Chocolate-Coconut-Cream Cheese Layer Cake

Chocolate-coconut-cream cheese layer cake

Chocolate-coconut-cream cheese layer cake

 

If you all were wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while, my daughter just turned two this week. Enough said, right? Well we had a big party last weekend and the highlight was this awesome chocolate-coconut-cream cheese layer cake, which I made in the shape of a monkey because monkeys are my daughter’s favorite things in the whole world right now (besides mom & dad of course :-)

 

Monkey Cake

Monkey Cake

 

This was the most effort I have expended on baking all year, but it was totally worth it. I adapted the cake recipe from Elana’s pantry’s German chocolate cake recipe, substituting olive oil for the grapeseed oil and raw honey for the agave nectar. Then I made 2 different frostings, a chocolate-coconut oil frosting for the outside and a coconut-cream cheese frosting for in between the layers and for the monkey face and ears (you don’t have to make a monkey face of course, unless you are so inclined, but you could just lather the coconut-cream cheese all over the top).

 

Chocolate-coconut-cream cheese layer cake

Chocolate-coconut-cream cheese layer cake

 

NOTE: The frosting is NOT dairy-free and the cake is sweetened with honey. The coconut cream-cheese frosting is full of cream cheese and cultured butter. We eat some cultured dairy products because the culturing removes most of the lactose and makes the proteins more tolerable to digest. But if you have a severe milk allergy, you could just go with the chocolate-coconut oil frosting and skip the cream cheese. Both the cake and the frostings are sweetened with raw local honey, which is better than eating refined sugar (and processed agave nectar) but still pretty high on the glycemic index. But I reduced the amount used and this was a special occasion, and it’s not as if I alone would eat this cake.

 

This recipe is grain-free however, using only coconut flour, and it is GAPS-friendly (aside from the cocoa powder). Note that there are a lot of eggs in this cake! Coconut flour is very high-fiber and absorbs a lot of liquid. Most coconut flour recipes have twice the amount of eggs and half the amount of flour as a grain-flour cake recipe. That makes it a low-carb, high-protein dessert which is quite nutritious.

 

Here is the recipe I used for the chocolate cake. I decided to go with extra virgin olive oil as opposed to grapeseed oil, because of its low omega-6 ratio¹ and because grapeseed oil is usually chemically extracted.²  And I’ve been avoiding agave nectar in recent years because it is also highly processed. A moderate amount of raw, local honey is my sweetener of choice lately. My adapted recipe follows:

 

Chocolate Layer Cake

 

3/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

10 large eggs

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup raw honey

1 T vanilla extract

 

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with butter and dust with coconut flour. (If you are making a monkey cake, also prep a small custard bowl in the same way to make the ears.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Blend the coconut flour, cocoa powder, sea salt, and baking soda together and set aside. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and blend in the olive oil, honey, and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients and blend. Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake for about 40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean when pricked. Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing from the pans.

 

Now for the frostings! This is the one that I used in between the layers and for the monkey face on top:

 

Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting

 

8 oz organic cream cheese, softened (room temperature)

8 oz cultured grass-fed butter, softened

2 T raw honey

1 T vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut

pinch of sea salt

dash of cocoa powder (optional, for color)

 

Cream the butter and cream cheese together, then stir in the honey and vanilla until smooth. Add the coconut and sea salt and optional cocoa powder. Frost between the cake layers and reserve some for the top.

 

This is the frosting I used for the outside of the cake:

 

Vegan Chocolate-Coconut Oil Frosting

 

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil

2 T raw honey

1 T vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

 

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler. Stir in the honey and vanilla and salt. Put the bowl in the refrigerator, removing periodically to stir, until it thickens. Pour over the entire cake and smooth it over with a spatula or knife. Put the whole cake into the fridge to solidify, then top with remaining coconut cream cheese frosting. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Homemade Raw Sauerkraut

Raw Sauerkraut

 

Hello dear readers,

Well another season is blazing by – Halloween has come and gone and Thanksgiving is upon us in less than two weeks. This morning I ordered my gluten-free pie crust from Bacano Bakery and perused the beautiful sugar-pie pumpkins at the farmers’ market. The weather is finally chilling in California and it’s time for the more warming foods of the season.

