and a week after she returned home, we took a quick trip to Connecticut for an early holiday with my family. In any case, by the time new year hits, we’ll have been “Christmas-ing” in our way for two full months. So you’d think we’d have had our holiday-fill by now. Only this year, the merriment and twinkle-strings of dazzle in the form of beloved holiday traditions is proving harder to relinquish than ever, and here’s why:

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There is a present-shaped piece of craft foam, bespeckled in glitter and labeled “Felix’s room” in sloppy red Crayola marker, hanging on the doorknob of my sleeping three-year old’s bedroom. This is the tip of the why. Inside that room, said three-year old is curled up peacefully beside his white, personal mini Christmas tree adorned with favorite decorations and topped with his handmade Santa, a celebration of shapes: cones, triangles, and circles. And that lightly snoring, blissful boy LOVES Christmas. He has been singing carols since July. Here is the iceberg.

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I’m not really sure what kind of time frame is required to constitute a true family tradition, or how much evolution can be transpire for one to still qualify as traditional. But I am full of gratitude for the warmth and cosiness of some of the simplest, quietest may-be-traditions we’ve been sharing together these last few years. Things like transforming the kitchen table to a glitter, glue and paint station for homemade cards; stockings first in little F’s bedroom Christmas morning; lights and decorations teamwork.

And of course the food. Especially the sort that in all honesty we can have anytime, only it sounds, tastes and presents differently during the holiday season. Christmas Eve porridge (doesn’t just using the word ‘porridge’ elevate things up a notch from plain old hearty oatmeal?), which is just creamy steel cut oats in almond milk, dates, cranberries and raisins, and topped in this granola:

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I know, we don’t really need recipes for granola. I mean, the whole point with granola is to freely play and create, right? On the other hand, it’s always worth having a solid template, and since creating this one for Ancient Harvest a few years ago, this has been my go-to bare bones starter. It has never let me down and doesn’t even really require any measurements…just toss together, swap and add at will. It’s even hard to overbake/burn. It’s a splendid way to emphatically declare a bowl of porridge Christmas Eve-worthy, and much more delightful than oatmeal.

santa_pancakesAnd then the next day, we dive into Santa pancakes.

So we’re a little clingy this year, and laying out the things we’re already missing it’s clear it’s not actually Christmas we’re clinging to. It’s truly the spirit, which is kind of beautiful. Little F loved wrapping presents for others, carefully and creatively constructing elaborate blockades to keep the recipient out of bounds while preparing his/her surprises. We’re still making construction paper, crafty presents just so we can wrap them. He loves the lights, the music, the sharing, the cookie baking and hot cocoa. His joyfulness from those simple holiday traditions coupled with a mama who annually immerses in the Hallmark channel all December (or, actually, the Netflix equivalent) and feels excruciatingly aggrieved each January by the abrupt shift in messaging from giving to me-focused momentum…and we’ve kind of got a perfect storm in our little house for some major post holiday blues.

There are many magical things about traditions. One biggie, there is always room for new ones. And one of many magical things about having a loving and spirited little person in the house is that there is no better time to develop fresh and fun ones, every day even. 

Today was a warm and gorgeous winter day that felt like spring. The open, clear blue sky invited a different sort of giddy expectation. It was too perfect not to make a small self-declaration, that maybe this year I could trial a new tradition of greeting the new year with actual welcome more than wistfulness. There is good reason to be in love with today. Our kitchen table art can see a release from wreathes and trees and instead invite in the bold and fanciful ’emergent curriculum’ that is whatever the day will bring. That’s just one thing, but enough to smile about. Happy New Year!  

 

Maple Cinnamon Quinoa Granola
Created for Ancient Harvest
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups gluten-free oats
  2. 1 cup quinoa flakes (or another cup oats)
  3. 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  4. 1 cup pecan pieces
  5. 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  6. 1/3 cup pepitas
  7. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  8. Dash salt
  9. ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
  10. 2 tablespoons liquid coconut oil
  11. 2 tablespoons orange juice
  12. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  13. ¾ cup dried cranberries, raisins, or other dried fruit of choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss oats, quinoa flakes, quinoa, pecans, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and salt together until combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine syrup, coconut oil, orange juice, and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and stir to thoroughly mix and coat.
  4. Spread onto prepared baking sheet and bake 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway. Allow to cool on baking sheets. Pour into bowl or storage container and add dried fruit.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Sweet potato casserole with quinoa (or oat) pecan topping

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Anyone else feeling a little dazed, wondering whatever happened to Thanksgiving? It was lovely, but where did it go? As much as I love the open invitation to officially bring out the holiday season sparkles, this year I’m struggling to keep up with speedy time more than ever, and it feels like I’d better not dare close my eyes unless ready to wake up to 2017, tomorrow.

