Vancouver Island in December

My short but sweet visit to Vancouver Island to see family, celebrate birthdays and do Christmas things 🙂

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We woke up on my birthday and clipped cedar branches and holly from my Aunt’s yard to make wreaths!

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Starting to look like a real wreath!

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My masterpiece.

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Time to look for a tree!

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The tree farm was pretty amazing. Hundreds to choose from and so much beauty all around us.

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A nice walk on the beach…Poor lil’ jelly…

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So artsy.

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Jasper and I. The obligatory cousin pic!

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You can see Mount Baker off in the distance. So beautiful.

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With a few Canadian dollars to spend at the airport, I decided on a chocolate bar and smoked salmon. Sounds about right!

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Soft Coconut Oil Molasses Crinkle Cookies

My Thanksgiving cookie round-up continues…I know I literally just posted about molasses spice cookies, but those were the healthier gluten-free version with fewer ingredients and no added sugar. These are a little more indulgent. I found this recipe on Averie Cooks. For those of you who prefer the soft chewy cookies over the crispy ones, this blog is $$$ — I mean just go on her website and look at all the pictures of cookies…you’ll understand.

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Words cannot describe how wonderful these cookies were — both texturally and in flavor. The amount of spices used might make you nervous, but it’s really what makes these cookies so magnificent.

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As you bite into the cookie, you feel as though you’re biting into a soft pillowy gingerbread cloud and then you’re hit with all the warm spices and robust molasses flavor. You are able to taste and feel the little sugar crystals. You chew slowly, closing your eyes….savoring every moment. My gingerbread dreams have come true.

Recipe from Averie Cooks — makes about 16 large cookies

Ingredients:
1 large egg
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed (I used slightly less)
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup molasses (I used blackstrap, even though the recipe advises against it)
2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch salt, optional and to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
Cinnamon sugar coating: 1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, brown sugar, coconut oil, molasses and vanilla extract until smooth. You could also use a paddle attachment rather than by hand, but not all of us have that luxury!
2. Add in the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Mix to combine. Scrape down the sides, then fold in the flour and baking soda until just combined.
3. Scoop out the dough into ~ 2tbsp size balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet into the fridge for at least 2 hours. The dough will be very soft and you need to refrigerate it so it firms up. Slowest 2 hours of my life, I just want to bake them already or eat all of the dough gaaah.
4. Once chilled, mix together the cinnamon sugar mixture and roll each ball into it so that it is evenly coated. You should let the dough sit out for about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven. Once ready, place in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. The cookies firm up a lot when they cool, so don’t be too nervous about how soft they are. Let the cookies cool and then transfer to cooling rack to complete the process. ENJOY!

Fig Thumbprint Cookies (GF/Vegan)

I have this massive bag of figs from Costco and wanted to make some sort of baked good with them and the first thing that came to mind was a thumbprint cookie.

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I also was determined to make them vegan and gluten-free, so I went on the hunt for an almond flour based shortbread-like cookie. After looking at what seemed like hundreds of recipes, I found this super simple recipe from Bakerita. So I used her cookie base and created my fig filling and chocolate drizzle.

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The finished product. YUM.

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Dried figs pureed with some hot water, cinnamon and vanilla extract = fig paste. So easy!

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Cookies fresh out of the oven. Don’t get me wrong, these guys look beautiful as is, but I wanted to dress them up a little and I felt I needed to incorporate chocolate somehow. So I concocted a chocolate sauce out of coconut oil, cocoa powder, maple syrup and salt.

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These little guys are so cute and festive! The almond flour cookie base was so rich and decadent and turned out to be the perfect consistency. My friend said it reminded her of a shortbread cookie (exactly what I was going for!). The fig filling is so simple and naturally sweet and the chocolate drizzle makes it even more decadent. Plus, everything’s better when chocolate is involved.