As the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers (my toddler’s favorite vegetable) of summer are leaving us, one of my favorite ways to preserve and eat raw vegetables in the winter months is to make homemade sauerkraut. Unlike most kinds you can buy in a store, homemade sauerkraut is raw and probiotic. So it is not only a tasty favorite food of my German heritage but it is also a nourishing and health-promoting food. The probiotic cultures and enzymes in sauerkraut are an excellent tonic for those of us with digestive issues and/or candida.

I only recently discovered how easy it is to make your own sauerkraut. Thanks to Michael Pollan’s instructions in Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, I was inspired to try it myself. The basic version has only two ingredients – cabbage and salt. From there you can get creative and add things like spices and/or other raw vegetables. Kimchi is another ethnic variation of sauerkraut, using napa cabbage and spices, and is next on my list to try. Here is my basic version of old-world sauerkraut with coriander seeds.

 

Ingredients:

1 large head of cabbage

1-2 tsp sea salt per lb. of cabbage

small handful coriander seeds

 

Equipment needed:

mandoline

large glass or ceramic bowl

1 or 2 wide-mouth quart-size mason jars or large crock jar

several smooth, clean stones, 1-2 inches in diameter

 

Rinse the head of cabbage and thinly slice it with a mandoline into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt per pound of cabbage to start. With clean hands, work the salt into the cabbage, squeezing it and kneading it like bread dough, as it begins to draw the water out of the cabbage. Taste a bit to see if you want to add more salt; add up to 1 more tsp salt per pound to taste and continue to mix until the cabbage is sopping wet.

Then pack the sauerkraut into 1 or two mason jars, depending on how much cabbage you have. You want to leave a couple inches of air at the top of the jar as it will bubble up as it ferments. Really press and pack down the cabbage into the jar(s) so that all the air is pressed out and the cabbage should be covered with water. Then add a small handful of coriander seeds. Take a couple of large stones for each jar and lay them across the top of the cabbage to keep it weighed down. You want to try to keep the cabbage below the water level because it can rot if it is exposed to air.

Close up the jars and leave them to sit on a cool, dark shelf somewhere. That’s it. Check it every couple of days to let out some air (you will see the top of the mason jar puff up) and pack down any cabbage that begins to float above the water. It should smell a little funky but if something has really gone wrong you will be able to tell. Taste it after a couple weeks. If you like your sauerkraut crisp, it will be ready now. Move the jar into the refrigerator for consumption. Otherwise you can let it continue to ferment for up to another month or two or more as the flavors evolve and mature. I can never seem to wait that long so I usually start eating mine after a couple weeks, but really, whenever it suits your palette is fine.

Sauerkraut is a great accompaniment to any meal. I like mine with sausages, roast beef, pulled pork, roast chicken, you name it. It’s a great digestive aperitif and the enzymes aid in the digestion of other foods so your body can absorb more nutrients. My toddler loves it! So if you have kids who are picky about eating their vegetables, this is a great way to try to get them to eat more fresh, raw vegetables and probiotics. I highly recommend it to anyone for good health and good taste!

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

 

My mother asked me if I could adapt her zucchini bread recipe to be gluten-free so she could make some for my niece, who recently found out she has a gluten intolerance. (Zucchini bread is a big thing in Minnesota, where my mother lives.) I kind of came up with a hybrid of her recipe and my recipe for gluten-free banana bread (which I have not posted yet, stay tuned!). I used coconut flour, which I absolutely LOVE in gluten-free sweet breads and cakes and muffins, etc. Coconut flour is expensive but it is so dense that it doesn’t require much for recipes – 1/2 cup at most – so I can make the little bag of flour last for months and multiple batches of baked goods. It is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates so it is a healthy flour alternative. And adding zucchini to a sweet bread recipe is a great way to get your little ones to eat their vegetables!

 

Ingredients:

1/3 cup coconut oil

6 eggs

1/4 cup honey

1 T vanilla

3 cups grated zucchini

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg

 

Soften the coconut oil by gently warming over a double boiler, stirring in the honey and vanilla. Beat the eggs and add to the honey, vanilla, and softened coconut oil; blend together with a wire whisk. Press the grated zucchini with a dry paper towel to soak up excess moisture, then combine with the liquid ingredients and mix.

In a separate bowl, sift together the coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to the other ingredients and stir.

