healthy

Baking Banana Bread in Bacalar

I've been happily mucking about in the kitchen, baking with the little gas oven in the mornings when it's cool enough to do so. (Yes, I have an oven!) It's a fun challenge to bake-up delicious wheat-free healthy goods with the ingredients I have access to here.

The very first thing I whipped-up was a classic: hearty rustic banana bread, based on my recipe for Easy Gluten-free Banana Bread. Of course, I had to make a few alterations. I used a combination of white rice flour (surprisingly easy to find here) and home-made oat flour. My banana bread also had unrefined Mexican brown cane sugar (called piloncillo - delicious!), Mexican cinnamon (I always double the amount as it's more subtle than what I use in Canada), and of course - delectable aromatic Mexican vanilla. Local bananas, eggs, and a sprinkling of fresh pepitas on top - yum!

There's no aluminum-free baking powder here, or cream of tartar (so that I can make my own). Instead, I used a combination of baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and though my cake was a bit dense, the soda+acid did the trick.

I also used a small rectangular stainless steel pan, the only pan I brought from Canada, instead of a loaf pan. Worked like a charm.

The banana bread was hearty and delicious (though I'd like to make a few tweaks before sharing the recipe...) It made a lovely breakfast, enjoyed with my sweetie and a cup of exquisite Chiapas coffee in a hammock watching the sunrise. La vida es buena. Life is good.


Thanks for the awesome pic Crispin.

Sweet Treats from the Merida Market

I'm back on the grid and enjoying the island life and food in Cozumel: fresh fish, pineapple, papayas, avocados - I was made to eat like this. I also started an intensive Spanish course here, so I'll be inserting little bits of it into my blog entries...

Not too long ago, I visited the big beautiful bustling colonial city of Merida. The highlight for me was the enormous Yucatecan market. (That's me in the market surrounded by spices, seeds, fruit, honey... Thanks for the photo Crispin!) Local goods from pineapples to machetes to sandals made from old tires are all for sale in this vibrant downtown market. To me it felt like a curios mix of Mayan, Mexican, Cuban, and Spanish. (Martha Stewart has some great pics from the same market here.) Here are a few of my scores:

Pumpkin seed marzipan (Mazapan de pepita). As far as I know, this is a Yucatecan specialty. They shape and colour it to look like miniature corn cobs, hot peppers, and other produce. Some pieces are dusted with wonderfully aromatic cinnamon (canela). Amazing to nibble on while sipping a dark coffee or espresso.

Another score from the confection stand were these 3 sweet treats (left to right): toasted pepitas with sugar and honey, toasted amaranth with raisins and seeds and nuts, pepita nougat. I'm not sure what these are called - so please let me know if you do - but they are all incredibly delicious. (Since they're packed with healthy stuff like pepitas and amaranth, they're pretty good for you too!)

More to come mañana... ;) Stay warm amigos!

Whole Almond Bread

Here's my new favorite protein-rich quick bread, made with whole ground almonds, eggs, and yogurt.

Recipe: Whole Almond Bread

It's a really substantial and dense loaf, having 2 1/2 cups of whole almonds. Grinding the almonds is pretty easy too: just pulse them in a blender or food processor.

I based my recipe on this one. It's taken me several delicious experiments come up with my own version of this satisfying bread - note the summer photo!  The last one I made domed very nicely on top - wish I took a photo - oh well. ;)

Great for slicing and toasting. You can also pan-fry slices in a bit of
butter, then serve topped with fruit and maple syrup "french toast"
style - yum!

This healthy satisfying (delicious) bread is wheat-free, gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, yeast-free, and sugar-free. (You could probably make it dairy-free by using soy yogurt.)

Enjoy ♥

Chocolate Chip Almond Banana Bread

After several delightfully tasty experiments, I came up with my new favourite banana bread:

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Almond Banana Bread

Made with freshly-ground whole almonds, natural sugars, vanilla, nutmeg, and dark chocolate (to mention just a few of the stellar ingredients) it's incredibly flavourful, moist, and heathy too. The almonds give the bread a satisfying bite, and lend their own natural sweetness. Speaking of sweet, I've tweaked the sugar (agave nectar) till it hit that wonderful sweet but not-too-sweet balance, which allows all the flavours and textures to shine. This recipe is dairy optional, wheat and gluten-free. Use high quality dark chocolate chips for a supremely delicious treat. I'm not one to push brands, but Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips are pretty awesome!

Happy healthy baking :-)

(Wheat-free & Gluten-free) Chocolate Zucchini Cake

It's still chocolate and zucchini season, so after scoring a hefty dark green beauty, I stayed in on a Saturday night and made this delicious cake. (Really, I had every opportunity to go out, but I wanted to stay in and bake ;-) Like my Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Cake, it's a variation of my grandma's super-rich traditional recipe, which I've updated to be wheat-free (+ gluten-free) and lower in refined ingredients, sugar and fat. This version is moist, rich and airy with a delicate blend of aromatic ingredients + extra chocolate.

Recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Enjoy ♥ 

Black Bean Brownies...


Not too long ago I noticed a hot trend around the web - the black bean brownie. The concept is awesome: a rich dark chocolaty brownie made with fiber-and-protein-rich black beans (wheat-free). Sounds like breakfast to me! Above is a pic from a batch I made based on this recipe. (Mine were made with extra chocolate, less butter, less agave, no coffee or walnuts...)

The result tasted great, looked amazing, but didn't really have a brownie texture - and also had to be refrigerated to stay firm. The texture was more like a cheesecake, a really yummy cheese-less cheesecake, so that's what they'll be in their next life. We had no problems scarfing this experiment down.

UPDATE: See comment #3 for the recipe (I've added a bit of starch to firm things up a bit) - apparently they rock. :D

UPDATE 2 (May 10 2011): Check out my new recipe for Really Awesome Black Bean Brownies :)

(Healthy) Chocolate Zucchini Cake

In late summer and early fall, my mom would have giant zucchinis from her garden - they were often comically large and obscenely shaped. Us kids weren't really into veggies, especially giant green ones, so my mom would make these into rich chocolate zucchini cakes. The recipe she used was my Ukrainian grandma's recipe: a lovely moist chocolatey cake with a hint of spice. We loved it.

When I got older, I scored the recipe from my mom, and after looking it over, decided that it needed a bit of a (healthy) makeover. (Her recipe used 1 3/4c white sugar, white flour, and over 1c of fat - yikes!) Being the health-conscious sweet-loving young woman that I was, I altered the recipe to make it as healthy as possible, while still being loyal to the delicious flavours and texture.

The recipe I came up with uses whole ingredients, a lot less sugar and fat (over half as much! don't worry, the zucchini keeps things moist) - and more chocolate, spice and vanilla. I've had this recipe for years, and just remembered that I didn't share it yet, so voila!

Recipe Remix: Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Cake

These days I'm working on a gluten-free version of this recipe. My current tastes are a bit richer than they were a few years ago, so the new recipe will have a bit more fat and chocolate...

Happy healthy baking :-)

PS - Do you have a favourite chocolate zucchini cake recipe? Gluten-free?

UPDATE: Here's my Gluten-Free Chocolate Zucchini Cake!

Fresh Fig & Blueberry Clafoutis


I LOVE figs, and lately I've been noticing fresh figs around town... somewhere it the world, it's fig season. Combined with fresh blueberries (which I love too) they're killer good. Luckily, blueberries are still in season here, because my favourite clafoutis combines the two - I guess I should call it a flognarde then? Nah ;-)

I made a variation of my new wheat-free (+ gluten-free) clafoutis with this stellar combo - fresh local blueberries and black mission figs:

Recipe:
Fresh Fig and Blueberry Clafoutis

Very yummy. Very pretty. Very easy.
Blueberries and figs are very nutritious too :-)

Plums, Pears & Blackberries


A pretty plum tree full of ripe fruit.

I'm so excited about all the fresh fruit that's in season! Here are some great recipes from around the web that celebrate late summer's bounty:

Frangipane Style Plum Tart Recipe
The local plums are in, and here's a beautiful way to enjoy them - in a lovely almond cream tart. (Adi makes wonderful treats with fresh fruit.)

Pear-berry Crisp With Lavender Topping Recipe
This lovely crisp made with blackberries, raspberries, and pears sounds amazing. (The recipe calls for all purpose flour, but I think it would work with a whole flour, light spelt flour, or a gluten-free mix - crisps and crumbles aren't too fussy.) I have lavender growing on my deck that's ready for this aromatic treat...

Roasted Plums with Greek Yogurt
What an elegant way to let the plums speak for themselves - I'm totally going to make this. The lightly carmelized fruit is topped with toasted hazelnuts, and I'm sure other nuts like almonds or walnuts would be delicious as well. I might get fancy and sprinkle the tiniest bit of cardamom or cinnamon on top before baking. You can also make this simple desert with pears. Bonus: This one's quick and easy to make + light and healthy!



The last of the late summer blackberries. (Both of these photos were taken in Switzerland last summer, while staying on the Vulliens farm.)

Happy healthy baking :)

Wheat-Free Date Nut Scones

Not too long ago, I made a hearty date nut loaf inspired by quick-bread recipes from The Best-Ever Wheat and Gluten-Free Baking Book. My creation was really tasty, but a bit too crumbly - and then my lovely partner said: This would be great as scones... A few adjustments, and voila!

Recipe: Wheat-Free Date Nut Scones

These classic drop scones are delicious, filling, healthy, and easy to make: no rolling-out required. Packed with whole grains, flax, nuts, dates, and kissed with spice, they make a wonderful breakfast or snack. Superb hot out of the oven with butter, or with some fine sharp cheddar cheese...