Coconut Cake (grain-free/paleo option)

This is the season of birthdays in my house. We’ve got one in February, one in March, a couple in April…. It’s a cake extravaganza around here. And, now, finally, I can say there’s a cake I like. Okay. A cake I love. That, of course, means that this is a dense, moist, not very cake-like cake. Just the way I like it.

Two options here – a grain option and a grain-free option. Both are delicious. I couldn’t really pick a favorite. You choose.

I did learn something really interesting while baking 3 versions of this cake. Coconut palm sugar does not act exactly like regular sugar. I’ve always assumed it was a one-for-one sub, with a slightly different flavor. Yes, yes, the texture is coarser than cane sugar, but that’s nothing a quick whiz in the coffee grinder can’t handle.

But, as I was making this cake, I discovered that coconut palm sugar sucks up moisture way more than cane sugar. The cane sugar version of this cake had a more traditional cake batter – more liquidy and baked up into a nicely rounded top. The palm sugar? Well, it’s verging on cookie dough consistency. And, the sugar was the only difference between those two versions. Once baked, though, and slathered with some sort of amazing frosting (recipe for that coming soon), it won’t matter. If you can eat cane sugar, go for it. If not, you’ll still be happy with the palm sugar version.

Sorry vegans. This one uses a whole lot of happy little chicken eggs. But, if anyone wants to try to convert it, be my guest. Let me know what you do!

Coconut Cake (grain-free)

Coconut Cake (grain-free)

Coconut Cake

Group 1
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1.5 cup full fat (canned) coconut milk
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Group 2
1 cup sugar (palm or cane – your choice)
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 cup finely shreded unsweetened coconut

Pick one of these 2 options:
Grain option: 4.5 ounces superfine white rice flour + 4.5 ounces sweet white rice flour + 2 ounces sifted coconut flour

Grain-free option: 3 ounces sifted coconut flour + 4.5 ounces tapioca starch + 4.5 ounces blanched almond flour

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan. In a large bowl, beat the group 1 ingredients together. In a small bowl, whisk together the group 2 ingredients and one of the 2 flour options.  Pour group 2 into group 1 and beat until fully incorporated. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes. (The grain version will be on the lower end of that scale, the grain-free version the higher end.)

Cool completely and frost with your favorite topping. Or, come back soon and get my recipe for whipped coconut butter frosting!

Posted in cake, coconut, desserts, grain-free, nightshade-free | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake (grain-free, vegan)

Recently, Iris from The Daily Dietribe contacted me asking me if I’d like to make a grain-free version of a recipe she was working on for a reader. It also happened to be a vegan recipe. A vegan baked recipe. Grain-free and vegan and baked? That’s a challenge. But, I was willing to give it a go.

The majority of this recipe is really Iris’. To make it grain-free, I reduced the liquid a little, swapped out the grain-based flour, and amped up the vanilla. Mostly, I added extra vanilla because there’s a tipping point for me with psyllium husks. It seems to be at about 2 T. Anything beyond that and I can taste them, and I’m not a huge fan of the taste. But, I tried to sub in some flax seeds. Nope, it doesn’t work as a cake. A gooey pudding, yes. (And, honestly, the kiddo devoured that version.) But, it wasn’t a cake.

Truth be told, this final version still isn’t quite what I want. It will fall a little bit as it cools. But, once fully cool, it has a firm, tight cake crumb. (It really is better the second day. This photo was taken the first day and it was still a bit moist.)

If grains do not bother you, be sure to check out Iris’ version.

