When life kicks you in the face, make cookies!!

Do you ever feel like you got run over by life? October felt like getting drug down the highway by a truck called academics. As a result, I have not done much blogging, much running, or much cooking. Which makes me sad. All of those things bring me joy. And fall is my favorite season for baking. Because I love all that is pumpkin and the way my house smells when there is goodness coming from my oven. There is something so cozy about baking on a crisp fall day.

But priorities are priorities. And priorities are school. I started Boston training on Monday… 24 weeks until the big day. I am going to experiment with a more strength-based training program. Similar to a Crossfit Endurance sort of program. And it makes me nervous as I come from the high-mileage = good marathon camp. So it will be a grand adventure. I will only be running 3 days per week. 3 quality runs per week though… some speed work, a medium-long tempo run, and a long run. The other days will be strength and conditioning days.

When life starts kicking you in the face, you need to take a break sometimes. So today I took a mental health day. And I finally finally finally got around to baking some cookies! They are soft and pillowy and delicious! And easy peasy.

I rarely ever buy gluten free flour blends… I prefer to make my own. But sometimes life gets busy and a mix is the way to go in order to retain the little sanity that I have left. So I picked up some of Bob’s Red Mill GF flour blend and off I went. I was looking for a good dessert recipe and found a recipe for gluten-free vegan cookies on the back of the package. So I decided to give it a shot! I tweaked a few things and put a pumpkin twist on it and I am quite pleased with how they turned out!

Chocolate Chip Cookies 

(adapted from this recipe)

1 cup gluten-free oats (or oat flour)
1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour blend (or whatever your favorite is)
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I imagine applesauce would work here too)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2 TBSP vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325.

Obliterate your oats in a food processor/blender. I added all the dry ingredients (oats through baking soda) to the food processor and pulsed until well combined.

Add your wet ingredients (eggs, pumpkin, coconut oil, and vanilla) and mix until combined. This dough is pretty thick, so I started the mixing process in the food processor and then transferred to a mixing bowl and finished it by hand. Stir in your chocolate chips by hand.

Drop by the spoonful (the size of the spoon is up to you) onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate trays, and bake for 7 more minutes (a total of 14 minutes). Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from tray. They are good straight from the oven (unless, of course, you burn your mouth on the chocolate) but they are better if you let them cool a little bit.

That one time I made half a gallon of barbecue sauce…

Why? Because my parents celebrated their 30th anniversary recently and naturally, we needed to have a party. We looked at a few options and ultimately decided that making food would be the most cost effective. And the easiest way to cater to special diets. So off I went to Sam’s Club and filled my fridge with enough food to feed a small army. Which means enough to feed my immediate family for 3 days 🙂

The menu:

Appetizers –
Corn chips and Salsa
Veggie Tray and Hummus

Main –
Shredded BBQ pork and shredded BBQ chicken (Easiest way to shred chicken ever)
Homemade BBQ sauce (I used a modified version of this recipe)

My version:

2 cans tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock for vegetarian/vegan)
1/8 cup molasses
1/2 TBSP maple syrup
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 TBSP liquid aminos (or coconut aminos or gluten-free soy sauce/ tamari)
1/2 TBSP onion powder
1/2 TBSP garlic powder
1/2 TBSP smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and let it simmer for 10-20 minutes on the stove. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Or just mix and put it on your meat as it cooks.

Also, I quadrupled this recipe and stored it in a huge container. This was enough barbecue sauce to cover 30 pounds of meat. This recipe should make about 2 cups of sauce. As you can see, I made a lot!

BBQ sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sides

Grilled Veggie and Wild Rice Salad – stay tuned for the recipe!
Rainbow Kale Slaw (got rave reviews, even from the kale haters in the crowd. I have made this a couple times and it always goes over well)
Fruit salad – watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapes (I just used what was in season/ on sale)

rice saladkale slaw

 

Dessert

Sheet Cake from our Sam’s Club…. complete with a poor lettering job
Banana Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon “Buttercream” (gluten free, dairy free)

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It took a ton of prep work – I don’t think I’ve ever produced that much food in my life. It was like Thanksgiving on steroids. Fortunately, I had a bunch of help, which made it all easy!

Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Cinnamon Buttercream

I subscribe to the Cake Blog because I love looking at all the fun cakes and when this little gem showed up in my inbox, I knew I needed it in my life. Banana Choco Hazelnut Cake? Um, yes please! And with my parents anniversary party coming up, I had a great excuse to make it. With a few modifications, of course, as all-purpose flour and dairy products are not going to fly.

I try not to make recipes for the first time before an event/ gathering unless the recipe got lots of great reviews and I follow it almost to the letter. I also try to test out substitutions before I make food for people other than my immediate family. I just want to know that what I’m going to be serving people is delicious. People have this idea that gluten-free and dairy-free = disgusting, so I try to ensure that I’m not perpetuating the stereotype. At any rate, I broke both of my rules here and made a cake I had never tried before and experimented with substitutions.

I was ecstatic (and relieved) when this cake turned out wonderfully! I got great feedback from everyone and my uncle even ate it for breakfast. It turned out rather rich with the chocolate and buttercream, but definitely delicious and I would say that it is worthy of a special occasion.

So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a dairy-free, gluten-free Banana Chocolate Cake.

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Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Cinnamon “Buttercream”

Ingredients

3/4 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup teff flour

1/4 cup arrowroot starch

3/4 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 ripe bananas

1/2 cup Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread (or butter, if that’s your thing)

3/4 cup coconut sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup So Delicious Coconut Yogurt (Greek style)

 

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare a 9″ baking pan. I used a springform pan lined with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, mash up the bananas. Set aside.

3. In another small bowl, mix all your dry ingredients together.

4. In a large bowl, mix the butter with an electric mixer until smooth.

5. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy.

6. Mix in vanilla and eggs.

7. Add in half of the dry ingredient mixture and combine.

8. Add yogurt, mix well, then add in the rest of the dry ingredients

9. Fold in mashed bananas. Mine were still pretty chunky, so I just used my hand mixer to combine everything together.

10. Bake for ~35-40 minutes, until cake is golden brown

 

I made this a layer cake –  I cut it in half, added a chocolate ganache layer, and topped with chocolate ganache and cinnamon buttercream.

Alternatively, you could just top it with ganache or buttercream or both.

 

 

The finished product!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Ganache

8-10 oz dark chocolate chips (I like Guittard brand – they are dairy free!)

1/3 cup coconut oil

Melt in a double boiler over low heat until completely melted and combined. Allow to cool and slather on your cake!

 

Buttercream

1 cup Earth Balance soy-free spread (or butter)

Cream from one (14.5 oz) can full-fat coconut milk (or heavy whipping cream – 1/2 to 3/4 cup)

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

Mix your butter/ butter substitute until smooth. Add in coconut milk and vanilla and whip on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add in cinnamon and mix to combine. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

 

Recipe Notes:

If you don’t have the specified flours, you can try 1 1/2 cups of your favorite all-purpose gluten free flour. Check to see if your blend contains xanthan/ guar gum.

You can use regular Greek Yogurt in place of the coconut milk Greek yogurt if you can do dairy. Likewise, you can use butter in all the places that I used Earth Balance. I don’t think coconut oil would work because of its low melting point.

 

 

This post was featured on Allergy Free Wednesdays.

Mini Chocolate Mousse Pies

I love summer. I love being outside. My class asked if we could have class outside this week and I said yes. How could I say no?! So we looked ridiculous practicing our first aid skills in the grass in front of the building with a bunch of traffic flying by. But it was glorious.

I love fall marathons… the weather is usually perfect. But the only thing I don’t love about summer is how hot it can get so early; what I don’t love about fall marathons is the fact that you have to either run in the zillion degree heat or get up super early to run when its cool. I am almost always in the “get up early” camp. I hate being hot. And when you are running (if you are me, anyway), 70 degrees feels like 90. The hard part about being in the “get up early camp” is actually getting up early. (It helps if you go to bed early, just FYI) But I love the peacefulness and the stillness of first thing in the morning. The sun is out but it’s not blazing hot, the streets are usually quiet, and you see other people out running… the people who are happy to be running usually wave.