Grease 3 small or 2 large bread pans with coconut or olive oil. Pour the batter evenly into the bread pans. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Bread is ready when lightly browned and a fork comes out clean when inserted into the center.

Red Lentils With Coconut Milk In The Rice Cooker

Red Lentils In Coconut Milk With Broccoli

 

My 15-month-old daughter is going through a fun phase right now where she spits out all her food. Sometimes she does it when she doesn’t like something, sometimes she stuffs her mouth too full and doesn’t know what to do so she spits it back out, and sometimes if she’s eating one thing and wants to put something else in her mouth but she’s not done chewing the first thing she spits that one out. It’s really stretching my limits as a clean freak! She’s definitely starting to develop likes and dislikes and although she is still a very adventurous eater (a few weeks ago she ate a fried oyster and loved it), she is very particular about what she does and doesn’t want to eat at any particular time. So I am on a quest to find new and exciting foods for her to try that are easy to get down.

A friend suggested cooking red lentils in coconut milk and I thought that sounded yummy. Always looking for ways to make cooking easier, I decided I would try making it in my stainless steel rice cooker. It worked great! It took about 25 minutes and though I had to stir it once while cooking to keep it from getting too thick on the bottom and not cooking evenly, it was still much easier than heating it on the stove top. I added a little turmeric and garlic for flavor, and threw some broccoli on top for about the last 10 minutes to steam, saving me from dirtying another pot. I thought it was absolutely delicious, but my daughter took a couple bites and then proceeded to spit the next one out. Oh well, it was worth a try…

Red Lentils With Coconut Milk In The Rice Cooker

3/4 cup red lentils

1  14-oz can full-fat coconut milk

1 cup stock or water

1/4 tsp sea salt or to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 cloves garlic, pressed

broccoli florets, zucchini or other veggies (optional)

 

Stir the lentils with the coconut milk and water in the rice cooker to keep them from clumping as they absorb water. Add the salt, turmeric and garlic and turn on the rice cooker. Check it after 10-15 minutes and stir once or twice to make sure it is cooking evenly. When it begins to thicken (the last 5-10 minutes or so) you can add some broccoli, zucchini or other veggies to steam as it cooks. The rice cooker will turn off when the lentils are done!

Gluten-free Quinoa Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

 

I was never much into carrot cake before having a child. Now, it seems like the perfect birthday cake or occasional dessert that is so healthy and nutritious, with its high fiber and vegetable content and very low sugar. Since my daughter’s birthday in April, I’ve made it three times, each time making improvements but this last week when we celebrated my husband finishing his masters’ degree I think I perfected the recipe. I happened to run out of almond meal and ended up substituting quinoa flakes, and that made it surprisingly moist and tasty!

I will admit that I made a cream cheese frosting. But I used cultured butter and cream cheese (Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese is amazing!) with just a tiny bit of honey.  If you are simply lactose intolerant and can tolerate cultured dairy products, then that frosting is heaven indeed.

 

Quinoa Carrot Cake

1 cup almond meal

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup quinoa flakes

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

1 T cinnamon

1 tsp grated nutmeg

3 cups grated carrots

6 eggs

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

 

Combine almond meal, flour, quinoa flakes, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and mix in honey and olive oil. Stir in the carrots, then add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch glass baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees F. Allow to cool at room temperature.

 

As for that heavenly cream cheese frosting….

6 oz cultured butter

6 oz cream cheese

2 T honey

Soften the butter and cream cheese at room temperature. Mix together with the honey until smooth. I didn’t even use a hand mixer, I just used a spoon (it is a bit of a workout, but as long as everything’s soft it blends together pretty easily). Spread over the cooled carrot cake and enjoy, refrigerating the leftovers.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork Sandwiches on Gluten-Free Rosemary Rolls

Updated 5-19-2013

Happy spring everyone! This month my daughter turns one, and so far there has been a whirlwind of potlucks, picnics and celebrations, beginning with Easter last weekend. I discovered the perfect barbecue dish for such occasions – pulled pork, slow-cooked in the crock pot. It just cooks all day long and literally falls apart when it’s done, and it melts in your mouth!  Then I picked up some gluten-free rosemary rolls from the gluten-free bakery to make sandwiches, as well as a jar of old-fashioned sauerkraut for the perfect accompaniment.

