Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Paleo Peach Crumble

Perhaps it's just regional, but right now in my supermarket peaches are looking amazing. Compared to Indiana, I think peaches must run later in the season. The main reason I noticed this is because I went to the supermarket with the idea that I was going to make dark chocolate covered strawberries for dessert and found that there were none. Isn't it a bummer when you go to the store for the one thing you need and they don't have it?? In an effort to think fast, I got some lovely giant peaches in hopes that I could somehow pull together a semi-paleo dessert. Desserts are probably the hardest thing about paleo for me. It's not that I crave them, it's that when I serve them to other people I hope they don't taste weird.

So, on the fly I made a chunky peach crumble dessert. Instead of using granulated sugar, I used a little honey, the sweetness of the peaches themselves, and some golden raisins. The raisins didn't lend much in terms of flavor, but I figured they'd bind the crumble mixture just like flour and butter would. I was also worried that the fruit wouldn't have a nice sauce the way flour-thickened fruit does, but actually the sauce was quite thick and delicious. I hypothesize that the fruit pectins created a nice syrup. I was really pleased with the result. It didn't taste as if I was trying to force a dessert out of healthy ingredients. It was really good, no excuses, no need to keep in mind that it's simulating an unhealthy dessert. It's the perfect late summer treat...not too sweet, and a warm way to end a chilly evening.

I really think this recipe would be nice with a lot of different fruits, like nectarines, apples, plums, pears, and apricots.

Paleo Peach Crumble
Printable Recipe

For the crumble:
3 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
1/4 c + 2 tbsp golden raisins
1/4 c + 2 tbsp chopped pecans
1/4 c + 2 tbsp chopped almonds
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the fruit:
4 large peaches-about 5 cups-peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
a dash ground nutmeg
1/2 tbsp honey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a mini food processor, pulse the butter with the raisins. Then, add the nuts and pulse until roughly chopped. Finally, pulse in the honey and cinnamon. If you don't have a food processor, chop the raisins and nuts by hand, then cut the honey, butter, and cinnamon in with a fork. Set aside.
3. Toss the fruit with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey. Pour into a lightly buttered 2 to 2 1/2 qt baking dish. Sprinkle the crumble over relatively evenly.
4. Bake for 30-35 min or until the juices are very bubbly and the crumble mixture has become 1 shade darker. Cool slightly before serving. Best served warm.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 231.1
  • Fat: 14.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 4.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 15.5 mg
  • Sodium: 3.7 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 26.2 g
  • Fiber: 4.2 g
  • Sugar: 12.2 g
  • Protein: 3 g

Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup

It's really not that cold yet here in west Texas, but I am already craving my fall favorites, especially butternut squash. I had time to prepare some dishes with my seasonal favorite this past weekend because it was was fall break. The first one is for a curried butternut squash soup, but the twist is adding coconut milk and a little chili and curry kick.

I know coconut is high in saturated fat, which had gotten a bad reputation, but the type of saturated fat in coconut is short and medium chain fatty acids, which your body can quickly break down. Metabolism, which is the set of chemical reactions that happen in your body, can therefore be sped up as the fatty acids are broken down readily. That's not a bad thing, in my opinion. There are a lot of health benefits to consuming coconut, including antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. Compounded with the benefits of coconut is the butternut squash, which has a gorgeous orange color so you know it has carotinoid pigments, which may help improve eyesight.

So basically what I am saying, this is an incredibly healthy soup that's the perfect first course for those chilly nights that are coming up. It's also quite possible the best butternut squash soup I've eaten. Not only is this healthy and filling, but it's also crazy easy to prepare. I usually like to roast my butternut squash to add some caramelized flavors, but I cheated by microwaving the squash to save time and instead allowed the onions and garlic to become golden brown. Therefore I don't miss out on the caramelized sugar flavor. Cilantro and lime are the perfect garnish for this soup...oddly enough, before I moved to Texas I never really liked cilantro, but now I guess with the Tex-Mex cuisine I've become fond of it.

P.S. Don't forget to save your butternut squash seeds to roast! Roast them in a pre-heated 300 degree F oven. Coat them with a little oil and salt and whatever dry seasonings you prefer (garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, etc..). Roast for 25-35 minutes. They're ready when they're a little brown and they rattle against the pan. For pumpkin seeds, roast for 45 minutes.

Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, split in half and seeds removed
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, coarsely minced
16 oz low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp curry powder
dried red chili, to taste (optional)
1 15-oz can coconut milk, well-shaken
salt and pepper, to taste
Garnishes: fresh lime wedges and cilantro

1. Place the split butternut squash in a microwave-safe dish with a little water in the bottom. Steam for 15 minutes or until the flesh is soft enough to remove from the skin.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until browned.
3. Add the cooked squash to the cooked onion and garlic, then pour in the broth and season with the cumin, curry powder, and chili.
4. Add the mixture to a blender or begin blending with and immersion blender until all the vegetables are smooth. Slowly add the coconut milk, reserving a few spoonfuls for garnish, and continue blending. Re-season with salt and pepper. Place the soup back on the burner to warm through, then serve, garnished with a drizzle of coconut milk, lime juice, and cilantro.

