Saturday, June 30, 2012

GF PB Zucchini Bread - Take 2

Although the last batch was delicious, it was more like Gluten Free Peanut Butter Blondies than zucchini bread.
It was more of a dessert. I wanted a more substancial, slightly more peanut buttery zucchini bread that would be good at breakfast.  So this time I decided to try again with a slightly different recipe and it's looking good so far.

If the dough doesn't seem wet enough you can add a bit more coconut milk.
Walnuts or peanuts would be delicious in this if you wish to add them remember to adjust your calories
After grating zucchini, press with paper towels to reduce water then fluff with a fork before adding to mix
If you don't have an egg allergy like me, feel free to use 1 egg in place of the ground flax seed meal to get brown sugar loosely packed, use the 1/2 cup to scoop the brown sugar out of the container. when brown sugar is dumped out of container it should fall apart a bit, not be in one hard lump

1 1/2 cups Grated Zucchini
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup ground flax seed meal
1/2 cup Polenta (Ground Corn Meal)
1/2 cup Steel Cut Oats
1/2 cup Almond Flour
1/2 cup rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoon salt (fine, not the coarse sea salt kind)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup smooth organic peanut butter
1/4 cup peanut butter chips (organic, no sugar added)

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare bread pan (if it is not a non stick pan, lightly coat sides and bottom with oil or cooking spray)

Boil 1/2 cup water (see tips if in microwave) In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup ground flax seed meal, 1/2 cup polenta, and 1/2 cup  steel cut oats, add boiling water, stir, and set aside.

Grate Zucchini and press between 2 paper towels, fluff with a fork, then set aside

Mix 1/2 cup Almond Flour, 1/2 cup rice flour,  2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, then add 1/2 cup brown sugar (loosely packed) and mix till there are no lumps.

Add small bowl of damp flax, polenta and oats mixture and stir until there are no large lumps. Add 1 1/2 cup zucchini and mix well.

Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 1/4 cup coconut milk, and 1/2 cup smooth organic no sugar added peanut butter. Mix well. If bread mixture is too dry and not sticking together, add a bit more coconut milk until damp enough to hold together well.

Pour dough into bread pan, pour 1/4 cup peanut butter chips over top, and place on center rack of the oven at 350  for 60 minutes (check with toothpick to see when done)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Zucchini Bread Update

I've tried several zucchini bread recipes recently. Some are gluten free, some are not. Some are lower carb than others. Just felt the need to test out a variety of recipes and see what we like best. All of them had their good points.

A few things I learned. Zucchini bread freezes well. We defrosted it and then heated it a bit in the oven.  Came out really great. Blueberries and dark chocolate actually go well with zucchini bread. So do walnuts, almonds, or peanuts and thus not surprisingly, peanut butter or almond butter work well also. All were vegetarian and egg free. Some recipes are vegan and all could easily be altered to be vegan. This is not because I'm vegan, if anything I'm a flexitarian and avoid eggs due to allergies. Baking eggless is simpler if starting from a vegan recipe as I mentioned in a previous post. I eat a little bit of all the food groups. But I mention it since many of my friends are either vegan or vegetarian.

So far my 2 favorites were the peanut butter zucchini blondies and blueberry walnut zucchini bread. The blondies happen to be gluten free, and everyone who ate them loved them. Good times!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread

A friend of mine and I are going on a road trip today. In exchange for her driving services, I am chipping in gas money and gluten free snacks. Today I made Kale Chips (See previous post) and tried this new recipe for Gluten Free Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread. So far it smells delicious (and the batter was yummy too) Pics to come!

Hold out oil to see if it is needed, as you may not need any oil at all in this recipe. If the bread dough seems wet enough, do not bother adding it, the peanut butter is oily enough without additional oil. If the bread dough seems a bit too thick you can add the oil or extra coconut milk
Preheat oven to 350
Use a toothpick to test for readiness when you think it's done
Walnuts or peanuts would be delicious in this if you wish to add them remember to adjust your calories
After grating zucchini, press with paper towels to reduce water then fluff with a fork before adding to mix
Coconut oil can also be used to replace EVOO
If you don't have an egg allergy like me, feel free to use 1 egg in place of the apple sauce