Grain-free and Vegan Coffee Cake

Grain-free and Vegan Coffee Cake

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

6 tablespoons (84 g) Earth Balance
2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon (go wild if you like cinnamon)
1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (Enjoy Life) (Or sub in 2 T cocoa nibs for a refined sugar free version)
1 cup coconut palm sugar (granulated and brown sugar both also work)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional – but really better with them)

3 tablespoons whole pysllium husks
1 cup non-dairy milk
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 T pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup (85 g) coconut flour
2/3 cup (94 g) tapioca or arrowroot starch
1 packed cup (128 g) blanched almond flour
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (granulated cane sugar works, too)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted


1. Prepare filling in a small bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease/flour a tube pan.

2. Mix psyllium, milk, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract in a food processor.

3. Stir together flours/starches, sugar, baking soda and baking powder in a medium sized bowl. Pour into wet mixture and process until well mixed.

4. Add in coconut oil and process until completely mixed.

5. Pat half of batter into tube pan (it will be sticky), followed by half of topping. Repeat. Bake for 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely before taking out of pan. (Really. Seriously. You have to wait. Make it the night before if you want it for breakfast the next day.)


Citrus Sweeties

It’s February in Wisconsin – the month when we all start longing for signs of spring, and the month which so capriciously teases us with sunny days and snowy nights. Well, if I can’t have spring, at least I can make light and spring-like cookies, right?

I’ve used this base recipe to make snickerdoodles, but my son’s new-found love of oranges inspired me to add some citrus zest and skip the cinnamon sugar. And then the kid’s dad said, “you know, these would be really good with lemon.” They’re right. And, I think they’d work with grapefruit or lime, too. But, I haven’t tried those yet.

Citrus Sweeties - Lemon Style

Citrus Sweeties – Lemon Style

Citrus Sweeties

2 T. (28 g) soy-free Earth Balance
1/3 cup granulated sugar *
1 egg
1/4 t. vanilla
1/2 t. citrus zest
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 cup packed (128 g.) almond flour

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream the Earth Balance and sugar together. Beat in the egg, vanilla and citrus zest. Add the rest of the ingredients. Scoop by tablespoons onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes. The cookies don’t brown a lot, but should flatten some and crack. Cool completely. Optionally, drizzle with some icing made from citrus zest, citrus fruit, fresh-squeezed fruit juice, and powdered sugar.

* I’ve used both coconut palm sugar and organic cane sugar. The coconut palm sugar is a little more overpowering of the citrus flavor and results in a darker cookie. Xylitol might also work, but I haven’t tried it.


Posted in cookies, desserts, grain-free, nuts | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Passing a Plate of Chocolate Coconut Goodness

Let’s talk unsweetened chocolate. Growing up, my mom always had an orange box of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate in the cupboard. It was a crucial ingredient in brownies, cakes, my annual birthday chocolate torte, and my dad’s annual birthday whipped frosting. (I really must make that for you soon.)

But, I rarely see it used in recipes today. Why is that? I really don’t know. I think I’m going to singlehandedly bring it back. Why not? I can either buy expensive, allergy-friendly chocolate, or I can buy cheap dairy-free chocolate that has soy lecithin yuck)  in it, or I can buy unsweetened chocolate and completely control how much sugar gets added. Score!

You see, when I make cookies for other folks, like these I made today, I always use more sugar than if I were baking them for myself. I’m used to bitter chocolate. Other folks generally prefer a bit more sweet.

Today’s cookies are part of the Pass The Plate chain started by BeBetsy. It’s a fundraiser supported by KitchenAid. Each time a blogger makes cookies, blogs it, and passes the cookies and the plate along to another blogger, KitchenAid donates $5 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. I got the plate from the creative and fun Johnna, of In Johnna’s Kitchen. She made some totally awesome Sweet Potato Chocolate Chunk cookies. Tough act to follow, but I’m willing to try.

