Thursday, 28 May 2015

Sarah's No-Bake Chunky Choc Chip Cookies

Store-bought cookies made it to my hit list over a year ago when I pledged to stop eating processed baked goods.  Most cookies don't accommodate my dairy allergy and many more with their hydrogenated and sugary fillings give me heartburn.  After purchasing a food dehydrator and venturing into making a lot of fruit leathers, I began my no-bake cookie adventures.

We have a few no-bake cookie recipes that we enjoy eating but these are the favourite.  My oldest daughter can't walk by the cookie container without eating one so I probably need to put them out of her path to make them last! At least I know that she is getting a sweet that is nutrient dense and gets her to eat a few more nuts in her diet ~thankfully none of us have a nut allergy.  Should walnuts not be your favourite then simply swap out for a more preferred nut.

So in addition to eating more nuts and bananas (oh yeah, I didn't eat many of them either),  I am now working in more lupin flake into our no-bake cookies and our homemade baked goods.  Lupins are reputed to be high in fibre, low in carbohydrates, and high in protein and I can buy it here in Western Australia as lupin flake.  I use it in our granola bars, bread, cookies, and waffles.  I was amazed at the nutritional value in lupins and now it's a happy addition to these chewy, chunky, chocolate chip cookies; leave the lupin flake out if you can't find it.

I realize there is no shortage of sugar in these cookie delights but there is no refined white sugar in them which seems to cause me as much grief as my dairy nemesis so if you need sugar fix then these will fit the bill.  Feel free to cut back on the dried berries and/or the chocolate chips if they are too much for you.  Either way, these are a very satisfying cookie for someone with a sweet tooth that is guaranteed to pack a nutritional punch.  

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup pitted dates (if they are super dry then soften in boiling water and drain)
  • 1/2 tsp.of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or  1/2 tsp. vanilla paste which is very extravagant but delicious)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup of lupin flake (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of seeds or nuts (I used pumpkin & sunflower combo)
  • 3 Tbsps of ground flaxseed
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup of dried goji berries, raisins, cranberries, or blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

In a food processor, finely chop walnuts and pitted dates; add salt, vanilla and banana and blend until smooth.  In a medium sized bowl, mix banana mixture with oats, lupin flake, seeds, flax, coconut, cocoa powder, dried berries, and chocolate until combined.

Dip a tablespoon into water and spoon as compactly as possible onto a nonstick pan or dehydrator sheet. Dehydrate for 16 - 24hrs depending on the temperature setting  of your dehydrator but should you not have a dehydrator, preheat your oven to 300 F then turn it off and place the cookies in the oven to leave with the door shut until the oven is cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to a month but I would be surprised if they last that long. Makes approximately 24 cookies.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Wow, I feel my sourdough bread journey has been epic so far!  I can't remember making so many loaves of bread in such a short period of time in my quest to successfully achieve a good sourdough loaf.  All my loaves to date have had a different amount of lift but all with very good flavour.  My early loaves were dense and chewy ~ the family loved them but I found the crust too heavy and I knew they weren't rising the way they should.

While some brag that sourdough making is very easy, I  have found that it is a delicate balance of a good sourdough starter; rising times; and kneading methods to achieve the perfect loaf.  On most of the sourdough chat forums, many have experienced the same hit and miss progress while they chased the flavour, texture, and crumb that are considered ideal in the world of sourdough bread.  I know I have far to go, but after many failures with others recipes, I have settled on this combination of my own that has produced a great flavoured sourdough with a beautiful rise of more than double and a very nice crumb.

A sourdough starter fed with pretty much all organic rye flour has given me the most consistent results.  White, whole wheat, or a combination thereof for feeding has ended with a sickly starter smelling of nail varnish.  The starter appears to need more frequent feeding with these types of flours and since I only like to feed my sourdough once or twice a week, I prefer to store my starter in the fridge; keep it to a stiff paste consistency; and feed it rye flour only when I bake or once a week ~ whichever comes first.

This loaf is made without a larger pre-ferment made the night before. I mix it up with a portion of sourdough starter ~ straight out of the fridge ~ first thing in the morning and form it into a loaf at about the 6 or 7 hour mark and then leave it for a second rise an hour or two more.  My recipe will make one large sized baguette or two smaller loaves.  Try making single batch instead of doubling the recipe so you can practice and modify your techniques.  I now only knead my bread using the slap and fold method which is easier to use with wet doughs but also incorporates more air into the dough and has resulted in a much nicer crumb.  This kneading technique was another breakthrough moment for me and I encourage you to try it.  I have provided a link at the bottom of the page should you wish to see it in action.

