Gluten-free banana blueberry coffee cake with granola topping (aka Monk’s practice birthday cake, aka “best cake ever”)
We’ve been feasting in our living room a lot lately, and by ‘feasting’, I mean this:
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.
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.
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.
The 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…
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.
- 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch sea salt
- 2 large eggs or egg replacer equivalent (such as Bob's Red Mill)
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
- ½ cup almond milk
- 3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (defrosted)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup Fiona’s almond millet granola (or vanilla sunflower, or any flavor really!)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch round (or square works, too) baking pan with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top with granola.
- 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.
Inspired by a curried quinoa with raisins and almonds that I swooned over at the new local Whole Foods, this salad came together tweak by fortuitously compatible tweak. The dressing began bland. Then each little ingredient, rather than causing cloudy confusion, added something uniquely complementary…pop, zing, tang, or just a bit of niceness. The end result was lovely, bursting with flavor, packed with greens, and satiating with the hearty protein-rich combination of quinoa and chickpeas. That’s really all I wanted to say about this quinoa-kale combo. It’s all about the little things.
That has been something of a motto for me, at least on this blog, this season. The impact and importance of little things. Being a relatively small and prematurely, overly apologetic person, I guess I’ve always had an affinity for small ponds; a fierce faith in the significance of small but steady, well-intentioned steps. But recently, an online professional development class on mindfulness has encouraged pause for reflection that allowed me to call myself out for how indolent–or maybe fearful– I’ve been lately, dismissive of small efforts when it comes to myself. In other words, kind of a hypocrite.
I used to write poetry. A lot. Depending on the situation not everyone wants to admit to this, but in fact I went to graduate school for it. Now, as mama to a very busy, somewhat clingy (but wonderfully so) 3-year old who squeezes work as a freelancer into narrow, awkward hours, any poetic channels I still possess are clogged. My writing gets plenty of enjoyable outlets, and sometimes it even closes in on eloquent; but if I were to attempt poetry it would be obvious and pathetic in its stumbling. I know this, but it isn’t a reason not to try, if only infrequently, sometimes.
I used to play piano a lot, too. Despite being a sing-song, nursery-rhyme style ‘singer’, I will always be so thankful for the salvation music, particularly the piano, has provided during key crossroads, and painful, lost, and lonely periods of my life. The mentors I’ve had have been more impactful than they may ever realize. They’ve nurtured my soul and saved me from drowning in more ways than I’ve ever told them. Now, I’m lucky to pull out old familiar pieces I love or struggle with sight reading roughly ten minutes every other week or so. It’s a temporary state of things, and the music will be there when I return to it. But that’s no reason not to take those ten minutes where they appear and relish them.
The truth is, there are good reasons not to attempt to do these things I love. Mainly, time, or lack of. Sometimes money, too, though not really relevant to those examples. There are always trade-offs, and how privileged to have the luxury of choosing mine. Self-care is not absent in my life, it just looks different than a younger, freer self’s routines, and that’s OK.
But where I’ve been really falling down is the holding back when it comes to reaching out to people because I’m afraid I’m not enough. Because I’m embarrassed…that in my state of too little time or too stretched a budget that what I can offer is not worthwhile. A string of meaningful events has been lighting up our community lately, with babies arriving, life changes to celebrate, and changes to mourn. I have caught myself too many times holding back from reaching out for the weakest of reasons…that the time I can offer would be too short or too inconsistent to be meaningful; the meal I’d offer would be too simple to be sustenance, the gift too small to be appreciated.
Last week we couldn’t fit the “big shop” on a single weekday, and had to arrange the weekend so I could take on the grocery store late Saturday morning. Inside, it was packed with people; outside, the parking lot was packed with slushy, heavy, gritty snow. I was indulging in post-holiday, somewhat fatigued, hormonal, lonely bluesiness, struggling to push my heavy cart over the mini parking lot moguls of gripping, slippery snow-dirt, when a woman rushed over as if out of a dream, grabbed the end of the cart and commanded, “You pull, I’ll push” in such a sunny, efficiently managerial kind of manner, my spirits instantly lifted. After my bags were unloaded and I started to push–with much more ease–my lightened cart over to the dock, an elderly man appeared at my side and insisted in this soft, gentlemanly, kindly voice, “please, let me help you.”
