Saturday, September 25, 2010

Low(er) Fat Banana Bread

Old habits die really, really hard.  It turns out that with me, procrastination always manifests itself in baking.  I can't get away from it.  I find it particularly hard to stay out of the kitchen when I have a looming reading assignment, or a tedious paper to write.  And as a new graduate student, I am very quickly lapsing back into the ways of my undergraduate days.  Thus, the result of homework assignments for me often look like this (see above picture).

I don't know if you can really make something like banana bread truly healthy unless you pare it down to just the banana, but with this recipe, I tried to make it less atrociously fattening.  I replaced half the oil called for in the original recipe with my homemade applesauce, and I used olive oil instead of butter or shortening, which is the good kind of fat (monounsaturated fat).  So yes - you have free license not to feel guilty about eating this one.  This was also my first attempt at using chestnut flour.  Chestnut flour looks a bit like sorghum, but perhaps a bit finer grind, and has a lovely nutty smell and flavor that can be a delicious addition to baked goods.  A bag of it was given to me by a friend, who tried making a cake with only chestnut flour and found it to be far too overpowering.  So, heeding her advice, I used only a small bit in this recipe, and I think it was a success!

And oh, my goodness, this was good.  If the pictures look good, it tasted 100 times better.  My apartment smelled like fresh banana bread long before it was actually done, leading to a fairly torturous 40 minute wait until it was finished baking and I could try a piece hot from the oven.  It tastes just like I remember banana bread tasting, and it didn't crumble apart like so many other sad attempts at gluten-free baking. It baked beautifully all the way through, with a lovely brown crust on top and perfect moist consistency on the inside, and no mushy, forgotten wet pockets.  I made mine plain, but this would be delicious with chocolate chips, nuts, or coconut mixed into the batter, too.  You could even go crazy and swirl in some peanut butter or sunflower seed butter right into the bread!  (Disclaimer:  all of those suggestions would totally negate the effort to make this a "lower fat" banana bread - but - would make it taste even more amazing.)

So if you have a deadline coming up, this is the project for you.  Set those books aside, roll up your sleeves, and start mashing some bananas.

Low(er) Fat Banana Bread

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed well
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (make sure it's gluten-free!)
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup chestnut flour (can substitute sorghum flour if desired)
2/3 cup white rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

2 - 3 tbsp. non-dairy milk
Optional additional mix-ins:  chocolate chips, flaked coconut, your favorite kind of nut or dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray a standard bread pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the olive oil, applesauce, and sugar.  Beat in the eggs, and then the mashed bananas until the batter is fairly smooth (your odd chunk of banana or applesauce is fine).  Add the vanilla extract and stir to blend.  You can beat with a handmixer, but it works just fine if you mix by hand, too!

In a separate bowl, measure the gluten-free flours and mix them together with the baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and cinnamon (if desired) until well-blended.  Add about one quarter of the flour mixture at a time to the wet ingredients, stirring well each time.  Finally, add 2 - 3 tablespoons of non-dairy milk (I used Trader Joe's Organic Whole Grain Drink) and mix well.

Pour the batter into the bread pan and place in the oven immediately.  Bake for about 1 hour, but start checking it after 45 minutes to see if it is done (ovens may be hotter than the temperature you set them for!).  When a toothpick or knife comes out of the tallest part of the loaf clean, it's done!

Serve warm or chilled.  With gluten-free baked goods, you will usually preserve the freshness better by freezing individual slices and then defrosting/reheating as needed.

Tip:  If you like peanut butter, there is probably no better snack than peanut butter on banana bread!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Cheesy" Chicken Parmesan

Remember chicken parmesan, fellow dairy- and gluten-free friends?  Remember the cheesy goodness that melted onto the chicken, and the delightful sprinkling of parmesan cheese that danced across the pasta?

Well, remember no more.  Taste.

Well, I won't go so far as to claim that this tastes exactly like the "real" thing.  I don't even know that I can fully remember what the "real" thing tastes like at this point.  But - what I can claim that this is really, really good.  Daiya Vegan Cheese is, in my opinion, the best cheese substitute out there right now, at least of the ones I have tried.  And I have tried a lot of them, friends.  This is so simple to throw together, it will be done before you know it.  But it won't taste that way.

