Saturday, September 20, 2014

Coconut Flour Banana Bread

In case you haven't noticed, I've been very interested in trying out grain-free recipes lately. I would also like to give some gluten free recipes a try, but haven't gotten around to that yet. So far, they've all been pretty fantastic and it's great to be able to enjoy a baked good more often that I also feel good about. I still think there's room for a baked good made with butter and sugar now and again as an indulgence and you'll definitely continue to see them here, but on the whole, I do think it's important to treat these things as treats.

The most recent grain-free recipe I tried was this Coconut Flour Banana Bread from SparkRecipes. I don't think you can really ever have enough good banana bread recipes, as evidenced here on this blog as well. This recipe is another one that was recommended to me by Amanda, aka aplus21, on TwoGrand and it's another winner. I have quite a few more recipes saved on TwoGrand that I've been meaning to try, so you'll probably see those soon. The coconut flour and coconut oil I subbed in this definitely make this a super coconutty banana bread. If you wanted to bump up the coconut flavor even more, you could also add some shredded coconut to it. When I made this, I left out the cinnamon in the recipe because I wanted a more typical banana bread, but I would keep it in next time because cinnamon would go really nicely with the nuttiness that coconut flour brings. I've dialed back the cinnamon in the recipe below, but feel free to go with the original amount for a super cinnamony banana bread. That's not a bad thing.

I found that I didn't like this banana bread so much warm from the oven and I really thought it was much better when fully cooled because the texture becomes more cake-like when cooled. The flavors also seem to meld a bit better when it's cooled. This banana bread freezes well, so it's great to make ahead and store for those busy days when you want a treat, but don't have time to turn on the oven.

Coconut Flour Banana Bread
Recipe adapted from SparkRecipes
Makes One 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf

3 medium bananas, super ripe but not black, mashed
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp. honey
6 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped nuts(walnuts, pecans, etc.), optional

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the bananas and coconut oil together. Add in the honey and vanilla, whisking well. Then add in the eggs, whisking thoroughly once again. Add in the dry ingredients and stir together with a spatula or a wooden spoon. Fold in the chopped nuts, if using.

Transfer the batter to a loaf pan and bake for 45-50 min until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the loaf pan to cool completely. Banana bread will last for a few days at room temp or for several weeks in the freezer. Freeze in wrapped individual slices for ease.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Healthy Chocolate Cake

Yes, it's true. You can have cake and enjoy it without feeling an ounce of guilt. That's because this cake is made mainly of black beans, eggs, cocoa powder, and sweetened with honey. I've been immensely enjoying a slice of this cake for breakfast along with a dollop of plain yogurt and some fruit. Who would've thought that you could have cake for breakfast? Well, actually I guess you can whenever you want, but this is one cake you won't feel bad about enjoying.

I first saw this cake on The Real Girl's Kitchen and it looked and supposedly tasted just like a regular chocolate cake, so it got me thinking. Then after some web searching, I found the same basic recipe on Healthy Indulgences, which was also praised highly by the author, so I decided to give it a go. I was very pleased with the results and while the texture is not exactly the same as a traditional chocolate cake, the flavor still satisfies those of us who are chocoholics. I used my own cooked black beans in this cake and found the resulting cake to be a bit dry and not quite smooth enough, even when the beans were thoroughly blended. So, the next time I make this cake, I would probably try it with canned beans to see how the cake turns out. I also found that 15 oz of cooked beans was a bit too much since I think a 15 oz can only contains about 12 oz of beans, so I've adjusted the recipe to use a bit less.

To make this a little bit less healthy, you could certainly make a frosting to top it with, but I decided to keep it simple.

Black Bean Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Real Girl's Kitchen and Healthy Indulgences
Makes one 9 inch cake

1 15 oz can of unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained (or 12 oz of cooked black beans)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp kosher salt (half the amount of fine salt)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter or 5 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. honey
6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or dutch-processed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F. Line a 9 inch cake pan with a parchment round. Then butter and dust with cocoa powder. You can skip the buttering and dusting if you have a nonstick pan.

In a blender, combine the beans, vanilla extract, salt, instant coffee, and 3 of the eggs. Blend on high until everything is smooth. In a medium bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, beat the butter or coconut oil with the honey for 3-5 minutes on medium high until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining two eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.

Add in the bean mixture and mix until well incorporated. Then add in the cocoa powder mixture and mix until well blended, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake for 40-45 min until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 min before removing from the pan to cool completely. Cake will last wrapped in foil at room temp. for a few days. Freeze in individual slices, well wrapped, for longer storage.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hard to Believe It's Grain Free Carrot Cake

I'm all about making healthier choices, but I believe in treating yourself occasionally as well. So when I come across a recipe that meets both requirements, that's the best news of all. I first saw this carrot cake in a TwoGrand post by Amanda, aka aplus21, and it looked deeelicious. I know several carrot cake enthusiasts so I thought I'd give it a try.

This carrot cake turned out to be a real winner, gluten free or not. You'll be able to taste a slight difference in texture if you're looking for it, but otherwise, it tastes just like a regular carrot cake, maybe even better. The almond flour and coconut flour add a wonderful nutty and coconutty note to the cake. I added some cinnamon since I like my carrot cakes to be well spiced and went with a basic honey sweetened cream cheese frosting. Nuts, coconut, and raisins are typical carrot cake add-ins that would work well here, but the options are only limited by your imagination.

The original recipe is for cupcakes, but would make a 2 layer 8-inch cake. I decided to use half the recipe to make a 2 layer 6-inch cake.  I did not frost the sides of the cake, but if you wanted to do that, just double the recipe for the cream cheese frosting.