  • 1 1/2 cups of warm filtered water
  • 1/2 cup of warm soy milk or any milk of your choice
  • 1 Tbsp. honey, maple syrup, or natural cane sugar
  • 1 cup of sourdough starter
  • 2 1/4 cups of white bread flour
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

In the morning mix the water, milk, honey and starter and blend well.  Next add the white flour and mix well and then finally add the remaining flour and salt.  The dough will be incredibly sticky and you will want to add more flour to it but don't.  Next, turn out the dough on  an unfloured counter and use the slap and fold method of kneading which consists of scooping up the dough on either side; flipping over and slapping it down quickly followed by stretching it toward you with your thumbs; then folding it over  on itself away from you.  Repeat these steps (see link below for more info) for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Make the dough into a ball and place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, then set aside for 6-8 hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Dough after kneading.

When the dough has doubled, gently scrape it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured countertop.  Don't punch down as the idea is to keep as much air in the dough as possible.  Gently form the dough into a square and then fold the dough by 1/3 toward you and press down on the seam with the heel of your hand.  Repeat this fold again on the opposite side bringing the seam to the centre and press down.  Now fold the dough tightly in half and gently roll and shape as desired in a tin or in a banneton/ proofing basket.  Leave to rise again for another two to three hours.

Second rise in my baking cloche.

When the dough has doubled again, bake the loaf at 425F /220C for 35-40 minutes in a bread cloche, bread tin or on a pizza stone. However you choose to bake the bread, make sure the seam side is down for baking.  The baked loaf should  make a hollow sound, when knocked on the bottom, if it is done.
Whole wheat sourdough hot out of the oven. Yes, my scoring
technique needs some work or a much sharper knife!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

I always make chocolate cake for birthdays and occasional lunch box treats and I wanted to try a sourdough cake since I currently have three sourdough starters with which to experiment.  My birthday came and went just recently and this was the cake my kids made me for the festivities.

The process of fermenting the ingredients is reputed to breakdown the mixture in a way that makes the final baked product more easily digestible and have a lower glycemic index (GI) which is the effect food has on a person's blood glucose level.  If digestion and low GI isn't a concern of yours then using a variety of sourdough recipes is also a convenient way to use up your discarded portion of sourdough when you must feed your starter ~ so the more recipes you have on hand then the easier it is not to waste a drop.  Fermented baked goods also are supposed to have a longer counter life and stay moist for longer.

This recipe was adapted from a bunch of sourdough cake recipes floating out there in cyberspace.  King Arthur Flour has a recipe that is pretty similiar to this but makes a larger cake.  Feel free to double this for a larger sheet cake or a double layer cake.  The cake is really easy to make and stays moist and yummy for days depending on what you use for icing.  When I have made it for lunch boxes, I don't ice it at all.  In cool weather, I like a homemade coconut butter for an icing with a touch of maple syrup for a bit of sweetness; it hardens like a ganache but isn't crazy sweet and is easy on the digestion.  In hot weather, any icing is in trouble stored on the counter especially in Perth heat.

  • 1/2 cup of soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup of sourdough starter
  • 1 cup of whole wheat or white flour
  • 1 cup of natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup of melted coconut oil or any other oil of your choice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. of Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 egg or 3 Tbsps. water mixed with 1 Tbsp. of ground flax

In a medium-sized mixing  bowl, mix together the soy milk and cider vinegar.  Once the milk mixture has thickened then whisk the coffee and sourdough starter and then add the flour and mix until smooth.  Cover and set this aside from 3-8 hours.  The mixture will get somewhat elastic and rise a bit.

After fermentation

Once the mixture has suitably fermented, mix sugar, oil, egg/flax egg, salt, vanilla, cocoa powder and baking soda.  After thoroughly mixing, add to the fermented mixture and mix well.

Finished batter waiting for the oven to heat up.
See the bubbles?
Pour batter into a greased and baking paper lined 8 inch square pan or equivalent sized cake tin and bake at 350F or 180C for 35 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Spinach & Seed Crackers

I have been making my own crackers for a while after finding that I am more and more sensitive to the additives and flavourings on and in store-bought commercially made crackers.  Homemade crackers are more nutritionally dense and give you a chance to pump up the nutrients per serving.

These crackers are inspired by a combination of recipes found on the net but especially the  Chia Crispbreads found at Anja's Food 4 Thought.  I make Anja's recipe all the time but this was my interpretation of it with my favourite spices, flour, and spinach.  Leave out the spinach or simply substitute it with kale ~ either way these crackers are delish!

