Vegan gluten-free pumpkin gingerbread

Remember that time–like ten days ago–when I waxed on a little about Pumpkin Spice Love? You know, pumpkin cheer, pumpkin chili, pumpkin bread, soup, pie…you name it. Well, this pumpkin gingerbread marries all that pure pumpkin sentiment with two of my other favorite things to dive into and borderline obsess over: the holiday season, and aquafaba.

Whether or not you’ve heard of it, you have been aware of aquafaba for a long time. It’s the briny liquid left when you drain canned or cooked chickpeas, and it’s a vegan dream. As well as a vegan-ish dream, apparently, since I suppose that is really the more appropriate term in our household. I was recently introduced to it by my friend Sarah, when she innocently asked me if I’d heard of it. Since then, not only have Sarah and I been indulging in a text frenzy of parallel yet distinct experimental aquafaba journeys, I seem to be making it an unconscious mission to spread the fever. Case in point, quick glimpse of text thread with my cooking queen friend Kristin yesterday:

 

I could, and will, ramble on much longer about aquafaba awesomeness, but not yet. Because, today Sarah and I pulled off a super efficient and productive aquafaba playdate, yielding five glorious festive creations highlighting supercalegumerific exgarbanzolisciousness. And I’ll need a little time to type that up. In the meantime, consider the warm spice and richness of pumpkin gingerbread that happens to be pretty low sugar (maple syrup and molasses sweetened), easily tweakable, vegan and gluten-free. 

This was inspired by a beautiful pumpkin gingerbread from Oh She Glows. I expect you could pull off any favorite flour or gluten-free blend, but I do think that the 1/2 cup coconut flour and 1/2 cup almond flour mix for half of that makes for a really nice, almost custard-like texture that works. I used 1/2 cup chickpea flour and 1/2 cup sprouted rice flour for the remainder, but only because I had a bunch of remnants in bitty bags that were cluttering my cupboard. The combination was just right, but so could have been others. Try and see.

On that note, remember that time–also ten days ago, that same time I was talking about before–when I implied I would make an effort to post recipes I wanted to record even if there wasn’t time to say a whole lot about them? This is me attempting to follow through on that. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin gingerbread (GF, vegan)
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup canned pumpkin
  2. 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  3. 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  4. 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  5. 6 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea water)
  6. 1/2 cup almond flour
  7. 1/2 cup coconut flour
  8. 1 cup gluten-free flour blend of choice (I used 1/2 cup chickpea and 1/2 cup sprouted rice)
  9. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  10. 1 tsp baking soda
  11. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamonm
  12. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  13. 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  14. 1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
  15. 1/3 cup raisins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine first five ingredients (pumpkin through aquafaba) in a medium-sized mixing bowl and blend well.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir well.
  4. Stir in raisins and chopped ginger, if using.
  5. Pour the batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Bake for approximately 55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Crunchy ginger quinoa lettuce wraps

This recipe is kind of an oldie. I made it over four years ago for Ancient Harvest and can’t believe I never logged it. Like most of my favorite recipes (at least when it comes to both preparing and eating them), it’s super easy to assemble and adapt depending on time and inclination. Maybe you’ve got a rainbow bounty of crisp fresh produce you can’t wait to chop, tear, and julienne– in which case it could be delightfully time-consuming (remember, Mary?). On the other hand, maybe it’s a normal reality kind of day and you would love something zesty, crunchy, colorful, healthy and energizing with whatever happens to be left in the fridge. Provided you’ve got a decent blend of substitutions and the main dressing staples, you can throw your own superb variation together less than 30 minutes.


My favorite form of these wraps is forsaking the wrap part. Just toss in a bunch of greens with the filling for a most satisfying salad. Kale goes better than lettuce anyway. But then, sometimes lettuce wraps have the perfect refreshing crispness. So pretty with a touch of novelty about them.

I’ve been returning to some soul-soothing oldies lately. Renewed appreciation for the competitive aspect of trail running. This quinoa obviously, and a whole bunch of used-to-be standby recipes that have enjoyed a reestablishment of status lately. And a little bit poetry, which I once made time for with a fervent sort of passion that kind of evaporated for several years. (When F  was born it was replaced largely by lilting rhymes and songs.) But this year, I’ve found the poetic longing resurfacing. I feel so fortunate to know eclectic and dynamic writers who have  inspired me to take a stab at submitting again, and am so thrilled and honored to have had a poem accepted in a beautiful journal of poetry and photography.