Grain-free Carrot Cake
Adapted from nourished kitchen
Makes One 2-layer 6-inch cake

Carrot Cake
8 oz. carrots, peeled and grated finely
1 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
3/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
large pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt, Greek style or otherwise

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Line two 6-inch cake pans with parchment rounds and a strip of parchment for the sides. In a medium bowl, combine the grated carrots, almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Warm the honey in a small pot over the stove until it is easily pourable. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly for a minute. Add the honey and mix well. Then add the melted coconut oil and yogurt whisking thoroughly to combine. Add the carrot mixture to the egg mixture and mix thoroughly for 2-3 min with a spatula or wooden spoon breaking up any clumps of almond flour.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30-35 min until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from the pans.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

To make the frosting, in a small bowl with a wooden spoon or with a mixer, give the cream cheese a good mix to smooth out any lumps. Then mix in the honey, vanilla extract, and salt.

To assemble the cake, remove the cake layers from the pans and remove the parchment. Slice off the tops if necessary to even out the cake layers. Place one layer right side up on a serving plate, spread half of the frosting over the top with a small offset spatula. Place the other cake layer upside down over the frosting and press gently. Spread the remaining frosting on the top of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for about half an hour before serving. Cake will keep, wrapped, in the refrigerator for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Honey Nut Gran-ola

The other day, my sister said that she wanted some gran-ola, specifically some honey nut gran-ola. She loves confusing people by coming up with her own pronunciations of words. Anyway, I've been thinking of making granola recently anyway since it's so simple, quick, and it's the perfect accompaniment to my morning yogurt. It's also great on its own with milk as a breakfast cereal.

For this recipe, I kept it super simple with just almonds, oats, honey, olive oil, and some flaxseed meal. The honey flavor really comes through, which I like, but you could also substitute the honey for your sweetener of choice and use less of it if it's too sweet for your liking. The mix of things in this granola is also up to you though I do recommend adding any dried fruit at the end so it doesn't burn. Chia seeds, other nuts, spices, etc. would be great in this.

Honey Nut Granola
Makes about 5 cups of granola

3 cups rolled oats
2 cups almonds, whole, chopped, or sliced
4 tbsp. flaxseed meal
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 340 deg F. Mix the oats, almonds, flaxseed meal, and salt together in a large bowl.

In a small pot over medium low heat, heat up the honey and olive oil just until the mixture is well combined and easily pourable. Pour the honey mixture into the oat mixture and stir well to coat everything evenly. Spread the mixture over a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, giving the granola a stir halfway through.

Once the granola is golden, take it out and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. It will harden and crisp up as it cools. Granola will last at room temp for a few weeks.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Blueberry Banana Bread

Do you see the face!? Totally surprised myself.
Here's the other banana bread I made from my neighbor's overripe bananas. The recipe is a slightly spiced basic banana bread with blueberries added to it. The recipe comes from one of my favorites, Giada de Laurentiis. If you didn't have blueberries or wanted to add other berries or fruit, the recipe would still work. It's a great basic recipe that would be good with or without the spices depending on your mood.

The texture of this banana bread was perfect for me. I tend to prefer the texture of quick breads made with oil rather than butter. It also wasn't too sweet and bakes up really nicely, perfect for gifting to friends and family. The banana flavor isn't super strong since there's only two bananas in it, but if you need a banana bread recipe that uses two bananas, this is a great choice. This is definitely another one to add to any banana bread collection.

Blueberry Banana Bread
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Makes One 9x5 inch loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup mashed)
1 cup (4 oz) fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Butter and flour or line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, and eggs for 2-3 minutes until really well blended. With a spatula, stir in the bananas and blueberries.

Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 1 hr until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the banana bread cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan and letting it cool completely on a wire rack.

Banana bread will keep for several days at room temp wrapped in foil or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a Ziploc bag, for longer.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Double Chocolate Banana Bread


I found myself with quite a few overripe bananas from a neighbor, so I did what any logical person would do, I made banana bread. This week, I'm sharing a chocolate version that I've been wanting to try. I've made a version of banana bread with chocolate chips in the past, but wasn't super pleased with it. Something about chocolate chips in banana bread just didn't do it for me. This one however, from Smitten Kitchen, is a chocolate banana bread with chocolate in it. I loved this and I can't imagine anyone not liking it.

It's super chocolaty, not too sweet, and the banana flavor is present, but takes a backseat to the chocolate, so even people who don't love bananas will like it. Use bananas that are very ripe but not black. My crazy younger sister thought it was too dark in terms of the chocolate flavor, so for less mature palates, you can use natural cocoa powder and a sweeter chocolate if you like. This banana bread is incredibly moist and simple to make. It's a bit crumbly and fudgy like a brownie. I can foresee many many more loaves of this banana bread in the future and you will too once you give this a try. It also freezes and defrosts really well, so you can make several loaves at once, freeze them in wrapped individual slices and just take one out whenever you want a slice.

I had plenty of bananas, so another delicious banana bread will be coming next week.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf

3 medium - large very ripe bananas, mashed (a little more than 1 cup mashed)
1/2 cup(115 g) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup, lightly packed(145 g) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine table salt
1 cup(125 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, or natural cocoa powder
4 oz finely chopped chocolate, semisweet or bittersweet

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F. Butter and flour or line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment.

Whisk the mashed bananas with the melted butter in a large bowl. Then, add in the brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix for another 1-2 min.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 55-65 min, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the banana bread from the pan. Banana bread will keep, wrapped in foil, for a few days. Freeze in individual slices, wrapped in plastic wrap, and placed in a Ziploc bag for longer storage.