1 1/2 cups Grated Zucchini
1 cup Almond Flour
1/2 cup Polenta (Ground Corn Meal)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt (fine, not the coarse sea salt kind)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/8 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup peanut butter chips (organic, no sugar added)
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare bread pan (I used a silicon bread pan that doesn't require greasing since this is already a pretty oily recipe)
Mix 1 cup Almond Flour, 1/2 cup Polenta, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, then add 1 cup brown sugar and mix till smooth
Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter (I use organic, no sugar added) 1/4 cup organic unsweetened apple sauce.
If the mix seems wet enough, don't bother adding oil, otherwise add 1/4 cup EVOO (or coconut oil or coconut milk) Mix till smooth
Add 1 1/2 cups strained and fluffed zucchini

Pour dough into bread pan and place on center rack of the oven at 350 for 35 minutes
At 35 minutes add  peanut butter chips on top. I like to press it into the top in swirls
Place bread back in oven for 25-30 minutes (check with toothpick to see when done)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Xanthan Gum

As some of my friends have problems with gluten and such, I was advised that it might be a problem that I was dealing with myself. After being tested twice, I was told no I do not have a gluten intolerance. However in the mean time, I have discovered many new to me flours and new to me ways of cooking and baking which I've found really enjoyable. I have learned to replace eggs in my meals because I'm allergic to eggs, and I have learned to cook gluten free if needed.

Along the way, I was introduced to Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum: which is often used to replace gluten. It looks like an off white powder. Much like almond flour, but finer. In reality, it a polysaccharide, derived from the bacterial coat of Xanthomonas campestris, as Wikipedia tells us.  

Xanthan Gum is often used to thicken things, or to help hold things together. I have used it to create a gel like texture in home made shampoo/body wash, and in various foods. The stickiness found in bread and other baked goods if not coming from wheat gluten, needs to come from somewhere and some people use eggs to help things stick together better, but I use either Guar Gum (Which I ran out of and haven't found easily accessible at a nearby store since) or Xantham Gum, or occasionally some apple sauce. I bought a small bag of Xanthan Gum a few years ago, and it is still working for me because I use such small amounts of it.

When looking for egg replacements I was usually told to use banana which I am allergic to, or store bought replacers which either have some egg whites in it or have white potato. Neither of which is particularly good for my body. So I began experimentation of my own. People told me to try replacing eggs with apple sauce. And in some instances this worked great, but in some instances, apple sauce added too much liquid and not enough stickiness. Knowing that Xanthan Gum adds the stickiness that gluten provides, I thought perhaps a mixture of apple sauce and Xanthan Gum might be a good egg replacer. It turns out, it works. I tried out various ways of mixing it into recipes and found that although you can put it directly into water and shake or blend to get a gel much like egg whites, it tends to clump. Same when mixed with apple sauce or pear sauce.

Instead, just add Xanthan Gum to the dry ingredients of the recipe and mix well before adding liquids, then add about 6 tablespoons of water per teaspoon of Xanthan Gum. It's more of an art than a science for me, so I've done a lot of trial and error. Depending on the size of the recipe, what is missing from the recipe (gluten, eggs, etc.) and what else is already in the recipe, I add different amounts. It has taken a lot of trial and error, but it almost always works for me these days when added in small amounts.

So Xantham Gum, is it worth the money? Well I'd say buy as small amount as possible if you're going to try it, and then don't be afraid to experiment. Let me know how it goes!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eggless, Gluten Free Baking (Low Carb)

Recently I have been trying to find recipes to add zucchini to, and this has lead me to some interesting experiments with eggless, low carb recipes which turn out to be accidentally gluten free. Perhaps eggless recipes need a cook book of their own. 

Since low carb is helpful to regulating my blood glucose, I have been trying to add more low carb recipes to my routine, as well as more vegetables. I don't count vegetables (especially the green ones) as carbs. But we're not here for a discussion about blood glucose, we are here for yum-ness! Or at least I am. I'll leave the diabetes lectures to the nurses and dietitians.

These recipes both turned out delicious, but it was the first time I tried either and I had to replace quite a few ingredients due to allergies. There are a few things I learned and things I plan to try out next time. The Almond Blueberry Pancake recipe does not currently have zucchini because Patch is not a big fan.  That said, she did love the Zucchini Brownies. They are going fast! You can make these without the xantham gum if you don't have any; I will be making a post entirely on xantham gum in the near future. Buying some is well worth your while if you plan to cook eggless and/or gluten free recipes, especially baking.

Some things I've learned along the way:
Brownies are pretty amazing no matter what you make them with
Zucchini, when cooked, actually helps create a flour like texture, especially if finely grated
Replacing eggs in recipes is tricky, but a little xantham gum goes a long way and replaces the stickiness of gluten in a recipe as well. 