The funny thing about good things…how quickly do they put you on edge anticipating bad things? After the initial joy and gratitude, contentment and rush of optimism, I mean. Are we all somewhat conditioned to wait for the proverbial ball to drop? One glaring response would be, of course that’s just life. Ebb and flow, highs and lows, light and shadow. Then again, how much does the sharp reality check offer safeguarding protection that can come close to outweighing the limitations on our willingness to fearlessly enjoy the now?

In any case, for two weeks in a row I felt gifted with experiences that made me feel validated in areas that are important to me. And I felt so supremely grateful. As well as momentarily but mightily apprehensive about what the next impending down might bring. It’s due soon, a persistently whiny voice insists. I even go so far as to determine internally that it’s probably going to take the form of something like [X] happening, which will make me feel really foolish for spending all that time fearing [Y], which would have been bad but not as bad. It is frustrating being stuck hanging out with myself when I think like that.


But as you know, somehow I force cooking to become a daily exercise in cultivating the type of mindfulness and lessons I want to maintain more naturally. And when I made this quinoa, I thought ‘why haven’t I recorded this in the files yet’, which I already explained. Then at dinner, little F munched and crunched appreciatively, declaring how much he loves the eddy-mommy beanies, and I thought, ‘good…same but different…and it’s still good’. Which somehow transitioned easily into quietly contemplating the many ‘still good’ things.

We are living in tumultuous, tense, and deeply unsettling times. I am well aware what a place of privilege it is to have the luxury of worrying about what tomorrow might look like. It is enough know there will be things that will still be good, and I can keep striving to be good, too.

Crunchy Ginger Quinoa Lettuce Wraps
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. ¼ head red cabbage, slivered
  3. 2 medium carrots, grated
  4. 1 red pepper, sliced
  5. 3 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  6. 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  7. ¾ cup edamame, shelled and thawed
  8. ⅓ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  9. ¼ cup low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce
  10. 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  11. 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  12. 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root
  13. 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus extra lime to serve
  14. 1 – 2 heads romaine, or other large-leafed lettuce
Instructions
  1. Separate the head of lettuce into individual leaves. Rinse and dry, either with a salad spinner or by hand, using clean kitchen towels or paper towels to pat the leaves dry. Refrigerate between layers of clean, dry paper towels until ready to assemble and serve.
  2. Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add cabbage, all other vegetables, and peanuts to quinoa and toss to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger and lime juice with a fork or whisk. Add to quinoa mixture and stir to coat.
  5. Spoon filling (approximately ⅓ to ½ cup per leaf) into the center of lettuce leaves, taco-style. Serve with lime wedges.
Notes
  1. Transform into a salad instead for a quicker, filling meal! In place of lettuce leaves, mix in chopped kale or mixed greens into quinoa mixture.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Quinoa carrot cake cookies (and Pikes Peak Ultra 30K)

I’d almost forgotten how much I love trail running. Not just on my own, but as a participant in an official group event, competitive or not. I’d just about forgotten too, how much I enjoy these gluten-free, vegan, oil-free (or not, if you prefer), lightly and naturally sweetened, easy on the digestive system cookies. That is the loose stretch of a connection between the recipe and narrative of this post. Sorry the record of the race experience is the dominating presence by far. It was my first official run event in two years after all.

carrot cake cookies (1 of 1)
First, about those “cookies”. They’re more like breakfast bars, but cookie shaped. I love them. They’re currently one of my favorite portable on-the-go breakfasts/snacks/lunches, and little F likes them too. They may taste a little more cookie-like and less like energy bites with the inclusion of coconut oil, but I prefer them without. You could totally give them a sweet treat lift with a bit of glaze if you wanted to. And the race connection? They’re good pre-run fuel. Generally, I prefer to go on empty. Even my former fave of banana and peanut butter was too much for the odd long run I tested it on in this last build up. But race day, I wanted to have a little bite beforehand, and carrot cake for breakfast works a treat. (Here’s where you skip the rambling race record to recipe below.*)

Living in Boulder County, perspective can become a little (a lot) warped. It’s not uncommon for people to ask questions along the lines of “How many ironman distance triathlons are you doing this year? How many ultras? ” within a minute of being introduced. When I tell people here that “these days I am only doing a 50K or two a year” the immediate response is often nods of understanding, if not a questioningly raised eyebrow confirming I’m a slacker. So it’s easy to feel hesitant when it comes to logging race memories for “just” 30K, especially when coupled with average ability. But it was such a beautiful, perfectly challenging course, and kind of a breakthrough mentally, in its way. Besides that, I had the best cowbell crew I could have ever wished for.

