Baked Goods

A few of my favorite things

I love naps. Young adult novels. Wearing sweat pants.

I love brussel sprouts, broccoli and persimmons. Hugs. And the feeling of accomplishment after a hard days work.

I like weimaraners. Taking pictures of food. And I love muffins.

I have said that last part before, but I have to say it again. I love muffins. There is something about muffins that I adore. And I love to make them. I think I should start a bakery with just muffins, gluten free of course. The muffins I make could never get a bad wrap for being unhealthy. But they are damn delicious.

I also love the bounty of the summer. There is so much amazing produce and we are flush with delicious fruits and vegetables. At this point in the summer, one might even argue we are at the point of being overwhelmed with certain vegetables. Mainly zucchini. I can only think of so many ways to prepare zucchini. And I had not yet figured out a good recipe from which to start my gluten free adaptation. The other day, I stumbled upon a recipe by Jenna of Eat, Live, Run and decided to give it another go on the zucchini muffins since we had a few zucchini that were still lurking around from the previous week's CSA book from Eatwell Farms. On top of that, I was keen to continue to see just how versatile my gluten free flour mixture was. I have successfully used the same mix in waffles, pancakes and pizza. Why not muffins too?

Why not indeed. I am happy to report that they were phenomenally good. So good that when the baker ate one, he said, "I kind of wish you hadn't given away half of them" (as I had given away 1/2 dozen to our good friends). But I reassured him not to worry, there were plenty more zucchini left to go through and make into glorious, cinnamon sugar topped zucchini muffins.

Ice cream for breakfast and other delights

I can't say I am clever enough to come up with a way of eating ice cream for breakfast without actually eating ice cream for breakfast. But thankfully, I read a blog of someone who is. Of the few food bloggers I read, Heather of Heather Eats Almond Butter, consistently comes up with (really) healthy versions of less than healthy treats. In fact, I would argue she completely turns them on their head and reduces things from treat to staple. One of the things I had been hankering to try was her protein ice cream. As a fan of smoothies for breakfast, I liked the idea of making a smoothie a bit thicker, like ice cream and still being able to enjoy it for breakfast. Her version includes stevia (I used agave or whatever was on hand) and I also traded in the ice cubes for frozen banana because we don't usually have ice in the house and when we do, its usually for ice baths, not smoothies. I topped the wholesome deliciousness with fresh plums, strawberries as well as a scoop of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and Justin's Peanut Butter. Makes for a solid breakfast meal with a lovely nod to dessert. I find that I often would like something that is apropos of a sweet dessert or treat without actually having any diminishment of health value. This breakfast fits that bill perfectly.

Sometimes, however, you just really want to have a nice indulgence for breakfast. Last week after dropping out of WS after 55 miles, my body had cravings all over the map. It wanted food and lots of it. I resolved that I needed to rest and relax and eat up, even if it meant that I felt like I was just sitting around getting fat. Sometimes that is just what your body needs to feel like. I have a hard time grasping that sometimes, but then I make gluten free cinnamon rolls topped with julia child's confectioners cream and I completely forget about my hesitations.

The reality is, in our household, where 70 miles of running in a week is considered a light week, cinnamon rolls are never really undeserved. These particular cinnamon rolls come from The Gluten Free Girl's blog. I have been wanting to make them and we happened to have a jar of confectioner's cream that the baker made which I deduced would be perfect over the cinnamon rolls since a cream cheese frosting was not an option for me. These cinnamon rolls were outstanding. I wanted to eat them all, in one sitting. But I refrained. It was much more fun to savor them over the course of a few days with warm cups of coffee and delicious fresh fruit on the side.

I actually am usually too geeked out about amazing seasonal produce to even want to bother with making things that I could have any old time. The sweetness of a muffin will never compare to a perfectly ripe peach to me. So, even though the cinnamon rolls or protein ice cream made me swoon, I do get equally, if not more so, excited over seasonal produce and the things I can do with it.

One of my favorite things about summer other than the mind blowing fruits and vegetables is my birthday. And it's not because I am big into birthdays, but instead because, when I was growing up, it meant I got to pick a very special meal that my mom would make at my request. 9/10 it was either twice baked potatoes or a huge vat of my mom's marinara sauce. So in honor that tradition, I made a huge batch of her marinara sauce this week and oohhhh wheeee it is so good. Best part about it is, this recipe makes enough for about 6 months (kept frozen)! I served it up with some Southern Italian Ratatouille from the Tra Vigne Cookbook.

And I haven't just been craving comforting, heavy, sweet things. In fact, I have been craving really light fresh things too. And this Kale Carrot Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing that I invented a while back has been my lunch for a few days straight. It is so flavorful and healthy and complex. In other words, perfection. 