I am less than 1 week into marathon training and I am tired. How does this happen? Sunday’s long run was the official onset of training. And I am beat. Tired tired tired. So my morning run has gotten pushed back a little bit because bed sounds so much better. Upon review of my training logs, I realized that I have only had one 30+ mile week this whole year and I will hit 35 miles this week after 2 weeks of almost no running. So my heaviest mileage week this year to date combined with 3 days of Crossfit – I think I know why I’m tired.

So what’s a girl with no energy to do? Sleep is a good option, obviously. Make coffee! Make things with coffee. I am like a caffeinated Julia Child (“I like cooking with coffee, sometimes I even put it in the food” – less funny than her version). I made some cold brew concentrate last week and am pretty pleased with how it turned out! Check it out – tasty cold brew.

And with a good solid nap and some delicious coffee, I have the energy to create culinary goodness yet again. Like mini chocolate mousse pies.

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There’s a small chance this is the most delicious fluffy vegan chocolate mousse I have ever created. This might actually just be the most delicious thing I have ever created. And for reasons unbeknownst to me, I felt compelled to measure things. With actual measuring cups and then write down what I did. So I actually have a recipe for this deliciousness!! That almost never happens. I usually just throw things together and hope they work out well… some things turn out awesome and I don’t remember how I made them! Anyway…. this recipe is super delicious, super quick and super easy – if you can press buttons, you can make mousse. And you can’t even taste the avocados, I promise. Just pure chocolaty goodness.

 

Mini Chocolate Mousse Pies

Yield: 20-24 mini pies

Ingredients

Pie Crust

Whatever pie crust you want – I use THIS ONE from Kelly at The Spunky Coconut.

Mousse

2 large ripe avocados
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup maple syrup, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
cream from 1 can of full-fat coconut milk

Garnishes (optional)

sliced strawberries
coconut flakes
chocolate shavings
slivered almonds

 

Make your pie crust. Press it into the bottom of greased muffin tins (I always just use cupcake liners) and bake according to directions. You can make them into little mini cup shapes if you like – they hold the mousse better. Keep an eye on them – they probably will not need to bake as long as indicated in the recipe. If you use the recipe above, I bake them at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Put everything but the coconut milk in a food processor and puree until silky smooth. No one likes chunky mousse. (Or chunky moose).

Add in your coconut cream and puree again. If you want it super super fluffy, whip your coconut cream first and then gently fold it into your avocado puree. (check out this link for help with coconut cream)

When your little pie crusts have cooled, spoon your mousse on top. Place in the refrigerator to set – an hour or two. Garnish with whatever you like.

Enjoy!! You could also make this as one big pie – I imagine it would be delicious!

 

 

This post was featured on Allergy Free Wednesdays.

 

Banana Cake

I wanted to cut out a nice piece of these bars and take a good picture. I even left a note by the pan. My mother promptly disregarded the note and dug in. I started to go on a rant about how I wanted to take a picture and it needed to be nice looking and so on.

She then declared the bars “the best dessert that I have ever made”. I then forgave her for not waiting for pictures.

I have been trying to create my own recipes. I am comfortable making some tweaks to other recipes but have not gotten very adventurous in the creation! I am always curious as to how all of the amazing bloggers I follow come up with such delicousness.

My method for this cake was “throw everything in a food processor and hope for the best”. Most of the time, the second or third or fourteenth try comes out delicious. Rarely do you get a hole in one. This cake came together magically. I am so glad I wrote down what I used and actually measured it as I went. I definitely want to make this one again!

My mother made tons of banana bars when we were growing up… It was our “go-to” dessert and I have been trying to recreate it. Completely by accident, these are the closest that I have come to reproducing those.

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Banana Cake

Makes: 9 Bars

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dates (I used medjool)
3 ripe bananas
1-1/2 cups almond meal
2 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil (softened/melted)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
10 drops vanilla liquid stevia (or to taste)

Directions:
Soak dates in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften. Discard soaking liquid.

In a food processor, blend dates and bananas and puree until smooth.

Add in almond flour and pulse until well mixed. Add in eggs and mix well.

Throw everything else into the food processor and puree until it’s all combined nicely.

Pour into a greased 8×8 pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

This cake is soft and dense and delicious. I topped it with a cashew cream frosting, but it would be equally delicious with a bit of powdered sugar and cinnamon or a chocolate ganache. For more chocolaty goodness, you could add some miniature chocolate chips to the batter.