When I originally signed up for the Pikes Peak Ultra 30K, held in Colorado Springs from Bear Creek Regional Park, I intended to run the 50K. Typically, the longer I go the more competitive I can be, and to a point the less nervous too. But early on I realized too well how unprepared I would be for the 9000 feet of elevation gain in that event, let alone the altitude. Little F is a stellar household helper, but without family nearby Dave and I continually alternate to accomplish a number of things, workouts in particular. There just isn’t time to get into the hills or up high the way I’d like to, and training efforts need to be efficient even when sustained. For that reason, the week approaching this event I started to take on a few more jitters than I expected, become a little crankier, clouded by feelings of niggling aches and fatigue.

But it’s hard to drown in anxious anticipation the way I used to when a little person keeps you laughing and on your toes. Heading down to the Springs the afternoon preceding, we were caught in a pounding freak storm on the highway in a 50 minute delay caused by a crash. It would have been frustrating–it was, for Dave as generous driver both ways–only little F and all “the guys” (stuffed animals who comprise ‘the class’ when playing school) were so wowed and gleeful we couldn’t help but be a little bit delighted, too.

pike
Race morning, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Lightly misting, but temperate. Just right for running. Not too chilly for a singlet, but not hot, just pleasant. The previous day’s rain had the effect of making the trails feel firm and grippy, not muddy or loosely gravelly. Dave had prepared me for mentally taking the course in thirds. Side note–my amazing husband solves problems, assesses situations, and prepares ahead of time so very exceptionally. Sometimes I wonder idly by how much his skills are superior to mine, and whether I’m secretly far more crafty and opportunistic than I am willfully conscious of when it comes to taking shortcuts in letting him dig in so well on my behalf. (Thank you, thank you, darling Davy!)

Pikes 30K (4 of 4)
The first segment was a solid 5.5 mile climb of about 1600 feet right out of the gate. Competitors weren’t as chatty as my experience in 50Ks; I guess the distance being that much shorter really made a difference. Still, the trail running vibe has a different intensity to road, one that feels more laid back and friendly even as everyone strains and suffers. Nearing the close of the ascent, I started talking with an older guy who it turns out is clearly related to mountain goats. “Your walk-run strategy is working great for you,” I said to him, striking up conversation after miles of leap frogging. He was a modest, convivial man. Not talkative, but not reserved either. I don’t know what his background is, but just from the mile or so we ran together I was impressed by his genuine appreciation for being out there and for the way he without doubt plugs away with passion and keeps on showing up.

Pikes 30K (2 of 4)The middle third of the course, began with a descent on singletrack, sharp in spots, where my running companion dusted me for many miles and where I internally berated myself a bit for how my descent can let me down. At least when it comes to anything close to technical. But the trail was shadowy and beautiful, with mist hugging the peaks all around us. And I knew (from Dave’s preparation, not mine again), I just needed to focus on getting to mile 12 and the top of the next big hill before a major boost in momentum. While on a stretch of steep road connecting trails, Dave and Little F happened to pass by in the car on their way to a hike. “Go Mommy!” I could hear little F whooping even as they rolled down the hill behind me. “Mommy’s fast!” No caffeine infused gel could have possibly given a better, more lasting lift than knowing my little boy was proud of his mama in that moment.

The final section was mainly the beginning in reverse. As cautiously as I approached the middle descent, my legs were all about letting it rip and pounding down the 5.5 mile (mostly) descent to the finish. I knew my quads would pay the price–they were already sore–but it was fun to try to fly. Especially knowing my fast little sprinter was waiting to jump in on the finishing stretch.

About that “breakthrough”–there were two things. One, the biggest hurdle was definitely getting to the starting line but not in terms of training. That part I loved and looked forward to. It wasn’t the actual signing up, either (because Dave , ever supportive, did that for me, too–thank you, honey!!). The challenge was getting over the guilt and the fear that has been present in my mind since Dave’s injuries forced him to give up something that has been so special to share. Even as he has found the same kind of satisfaction in mountain biking, I still feel the shadow of what might be, if I do too much. At this point I’m guessing that won’t ever go away. Because, aging/practical reality/a number of things. But it’s so liberating to be able to relish getting out there again, owning the joy of just showing up.