Race Week Nutrition

Tree Hugger in Provence. Photo by the GripMaster.

I missed a week of baking, cooking, etc. I apologize. I was in France attending Salomon Advanced Week (which you can read about here). There was running, eating pretty decent French food and some good fun. But I am back now and doing a power taper for my race this Saturday, the Lake Sonoma 50 miler. Part of tapering is cutting back miles, resting a lot and letting the body get nice and rested for the long miles ahead. Additionally, I get massage, stretch a lot and if I am feeling sore, take an ice bath or two. The biggest part of taper is nutrition. Making sure you get the right combination of nutrients and the right amount of fuel is key.

I am not a carbo-loader. I don't eat pasta the night before a race. I would prefer steak and potatoes, or steak and rice and a seaweed salad. Tried and true, it is what works for me. When I eat pasta (gluten free of course), I just feel empty. Carbs alone just don't fuel me enough. I have to support them with something.

A well balanced plate.

Even though I am running a lot less than usual on this final taper week, my nutrition is at its best. Race week nutrition is tricky. You have to fuel up to support your upcoming effort, eat the right combination of things to make sure you are recovered from training, all while accounting for the lower calorie needs of a minimal training week. But like I said, during race week, I seem to be at my best. Maybe it is the lack of running that allows me to be more thoughtful about my meals (if that is possible!), or maybe it is just that I know from experience that it really makes a difference.

This week on my plate has been awesome. After spending a week in France, I was really looking forward to cooking at home. The food there was fresh and for the most part light, but I ate three meals a day at the resort where we were located. Not exactly exciting by day 6! On Sunday, the baker and I whipped up a huge pot of Rancho Gordo beans and roasted some chicken with a spicy chili sauce for tacos. I made a nice fresh slaw with pumpkin seeds, radishes, cabbage and lime. The tacos were a perfect way to start of the weeks eating (and nutrition). Well balanced, not too heavy and made for some great leftovers for Monday night's dinner. Lunch stayed the same, a huge salad each day which I really enjoyed.

Last night my sister and I had a movie night and I decided to cook up a recipe for Chana Masala,  I had read in A Homemade Life. I followed the recipe with one exception. I added cauliflower. A whole head of it after the tomatoes were added. I wanted, no needed more vegetables on my plate. And man was it delicious! I cooked everything until the cauliflower was tender and then served over coconut rice (rice cooked with 1 part light coconut milk, 1 part water: so if you use 1 cup of rice, use 1 cup of coconut milk and 1 cup water). On the side was something that made me want to cry because I couldn't have seconds. Garlic Lemon Spinach. There had been some great local fresh spinach at the shop and it definitely trumped the frozen spinach I had thought to use. I cooked up 2-3 cloves of garlic in 1 part butter, 1 part olive oil until they started to brown, then I tossed in the spinach and a tbsp of water, put the top on and gave it a shake. Once it was cooked, I added sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. I am telling you, I would have eaten just a huge plate of that. So good. Well, I take it back the Chana Masala was amazing. Spicy, complex, flavorful. I of course followed up this meal with ice cream. Some people religiously cut out things during taper week, I deliberately add them back in because I am trying to make sure I have no calorie deficit during the week. I like to train low, race high. That is not to say I go crazy during taper week, I am sensible, not overly restrictive.

To wit, I made cookies today! Teff Peanut Butter cookies. I didn't use oil, I used melted butter. And they were pretty dang good, though surprisingly less peanut buttery than I imagined. I made them quite small so that I could indulge guilt free. It's a fine line. I want to arrive at the start line with my body fueled correctly but physically feeling fit and light. For me, I know that too many grains cause me to retain water and retention of water does not lead to feeling fit and ready to fight. These little buggers were a good compromise of nutrition and indulgence.

I have been harboring a corned beef in my freezer while I was gone. A first cut, organic beautiful corned beef that I couldn't wait to cook. As I was out of town for St. Patty's day, I decided to cook it up this week to make sure I was getting in my protein. It's Wednesday and I haven't eaten meat yet this week. So tonight, I am going to whip it up along with some cabbage, mustard roasted potatoes and serve it all with some gluten free irish soda bread.