"Cheesy" Chicken Parmesan

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast per person
Marinara sauce (your favorite brand - I used Prego Tomato Basil Marinara)
Daiya Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
Thai Kitchen Rice Noodles

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

In a frying pan, saute the chicken breast until both sides are browned.  Place in a small baking dish, and spoon marinara sauce over the top, and then sprinkle with a generous topping of the Daiya cheese.  Place in the oven for about 10 - 15 minutes, until the chicken is done and the cheese is all melted.

Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil.  Place your dry Thai Kitchen noodles in a glass bowl, and pour the boiling water over them so they are completely covered.  Let the noodles soak for at least 4 - 6 minutes, or until they are done to your liking.  Drain, then remove to a pan and toss with heated marinara sauce.  Sprinkle in a bit of the Daiya cheese and stir until it melts into the sauce. 

Serve pasta next to a baked chicken breast.  Most fun is to eat pasta by twirling with a spoon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blueberry Applesauce

It's apple season.  That means weekend trips to apple orchards to take a hayride out into the tree thickets, munching on delicious fruit straight from the tree as you forage for apples that have somehow escaped the notice of apple-pickers past.  A breeze drifts by and you notice a slight chill in the air.  There are children and parents carefully selecting large pumpkins from a hay-strewn patch.

This story almost always ends the same way.  Caught up in the romantic notion of autumn, surrounded by flowering trees and with apples practically falling at your feet, you buy a bag.  Perhaps you buy a 20 pound bag.  And then you get home, and you stare at the bag of apples you've bought, and you think:  What the heck am I going to do with these?

I have yet to finish my own apples from last weekend off, and I only took one-third of the bag that my cousin, her boyfriend, and I bought.  But for a start, I decided to try making applesauce.  And then, halfway through cooking it, I decided to make half of it blueberry applesauce because....well, just because.  Because I had blueberries, and I was curious.  And oh, am I glad I did... 

Both versions of this turned out to be delicious.  You can add more or less sugar (even no sugar!) depending on your own taste and how sweet your apples are on their own.  Mine were a bit tart, so I went the sugar route.  But you don't have to follow this recipe exactly.  Let it tell you what to do.  And if you don't want the blueberries?  Leave 'em out!  Or add your own favorite fruit, and see what happens.

Blueberry Applesauce

6 medium-large apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 cup water
up to 1/4 cup brown sugar
up to 1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice OR 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 sticks cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
dash of vanilla extract (if desired - make sure it's gluten-free!)
1 cup frozen blueberries, rinsed

Place everything but the blueberries into a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes, or until the apples are becoming very soft.  Adjust the spices and sugar to your own taste.  Add the blueberries and stir well.  Continue to simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes until the fruit is falling apart.  Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher or a fork.

If desired, serve warm over ice cream or cake, or serve chilled.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sauteed Asparagus with Dill

A breezy summer evening.  Grilling in the shady warmth of a patio overflowing with thriving green plants.  The smell of hickory almost hugging you as it bastes your dinner in its aroma.  Fat pieces of chicken sizzling under a thick, red, homemade barbecue sauce, which caramelizes slowly over the heat of the coals.

And inside, the smell of asparagus filling the room as it jumps lightly in the pan, hopping with bursts of heat.  The perfect green complement to the deep red of barbecued chicken and light, summery yellow of roasted corn.  All tasting delightfully of hickory.

My cousin Erin used a simple recipe for this asparagus, and one that can pretty much entirely made to your own taste, so the measurements are not exact.  It's what you want it to be. 

And on top of being delicious, asparagus packs a nice punch of nutrients, being high in magnesium, zinc, and iron.  It's also rich in protein, fiber, and an array of vitamins, including vitamins A, C, E, and K.  It's a wonderful weight-loss food, too, as it's very low in fat.  Can it get any better?

So, enjoy!  Saute up some of this asparagus to go with any meal, and adjust the seasonings to your own taste.  You can't go wrong - I promise.

Sauteed Asparagus with Dill

Trimmed asparagus tops
Olive oil to taste
1 tsp. dill (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the asparagus in cool water.  Trim by removing the bottom third of each stalk, which is the toughest part.  If you bend the asparagus, it will break naturally at the point at which it goes from tender to tough.  How convenient!

In a large nonstick pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the asparagus (add only enough at one time to create a single layer) and turn to coat with the oil.  Sprinkle about 1 tsp. of dill and salt and pepper over the entire layer (or more or less depending on your own taste) and continue to saute for another 5 - 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender but still slightly crispy.  It should be bright green in color still.  Serve immediately, or if you are serving it later, cover until ready to eat. 

Check out other recipes that use asparagus on Foodista:

Asparagus on FoodistaAsparagus