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.