For the cookies: recipe from Bakerita (makes about a dozen cookies)
1 1/4 cup almond flour
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/8 tsp salt (I added this because I think they could benefit from a little salt)

Directions:
1. Mix all the ingredients together until uniform. Place the dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
2. Now prepare the fig filling…

For the fig filling:
6 dried figs
a few splashes of hot water
a dash of cinnamon
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Tear up the figs into smaller pieces so it blends more easily. Put them into a food processor with the remaining ingredients and process until a paste forms. If it’s not coming together then just add more water.
2. Take the dough out of the fridge and form little balls (about 1 tbsp size) and very gently make an indentation in the center for the filling. Plop a little bit of the filling into each indentation. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the edges and bottom are a golden brown.
3. While they cool, prepare the chocolate drizzle…

For the chocolate drizzle (I didn’t measure, I just adjusted to taste — this is my guess!)
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp maple syrup
pinch of salt

Directions:
1. Mix all the ingredients together until you get the desired consistency, sweetness and chocolatey-ness. Using a spoon or any other suitable utensil to drizzle it over each little cookie.
2. Let the cookies sit out to cool and firm up and the drizzle to harden. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!!

Thanksgiving Goodies!

I attended a ‘Friendsgiving’ this year where there were guests with several dietary restrictions.. We had a vegan, a gluten-free, a vegetarian and a couple dairy-free. To try and make most everyone happy, I made a Mushroom Cranberry Pecan Stuffing (vegan/GF), Apple Cranberry Crisp (vegan/GF) , Molasses Cookies (DF), Fig Thumbprints (vegan/GF)  and  Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies (DF). I’d say it all turned out pretty great!

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Fig Thumbprints with a Chocolate Drizzle

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Uhhh-mazing coconut oil Molasses Spice Cookies (different from the previous post, a little more indulgent).

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Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies.

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The GF/Vegan Stuffing. So glad I pulled that one off.

I’ll post some of these recipes separately!

Molasses Spice Cookies (GF,V)

I’ve been wanting to try baking with almond flour,  so I went to Costco and bought a giant bag of the stuff. Gluten-free baking can be intimidating because of all the weird flours and add-ins that many recipes require. Elana’s Pantry is an awesome blog that uses only almond flour in many of the baked goods. As I scrolled through the numerous recipe names,  a single word jumped out at me MOLASSES [Spice Cookies]. It just so happens that the recipe only uses almond flour AND the only sweetener I used was molasses. It seemed too easy and too good to be true, but all the reviews were fantastic so I went for it.

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Giant bag of almond flour!

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Dry ingredients: almond flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt

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Rolled up into balls. Recipe said it would make 12 cookies, but I’m pretty sure I ate 4 cookies worth of batter. OOPS.

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Flattened gently

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Okay, these cookies are SO GOOD.  The almond flour and coconut oil make them super rich and decadent and create the perfect balance of soft and chewy. Molasses + ginger + cinnamon come together to create that amazing and familiar thing called gingerbread. The molasses also gives these cookies a subtle sweetness while giving them a really robust flavor. I’ll definitely be making these again very soon.

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Such a perfect bite.

Recipe adapted from Elana’s Pantry

Ingredients:
1.5 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup molasses (I used blackstrap, but this can be too strong for some people)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine and mix dry ingredients into a bowl.
2. Combine the molasses and coconut oil in separate bowl and whisk until uniform.
3. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until a uniform dough comes together.
4. Scoop the dough into 1 tbsp sized balls onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Flatten gently using your hand. Place in the oven for 7-10 minutes then let cool (they will firm up a bit) and EAT!  These cookies lasted all of 24 hours in my house.

Pumpkin Molasses Bread

Last week I tried to create my own recipe for pumpkin bread based on ingredients I had on hand…boy was that a mistake. It came out of the oven looking great and then 15 minutes later I go to have a piece and the whole thing collapsed! Lesson learned, baking is a science, don’t get too cocky. Motivated for pumpkin bread success, I followed this recipe from Oh She Glows. Everything I’ve ever made from her blog has been mind blowingly good (these Coconut Macaroon Thumbprints being my favorite). I love all things molasses. It is very likely that you will be seeing more gingerbread-like goodies popping up on my blog because #1 ’tis the season, right? #2 I got a big ol’ tub of blackstrap molasses calling my name #3 I just went to Costco and got this giant tub of coconut oil for my dairy free baking needs.

