Monday, December 7, 2009

Coconut Layer Cake (gluten free)

I like to make the occasional sweet treat as healthy as possible, but it has to taste good too.  I've used this recipe for a birthday cake on more than one occasion, and nobody suspected it was "gluten free" until I told them.  I don't bake cakes that often but when I do, I use the best organic ingredients I can and enjoy the results! 

Makes two 8 or 9-inch rounds or 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar (Woodstock Farms organic pure cane sugar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups flour mix*
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon gluten substitute (xanthan gum or Orgran gluten substitute)
  • 1 cup canola oil (Spectrum organic canola oil)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (not low fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut (or almond) extract
  • Coconut frosting**
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour cake pans.
  • Beat sugar and eggs in large bowl of electric mixer at medium speed for one minute. Measure 2-1/2 cups of the flour mix, combine with the other dry ingredients, and add along with the oil, coconut milk, and vanilla and coconut extracts; beat at medium speed for one minute.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans and bake about 40 minutes (35 minutes for 9-inch pans, 18-20 minutes for cupcakes) or until center springs back to touch and cake has pulled away from sides of pan.
  • Cool cake layers in the pans on rack for 5 minutes; then invert cake layers onto a rack and cool completely.
  • Frost with coconut frosting**. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. Store frosted cake in refrigerator.

For the: FLOUR MIX

Ingredients

  • white rice flour 2 parts (2 cups) 
  • coconut flour 2/3 part (2/3 cup)
  • tapioca flour 1/3 part (1/3 cup)

For the: COCONUT FROSTING

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted if lumpy (Woodstock Farms organic powdered sugar)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut (or almond) extract

Instructions

  • Beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer at low speed until light and fluffy.
  • Add powdered sugar, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts and beat at low speed until well blended and smooth.
~adapted from a recipe by Annalise Roberts

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Maintain bone mass by preparing grains, nuts and seeds properly

"...all grains, nuts, seeds and legumes have phytic acid in the outer or bran layer, as well as enzyme inhibitors to prevent them from sprouting when conditions are not suitable...

The phytates act as a barrier preventing absorption of the nutrition in the seed. In particular, they bind to calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestinal tract, and block their absorption. This has implications for those that are losing bone mass, as diets high in improperly prepared grains can lead to mineral deficiencies."
Vreni Gurd, www.wellnesstips.ca

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why soak #2 -- brown rice & PABA

Sprouted, or pre-germinated, brown rice is an emerging healthfood.  Although people around the world have probably been eating it for thousands of years, pre-germinated brown rice was 'discovered' in 2004, the United Nation's Year of Rice, as part of their research into rice.  To produce it, brown rice is soaked in warm water and allowed to germinate before cooking.  The warm bath induces sprouting that, in turn, stimulates rice enzymes to produce more nutrients, including many times more gamma-aminobutyric acid(GABA ).

The consumption of GABA is credited with important health benefits which range from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, improving cognitive function, controlling diabetes, boosting the immune system, improving sleep, and inhibiting cancer cells.

The active compounds which are key to the health benefits of pre-germinated brown rice are a set of sterol-like molecules known as acylated steryl-beta-glucosides (ASGs).  Since the ASGs were concentrated in rice bran (outer layer) and not the seed, they would not be found in white rice.

If you don't have time to soak, you can buy sprouted brown rice (Annie Chung makes a version you can heat in the microwave for 2 minutes).  It's pretty expensive, and I prefer not to nuke my rice.  So what I do is try to soak my brown rice, overnight at least, before cooking.  The soak water develops a sweet aroma, so I figure something good is happening.  Once the sweet aroma develops, I refresh the water and set the rice cooker.  For the soaked brown rice, using the white rice setting on the rice cooker gives me al dente brown rice with a delicious, complex flavor.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Eating green with macrobiotics

"Macrobiotics is one of the greenest eating styles around with its foundation based on whole foods that are local (nutrients in the soil are in balance with needs of the area), seasonal (again, it's about balance and taking a cue from nature), prepared at home, and consumed with gratitude (for the grower as well as the cook).  It nourishes body, soul and planet."
Michelle Hirsch

See the linked article for an introduction to macrobiotic diet and some good, basic recipes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why soak #1 - grains, beans, & phytic acid

Soaking improves the digestibility of beans, grains and nuts.

