Monday, October 6, 2014

Shepherd's Pie- Colorful and Delicious!

I had been wanting to make a shepherd's pie for quite some time, being the comfort food of the Irish, and Tim embracing that part of his heritage.  But I'm just not the biggest fan of mashed potatoes, so I was looking for an alternative for the topping.  I did a little recipe searching and I couldn't find one that really grabbed me, so I did what I do quite often:  find one to use as a basic recipe and then change it to fit my needs.  

I have the best luck with the Epicurious site so I knew that was the best place to start.  And I found a classic shepherd's pie recipe that looked solid.  There was an option of using a different ground meat other than the traditional lamb, but since we are huge lamb fans and I no longer eat beef, it seemed the right choice.  I wanted something rich and flavorful and didn't think I would get as much bang for my flavor buck with ground turkey or chicken.  

When it came down to it, I ended up following the recipe without many changes.  I don't use vegetable oil, so I used whatever I had in my oil thingie (carafe?  bottle?  dispenser?  No idea what to call that refillable glass thing with the spout...)  and that was likely grapeseed oil or some nut oil.  The recipe gives a choice of broths and I chose to use organic beef broth.

So then it came time to deal with the topping.  As I mentioned, mashed potatoes do very little for me, so I decided to take the weight of the potatoes in the recipe and substitute a mix of root vegetables (including organic potatoes).  I ended up combining the potatoes with carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips.  The result was not only delicious, but it produced a topping with little flecks of color instead of fusing into one light-ish orange like I predicted.  Lovely to look at!  My boys were in heaven and I will definitely be making this again.  Try your own combination of veggies for the topping and let me know how it turns out!

The recipe I based my shepherd's pie on can be found at:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Now THIS is Banana Bread!

Still hot, already sampled!

This is my favorite banana bread I've made yet.  If you've been following my blog, you may have noticed that the ingredients I use for baking have undergone some changes.  I tend to use more gluten free flours and stay away from wheat.  I use more honey and coconut palm sugar instead of agave nectar.  I've stopped using canola oil and use nut and seed oils and coconut oil instead.

So this banana bread recipe compared with the one I posted a few years ago will reflect some of those changes.  This bread uses three very ripe bananas instead of two and brown rice flour in place of the wheat, softened and flavored with a little coconut flour as well.  I love the combination of the banana and blueberry, but my favorite part of this bread is the coarsely chopped nuts and coconut that bake into the top.  This is a delicious, moist bread that is made from healthy ingredients and happens to also be gluten free.  It's delicious warm.  I know this because I couldn't wait to cut into it when it had only been out of the oven for a few minutes!  Try baking it in muffin tins, sprinkling the topping on each individual muffin.  That way you'll have a little portion control.  I tend to keep cutting just one more thin slab to munch on and before long I've eaten the equivalent of three pieces!  I have no will power when it comes to healthy, delicious desserts.

What's great about a recipe like this (and many of my other recipes) is that you can substitute different ingredients to make it your own.  Try another berry or cherries or peaches and make a topping with pistachios or pumpkin seeds, or try different extracts.  Let me know your variations and how they turned out!

Blueberry Banana Bread with Coconut Crunch Topping

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled (nut oils may be substituted)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar or raw honey
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts such as almonds and pecans
2 T unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter (or coat with coconut oil) loaf pan and line with parchment paper.  Butter paper.
Whisk together oil and sugar or honey.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Whisk in bananas and vanilla.  Mix flours and salt together on a piece of parchment paper or in a bowl.  Add to banana mixture and mix on low.  Add dissolved baking soda with a mixing spoon.  Fold in blueberries and pour into prepared pan.
Mix together nuts and coconut and sprinkle over the top of the bread evenly.  Gently press topping down but don't bury it!  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until cake tested-done!  Cool slightly then remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.  If your parchment paper is cut long, this will help to pull the bread out.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Flourless "WhiteSugarless" Chocolate Cake!

I've been promising a fantastic soup recipe, but I invented a new healthy version of the flourless chocolate cake that demands attention, so the soup will have to wait for another day.  It's a keeper though, so be sure to check back!

I am a huge fan of dark chocolate, and my diet routine involves a daily dose of it, partly for the rich antioxidants it provides, but let's face it:  it's a little square of heaven.  Nothing else has the flavor, the feel, the smell... there's almost something otherworldly, almost sensual about it.  It's not just me, I'm sure of it.

I had been craving something more than my daily square of Lindt 70% and the girls and their boyfriends were coming for dinner so I started looking at some recipes for flourless chocolate cake.  I knew that was a dessert that would be decadent enough to satisfy my cravings and please the masses while conforming to my "no white flour" rule.  The challenge though, was that it is a dessert that calls for white sugar, another no-no of mine.  So I was looking for a substitution.  I typically use raw organic honey in place of sugar, but I was afraid it would affect both the taste and the texture too much.  If you look back to my old posts, you'll see where I introduced coconut crystals as a great sugar substitute.  Not tasting like coconut at all, with more of a malty flavor, it's a great substitute for brown sugar and is similar in color.  I wasn't sure if that would work in my flourless chocolate cake because it is very coarse and I didn't know if it would break down enough to get the right texture.  As it turned out, my KitchenAid was a rock star and pulverized it with the eggs so well that there was not a grain left.  Score!

Feeling inspired, I decided to see if I could lighten up my ganache recipe a bit by using almond milk instead of heavy cream.  Makes sense, right?  All of these substitutions and changes had the potential to go horribly wrong, but somehow the stars were all aligned and the result was my new favorite healthy dessert.  Or as I have been taken to calling them- healthi-ER dessert.  Let's not fool ourselves by saying that they are low calorie.  They're just much better for you.

This particular cake's flavor is enhanced by a little espresso powder in the cake itself and some black raspberry liqueur in the ganache.  For a fancy effect, I melted a little extra chocolate, added some butter and more liqueur to pour on the plate before setting the plate on top.  I served the cake at room temperature, but had a second piece the next day straight from the refrigerator.  Somehow it reminds me more of a brownie when it's ice cold, but I would honestly recommend it either way. 

Looking forward to making this again, very soon, perhaps with Grand Marnier in the ganache and orange garnish.  Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Black Raspberry Ganache
1 2/3 cup Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips (or any dark chocolate 60-72% cacao)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
2 tsp instant espresso powder
--Melt chocolate with butter over low heat in a small saucepan.  Whisk until smooth.  Whisk in cocoa and espresso powder.  Remove from heat and cool 10-15 minutes.
5 large organic eggs at room temperature
1 cup coconut crystals (If you can't get these, try organic brown sugar or other natural sugar)
-- Beat eggs and coconut crystals in stand mixer about 6 minutes or until mixture is completely smooth and there are no more crystals.  Fold in chocolate mixture.  Pour into springform pan buttered, lined with parchment, and buttered again.
--- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cracked and middle is still moist when a cake tester is inserted in center.  Remove from oven and cool completely.
For ganache:
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips)
1-2 Tablespoons black raspberry liqueur (or other liqueur)
--- Heat almond milk until almost boiling.  Add chocolate and whisk until smooth.  Add liqueur and whisk again.  Let cool slightly, then pour over cooled cake, letting ganache fall over edges decoratively.  Refrigerate uncovered for about an hour, then cover.  Bring to almost room temperature when ready to serve.
To serve, melt additional chocolate with butter and liqueur (I didn't measure- so you'll have to experiment and taste until you get the texture and flavor you want).  Pour a spoonful of the chocolate sauce onto a plate.  Top with a slice of cake.  Garnish with blackberries or other fruit.