Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gluten-free Pantry Muffins - Blueberry and Chocolate Chip

I have had a box of Gluten-free Pantry Muffin and Scone mix for a long time now.  I don't know what I was waiting for, exactly.  Some moment of revelation when it would become clear to me that this was the time to make them?  Probably not.  Probably it just got hidden behind all of the other ingredients in my pantry.  Sad and forgotten on the back of the shelf.

But now it has its time to shine.  Instead of following the directions exactly as they were written, I substituted applesauce for some of the fat, used Pumpkin Spice soy milk instead of regular milk, upped the vanilla, and tossed blueberries into half the batter and chocolate chips into the other half.  Of course, this meant I had to sample one of each muffin when they came out of the oven, just to ensure the highest quality.  And highest quality they were - moist, but not too crumbly, and with a wonderful vanilla flavor that was perfectly complemented by the blueberries and chocolate chips.  I can absolutely recommend this mix - these muffins came together quickly and were completely delicious.  I have since been defrosting the ones that I froze, and they taste just as good as they did when they were fresh from the oven. 

Gluten-free Pantry Muffins Two Ways

1 package Gluten-free Pantry Muffin Mix
4 tbsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
3 tbsp. applesauce
2 eggs
1/2 cup Silk Pumpkin Spice Soy Milk (or plain)
1/2 cup rice milk or Trader Joe's Whole Grain Drink
1 tsp. gluten-free vanilla
1/2 - 1 cup blueberries (more if desired)
1/3 cup chocolate chips (more if desired)
Durkin Maple Cinnamon Spice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the Earth Balance buttery spread, applesauce, and the package of muffin mix.  Using a pasty mixer or a fork, cut the mix into the butter until a crumbly mixture forms.  Add the 2 eggs, the Pumpkin Spice soy milk, the rice milk, and vanilla and mix with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for about 2 - 4 minutes, or until all the lumps are gone.

If you want to make two different kinds of muffins, divide the dough in half.  Add the blueberries to one of the bowls, and the chocolate chips to the other. Pour the batter evenly into the muffin tins, filling them almost to the top (but don't overfill or they will spread too much onto the pan!).  Sprinkle the Durkin Maple Cinnamon Spice over the blueberry muffins.

Bake muffins for about 14 - 17 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and they are slightly browned on top.  Remove from oven and leave in the muffin pan for about 2 - 3 more minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Eat warm from the oven or wait until they are cooled.  Freeze the muffins you don't eat right away and defrost as needed.

Tip:  The blueberry muffins, when spread with maple butter or drizzled with a bit of maple syrup, taste exactly like a blueberry pancake!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Creamy (vegan!) Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Sauce

Tonight, exhausted from a full day of babysitting and with the prospect of another several hours of babysitting after dinner, I was looking for a new recipe to try that would be simple. Simple, but delicious.  

There is a place in Boston called Veggie Planet, which has a dish with some sort of amazing roasted red pepper and nut sauce.  I had a bag of cashews, and a jar of roasted red peppers I've had forever.  And I have a food processor.  What resulted was a rich, creamy, and thick sauce - I had to refrain from eating up every last bite of it.  When I started making it, I wasn't sure yet how I wanted to use this sauce, but as I stood over the stove, stirring and thinking, I decided that it would be an excellent base for a pizza.  And oh, was it ever.  But this sauce is so versatile that you could use it for all kinds of other things.  With pasta, on a sandwich - so many ways!  (See below for suggestions.)  So give it a try - it's vegan and gluten-free and full of flavor.  You'll love it.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Sauce

3 roasted red peppers
1/3 cup unsalted or lightly salted cashew nuts (I used the "50% less salt" kind from Trader Joe's)
1/4 - 1/2 cup almond milk (depending on how thick you want your sauce)
1 tsp. minced/crushed garlic
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (or to taste)
dash of cayenne pepper (optional; to taste)
dash of black pepper 
1 tsp. agave nectar OR 1 tsp. sugar 
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

In a food processor, combine the roasted red peppers and cashews and process on highest setting.  After about 1 minute, add 1/4 cup of almond milk and continue to process until it is very smooth.  