  • Servings per recipe: 4 first-course servings
  • Per serving:
  • Calories:
  • Fat: 20.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 15.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 93.5 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 23.7 mg
  • Fiber: 5.7 g
  • Protein: 4.6 g

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Cake

I can't believe how long it's been since I posted something and I feel really bad about that. I have been swept up in exams (biochem and plant physiology) and also prepping for my wine tasting class takes a lot of time out of my week. My Wednesdays (Winesdays, I think they should be called) are pretty much shot. I do take some time in the weekends for myself, such as going to the fair with my friends, which was a great stress reliever. There's nothing like getting on pseudo death-trap rides and screaming your head off to blow off some steam. I also went to Grape Day at a local winery, Llano Estacado, which produces some great wines. I tried their new sparkling red wine, which was amazing. I have never had sparkling red wine before, just white wines, so it was a unique experience.

I have been wanting to post a recipe for a while now, but lately I have been making easy, non blog-worthy recipes. Mainly turkey burgers without the bread piled with lettuce and tomato and just a salad and/or steamed vegetables. Not too interesting. I also ate at the fair over the weekend (giant smoked turkey legs!) and have gone out a couple of times. I decided to spend some one-on-one time with myself in the kitchen to prepare something I could snack on for the rest of the week. I am getting in a rut with the snacks, mainly nut butters with apples, some other fresh fruit, or dried fruit with unsalted nuts. Boring. I bought coconut flour a few weeks ago to try and make this recipe for coconut bread. It was pretty good, but I probably could have used more moisture. That could have been perhaps a function of the fact that I live in a very arid climate. I tried to take pictures, but the slices kept falling apart. I liked the flavor at least, so I will keep working on it. From this recipe, however, I learned that if you are working with coconut flour, you should always sift it because if you don't, the clumps won't work out in the batter.

I have been wanting to try more Paleo/Primal/gluten-free sweets. I don't usually crave sweets too often, but I do like to have people over and I want to prepare recipes for dinner that will make them feel as if they are eating a normal meal. The main course is the easy part, desserts aren't. So, I found a recipe for brownies made with coconut flour and I thought they'd be worth a try (especially since I had a canister of coconut flour I needed to use!). These aren't strictly Paleo or Primal because they do use chocolate that has sugar but if you are having a fierce chocolate craving I think these would be really helpful because they will get you through the craving without abandoning your hard work.

The recipe I adapted this cake from was derived from a recipe for coconut flour brownies from the blog Always Order Dessert. After reading the reviews from the recipe I thought it would be a nice one to try. I was so surprised how fluffy the batter became because the coconut bread I made several weeks ago had a stiff batter I had to spread in the pan. I was even more surprised that when I cut into the warm brownies, the crumb was so delicate, almost like a boxed cake mix! It was more cohesive than the bread I made a few weeks ago, too. I must admit, you can sense these brownies have more fiber in them than a cake...you can feel it when you chew...but it's completely tolerable. There's no overpowering coconut flavor, rather it melds with the vanilla rum and chocolate. They're just sweet enough, too. I did have to make a few alterations to the original recipe because 1) I was not going to buy a 9-inch pan just for one recipe, so I used my 8-inch pan, which resulted in my need to increase the cooking time, and 2) as an afterthought I saw that the recipe called for extra large eggs, and I only had sort of irregularly-sized "large" free-range eggs. So I looked up the equivalent volume of large vs. extra large and in the end added 4 large eggs, which was a cup once scrambled together. I think eggs are your friend when baking with coconut flour because it does not contain gluten protein to keep the cake together the way wheat-based cakes do.

Even with the alterations, I think this recipe worked out incredibly well. The recipe said that the texture would become fudgier once cooled, and I did not observe that; they remained cake-like, but perhaps a little more damp (in a good way). Perhaps it is because they are much thicker than if they were cooked in a smaller pan. Even with my adaptations, I think this recipe is definitely worth keeping.

Though it's not necessary, I would like to think of something to frost this cake with. I was thinking of whipping ganache (melted chocolate and cream) with the addition of a little of the vanilla rum.

Another note on coconut flour: I would store it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Also, once your baked good is completely cool, store it in the fridge as well. The coconut bread I made went sour within a couple of days, which could have been delayed had I not stored it at room temperature. These are little things you learn by trial and error.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Cake
Printable Recipe

1 cup coconut flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter (Challenge butter has become my favorite because it comes from cows not treated with hormones)
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons vanilla rum
3/4 cup light agave nectar
1/4 cup light olive oil
1 cup lukewarm water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
3. Cut the butter into chunks and melt over medium heat. Stir in the chocolate chips until they melt and set aside to cool slightly while preparing the wet ingredients.
4. Whisk the eggs and add in the rum, agave nectar, and oil. Slowly blend in the chocolate mixture.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. The mixture may seize slightly, at which you should start adding the water in several intervals until it is all incorporated and absorbed by the dry ingredients.
6. Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper and pour in the batter. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the outside edge is set (it will not pull away from the edge of the pan), the top is firm, and there is only the slightest hint of wobble in the center.
7. Allow the pan to cool about 10 minutes before lifting the cake out by the parchment, peel away the parchment and leave to cool until you're ready to serve. May be served warm or cold.

  • Servings per recipes: 16
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 207.9
  • Fat: 15.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 6.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 69.6 g
  • Sodium: 146.8 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 16.5 g
  • Fiber: 4.3 g
  • Sugar: 8.4 g
  • Protein: 3.5 g
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