Another notable aspect came from a semi awkward moment of irony strangely freeing, in the final ½ mile or less. A woman had passed me on the ascent early on, about ⅓ of the way in. We were cordial, greeting each other with breathless nods of “good job” and minimal eye contact. I didn’t expect to see her again, but in the final mile I found myself closing in on her. By the time we were 800 yds from the finish, I had to pass her, and in my head I felt conflicted. On the one hand, she’d managed to be ahead of me for all those tough miles. It seemed kind of unfair somehow, in a laid back event like this, to go by her. On the other, I did pull her back on my own efforts, so why not? When I pulled alongside her, I couldn’t help myself. “I don’t really want to pass you,” I said. “Want to finish strong together?” “Let’s,” she responded, surprised. “Thank you.”

Pikes 30K (1 of 4)The story could have ended there with some nice warm fuzz. Only what actually happened is that she took off at a strong clip I didn’t feel up for trying to match. I was happy with my performance, busy looking out for little F and his promised sprint to the finish together, and totally in touch with internal gratification and contentment. That was the breakthrough. I’ve always done my best in all areas when I can focus on finding out what the best is I can do on the day, without thought of others. This was no exception. Admittedly, I secretly knew I probably wasn’t in her age group, something she couldn’t have been sure of. Who knows but I would put more mojo in had I not had that knowledge. But  it was strangely liberating not to, and not at all like losing. The feeling was validated all the more when, to my surprise, I was handed the prize for first place Master’s female at the finish. That felt amazing. Big hugs from my two stalwart supporters, even better. Can’t help but admit, I can’t wait to pick the next one and go again. But I can choose smart, thinking long-term healthfulness, and wait, too.

Quinoa carrot cake breakfast cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa flour
  2. 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  3. 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  4. 1/4 cup ground flaxseed/flax meal
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  8. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  9. 1/2 cup raisins
  10. 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded carrots (lightly packed)
  11. 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  12. 1 ripe banana, mashed
  13. 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce OR ½ cup applesauce and OMIT coconut oil, below
  14. 2 tablespoons liquid coconut oil *optional
  15. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  16. 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (optional but recommended)
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Curried quinoa pilaf

I’ve been sitting on this simple, comforting dish for weeks. Problem is, the only time I’ve had lately to log it has been when experiencing end-of-day brain burnout. So now I’m trying early morning power posting–quick, efficient, and just the basics. Which is actually really appropriate for this hearty, easy meal.

quinoa pilaf3 (1 of 1)
There’s lots to love about this ‘pilaf’. For one thing, it’s delightfully versatile, in that it can be tailored to taste; it can just as easily make for a filling meal or an accompaniment. I added baked cubed tofu to bulk into a main meal, but other proteins would complement just as well if you’re not into soy. Switching things up as a side is easy, too–almonds for cashews, cranberries for raisins, addition of apples…there’s an awful lot of leeway for play considering how little active time it actually takes to make.

quinoa pilaf (1 of 1)
I’m veering off the promise of bare bones only–just quickly–but when
I first made this I almost made myself laugh out loud. Because on first bite, a warm swell inside was accompanied by my brain randomly reacting with this thought: mmmmm…yummy like Rice-a-Roni. And you know I can’t have had Rice-a-Roni more than a handful of times in my life. Not that I have a particular problem with the product. But–you know, right? What I mean?

quinoa pilaf2 (1 of 1)

The more I read, observe, listen, learn, reflect, the more reasons I discover to deplore corporatization of our food system. The ugliness is endless, from the strategic profit at the expense of human health to the intent marketing directed at children. I’m rather obsessed. And yet I’ve still somehow attached sentimentality to boxed foods I hardly have any actual experience with. Whether testament to marketing genius or fickle-minded weakness I have no idea and don’t expect to solve in a hurried post about curried quinoa. But on the upside, the simple, soothing spice blend of this quick and easy makes for really good grounding when those convenience box cravings set in. Satisfying them is about saving time on little effort, and yielding something flavourful. Bonus, we can ditch the boxes and make said yields healthy too. Maybe you need to budget up to 30 minutes to make it, but the actual effort you put in hardly exceeds opening a box of spices within a box of grains to simmer in a pot. 🙂