Apple sauce may sweeten your recipe as well as replacing eggs and/or fat
Don't forget you may be adding liquid in some cases
< span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; line-height: 18px;">The more eggs a recipe requires, the more difficult it is to replace them, and the more likely the recipe will be too watery.
Just adding flour may not be able to save some recipes,  but give it a shot in small amounts>
Gluten Free flours vary widely and even within the same type (almond flour for example) can vary in moisture content, texture, etc. This can be taken as a fun adventure, or an irritation. I choose the first but feel free to ignore my reality and substitute your own. 

Adding zucchini to recipes can add moisture. Try pressing them against a paper towel lined strainer to get rid of some of the water before adding them to a recipe or you may end up with a batch so watery it won't cook properly at all. This happened to me the first time I attempted zucchini pancakes, major fail. I will be trying them again in the future as well as sweet potato pancakes and a combination. When I get them perfected, I will share them here.

The following recipes were delicious and everyone who tried them is either lying to me or they liked them too. 

Zucchini Brownies
A friend recommended Fast Paleo Zucchini Brownies but they have some things I'm allergic to so I altered the recipe slightly. They smell delicious when baking and were no disappointment! We ate all but one before remembering to photograph them. Photo coming soon. These were a bit more oily than I'd prefer, and I didn't cook them quite enough, so those in the middle tasted a bit more like zucchini than those on the outer edges which people did not guess contained zucchini. The middle however, was moist and delicious. Next time I might add 5 minutes to the baking time.

Number of Servings: 16


If you do not have a small whisk you can use a fork to mix the xanthum gum and apple sauce. This is the egg replacer. If you want, you can put a dark chocolate chip in the center of each right after they come out of the oven. I was told to wait to cut these after they cool, but they cut just fine for me right out of the oven.


Almond Butter, 1 cup
Zucchini, 1.5 cup, grated 

Maple Syrup, .33 cup
Almond Extract, 1 teaspoon
Baking Soda, 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon, ground, 1 teaspoon
Allspice, .5 teaspoon
Dark Chocolate Chips, 1 cup


Preheat oven to 350

Using a small whisk, mix 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce with 1/4 teaspoon xantham gum. Add all other ingredients and mix together.

Pour batter into a 9x9 greased brownie pan

bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until you can prick it with a toothpick and it comes out clean

Serving Size: makes 16 brownies 2.25 inches square

Almond Blueberry Pancakes

Dry Ingredients:
    1 cup almond flour  1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
Other Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup coconut milk 
  • 1 Tablespoon 100% Maple Syrup (or your other favorite liquid sweetener)
In addition:

2 tablespoons butter or oil for frying pan

Directions:Place non stick frying pan on medium-low heat.
Once well blended, mix in all other ingredients. (except  the milk & butter)
Add milk slowly until the consistency is that you would normally expect for pancakes
Lightly coat frying pan with butter (or oil if you prefer)
Spoon onto warm, buttered pan and cook slowly until underside is brown, flip and cook until both sides are nicely browned.
The tops of the pancakes will not bubble like normal pancakes, but may start to appear slightly cooked around the time they are ready to be flilpped.

Recipe makes approximately 12 small pancakes or 24 "silver dollar" pancakes

  • Be patient. If you cook slowly  as they cook the batter will puff up around the blueberries
  • Almond flour is really almond meal and the pancakes made with them can be grainy
  • For softer less grainy pancakes, try adding 1/2 a cup of rice flour (tapioca or brown rice) it will raise the carb count, so if that's a concern try a 1/2 cup sweet potato flour (changes flavor)
  • For puffier pancakes, you can use sparkling water or mix some xantham gum or guar gum into the mix. I find mixing it into the flour before adding wet ingredients helpful. I don't like sparkling water because carbonation seems to trigger my migraines, so I tend to use xantham gum but more on that later.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Armenian "Cucumber" - a melon?

Recently we heard from a member of our local gardeners group that Armenian Cucumbers are starting to be ripe in the area. We don't have any growing in our yard, so we headed over to Amadio Ranch where they happened to have some. I've mentioned the Amadio's place before. They grow delicious fruits and vegetables. They also have chickens, a cow and some really friendly big dogs who let me hug and pet them (I miss my golden retriever, Roman it's just not the same hugging our little dogs) So for me, it's a win win! They have decent prices and sometimes they slip fun things into an order for us to try. The first Armenia Cucumber we got came to us as just such an add on I believe, and since then we've gone back for more.  The first batch was eaten by Patch because I was sick and unable to eat vegetables. But recently I've been adding veggies back into my diet, and this is the first thing I tried. YUM! I ate them rind and all, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Patch used a mandolin slicer and put them in her salads. They looked very unusual and I don't know why more people aren't using them in salads around the valley, fun! This picture shows some sliced but with the seeds still inside. I removed the seedy parts from the middle, and it leaves you with interesting looking green bits. They taste pretty much like a cucumber, but it's not and I didn't have an allergic reaction, which is always a plus in my book!