Spinach & Seed Crackers with a side of hummus.
  • 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsps. flax seeds, ground or whole
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup whole rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 2 Tbsps. rice bran oil or olive oil
  • 250 grams spinach, washed & pureed

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.   Add water, oil, and spinach to the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.  Set aside for 20-30 minutes and then spread on a baking sheet between two pieces of baking paper and roll out as thinly as possible.  Remove the top piece of baking paper and score into cracker shapes with a large knife before placing in preheated oven.

Bake at 350F/ 180C for 30-40 minutes or until crisp and toasted.  Baking times may vary depending on the thickness of your cracker so keep an eye on them to ensure the perfect toastiness.  Let cool for a few minutes before breaking them up either along the scored lines or freestyle when you forget to score them for baking - like me!  Store the crackers in an airtight container for up to a month.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Tandoori Chicken Marinade

I love, love, love Indian food!  That said, I think I have mentioned my dairy allergy and unfortunately most Indian restaurants use butter, cream, and/or yogurt in their recipes so we don't eat Indian out anymore.  In my quest to enjoy a good Indian meal, I have spent a lot of time developing recipes that are dairy-free and also easy on the digestion.  I only have my Korma and 'Butter' chicken recipes up on the site but will eventually get around to the rest of our favourites.  

This Tandoori marinade is great with any kind of chicken.  We like chicken thighs because they tend to have a lot more flavour and are more tender than chicken breast but use your favourite cut of chicken including drumsticks. 

  • 1 cup plain soy milk (or any kind of milk)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper, ground
  • 2 bird's eye chilli peppers
  • 2 tsps. sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger, grated or chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut roughly into chunks

Place all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour marinade over chicken and marinate in a plastic bag or glass container for 12-24 hours in the fridge.  Remove chicken from marinade and barbecue or bake until cooked through.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Toasted Pumpkin & Squash Seeds

Well, it's officially autumn here in Australia and despite my North American brain saying it should be spring, the weather truly is significantly chillier than it has been.  With autumn comes cool weather crops for my garden and I am enjoying an abundance of kale and silverbeet ~ or swiss chard to my North American friends ~ and am hoping to see some cauliflower if the bugs don't get them first!

Seeds ready for toasting in the frying pan.
For me, autumn traditionally is a time for squash, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds.  Lucky for me, Australia supplies squash all year round which they refer to as pumpkin.  Did you know that you can eat the seeds from squash?  Most people I know just chuck these gems in the garbage when they are preparing their squash/ pumpkin for dinner.  Our family loves to toast them and our only problem is that there are never enough seeds in the pumpkin to keep up with our appetite!

The next time you scoop out a squash or pumpkin, save the seeds.  Simply separate the 'guts' of the pumpkin/squash from the seeds, give the seeds a rinse and spread out on a piece of baking paper to dry a bit.  Once dry, dump the seeds still in their shell in a small frying pan with about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and toast with a pinch of salt until golden brown. Sometimes I add a pinch of homemade seasoning to finish them off.

Pumpkin seeds, especially with their shell, are an excellent source of zinc and are very high in fibre so make so make an effort to give this snack a try!

Toasted spaghetti squash seeds.

Pumpkin Seed or Popcorn Seasoning

  • 1 1/2 Tbsps. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder or dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

In a mini food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until finely ground.  Store in an airtight container for up to a year.


Monday, 4 May 2015

Spinach & Seed Cracker Crisps

I started making my own crackers about a year ago in my quest to reduce refined and processed products.  I was looking to make something that packed a big nutritional punch and got to work researching a homemade cracker that tasted great, was pretty easy to put together and tasted yummy. This recipe was inspired numerous crispbread seed cracker recipes that are out on the net.  I find everyone has their favourite combination of seeds, seasonings and flour for these crackers so this is my version with my favourite spice combination.  The recipe can be made with pureed spinach, kale or completely without either.  If you want to leave out the spinach then simply leave it out and proceed with the cracker recipe with the remaining ingredients.  Besan (chickpea), rye, and whole wheat flour also make a great substitute in place of the buckwheat flour. I make the recipe both with and without spinach and they are both equally yummy!

  • 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsps. flax seeds, ground or whole
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup of whole rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsps. rice bran oil or olive oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • 250 grams of fresh spinach, pureed

In a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.  Add water, oil and spinach to the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.  Spread on a baking sheet between two pieces of baking paper and roll out as thinly as possible.  Remove the top piece of baking paper and score into cracker shapes with a large knife before placing in preheated oven.

Bake at 350F/ 180C for 35-45 minutes or until crisp and toasted.  Baking times may vary depending on the thickness of your cracker so keep an eye on them to ensure the perfect toastiness.  Let cool for a few minutes before breaking them up either along the scored lines or freestyle when you forget to score them for baking - like me!  Store the crackers in an airtight container for up to a month.