Curried quinoa pilaf
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  2. 3 cups water or vegetable broth (or 1.5 cups each)
  3. 1 tablespoon curry powder, divided
  4. 1 tsp. ground ginger
  5. 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1 14-ounce pack organic firm tofu, cut into cubes
  8. 2 cups broccoli florets
  9. 2 cups cauliflower florets
  10. 1/2 c. raisins
  11. 1/3 c. roasted cashews
  12. Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place tofu (if using), broccoli and cauliflower florets on a baking sheet in one layer. Lightly coat with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and browning at edges.
  2. Meanwhile, bring water or broth to a boil. Add quinoa, ginger, turmeric, 2 teaspoons curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, until quinoa is soft and fluffy (approx. 12-15 minutes). Stir in raisins and set aside, covered, until vegetables are cooked.
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine all ingredients. Enjoy!
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Gluten-free dairy-free, naturally sweetened/low sugar PB & J Bars

It’s May Day tomorrow, which makes me about a month late. Meaning, I missed out on sharing these for National PB & J Day April 2nd. Then again, while I may not blasted any well wishes for the occasion on social media or otherwise, I’m pretty sure I celebrated, possibly too heartily.
PBJBars4

Preceding National PB & J Day, National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day took place March 1st this year. I’m awfully certain I subconsciously celebrated that one, too. Since I’ve known him, Dave has always marveled at Americans’ love for peanut butter. I can’t say I know where that stereotype came from, but I do know I’ve only reinforced it. Lately though, peanut butter love has been markedly full-blown. I’ve been craving it on celery, on apple slices, in oatmeal, and straight from the jar. In fact, those first three may really be mostly compromise to keep the urge to indulge in that last one at bay. 

PBJBars3
There are always food phases that come and go, mostly with the seasons, and holidays. Like right now, when we’re all easing out weekly soup nights and transitioning to staple salad dinners. And who doesn’t swoon a little bit at the heady scent of a pumpkin spice latte in October? But peanut butter…really I’ve been a little crazy (ok, nutty) for all nuts recently, and I think that’s an offshoot of experimental vegan purity for the past month or so. Except for honey, which is still a weekly feature including in this recipe, I’ve been much more strict, and it feels good. I don’t really have any way to measure any impact nor a baseline to compare. Our scale is broken, and I wasn’t feeling bad/excessively tired without explanation/grumpy before. I can’t say I’m gliding on new enriched energy, but I definitely don’t feel worse; I felt good before this trial and I still do. Mentally and emotionally, though, it does feel gratifying to do something delicious that happens to reduce my carbon footprint compassionately.

PBJBars5

As for these bars: they are everything they should be. Chewy and jammy centers, and crumbly and nutty all around. They’d be great actually crumbled, in fact–over oatmeal or (vegan) ice cream. This recipe has a whole lot of “ORs” in it. Like, 3 cups quinoa flakes OR 1 1/2 cups oats with 1 1/2 cups quinoa flakes OR 3 cups oats. You can get away with 2 T honey OR 1/4 cup honey OR even no honey OR maple syrup.Originally I made these for Ancient Harvest, using quinoa flakes only instead of oats, and 2 eggs. I can say I think I do prefer the egg-less version, and using Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer over flax eggs. Since my little sis gave me a bag as a stocking stuffer, I really have become very fond of that pea protein concoction.  Overall, however, you really can’t go too very far astray when it comes to what is basically a just crunchy ball of peanut butter and jam.

Obviously, a recipe is always a guide and all those options are to be intuited or inferred, but in this case I’ve tried each little variation and approve so well I couldn’t cut back. Because, nuttiness lately…tell me what you change…or even would like to try out one day. I can promise there is a very good chance I will test the idea out for you. 😉

 

PB & J Bars
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups quick oats
  2. 1 1/2 cups quinoa flakes
  3. 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  4. 2 tablesoons Bob's Red Mill egg replacer mixed in 4 T water OR 2 flax eggs OR 2 eggs
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 2 tablespoons OR ¼ cup honey
  7. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  8. ¼ teaspoon salt (unless using salted peanut butter)
  9. ⅔ cup fruit only jam or jelly of choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine oats, quinoa flakes, peanut butter, egg substitute, baking soda, vanilla, and salt and mix well.
  3. Press a little over half of the batter into an 8 X 8 baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Use a rubber spatula to spread jam over mixture. (Soften jam as needed in a saucepan or microwave to help with spreading.) Crumble remaining mixture over jam layer as topping.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, until topping is browned and jam layer is bubbly. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

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