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MASSIVE.

Anyways, lets talk about this bread. It’s so moist and full of flavor and it has that beautiful crusty top that I looove on sweet breads. I think the molasses and the ground cloves really take this could-have-been-boring-pumpkin-bread to a whole new level. The spices remind me so much of Christmas, it warms my soul just smelling it.

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Mmmm first slice, but certainly not the last. Somebody hide this from me.

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Wet into dry…

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Fold to combine, but don’t over mix!

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Okay, I’ve done my job. Time for science to do theirs.

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Science. I’ve always loved science, perhaps this is why.

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Get in ma belly.

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The perfect bite. Drizzled with a little almond butter. Uh huh…Soft on the inside with a wonderful crust on the top, this almond butter is a perfect pairing. I know what I’m having for breakfast…

Pumpkin Molasses Bread
Ingredients:
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 egg
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill Organic is the best)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8th tsp ground cloves
1 tsp sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 in loaf pan.
2. Combine all of the wet ingredients (from pumpkin to egg) into a bowl and whisk until uniform.
3. Combine the remaining ingredients in another bowl and mix to combine. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and gently fold them together until just combined. Make sure you don’t over mix here!
4. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan. Pop it in the oven for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool for a bit, then dig in!

Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Soup (+ Curry Cashew Granola)

When you have left over veggies and veggie broth you are afraid might go bad, make soup! All you have to do is roast or sautee the veggies and then blend it up with some broth and any additional spices or add-ins you please. I happened to have rainbow chard and broth that were nearing the end of their shelf life, so I quickly went to the market and bought some cauliflower and cremini mushrooms (because everything tastes better with mushrooms). There’s no exact recipe to this, but I’ll try and ball park it. Along with all the veggies, I added tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The tahini made it nice and creamy and gave it an earthy, nutty subtle flavor which compliments the mushrooms wonderfully. Then I topped it with a savory Curry Cashew Granola that I made last week.

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After roasting the cauliflower and sauteeing the mushrooms and chard, I dumped everything into a blender with my veggie broth and add-ins to produce this beautiful puree.

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Into the mason jar for storage!

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I topped it with a tahini/lemon juice mixture and  savory Curry Cashew Granola (see recipe below). This soup is so smooth and creamy and the granola adds the perfect amount of texture and crunch. The warming spices of the granola work perfectly with this soup.  YUMMM.

Ingredients:
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
olive oil for roasting
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 rainbow chard stalks, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of vegetable broth (I have no idea, could have been more or less)
3 tbsp tahini
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450. Toss the cauliflower florets generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put in the oven for ~25 minutes, shaking them around half way.
2. While the cauliflower roasts, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sautee until softened. Then add the mushrooms and chard. Cook until cooked through.
3. Once cauliflower is done and veggies are cooked through, put everything into a blender with the veggie broth and blend until smooth (adding more broth if the soup is thicker than you like). Then add in the tahini and lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Blend up again and your done!

What is this curry cashew granola, you might ask…

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There has been this savory granola trend lately and I wanted to give it a try. I stumbled upon this curry cashew recipe and thought it would be great as a topping for my fall soups.

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This was so easy to make, only using one bowl and simple ingredients. The spice mixture is amazing! A little sweetness from the dried cherries (or raisins) pairs perfectly with all the warm spices.

Curry Cashew Granola from Vegan Richa

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed mixed with 4 tablespoons  warmwater
1 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄3 cup golden raisins
1⁄3 cup finely shredded coconut
1⁄3 cup minced cashews nuts
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄8 teaspoon ground mustard
salt, to taste
(I used dried cherries instead of raisins and didn’t have shredded coconut or ground mustard, but it still turned out great!)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
2. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until edges are brown and it’s no longer wet in the middle.
3. Remove from oven, let cool.