 

Here’s my spice rub/marinade for the pork:

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp ground cumin

1-2 tsp sea salt (depending on size of the roast)

3 cloves garlic, pressed

 

Take a 4 to 6-lb pork butt roast and score the fat with a sharp knife. Then rub with this mixture. Layer some sliced onion in a crock pot and top it with the roast, add 1/2 cup water or stock, and let it cook all day on low. You will know that it is ready when it starts to just fall apart. Then simply shred it right there in the crock pot and allow it to soak up all the juices from the cooking liquid. Serve it alone or on some gluten-free rolls. You could add BBQ sauce, but you don’t even really need it – the meat is so flavorful from cooking in its own juices all day long!

What Really Causes Celiac Disease?

Hello readers,

Just wanted to share another great piece from the Sunday NY Times about gluten (they are giving it a fair share of attention lately!).

This one is a theory about what really causes celiac disease, based on a study comparing celiac rates among Finnish and Russian populations (who have similar genetics and consume similar varieties of wheat). The rate of celiac disease (and other auto-immune diseases) is much higher among the Finnish population, and scientists attribute that to the fact that the Russians have a more robust microbial culture in their gut. The thinking goes that the better bacteria in the gut reduce inflammation, limiting the reaction to gluten and thus preventing the onset of celiac disease. Just one more reason to take probiotics! And breastfeed your baby! And not be afraid of a little dirt or of your toddler putting dirt in his mouth – that’s one way that our gut gets populated with good bacteria ;)

Read Who Has The Guts For Gluten

Gluten-Free in the NY Times

Hello readers,
Just wanted to pass on this excellent article in the New York Times’ Science section this week about going gluten-free. Finally there is some attention on those of us who don’t officially have celiac but simply have gluten intolerance. Hopefully doctors and scientists are coming to recognize the health benefits those of us gain by eating gluten-free.
Check it out here:
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/gluten-free-whether-you-need-it-or-not/?ref=science

Forgive my absence for the past month or so – between the holidays, harsh winter weather, seasonal illnesses, and a teething baby, I have had my hands full of late. I hope to be more active soon. Happy February!

Dairy-Free Spinach & Mushroom Quiche

Spinach & Mushroom Quiche

 

Here’s a super easy recipe for a dairy-free quiche that is perfect for a holiday brunch. In fact, I was planning to take it to a pot-luck brunch this past Sunday but my teething 8-month-old kept me up all night and we didn’t make it to the brunch. The upside was that meant more quiche for us!

 

For this recipe I used a pre-made gluten-free pie crust from Bacano Bakery. I loved how their crust turned out in my Thanksgiving pie and these days I am looking for shortcuts so I was happy to try it again. They may have used some butter in the crust, so if you are super sensitive to butter, check the ingredients in any pre-made crust that you buy. You can also make your own crust. I have a recipe here that you can substitute coconut oil for butter and it works great.

 

It’s not super creamy like a quiche with milk or cheese in it. The coconut flour gives it a slight cake-like texture and adds a bit of sweetness to the savory spinach and onions. The key to really good flavor (and nutrition) is to use really good eggs. You can tell from the bright yellow hue in the photograph above that I used pasture-raised eggs.

 

Anyway, it’s a tasty breakfast or lunch idea that’s fairly easy to make if you have the time to bake it. I hope you enjoy.

 

Ingredients:

 

1 pre-made gluten-free pie crust (or make your own from my recipe here)

6 eggs

3/4 cup almond milk

3 T coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sliced shitake mushrooms

small bunch of fresh spinach leaves

1 small onion, diced

1 T olive oil

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the pre-made crust for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden-brown. While it is baking, saute the onions, mushrooms and spinach in olive oil until tender. Remove the pie crust from the oven. Whisk the eggs, almond milk, coconut flour, baking power and salt together. Stir in the spinach and mushroom mixture and then pour everything into the pie crust. Bake for about 45 minutes, until firm.

 

4-6 Servings

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you all are enjoying some pre-Thanksgiving baking time! Thanks to Bacano Bakery, this year I’m making my maple-pecan pie with a pre-made gluten-free crust.

Pecan Pie

Tomorrow we are off to a friend’s house and I’m bringing my cranberry-wild rice salad (minus the buckwheat this time). The wild rice is cooking in my new stainless-steel rice cooker as I type this.

Hope you all have safe travels, happy family visits, and a day filled with gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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