These are definitely treats for a long holiday weekend. They violate my usual code of fast, easy, and few dishes. They were none of the above. But because Jenn specifically asked for a coffee cake-like treat, how could I say, "Nah. Too much of a bother."? She makes very few culinary requests. Luckily they turned out great and thus, blog-worthy on the first try.
They are very moist, probably because I went ahead and used a full stick of butter rather than cutting it in half and adding applesauce. The butter was probably also the reason they didn't stick to the muffin papers. So, once in awhile, maybe it's okay to stress the "happy" and "gluten-free" part of Happy Healthy Gluten-free and know that "healthy" is found both in eating these in moderation and at your next meal in the form of a nice salad or plate of greens.
These muffins DO have two advantages: 1) because they are muffins, the portion control is built right in, and 2) they have the benefit of Xocai healthy dark chocolate which boosts your antioxidant intake and adds a nice sophistication, making them a little less than over-the-top sweet.
The creation of these muffins has a number of steps, and my younger son Scott had a great time helping out. He measured, mixed, scooped batter into the muffin tins, unwrapped and inserted the chocolate squares, spread and patted down the topping, and more. So though they weren't particularly fast to make, it was good quality time in the kitchen.
For the cake part:
1 3/4 gluten-free flour blend (I used Arrowhead Mills, which has xanthan gum built in. If your favorite gf flour blend does not, add 1 ¼ teaspoons of it for this recipe.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk (or the milk-like product of your choice)
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick of melted butter
12 Xocai Power Squares or other dark chocolate squares
For the topping:
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
Preheat the oven to 350. Thoroughly combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. Combine the milk, sugar, butter and eggs in a big bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the milk-sugar-eggs and mix well. Spoon the rather sticky batter into a lined muffin tin. Worry that it may be too dry. Insert the chocolate squares upright in the middle of the muffin batter.
For the topping, combine the flour, sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and combine it with the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers (I used my fingers) to mix until course and crumbly. Spread it evenly over the muffins and pat them down a little. Bake for 20-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted (but not in the middle of the chocolate stripe) comes out clean. Eat them warm! Though room temperature was good too. We froze some of them to keep us from devouring the whole pan in one day. Keep your face over your plate. Oh wait, that's what I say to Scott.
I've just completed my first week with a dark chocolate protein shake breakfast, replacing my former non-chocolate protein shake. I've also eaten 2 little squares of dark chocolate a day, one around 3:00 pm and the other after dinner. It's too early to be sure if this will be a long-term sustainable strategy, but the first week's results are encouraging. I'm down two pounds and my pants are a little roomier. It could be solely because of my increased attention to diet in general - sort of a placebo effect. Still, it's nice to see movement in the right direction.
The other encouraging indicator is my energy level. With the exception of last Tuesday (following a Monday dinner that included a couple of slices of bread), I've been feeling really amazing. This is notable because I generally just feel pretty good. It was almost like a light switch being thrown. Again, I can't be completely certain it's the chocolate, but that's the main thing I'm doing differently.
Given these early successes, the research will continue!
Healthy Choco-PB Dip
I created this single-serving dessert which is totally guilt-free. It combines healthy dark chocolate with powdered peanut butter, inspired by my friend Robin's "dip strawberries in dark chocolate" idea and my friend Lisa's recent enthusiasm for powdered peanut butter, which has only 22 calories per tablespoon and 85% less fat than regular peanut butter. This choco-PB dipping sauce has only 55 calories, plus the caloric value of the fruit you are dipping into it. Nice.
1 6-gram square of dark chocolate (I used a Xocai Power Square)
1 teaspoon of powdered peanut butter (I used Just Great Stuff Organic)
1 1/2 teaspoons hot water
Put the chocolate in a microwave safe dish and heat it until soft but not hot. Boil some water for tea. (You'll want a hot drink to go with dessert, right?) Add the peanut butter powder to the chocolate and pour the hot water over the top of both. Stir until combined. It will be the consistency of brownie batter (less water for thicker, more water for thinner.) Dip your cut up fruit chunks -- banana, apples, pineapple, berries -- in the choco-PB sauce and eat up! Lick the dish when you think no one is looking. Show restraint and don't go make a second one. Console yourself with the knowledge that you will be able to do this again tomorrow.
Compare a slice of gluteny Stroemann's wheat bread, a slice of Kinnikinnick's Multigrain sandwich bread, and a slice of Rudi's Original sandwich bread. Despite my expectations, the Kinnikinnick slice was about the same size as Rudi's, and it definitely had some structural integrity issues. But how would it taste?
I spotted the Kinnikinnick sandwich bread on a recent field trip to Martindale's Natural Market in Springfield, PA. I had heard a lot about this loaf but hadn't seen it in a store near me. I had very high expectations. Looking back at my blog post Kinnickinnick beats Udi's? I see now that the person was singing the praises of the hot dog bun, not the sandwich bread. Still, in my mind, I was expecting it to be like regular gluteny bread. I had my first slice untoasted with peanut butter on it. It held up okay and the texture seemed good, but I couldn't actually describe the taste because of the peanut butter. I decided that my next try should be a blind taste test comparing it to a slice of the Rudi's Original I had in the freezer. In the meantime, I shot this video of my kids giving it a try.