Those two strangers will never know how much those quick, unselfish moments of their time mattered to me. I hope the pay-it-forward effect brings them some solid karma. Because it’s been going on a week, and the lift their combined efforts gave me may have ebbed but hasn’t gone away. Better, it’s opened up a few resolves…’new year resolutions’ I hadn’t made but have already acted on, so that’s something. The little voice that has been holding back good intentions has taken a more optimistic and centered approach, experimenting with new advice: offer the soup; write the poem, or if not, read one; play the music, or if not, listen; visit with the friend, or if not, call…or if not, message; compliment the stranger; thank the friend; say ‘I love you’; wish the Facebook “friend” who’s not really a friend happy birthday (or delete the “friend” if that’s better for the whole, meaningful picture). Because, it’s the little things in the end. You may never know the difference you inspired, but it’s there.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup for vegan)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
- pinch ground tumeric
- 1 tablespoon finely minced red onion
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 4 cups shredded kale, ribs and stems removed
- 1 apple, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup raisins
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- Bring the quinoa, vegetable broth, and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the dressing by whisking together the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, mustard, honey, cider vinegar, spices and onion in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the kale, apples, raisins and almonds to the cooked quinoa, and stir to combine. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Prior to serving, add dressing and toss to coat.
This recipe’s description should go further than “baked or steamed” to include the useful tip “or lose the bun and let the filling be an easy, honestly filling meal on its own”. The latter is way easier after all, plus tasty and accommodatingly variable. But then, the buns can be awfully fun to make, if you can squirrel away the time for the fiddliness and want to add a little novelty. Also, they should be called ‘baos’, as in “deck the halls with boughs of holly”. Only it’s “baos”, and they’re buns.
From November to January, it rang through the house, the car, and sometimes a little awkwardly, the grocery store: Falalalala la la la laaaaa. If ‘las’ can be said to roll, they rolled off little F’s joyful tongue in the most distinct and lovable way. Unmistakable, yet tough to describe. It was like little elves were pulling notes out of the back of his consenting throat with tiny shovels and tossing them out of his mouth where they’d linger for a moment in the air before falling to the earth with a satisfying thump.
Somewhere in December it occurred to me that little F very likely had his own unique merry, tantalizing framework for “boughs of holly”. Boughs would be baos, fluffy, Chinese steamed buns, often sweet, but equally welcome stuffed with savory mushrooms and greens. Little F had grown accustomed to receiving from Ammy (my mom) with increasing expectation and delight since he could chew. In fact, one key consolation that it was time for Nanny (Dave’s mum) to return to England was that soon we would be flying to Ammy’s house, where not only would there be baos, but from where we would be going shopping for baos. (Shopping for MORE baos, Monk! We gonna get a lotta baos!)
Wouldn’t it be fun to treat little F with shared bao-making fun for dinner? I thought. Idealistic me imagined making dough, rolling it out into pliable rounds, spooning filling in the centers, and pinching up seams at the tops, all side-by-side with my little sous chef. Skeptical-realist me pictured groaning at my intensifying headache while my enthusiastic but appropriately impatient little one crawled under the table, simultaneously soaking up and spreading sticky, floury mess.
What happened was predictably somewhere in the middle but surprisingly, mostly on the rose-colored glasses side. Because, today we had the luxurious option of spreading out the prep, which helped a lot. First, we made the dough using my favorite method for making pizza crust since becoming a mom, the food processor. Little engineer loves a good go a button-pushing, especially when gratified with immediate whizzing and chopping that happens to not be ear-splittingly loud.