It’s a little ironic, this year’s dwelling on the fleetingness of Thanksgiving, when actually I stretched it out over weeks and in truth am still stretching. Dave’s mum visited us from England for most of November, and since not only does Thanksgiving not feature in English tradition but it also happened to coincide with Dave’s 40th this year, I chose to focus on Thanksgiving moments and emotions in subtle, grateful-but-also-gratifying ways for pretty much a whole month.

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It started the day after Halloween, with this casserole. After that came a festive vegan Sunday dinner with Thanksgiving flair, kicking off Thanksgiving week. Stuffed acorn squash, stuffing, cranberry sauce…that sort of thing. On Thanksgiving Day itself, Little F and I shared a pumpkin pie breakfast smoothie and roasted pecans pressed in a Medjool date to taste like pecan pie. And this week, Thanksgiving over, I’m finishing my personal alternative Thanksgiving dinner-snacks with a welcome reprise of this delicious casserole, left off the Sunday Thanksgiving dinner only because my MIL isn’t the sweet potato’s biggest fan.
It feels somewhat greedy to venture beyond the basics of being thankful for simply, food…but even so these sweet potatoes make my gratitude list. I do love this dish. It’s a scrumptious side, a snack, a bit of breakfast in moderation, or dessert. And so much lighter than the typical creamy, marshmallow-topped version. I originally made if for Ancient Harvest, and it became an instant tradition, easy to tweak and equally delicious with every alteration.

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To slow down Thanksgiving, literally savoring it in stages, felt quietly appropriate this year in a number of ways. One, I’m a little loath to even note. After a year of healing a running injury, a couple extra pounds snuck up on me for one thing, so it was handy to step back from an overload of sentimental feasting. I suspected but wouldn’t step on the scale for a good while. Because, old ghosts, numbers being deceptive…there were all sorts of reasons. But mostly the ghosts. And fear. For a long time, the scale has been a healthy thing for me to avoid. When I did dare brave the thing however, confirming my suspicions, I was able to get back pretty quickly. I don’t mean that to sound glib, like weight loss is easy, because it isn’t. It’s only worth noting because it was a good reminder, information propels progress.
To say I was disappointed with the results of this year’s election and the appointments thus far would be an understatement. But in all honestly I have also been oddly inspired. When typically this time of year I’d be logging hours on the treadmill tuned into Christmas movies and rom-coms on Netlix, this year I’m choosing documentaries. (OK, about half the time I am.)

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It’s hard work to become informed, and the work never actually ends. Compared to where I’d like to be, I’m still doing a pitiful job of it. Also, there are some things I’d rather not know. If Alzheimer’s is hands-down written in my cards for instance, or if the world is going to end tomorrow (undecided on the latter…would you want to know?). But it is gratifying to take a broader view of things and to consciously work on building and fortifying my beliefs with information as much as my default, emotions. I’m sure my choices are still overtly slanted to my personal biases overall, but just making the efforts has been quietly reinforcing my faith in the potential of personal power.
So what is the connection between two not-well-related tangents and my favorite sweet potato casserole? Probably there is none. Sweetness in knowledge, at a stretch. But I am finally beginning to understand, attempted connections don’t always have to be successful to not be considered failures. What matters is we try.

Sweet potato casserole with quinoa-pecan topping
Created for Ancient Harvest
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds sweet potatoes (3- 4 medium)
  2. ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  3. ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 2 large eggs
  6. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  7. ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  8. ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
  9. dash salt
  10. ½ cup Ancient Harvest™ quinoa flakes (or sub quick or lightly processed oats)
  11. 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar (or use coconut sugar)
  12. ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  13. ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  14. 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil or olive oil
Instructions
  1. 1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. 2.Scrub sweet potatoes puncture with a fork. Place potatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for approximately one hour, or until soft. Allow potatoes to cool, 5 minutes.
  3. 3.Cut open potatoes and discard the skin. Place potatoes in a large bowl and add in maple syrup, milk, vanilla, egg, salt and spices. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer. Pour into prepared baking pan.
  4. 4.To prepare topping: Mix the quinoa flakes or oats, brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon in a bowl. Use a fork to stir in the melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over the potato mixture. Bake 40-45 minutes. Serve warm.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Fall (or any) fruits crisp