Grains and beans contain "enzyme inhibitors which 'block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion... (These inhibitors) can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion, and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake..."

In addition, seeds and grains contain phytic acid or phytates.  "This organic acid, present in all seeds and grains, blocks the uptake of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and especially zinc. The trypsin inhibitors and the phytates are deactivated with soaking and fermentation, but not as much with cooking..."


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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shopping green with Goodwill

People know I have a penchant for thrift shopping.  The items I buy from the thrift shop are green, since -- by being salvaged -- they aren't piling up in a landfill.  My local thrift shop is a Goodwill store, so that my donations and purchases alike go towards their employment and training programs.

A wonderful cookbook, Natural Gourmet by Annemarie Colbin, is now in my possession courtesy of Goodwill.  I anticipate cooking many of the recipes from this book.  I'm especially excited to try the pumpkin pie recipe, since it's seasonal and gluten free.

Monday, November 30, 2009

French green lentil soup

6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried green lentils, rinsed and carefully picked over (Bob's Red Mill French Green Lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced (or an onion)
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 6 cups water
Instructions
  • Saute leek, carrots, and celery in olive oil 5 minutes.  
  • Add garlic and remaining ingredients.  
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 to 45 minutes.  Add more water as needed.  
  • In a crock pot, cook on low heat setting 8-9 hours or high heat for 3-5 hours.  
  • Add at the end:
    • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Place in each soup bowl:
    • 1 teaspoon red miso
    • Dissolve the miso in a little of the soup broth or some hot water, ladle the soup in over it, stir, and enjoy.

Ghee

Ghee is butter which has had all the milk solids removed. The process of making ghee from butter preserves butterfat at room temperature for long periods of time. The other advantage of ghee as a frying medium is that it does not smoke and burn as readily as butter.

Ingredients
  • two or four sticks of unsalted butter
Instructions
  • Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan over low heat, and continue to heat while stirring from time to time. It is important to attend to the ghee frequently because it should not be allowed to burn. 
  • As the butter melts completely it will bubble, and the milk solids will float to the surface. Remove the milk solids using a spoon and continue to heat the butter. 
  • If you continue skimming solids from the surface, the foaming will stop in about 20 minutes and the butter will be almost completely clear except for some sediment that will be gathering at the bottom of the pot. 
  • Turn the heat off and allow the ghee to stand for awhile at room temperature. 
  • Most of the sediment will settle, and any remaining milk solids will float to the top. Remove these floating milk solids.
  • Carefully transfer the ghee (while it is still warm and liquid) into a clean jar, leaving the few tablespoons of unclear residue at the bottom of the pot.
Ghee can be stored at room temperature for several weeks or in the refrigerator for months.

*adapted from Flavors of India, Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Wild rice and porcini stuffing

This is the rice dish people ask for every Thanksgiving.
about 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup wild brown rice blend (Lundberg Wild Blend)
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (Melissa's Dried Porcini Wild Mushrooms)
  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 4 ounces portobello mushrooms, cleaned & chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
 Instructions
  • Rinse rice and soak 8 hours or overnight.
  • When ready to make the stuffing, combine mushrooms and water in a small bowl and let soak for 20 minutes.
  • Use the strained mushroom liquid as part of the liquid to cook the rice. Cook rice until al dente (use the white rice/mixed setting on the rice cooker for soaked rice).
  • Coarsely chop the strained mushrooms and place in a large bowl. 
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil and ghee in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions, celery, shallots, mushrooms, and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir cranberries, parsley, thyme, and sage into the mushrooms along with the cooked rice.
  • Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Turn into a large, shallow buttered baking dish, cover, and bake in a 350 F oven until the flavors are blended and the stuffing is hot, about 20 minutes.
*adapted from Wild Rice and Porcini Stuffing, The 1997 Joy of Cooking, Becker, Becker and Rombauer