Hours later, we threw all the filling ingredients in the pan and let them heat up and sit while we devoted our attention to other important things like painting snow in plastic tubs on the kitchen floor. And yet another hour or so after that, We rolled out the dough into neat circles, spooned on the filling, and pinched up the seams. For at least five of the ten buns, little F was a careful gem. For the remaining five, I got to marvel at my quick fingers and his overall speed in general.
If anything felt remotely disastrous about preparing this dish, it really didn’t hit until time to cook, and the big flaw was in materials. Since switching to a convection oven/induction stovetop, I’ve lost the reliable steamer basket that fit with a pot I no longer have. Instead, I planned to steam with a much smaller double boiler insert, and realized too late that we just didn’t have close to the time it would take to steam the buns and avoid a meltdown before dinner. So, we slid a tray in the oven and baked instead. I would have preferred the steaminess of the intended version, but this one is great, too, just different. More like a dairy-free Asian riff on a calzone. Bonus, the filling is great on its own, and super over rice, which is really handy since the recipe does make more filling than bun. Swap the tempeh for some other lean protein if you prefer; skip the onion, play with different mushrooms. Just don’t lose the water chesnuts, in my opinion. Or the lime juice. They’re the crunch and the zing. Choose what flour you’d like, too. I haven’t tried gluten-free bread flour, but I will eventually. We used One Degree Organics sprouted red fife flour, a superb 1-1 swap for whole wheat.
I wouldn’t dare imply that this recipe naturally suits a big-little pair-up, or expect the experience together to ever match the relative ease it took on tonight. It’s not hard, but easy to get messy with. But that may be one of the reasons I will definitely make this again, not just for the filling sans buns (which will also happen). You know I can’t resist a good food metaphor, and this one’s too ripe and pluckable to ignore. Our bao-making experience was a clear-cut process-not-the-product kind of worthy experience. Not to say, we don’t deserve to relish beautiful plates when we eat our meals. What I mean is, everywhere there are reminders begging to be accepted, that treasures, even perfect and beautiful ones, emerge from a little chaos. That it’s the imperfect, joyful, take-a-chance-on-me messiness in life that we should really sink our teeth into, together.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 package dry yeast
- 3 cups whole wheat flour (I love One Degree Organics sprouted wheat)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 8-ounce package tempeh, crumbled
- ⅓ cup low sodium vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms (crimimi, button, baby bella) chopped
- ½ small red onion, diced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 5 cups chopped kale, ribs and stems removed (Or 1 11-ounce package shredded kale or kale, cabbage and carrot mix)
- Prepare the dough: Dissolve yeast and honey in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a food processor with chopping blade, combine flour, olive oil, baking powder and salt. With the machine running on low, pour the liquid mixture through the feed tube as fast as the flour absorbs it. Process until the dough forms a ball, and continue 30 seconds further to knead. Dust with extra flour if sticky and remove to a bowl lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour.
- Prepare the filling: Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add tempeh, broth, ginger, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and onion to pan. Cook, stirring regularly and turning tempeh, approximately 5 minutes. Add lime juice, soy sauce, cilantro, and kale. Continue to cook, stirring, until kale is cooked through, approximately 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
- Divide dough into 10 equal portions, forming into a ball. Working with each ball individually, press into a circle, roughly 5 inches, and place approximately ¼ cup filling in center. Bring up sides to cover filling and meet on top.
- Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown colored OR arrange buns on parchment paper squares 1-inch apart in a steamer basket. Cover with lid and bring pan to boil over medium-high heat. Steam in batches according to space, 15 minutes each or until set.
- Filling is great served over rice or with noodles if you want to save time and skip the buns!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!
- 2 cups gluten-free oats
- 1 cup quinoa flakes (or another cup oats)
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup pecan pieces
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup pepitas
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Dash salt
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons liquid coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ cup dried cranberries, raisins, or other dried fruit of choice
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss oats, quinoa flakes, quinoa, pecans, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and salt together until combined.
- In a medium bowl, combine syrup, coconut oil, orange juice, and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and stir to thoroughly mix and coat.
- 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.