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This is both are-post and update, but mostly the latter. When I first posted it, it was as a plum (or any fruits) crisp.  Everyone has a favorite crisp recipe, and this is mine. I love it for for the flavorful versatility and simplicity. But even favorites need to evolve, and I haven’t made this recipe as originally posted for years. I’ve switched sweeteners and cut back on overall amounts, for one thing. I also typically make the gluten-free version with chickpea flour (Anyone want to play predictions with when I’ll tire with chickpea flour? Unless some nutritionally explosive news comes out that paints garbanzo beans in a dramatically negative light, I’m thinking maybe never.)

fitty-cuttingOne thing I really, really love about this crisp is how fail-safe and fun it is. It’s perfect for using just about any blend of overripe fruits, and joyously perfect to create with kids, not least because there are infinite ways to adapt to any level. In fact, next week my Plot to Plate (now Kids Create Healthy Plates) teammate Melissa and I will be whipping up take-and-bake personal versions with our after school enrichment cooking group, and in preparation I made some with my budding 3-year old chef this evening.

For our class next week, we’ll be tasting a variety of fall fruits, reflecting on texture, taste, and compatibility. We’ll make thoughtful comparisons: fresh and processed versions, and “processed from the kitchen versus from a box. We’ll delve into the definition of “fruits”, according to botanists, chefs, and eaters. We’ll spend time on hand-washing and cutting skills. And then the best part, when we play. Because with a recipe like this, you really can play. No matter what you throw in, or how large, ungainly, or shredded the pieces, you’re in for sweet, fragrant, warm cinnamon deliciousness when you pull the ultimate concoction from the oven. You can sort, compare, follow the recipe, tie in measurement, and afford to be lax on quantities, too. Tasting and experimenting as creative healthy kitchen scientists.

Fall (or any) fruits crisp
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Ingredients
  1. roughly 8 cups sliced fall or other seasonal fruits (apples, plums, peaches, pears, and nectarines strawberries and rhubarb, peaches and blueberries)
  2. 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup for vegan option
  3. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. Optional pinch each of ground nutmeg and ginger
  5. Cooking spray
  6. 1 cup rolled oats
  7. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  8. 2/3 cup whole wheat or garbanzo flour
  9. ¼ cup cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Combine fruit, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl; let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°.
  3. Spoon fruit mixture into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  4. Combine oats and flour in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, stirring until crumbly.
  5. Sprinkle oat mixture over fruit and bake 30-40 minutes.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Coconut flour summer harvest muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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It’s been a week since my last post, and I’m still riding sentimental waves of heady nostalgia…because, my baby is turning three soon! So, rather than risking too much repetition that is bound to keep coming promise, I’ll keep this short. Basically, just slap down a recipe, with a wee little note or two.

squash muffins

Felix in Rockies-2Yesterday, we went to the mountains, and spent a full morning exploring Estes Park at toddler pace. Little (Big now) Monkey proudly brandished binoculars (“nockle-ers”), trotting with cheerful, bubbly freedom along the pine-scented trail to Cub Lake. First weekend in August, and already little wispy glimpses of autumn were appearing, floating on the breezes, dancing and twirling in soft, small yellow shocks of leaves, echoing feelings churning inside my chest. So many special somethings coming to a close…but so much wonder in today, right now. And I do love fall.

 

But, muffins.

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Zucchini, yellow summer squash, carrots. These easy little packets of goodness can be thrown together quickly with pretty much whatever varying proportions of this sweet summer assortment is convenient. A tablespoon or two of pure maple syrup is lovely, but with a handful or so of raisins, you don’t even need that. They’re hearty but reminiscent of sponge-cake in the way only coconut flour can provide. Without just 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil and no added sugars, gluten or dairy, but with naturally sweetly delicious vegetables, they’re a quick, portable power snack or breakfast-to-go. Besides that, they’re easy to vary and play with. Have fun.

Summer harvest muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive or liquid coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups mix of shredded zucchini, yellow summer squash, and carrots (any amounts of each), tightly packed

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or baking cups.
  3. In a large bowl all ingredients through vanilla and whisk to smoothly combine. Stir in the shredded squash-carrot mix.
  4. Divide batter into muffin cups, filling approximately 3/4 of each cup.
  5. Bake 22-24 minutes, or until muffins are set in center.

 

 

 

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