A Day at NCNM…

Yesterday I visited a potential grad school program for Nutrition here in Portland (at NCNM, “National College of Natural Medicine”). I have to say, I picked the best day ever to visit. I went to 2 classes — Micronutrient Lab and Gluten-Free Cooking (an elective). I seemed to do a good job of avoiding the classroom-classes because both the lab and the cooking class took place in their fancy new kitchen. And yes, there was cooking AND baking involved. I’m easily convinced and won over by tasty, healthy food. Especially when it’s fo free. They did a good job.

Okay, so first class — Micronutrient Lab where we had discussions about lipid soluble micronutrients and Celiac Disease. I learned that during the recovery stage of Celiac Disease (when people find out they have it and need to heal their gut), it’s important to eat soft foods and to include good fats in all your meals to help with nutrient absorption. So it made sense that the dish we made was a Pumpkin Coconut Red Curry.
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Yummm fresh pumpkin chunks.

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So many veggies in a sweet and spicy red curry coconut milk sauce. Smothered over some rice. Topped with chopped cashews, fresh basil and sriracha (of course). Perfecto.

Up  next: Gluten-Free Cooking! And it just happened to be holiday baking day. So many gluten-free AND dairy-free treats.

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I was on team Cranberry Pecan Biscotti. It was a 2 man job.

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First bake, done. Now time to cut up and pop back in the oven to get nice and crunchy.

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Ok, so we ran short on time and ended up taking them out early, so they were much softer than your average biscotti but still pretty tasty.

Cranberry Pecan Biscotti (all recipes came from class…)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup agave or honey
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp celtic sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chunks (forgot these in ours, definitely would have brought them to the next level)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 pecans, roughly chopped

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine agave, eggs and vanilla and blend with a hand mixer until fluffy – about 5 minutes.
2. In a separate bowl combine almond flour, salt and baking soda. Pour dry into wet and stir until combined. Then add in the cranberries, pecans and chocolate chips.
3. Transfer dough to parchment paper lined baking sheet and form a log about 12 in long and 3 in wide.
4. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Transfer log to cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal.
5. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes, then turn slices over and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown
6. Remove from the oven and let cool until crunchy — about 20 minutes.

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‘So Yummy’ Stuffed Apples. Scooped out apples with a raisin, cinnamon+nutmeg, pecan, maple-cider  filling topped with a hefty amount of coconut oil and….

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….baked to perfection. Apple pie anyone? I would have made a little oat crumble on top of the filling to make it more apple-pie-like.

‘So Yummy’ Stuffed Apples
Ingredients:
6 medium golden delicious apples
1/4 cup raisins
4 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice or cider
6 tbsp of coconut oil (or butter cut into 6 squares)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut the apples in half and remove core. Remove some of the flesh to make room for the filling and set aside the flesh. Cut a tiny bit of the apple off on the uncut side so that they don’t wobble around.
3. Combine the raisins, pecans, maple, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/4 cup of apple juice. Fill each apple with mixture and then place in a casserole dish. Place 1 tbsp of coconut oil or butter on top of each opening.
4. Pour the remaining apple juice into the dish surrounding the apples. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until apples are tender. Baste with juices every 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool a bit because they will be hot!

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Cinnamon Roll Muffins. When I heard the words ‘cinnamon roll’, my ears perked up and eyes lit up. I LOOOVE cinnamon rolls. Let’s be real, it’s really hard to beat an actual fresh baked cinnamon roll, but these muffins + that frosting did a pretty good job all things considered.

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Um, the frosting was CRAZY GOOD. I would have liked the muffin to frosting ratio to be more like…1:1?