Put the processed mixture into a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat.  Add more almond milk if desired, the salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, agave nectar, and lemon juice and heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until the mixture becomes as thick as you want it to be. Tweak the spices as you stir to your own taste - the recipe above is just an approximation!  When you are happy with the taste and consistency, remove from heat.  Use immediately (see below) or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Ways to use this sauce:
-as a pasta sauce or (if you let it get thick enough) as a pesto to toss with angel hair pasta
-spoon hot over sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and brown rice
-spread over chicken and bake in the oven, covered OR spread over grilled chicken
-as a sandwich spread (would complement pesto extremely well)
-as a dip for crackers or pretzels (gluten-free, of course)
-as a delicious replacement for regular pizza sauce (see picture below!) with your favorite toppings (I sauteed a Spicy Jalapeno chicken sausage from Trader Joe's and topped two corn tortillas with a layer of the roasted red pepper sauce, the sausage, and then Daiya vegan cheese, and it was phenomenally good, and extremely fast)
Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Pizza

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Low(er) Fat Pumpkin Bread

I'm on a low(er) fat kick these days.  I guess I figure, with how terrible of a stress eater I am, and in my first semester of graduate school, I'd better at least mitigate how badly this could turn out.  And I think I've made myself feel less guilty for eating these treats.  Which, unfortunately, will probably just lead to my eating more of them.  But, shh.  Let's just say it's healthier this way.  

After the how well my low(er) fat banana bread turned out, I've been substituting applesauce for oil all over the place, and with great success.  You won't be able to tell that anything is different about this bread, except perhaps that there is less oily residue on your hands after you eat it.  But that's it.  No difference in taste or texture - it's just as good as you remember it.  And vegan friends, you can take it a step further, if you wish.  Go ahead and substitute Egg Replacer for the eggs to make this a delicious, completely animal-product-free dessert.  It will still taste fantastic.

Low(er) Fat Pumpkin Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup applesauce (use smooth or chunky depending on your own preference)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
 2 eggs (can replace with Egg Replacer for vegan bread)
1 cup Libby's pumpkin puree (*see note)
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup chestnut flour (can substitute sorghum flour)
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or more to your own taste)

Combine the oil and sugar well, and then beat in the eggs. Add the pumpkin puree and mix well. Combine the flours, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, and spices in a separate bowl and then add slowly to the wet mixture. Mix well and then pour into a greased or sprayed bread loaf pan and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 - 20 minutes, and then remove and continue to cool on a baking rack. Or, if you're like me and can't wait that long, serve warm from the pan with cup of hot, black coffee.

**If you want to make your own pumpkin puree, here's how:  simply take large slices of fresh pumpkin and bake at 350 for 1 - 1 1/2 hours in the oven. When it is very, very soft, remove from oven, scoop out the pumpkin flesh, and remove to a large bowl. If it is soft enough, you don't need to puree it (I did not puree mine because I don't have any electric mixing devices), but if you do have a way to do it, it would be best to puree it to remove all chunks. Store in the refrigerator if you will use it that day, and otherwise, store in 1 cup portions in the freezer until you need to use them.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Thai Skillet with Brown Rice

This is a lovely quick meal, with both sweet and spicy flavors, and it's a perfect way to use leftover cooked rice you may have in your fridge.  You can have it ready in less than 10 minutes!  You can play around with the ingredients, easily adapting it to any dietary requirements - leave out the meat, or use a different kind, and add any other vegetables you like.  I just added what I had in my own fridge.  So save this one for one of those nights when you are pressed for time, or are just too hungry to wait for a full meal to cook. 

Sweet and Spicy Thai Skillet with Brown Rice

Cooking spray or cooking oil
1 Spicy Jalapeno Chicken Sausage from Trader Joe's, sliced
1/2 cup sliced mini Portobello mushrooms
1/2 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
Chopped bell peppers, if desired
3 - 4 tsp. Thai Curry Paste (I used half Panaang, half red - but use your own favorite!)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 - 2 tsp. brown sugar
dash of salt
3/4 cup cooked brown rice

In a small saucepan, cook the broccoli florets in boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until tender (but not too tender).  Drain and set aside.

Coat a skillet with the cooking spray and spread the sliced sausage and mushrooms onto the bottom of the skillet.  Cook over medium-high heat until the sausage and mushrooms are browned to your liking (5 - 8 minutes).  While they are cooking, prepare the sauce:  place the curry paste into a small bowl and pour the 1/2 cup of boiling water over it to dissolve it.  Add the brown sugar and a dash of salt, and stir well.  When the sausage and mushrooms are cooked, pour the sauce over them and allow to simmer for about 5 more minutes.  Add the broccoli and toss to coat, and then add the cooked brown rice and continue to cook until it is all heated through.  Adjust seasonings as desired, and voila!  Dinner is served.