Cook For the Cure Plate

Cook For the Cure Plate

My cookies are going to Jen at So Simple Gluten Free with Jen. You may recognize Jen from her work with the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo, or her So Simple Gluten Free Recipes app. Jen is one busy and talented lady! I hope she enjoys my cookies, and I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Chocolate Coconut Clusters - Cook for the Cure

Chocolate Coconut Clusters – Cook for the Cure

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Clusters

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup (64 g) almond butter
1/3 cup to 1 cup sugar or palm sugar *
1/4 cup (56 g) coconut oil
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350°. In a heat-proof bowl, melt the chocolate over a water bath, stirring frequently. When fully melted, remove from heat. With an electric mixer, beat in the almond butter and sugar. Add the coconut oil in chunks, and beat until coconut oil melts into the dough. Add vanilla and salt. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. The dough will come together and look like frosting. Beat for 2 minutes after the second egg is added. Stir or beat in the coconut.

Using a cookie scoop, drop mounds of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Do not over-bake! Cookies will still be soft. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheets, and then slide the parchment off the cookie sheets and allow to cool completely before moving. The cookies will firm as they cool.

*Note: I have used as little as 1/3 cup palm sugar + 10 drops of stevia. If you use the smaller amount of sugar, your cookies will be less chewy and they won’t spread. The larger amount of sugar makes for a cookie with chewy edges and softer interior. If you use palm sugar, it’s helpful to give it a quick whiz in a coffee grinder after measuring.

Posted in Blogger Community, chocolate, coconut, cookies, desserts, grain-free, nuts | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

SRC: Pumpkin French Toast Bake

It’s Secret Recipe Club time again. Actually, it’s my last time. I made the tough decision to quit doing Secret Recipe Club. 2013 is a year of letting go of obligations and being as true to myself as possible. And, while I have enjoyed Secret Recipe Club, it feels like the right time to walk away.

This month I was assigned Angels Homestead – a lovely blog that goes way beyond just recipes – to cleaning tips (if only she could teach my child) and ideas to save money (something I can always get behind) and menu planning (something at which I completely fail). And, in a true bit of irony, Angels Homestead is owned and operated by April – the founder of Secret Recipe Club. I guess there’s nothing like going out with a bang, eh?

I gave the kiddo several options, and let him choose this month’s recipe. Monkey French Toast was high on his list. But, he eventually settled on Pumpkin Pie French Toast Bake. I made only the slightest of changes, subbing in gluten-free bread, almond milk, and palm sugar.

Gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin french toast bake

Gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin french toast bake

I think the gluten-free bread soaked up the liquid a little more than regular bread might have, as the end result was a wee bit dry. But, the flavor was much-loved by the kiddo.

Thanks to April, for her wealth of recipes and for starting Secret Recipe Club. Best wishes for the future!

Check out all of Group D’s Secret Recipe Club reveal recipes:

Posted in Blogger Community, breakfast, pumpkin | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Quick Bite: Sweet Potato Basil Soup

Some recipes I spend a lot of time on. Some recipes I throw together with whatever sounds good at the moment (or whatever is about to go bad in the fridge). Sometimes, that second kind of recipe yields a winner. And, when the kiddo says, “You have to make this again!” I know it’s time to write down what I did, snap a quick photo, and post it to the blog – even if it’s just so I can make it again another day. Those recipes? Those I’m calling Quick Bites.

So, here’s the first of what I hope to be many Quick Bite recipes. Beware – approximations and “to taste” are the standard with these. But, perhaps they’ll whet your appetite and inspire you to make your own quick bite meals.

Tonight’s offering owes everything to 2 organic sweet potatoes threatening to sprout on the kitchen counter, and a raging desire for anything that tastes light and fresh in the midst of this cold, dark winter.