Cinnamon Roll Muffins (makes 6 regular or 18 mini muffins)
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil of your choice, melted (we used coconut oil)
2 tbsp honey
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod discarded (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

Cinnamon Topping (this is where the moneys at)
Ingredients:
1 cup dates, pitted (about 8 medjool)
1.5 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp coconut oil (or butter), melted
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to a blender*.
2. Combine all wet ingredients (including vanilla bean seeds) in a bowl. Add to blender.
3. Blend until batter is very smooth. Pour into greased muffin tin, filling them 2/3 of the way.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. DON’T OVERBAKE or they will be DRY
5. For the frosting, place dates, cinnamon and coconut oil in food processor and process until a thick spreadable paste has formed. Place coconut in a small bowl and set aside.
6. Remove muffins from oven. While still warm, spread a generous amount of the ‘frosting’ onto the muffins, then roll in the coconut and enjoy!
*Blending the mixture makes the batter super smooth which can be difficult when using nut flours.

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And now we feast. Who knew gluten-free baking could be so simple, so tasty…I mean I’ve had some pretty amazing gluten-free baked goods in my day, but there were all made for me by gluten-free professionals.
Can I come to this class every week?

Spicy Cauliflower Fried Rice

I got a huge head of cauliflower at the market on Saturday, along with rainbow chard and rainbow carrots. I’ve always wondered about this whole cauliflower rice trend I’ve been seeing all over the blogger world. I looove cauliflower in all it’s forms — roasted, mashed, raw and apparently ‘rice’-d? It really soaks up the flavors of the sauce, even better than rice I’d say. Also, this sauce is pretty flawless — tamari, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and sriracha….match made in heaven.

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So many good things going on here.

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Florets ready for pulsing.

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Well, that was easy. You’ll probably have some little chunks of cauliflower that were to stubborn to get blended up, but I think this adds a good texture to the stirfry.

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It kinda looks like couscous.

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Rainbow carrots!! Ooooh Aaahh.

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Sauteeing onions, garlic, ginger, and carrots.

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In goes the rainbow chard and cauliflower…

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Add the sauce and sautee a bit more. Mmmmm the smell of sesame oil and tamari.

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Perfect bite. The cauliflower absorbs that spicy, salty gingery sauce so well. The carrots add a nice crunch and subtle sweetness. Next time, top with a fried egg and more sriracha.

Ingredients:
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch chunk of ginger, minced
2 carrots, finely chopped or shredded
5 heads of rainbow chard, chopped
1 small cauliflower head (to make about 2 cups of the ‘rice’)

For the sauce:
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp sriracha (I like it spicy)

Directions:
1. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add onions and sautee for a couple of minutes. Then add in the garlic, ginger and carrots and saute for another minute.
2. Finally, add the chard, cauliflower and the sauce. Sautee for another 2-3 minutes to let all the flavors meld.

Vegan Cornbread with Chili

All this cold rainy Portland weather nonsense has been screaming for some hearty chili and cornbread. I love chili, but I love cornbread on another level. To be honest, I only made the chili so I could justify making a big batch of cornbread. I’m very pleased with this decision. I found this awesome Vegan No-Fuss Cornbread on Food52 and adapted it ever so slightly. It was so easy to make and turned out so moist and perfect.

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Cornbread gets lonely without chili, right?

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Perfectly brown around the edges and crackly on top. Mmmmm smells so good!

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Look at that moist, pillowy cornmeal perfection. Don’t you love biting into cornbread and getting those little cornmeal granules. So textural.

Recipe adpated from Food52 (I used almond milk, less sugar, olive oil and halved the original recipe)
Makes about 8  squares

Ingredients:
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup original almond milk
3/4 cup corn meal (medium ground)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp organic brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400. Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, almond milk and olive oil in a bowl.
2. In a large bowl, mix to combine the remaining ingredients. Add the wet to the dry and mix until just combined. Pour into a 9×5 in greased loaf pan.
3. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes, until golden.

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Okay fine I’ll eat it with chili instead of eating all of the cornbread…
I used Picky Eater Blogs recipe for Vegetarian Chili — it was sehr sehr gut. What made it different was the addition of cocoa powder, adding a subtle mole-like flavor to the chili. So many different yummy spices in there.

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Okay so while the chili was a success, the cornbread was the star for me….and always will  be.