Now technically I'm allergic to cucumbers, so you'd think I would be to these. But I was told they are actually not a cucumber but a melon which explains the lack of hives. You can bet I did my research before biting into them, and then I just tried one bite to play it safe. If you're allergic to a lot of foods you learn to first test things out for yourself as well as reading about foods. I test by first touching the new food to my lips to see if there is any itching or swelling. If nothing happens, I take a small bite and hold it in my mouth waiting for an allergic response. If I still have none, I eat a single bite and wait 20 - 30 minutes. If I still have no allergic response, I eat a small serving and wait for a day or two. Sometimes I have sort of a delayed reaction, but this time I did not. One of the delayed reactions I get is a sort of fuzzy headed feeling. It becomes difficult to concentrate and later I sometimes get a migraine. The fuzzy headed feeling could be stage one of a migraine actually, it's called a pre migraine aura.

Here is one page from the Backyard Gardener that explains a bit about Armenian Cucumbers: I am very excited to find something delicious, healthy and crunchy that I can add to salads or eat on it's own. I may try looking up some recipes online using these and see what I find, but for now I'm perfectly happy eating them like I would a cucumber.

This one was about a foot and 1/2 long or so, and about as thick as a tennis ball although it varies in size from end to end as you can see. It's shown here near a rather large cucumber if memory serves. (tho that could be a zucchini, I don't remember)  Eric Amadio suggested we save the seeds. I did so by removing the seeds from the melon by hand, placing it in water, and separating the seeds from the slime a bit by hand under the water. Here is some information on seed saving and why the bad ones float: You can bet I am going to save the seeds out of this one, because he says they grow really well in the desert heat, and in my experience, most melons do! I love having edible plants in my backyard, and if you plant them in different months, you have something producing almost year round. Here they are on seed savers: in case you'd like to try them out yourself and don't live in our area.

I'll be planting some of them that I just saved from dinner, although who knows what will grow as they were grown near other melons, so I may get some sort of hybrid melon due to cross pollination, or it is possible they will just grow a lot of leaves. Either way, it sounds like a fun adventure, so I'm going to give it a try and see what comes up. Worst comes to worse, I'll learn from the experience but who knows maybe I'll get some weird Armenian Cucalope LOL!

Next year I may get some seeds from seed savers or some similar place that I know will produce Armenian Cucumbers and plant the melons at different times so that there is only one pollinating at a time. We'll see how that goes for reducing cross pollination in a small area.

If you grow some of your own food, here are some general tips about some delicious plants: but I would recommend you look for a planting calendar that is specific to your area and plant in season, remembering that your yard may have some slight differences such as I have a 10 x 10 portion of my yard which is in shade most of the day and most of the year due to it's position, so this is where I have planted a tree which filters the little light that does get to that area, and beneath it, some berries. I personally use a combination of planting calendars including the one from Gardeners World down the street which of course recommends the plants which they sell, but so far has always been very helpful info, and mostly I use a combo of the information from the and the one from the University of Arizona's Agriculture Department:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Simple Chicken or Turkey Broth and Gravy

Recently I've had a stomach bug and been required to be on a very simple diet of broth, rice, applesauce, toast and the like. They call it the BRAT diet. Unfortunately, I'm allergic to carrots which they usually put in chicken broth and the like. (don't believe me? Read the ingredients list)

Luckily for me, Carlie has made me a simple home made chicken broth! It's just the thing when I'm sick. Ate it all but I'm still not better, so tonight she's going to buy 2 turkey drumsticks to make some turkey broth for a change. She's made it in the past for me after I had my tonsils out, and it's delicious! Plus you can't find anything like Turkey Broth at the store, so I thought I'd go ahead and share the recipe with you. Add noodles for chicken noodle soup of course.