Sweet Potato Basil Soup - topped with steamed broccoli and GF French Bread

Sweet Potato Basil Soup – topped with steamed broccoli and GF French Bread

Sweet Potato and Basil Soup

1 T. (eyeball it) olive oil
1 small yellow or sweet onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 medium-small sweet potatoes, diced
3 cups water
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 t. salt, a few good grinds of fresh pepper)
basil (I have frozen summer basil, which means it’s been blanched and chopped and in that form it amounted to about 2 T. Fresh from the package I’d say 1/4 chopped. Again – to taste.)
juice of 1 lime

In a 2 quart sauce pan, heat the olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly until caramelized – about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and toss for 30 seconds. Add the water, sweet potatoes and salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to high and cook until the sweet potatoes are falling apart tender. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender. Stir in the basil and lime. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

I served this topped with some steamed broccoli, and a slice (or three) of The Daily Dietribe’s soon-to-be-published gluten-free, vegan French bread. She sent the recipe to me today for some testing. And, oh boy, you are going to want to make this. You can see the heel of the loaf in the picture above, and here’s a shot of the loaf itself. Is that gorgeous, or what? (Not the photography – the bread. Ignore that big ol’ shadow, k?)

Daily Dietribe's Gluten-Free Vegan French Bread

Daily Dietribe’s Gluten-Free Vegan French Bread

Want more great healthy recipes? Check out Wellness Weekends. You can also find more recipes with 5 ingredients (the olive oil, salt & pepper, and water don’t count) or less and 5 ingredient Mondays.

Posted in basil, grain-free, main dish, Quick Bites, soup, sweet potato, vegan | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

How “Natural” Is Your Peanut Butter?

Growing up, there were always 2 jars of peanut butter in the cupboard – one small jar of Skippy creamy, and one giant jar of Jif crunchy. I was a Jif girl. It wasn’t because I liked crunchy better than creamy. Actually, I preferred creamy. But, Jif was sweeter than Skippy, at least back in the day, and I had the most massive crush on all things sweet. These days, both Jif and Skippy sport 3 grams of sugar per serving. They also both contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, and Jif has the added bonus of mono and diglycerides. Yum!

When I first started eating a more natural diet, I discovered that peanut butter really only needs  2 ingredients – peanuts and salt. Now, I’m no longer tied to a brand. I’m tied to an ingredient list. Peanuts and salt – whether it’s ground fresh by me at the food cooperative or bought in a jar, my go-to peanut butter is nothing but peanuts and salt.

Except when it isn’t.

You see, there are one or two traditional family recipes that still tug at my apron strings that simply must be made with a Jif-like peanut butter. And, thankfully, now you can get Jif-like peanut butter with a less scary ingredient list – typically, peanuts, palm oil, sugar, and salt. Okay, still not spectacular. But, better than the chemical nastiness.

After the holiday baking this year, I had some of the “nearly natural” peanut butter left, so I decided to do a little experiment and bake the same recipe twice – once with each kind of peanut butter. My theory was that most of my baked good recipes work with either, but that the natural PB might result in a looser dough and more spreading.

I was a little surprised by the results. For the most part, the differences were not huge. The natural peanut butter cookie is darker in color, has a more pronounced peanut flavor. But, what really surprised me was that it spread less. The “nearly natural” cookie was a little sweeter due to the added sugar. But, not radically so.

In a head-to-head comparison, the kiddo picks the nearly natural cookies. But, I swear it’s because they look bigger. Seriously.

I’ll be sticking with the natural peanut butter most of the time. How about you?

Top spoon and cookie are a natural peanut butter. Bottom spoon and cookie are a nearly natural peanut butter.

Top spoon and cookie are a natural peanut butter. Bottom spoon and cookie are a nearly natural peanut butter.

Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 cup (56 g) coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup (128 g) peanut butter
1/3 cup palm sugar
1 t. psyllium powder + 3 T. hot water (mix and let sit for a minute)
1 t. vanilla
2 T. almond milk
1 packed cup (128 g) almond flour
1/2 cup (56 g) tapioca starch
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, beat the coconut oil and peanut butter until fluffy. Beat in the sugar. Add the psyllium mix, the vanilla and the almond milk and beat well. Beat in the flour, starch, baking soda and salt. The dough will be greasy and crumbly. Keep beating until it starts to come together. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets, and flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Posted in chocolate, cookies, grain-free, nightshade-free, peanut butter, vegan | 3 Comments