I don't believe I have ever had Irish Soda bread, let alone Gluten Free Irish Soda bread. So I consulted a few sources and went at it. In the end I combined two of my favorite gluten free bloggers recipes and created my own. The loaf came out nicely. Somewhat like a scone, fragrant of caraway seeds and dotted with soaked currants. Next time, I think I will soak the currants in something further infusing flavor. This adaptation is more of a half followed one recipe, half followed the other. I combined one's suggested dry ingredients with an adaptation of the other's wet. Seems to have worked out well. As I said, I have never had soda bread, so creating an idea from scratch was out of the question. But I improvised a great deal by doing this combination, so it would be interesting to compare. I am really looking forward to having a small slice of this bread tonight with a good balance of vegetables and meat (and mustard and horseradish!!!).

Gluten Free Banana Ginger Muffins

Calling my name, GF Banana Ginger Muffins

There are many times in life since going gluten free that I will pass by a bakery window and gaze in upon stacks of beautiful fresh baked muffins and wish that I could have one too. As I have mentioned, I don't crave sweet that much but I do love an occasional muffin. Last year, when I was able to "take a break" from my no-gluten diet (doctor's recommendation for testing) I stumbled upon my all time favorite muffins at Macrina Bakery in Seattle. Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins. I went home after that, totally obsessed and created a version of my own and posted the recipe. But those were made with whole wheat and spelt and soon I had to reliquish their hold over my tastebuds and go gluten free again (thanks for the painful vacation doc!).

I will wait for these to cool, I will wait for these to cool.

After that, I baked muffins occasionally, picked up muffins at Flying Apron when I was in Seattle, and generally went without. And then, the other day I remembered these muffins. I think it was because I was planning a big group run around Discovery Park in Seattle for my visit home this weekend. Last year a bunch of speedsters got together and ran some loops and then went to Macrina. Oh those muffins. I instantly knew that it was up to me to create a gluten free version that would be as crave worthy as the Macrina ones.

I did it. Yes, me and my little creative brain did it.

I took my own original recipe and then worked through some possible flour combinations/ratios. With muffins, especially gluten free ones, texture is huge. And picking the right flour combination makes a huge difference. I settled on brown rice flour and garbanzo bean flour in a 2:1 ratio. Flying by the seat of my pants as it were, I also kicked up the ginger content two fold as I recalled that my previous batch a year ago was not as gingery as I liked.

I baked. I waited. I let them cool so completely that by the time I went to eat them I was bonking from lack of food. I think there was a bit of trepidation in there too. I was afraid to try them. The looked like a winner, but would the taste be triumphant? Would the texture leave me once again annoyed that gluten free will never translate the same? Would they dissolve into a wet, fallen mess overnight (like a lot of GF baked goods do)? Would they be hockey pucks?

In a word: No. I was awe struck by these muffins. Look at that texture! If I didn't tell you it was gluten free, you would not know. The taste, oh my! Smooth banana flavor with a perfect and very present ginger flavor. They played nicely together, letting each other have a share of the glory and spotlight. Neither dominated, they comingled, they made music together and my taste buds were singing! My favorite part was that the banana and ginger were present but the muffin was still predominately savory, not overly sweet- just enough. Again a very fine balance, I think.

I was so excited I couldn't wait to share them with the Baker.

He made me wait though. I fed him way too much bibimbap and homemade coconut milk ice cream for dinner. I waited patiently for my second opinion. I finally got it post early morning run with our regular crew in the Headlands. I open the container (which I left on the counter), prepared myself for some caved in or other gluten free horror to unfold but they were still perfect, together, moist.  The Baker took one out and  took a bite, I prepared myself for a polite, "they're good" and to go back to the drawing board.

"Wow" He said. "These are good. These are really really good. Where did you get the recipe?" Happy dance in my head, something along the lines of a end zone dance, complete with strutting and waving of arms!

"From my head" I answered. "Completely original recipe". I liked being able to say that. I feel it is important to my perspective to keep perspective on the whether things are "good for a gluten free item" (because we all know there are plenty of really bad options out there) or "universally good", meaning gluten free/egg free or not these are damn good. I am glad my second opinion heralded them as the second. I made my muffins in small muffin tins so we shared a second muffin, though I am sure we easily could have each had two and not be making a bad dietary choice (since in addition to all the other awesome things about this recipe, there is only 1/4 cup of butter and that is the only fat). These are not "you can eat those because you run 100 miles" muffins, these are part of a healthy and delicious lifestyle muffins. I don't think it is a bad thing when you can have your decadent cake and have it be nutritious too. It is just an added benefit to these muffins that you don't even have to think about it.

They are good. Damn good. I will be making them again and again and again. I have a feeling that down the line, someone will be looking at one of these babies through the window of my own bakery.