1 whole chicken (excluding the guts but including the skin)
6 cups of water (approximately)

1 dash of salt (leaves the soup low sodium or to be salted by individuals to their liking)

1 Onion, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 green onions

Chop the onion and 3 celery stalks
Remove giblets (guts) from the chicken (usually in a bag for easy removal)
Put chicken in large pot, put on low and brown it a bit to bring out the flavor
Fill pot with water until chicken is just covered

Add a dash of salt
Bring water to a boil

After water comes to a rolling boil (large bubbles)  reduce to a simmer (low flame)
Cook on low for 2 hours or until the broth has a nice golden color and smells like the soup is ready to eat

You can now serve up bowls of the soup to those who are healthy. For the sick person, allow the soup to cool, and strain out fat and ingredients. What remains is "stock" or broth. Which is useful in other recipes such as chicken gravy. (see below)

1 cup Chicken, Beef or Turkey Stock (I used Chicken, as that is what we had on hand)
1 dash of sea salt
3 tablespoons flour (I use whole wheat flour but I suspect any flour will work)
1/2 cup water

Put Chicken Stock in water
Add 1 dash of sea salt
Bring Chicken Stock to a boil
Add 3 tablespoons flour to 1/2 cup of water
Stir with a small whisk (the small whisk works best in a small container and allows for less lumps)
When Chicken Stock is at a rolling boil (large bubbles which rise to the surface and pop quickly)
SLOWLY add the 1/2 cup of water which you previously added flour to and whisked until smooth
Allow to return to a boil then turn the stove down to low
Allow the gravy to simmer, stirring gently until slightly thickened until just slightly more runny than you would normally want gravy

As it cools, gravy will thicken on it's own
If it becomes too thick, you can add a bit of water
Be sure to add the smooth flour and water mixture slowly to the boiling broth as this avoids lumps as well
If there is a thicker bit at the bottom, stop before pouring that in or lumps may form
You may want to add another dash of salt and a dash of pepper if you are not on a bland diet like I am

Because my currently restricted diet is so bland, it becomes very boring and I am tempted to try other foods too soon, which causes my stomach to cramp and is very unpleasant. So instead, I am learning to stick within the bland diet but be creative within it (no meat, dairy, nuts, beans, or veggies) only soft breads (not 12 grain) and very little fruit (mild juice, apple sauce and jello) is allowed.  Making broth into gravy to put on potatoes is one way to do this. I may share other ideas in the future.

To shake things up a bit, we discovered that fresh and easy has unsweetened apricot applesauce and berry applesauce, both of which are pretty good actually, and help to mix up what I've been eating while still being within parameters. The broth is good with saltines or your favorite dipping bread when you have a cold, stomach bug, or just on a rainy day. The gravy is good on just about anything. As Patch says, "Gravy is a beverage!"

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bare Simplicity

Recently I have begun a second blog to explore simplifying our lives. I may eventually move my adventures in cooking there as well, but for now I am keeping up the two blogs. If you wish to follow my adventures in DIY-ness, building community, local shopping, green/energy saving trial and error, growing our own food, organizing, paring down, tiny houses and the like, you can find my posts on Simplicity at I suspect some of you will enjoy the article about harvesting our own Aloe.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recipe Book?

I've been thinking it might be a good idea to print out some of my favorite recipes so that they're easy to find, and people who cook for me don't have to think through what needs to be altered in a recipe so that I can eat it. I've gotten to the point that I can replace eggs in just about any recipe on the fly in a variety of ways. But not everyone who wants to prepare a meal for me is able to do that. Having recipes written down that are delicious and "Sean friendly" might be helpful when my Mom says "What can't you eat" I could say, and here's a few things we can make for you to try while I visit. Plus Mom enjoys when I cook, so I can bring it with me to cook from, or maybe leave her a copy of her own.

 The other day I was feeling better (I've had some nasty stomach bug that's lasting FOREVER) but I had a couple days off from it (apparently common with this bug) and while I was feeling just so/so and not horrific, we made a trip to see one of my doctors, and then on the way home we stopped in at the new Goodwill down on Baseline and 19th Ave. I got three 8x10" picture frames for about $4 to frame my altered photographs for the upcoming art show at The Firehouse, and this awesome book about writing recipes for just $1.99! This makes me feel like I could write a recipe book that is truly useful to others, at least in my extended family, if not outside that small circle.

Then today, as if receiving a sign that this was a doable project I should actually take on, I ran into this site where one can upload and print their own recipe book for just a few dollars. I think I'll read the book I got at Goodwill (shown above) and then work on creating a recipe book I can print out. Maybe I'll make one for my kitchen, one for my mom's.