So with that inconclusive (but highly entertaining) review, I did my own blind taste test of the two breads, thawed but untoasted and unadorned so that I could have a straight up test for flavor and texture. Despite the "blind" portion, I pretty much know what the Rudi's bread tastes like -- a little sweet and more suited to PB&J or toasted with butter and jelly than hummus, lettuce and tomato -- so I figured it out pretty quick. Rudi's has a noticable aftertaste, and it was a little grainier in my mouth and required multiple sips of water to cleanse my palate before moving on to the Kinnikinnick sample.The Kinnikinnick is equally porous, a little squishier, not sweet, and in fact did have a generic bread flavor -- not too distinctive -- which I think is a plus in the gluten-free bread universe. There would be no mistaking either of these breads for glutenous breads, but Kinnikinnick certainly comes closer to its wheaty cousin than Rudi's. So, all in all, I will pick Kinnikinnick when I have a choice between the two, but I can't yet declare that I have found my one true love. Ah, I mean loaf.
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I recently bought a three-pack of romaine lettuce from Ocean Mist Farms. They clearly label their lettuce as gluten free, lactose free, vegan, and heart healthy. I'm still trying to decide if this is a good thing or just really insulting. It's sort of like proclaiming that air has oxygen or that water has hydrating properties. I checked out Ocean Mist's website at www.oceanmist.com. They don't mention gluten-free properties of vegetables at all on their site, so I'm thinking that an over-zealous marketing person slapped all the pro-health properties on the label. In fact, they seem very sincere about providing quality produce, especially artichokes, which I admit I've eaten occasionally (mostly at restaurants) and never prepared myself.
I don't want to act like a big know-it-all. Maybe some people ARE unaware that all vegetables are gluten, lactose and animal product free. Maybe it's a public service to point it out. Maybe there is someone out there who is so unfamiliar with the property of vegetables that they don't know that they are inherently vegan. (Of course, there ARE carniverous plants. My brother, upon learning of my vegetarianism nearly 20 years ago, asked if as a vegetarian I would I eat a venus flytrap. But I digress.)
On the other hand, I am a bit offended. Just as I am happy for Miley Cyrus that she found better health eating gluten free as a lifestyle choice, I am annoyed with her for gumming up the message that there are those of us with celiac and gulten intolerance that HAVE to eat gluten-free. Does displaying the health properties of lettuce on the package actually prompt people to buy more?
Can you imagine this conversation at the store?
"Look Honey! Lettuce is GOOD for you! Let's get six heads."
"Why no, Dear. I had no idea it had all of the properties of a green leafy vegetable! Let's get nine heads!"
Wait til they find out that spinach has all those properties AND is fat free...
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There are a couple of problems with the whole idea of using zucchini in baked goods.
1) It's a vegetable, and it freaks my partner out that they would be a key ingredient in a cake-like product.
2) Zucchinis are a summer thing, and baking is NOT a summer thing. No one likes a kitchen that is all hot.
Still, we were recently faced with the challenge of how to use a rogue zucchini from the garden that somehow grew to be 2 feet long without us noticing. One person advised that we just chuck it into the compost. A number of folks advised savory dishes. More people suggested zucchini bread. Frankly the zucchini is big enough for multiple uses. I decided to start with a sweet baked option.
1) I needed it to be muffinable and to have paper muffin cups on hand, since we don't have dedicated gluten-free bread baking pans. (Not that they can't get clean enough to use for gluten-free baking, but you never know. Plus I hate to wash dishes and the baking cups method reduces the labor.)
2) I needed to have all the ingredients already
3) I needed to be able to believe that it had some redeeming nutritional qualities. Zucchini IS a vegetable, and I entered all the ingredients into a website to determine that there are only 115 calories per muffin, so I guess that qualifies.
As just about everyone else in the world does, I found a couple of recipes on line, then mashed together the characteristics I liked to come up with the recipe. It had eggs and raisins and cinnamon, 3 1/2 cups of grated zucchini, and I used sunflower seeds because I didn't have any other suitable nuts. I think I've revealed in the past that I am not much of a baker. I should also confess that I did something a little devil-may-care: I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free flour blend AND xanthan gum AND coconut oil for the first time ever in a baking project while making up the recipe as I went along. My sciency brain knows not to confound with too many variables, but what the heck. I was hopeful when the batter came out pretty tasty, though more coconutty than I expected. (duh, right?). Jenn DOES NOT like coconut, but it's a texture thing more than a taste thing. But all that zucchini might do a good coconut imitation, so I'm thinking it would not be to her liking.
I mixed it up. What I'm assuming was an effect of the xanthan gum was a weird gluey texture, sort of what I imagine would happen if I put Elmers glue into the mix. I glopped it into the baking cups. I put it in the oven at 350 degrees for half an hour. Out came what appeared to be a perfectly normal-looking tin of muffins. Sadly, however, the xanthan glue had firmly attached the muffin to the paper, making it impossible to peal a muffin and have it retain a muffin shape. At least a third of the muffin stuck and stayed with the paper. Not to be deterred, I ate what I could with my fingers, then took a fork to the paper to scrape off what more I could. Jenn tried one, knowing that it had zucchini but not coconut oil. Her report? "It tastes like a muffin." Can't argue, right?
But still, I can't in good conscience share my recipe amalgamation since the outcome were seriously-stuck-to-the-paper muffins. Here are links to the three main recipes I referred to when putting it together:
Any advice for the stuck-to-the-paper problem?