Gluten Free Banana Ginger Muffin

5 small very ripe bananas (if not super ripe, add 1/4 cup almond milk)
¼ cup butter , room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 ⅓ cup brown rice flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
⅔ cup garbanzo bean flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 ½ tsp. ginger zest, divided
4 tsp. crystallized ginger, minced, divided
1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
pinch fresh nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 and line with parchment cups/grease 2 muffin pans (12 muffins). In a food processor, mix together the bananas and butter. Mix in the two types of brown sugar and blend together. Add in vanilla, 2 tsp of minced crystallized ginger, 1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger (zest).

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients including the remaining ginger until incorporated. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of muffin mix into the muffin pans, making 9-12 muffins. Sprinkle the muffins with dark brown sugar and bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted and the tops are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes

Bread and stuff to put on bread

Bread attempts

I am not really the type of person to wish to change circumstances that cannot be or wish things away that simply cannot be wished away. It is futile and a great waste of energy. I change or work for change in things I have control over and celebrate the parts of life that simply are what they are good or bad. No resistance, no stress.

There is one thing though I would change. Ok, actually it's two things. I wish I could eat gluten and I wish I could eat eggs. There is no oh poor me involved in this. I eat these things, I don't feel good. It is a fact of life, one which would be nice to be able to change. People with food intolerance, allergies and diseases like Chrons/Celiac are not doing happy dances when they get their diagnoses I assure you. As much as you can become happy and ok with it, it is not something you'd wish on anyone.

There are a few brilliant individuals such as Karina and Shauna and bakeries such as BabyCakes (NYC/LA) and Flying Apron (Seattle) who are making great strides in creating gluten-free friendly recipes of the things people commonly have to cut out of their diets when they have gluten intolerance and Celiac. It is awesome what they are doing. Goodness knows, I appreciate it when I need a baked goods fix. I have also started to develop gluten free, egg-free recipes of my own that I would some day love to share in a cookbook or bakery.

I think my biggest problem is that I am not really a baked good person in general. You would think that would make being gluten intolerant easier and it does, but the problem is when I do crave a baked good there are some that just cannot be mimicked in a gluten free style. Cookies, cupcakes, even most morning pastries but not bread. The thing I often crave the most is a big hunk of crusty bread straight out of the oven. In my adult life, I have never been much of a consumer of bread on a daily basis, or even consistently of grains. I just prefer veggies and fruit to grains. But there are some days when I can think of nothing more than a hunk of bread with butter melting over it.

Last week was one of those weeks. I wanted bread. I wanted a sandwich. I wanted crusty, flaky warm bread straight out of the oven. And I didn't want to suffer for it. And so, I decided to try my hand at baking on. I consulted many sources but each had something I could not use or work with. One has eggs, another uses a breadmaker and provides no alternate instructions. Each had something I would tweak or change. And so I decided to do that.

I developed a gluten free, egg free crusty bread in my brand new 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset, consulted with the Baker about a few techniques and on Friday baked off my first batch. Fresh out of the oven (after cooling), it had a great outside crunch, the inside was what I would expect of a gluten free loaf- slightly dense, but yes! it had some lift and stretchy bubbles. However, it also had a slightly metallic taste which I had just suggested be worked out of another gluten free recipe that the Baker had me try. The metallic taste comes from the egg replacer which would easily be remedied if I had the luxury of being able to eat eggs. Eggs are a good "cheat" in gluten free baking. The loaf was not bad, in fact, it was probably a revelation in terms of gluten free bread baking. But it was not what I wanted. I will continue to develop the recipe and see if I can create something crave worthy. It is a start and I am intrigued.

Condiment Party

Part of the hope in baking the bread on Friday was that I would have a nice loaf of bread that I could put my hot dogs on for our Super Bowl Sunday party. We decided to throw a Super not Superbowl Party, which eventually became just a Super Superbowl Party. The requirements for coming were to bring a beverage and a homemade condiment. The Baker made buns and we cooked up some great tasting dogs. The day before the big game, we spent a few hours in the kitchen making Maple Baked Beans, Chipotle Ketchup, Roasted Peppers, Caramelized Onions and Spicy Mustard.

Best hog dog buns anyone had ever tasted.

Hot dogs braised in white wine, onions and cloves.

Maple Glazed Beans. Cooked for 6 hours. YUM!

The party was awesome and the party-goers absolutely surprised and delighted me in the level in which they got into making condiments. They showed some great creativity. We had a few types of ketchup, honey mustard, sprouted mung bean relish, spicy thai relish, wasabi mayo, guacamole, tomatillo salsa, sauerkraut, cream cheese. You name it, we had it. It was really fascinating to watch the combination and methods that people chose in getting a maximum number of condiments on their dogs or plates. People had a great time and I was really blessed to have such a great group of people bless my home with their presence and my kitchen with their great dishes!