in the kitchen: apple-carrot cake

I have an abundance of carrots and apples in my fridge. I’m leaving town on Thursday morning and will have house guests until then, which means either I need extra stuff to feed them with, or I have to balance eating out with not letting my fridge go to waste. Also, I’ve been trying to taste things lately that I’ve always thought I hated, because I was an incredibly picky eater as a kid (except for, ironically, just about anything made from wheat). One of the things I have always found disgusting is carrot cake.

No more, no more. This morning I used this recipe from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, with a couple modifications. First, I had brown sugar, so I used that. Also, you don’t need a VitaMix. I only have a small food processor, so I threw everything into my Osterizer instead, and damn if that blender can’t do anything it puts its mind to. It made a great pulp in just a few minutes. I subbed all-purpose flour for sorghum flour. Aside from that, it’s all like it was on the original website, and it was amazing! Even my non-dietarily restricted neighbor thought it was amazing.

No photo today, sorry. But go make it! It was the perfect thing to help me transition from sweet stuff to semi-sweet, because the sweet is all natural, and you don’t feel guilty when you’re having a third piece when you know a large amount of the bread is carrots and apples.

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inventory time!

Cereal has always been my weakness, and when you’re in a position to reduce your carbs and starch, it’s even more of something to get rid of. But it’s hard, because it’s so easy, so comforting, so delicious. There’s no way I’ll ever totally give cereal up, but I’ve been trying to reduce my dependency on it, especially now that I live on such a tiny budget and gluten-free cereal is so expensive. Plus, it’s basically empty calories, so I end up eating more throughout the entire day, which is calories and money out the door.

So, step 1. Change from sugary, starchy, empty cereal to filling cereal. That means cereal with fiber and protein, and that means the homemade, low-sugar, delicious granola I’ve been making from scratch.

Step 2. When it’s not a morning where I have somewhere to be first thing (i.e. four or five days a week), make something healthier, more filling, and just plain more interesting. If I want to get better at cooking, I have to practice, experiment, and get better at following recipes. And I have to do that all without buying some of the stuff I really want, because I can’t afford it, like cute little ramekins and a food scale.

Step 3. Be more efficient in the ingredients I use. Store things better, buy only what I can eat, and find recipes for the week that use the ingredients I buy in bulk (right now I have lots of carrots, onions, apples, and mushrooms) in varying ways.

So for breakfast this morning, instead of my usual egg fallback, I made pancakes out of almond meal (aka pancakes that are full of protein, omegas, and healthy fat rather than starch and sugar), stevia, and olive oil, covered them with liliko’i jam and a little syrup, and had a delicious apple with it. Apples here are amazing! I can’t get enough. And compared to my usual, much larger breakfasts, I feel full and happy with less. Also, almond pancakes are a lovely brown color and have a kind of natural, almond sweetness to them without needing sugar. I did add stevia, but I’m thinking of trying it again with applesauce to replace both the egg and the sweetener. Might be interesting.

Then I found this recipe at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, which is perfect because it’s the kind of recipe I need with the sorts of ingredients I have an abundance of. So it was off to my cabinet to check my flour inventory. I found what I think is all-purpose gf flour (somehow it’s not labeled, but I don’t know what else would be in a plastic bag that looks like flour except flour, and I haven’t bought regular flour in ages), xanthan gum, garbanzo flour, almond meal, and my pao de queijo mix, which I can’t have anymore because I can’t have cheese, but since the flour is vacuum sealed and cheeseless, I’m assuming it’s still good and useable. And according to the package, it’s just tapioca flour with emulsifier and baking soda already in there, so it’s like ready-made baking mix. So I have a ton of flour options, and I can’t wait to get started on more savory, healthy, filling baking. I need a change. This will be good.

in the kitchen: homemade granola

Absolutely the first thing I have to tell you is that you should not cook it in a loaf pan like that. Get a roasting pan. I failed there, and as a result my granola is not the best it could have been. But still, my apartment smells fantastic, and I think with some almond milk and maybe a dab of honey in the bowl, this will be a great breakfast.

Lately I’m really into granola, but to get it gluten free is frustrating. First, gluten free processed foods (even not the bad kind of processed, like granola) are really expensive. Gluten free oats are hard to come by, because it’s much easier for farmers to process it alongside their gluten-full grains like wheat. Then there’s also my personal problem of not being able to have soy or dairy, either. The dairy thing isn’t really an issue, but some store brand granolas have soy oil or lecithin in them. Also, I’m picky about my nuts and seeds, and I don’t like spending a lot of money on something I’m only going to kind of enjoy. So I thought I would spring for a bag of Bob’s Gluten-Free Whole Rolled Oats and do some experimenting.

I trolled the web for recipes and found a bazillion, all with similar ingredients and cooking processes, but with different ratios and cooking temperatures. I also didn’t want to buy a whole lot of extra ingredients right after spending $10 a pound on oats, so I went with sunflower seeds, because I figured I would also use them in trail mix and on salads, and almonds, which I will happily munch on all the time. I also had vanilla extract and cinnamon, olive oil, ginger, and honey. Most recipes recommend agave nectar and/or maple syrup as a sweetener, and now, having tasted my own granola, I think that would probably taste better. But mine is not bad, and I’m proud of myself for experimenting with food and coming out with an edible and enjoyable product.

Pretty, right? So I decided to go with an oven at 325, about three cups of oats, and the aforementioned other ingredients. I eyeballed those and ended up with a handful of seeds and three or four handfuls of whole almonds, which I threw into a Ziploc bag and banged on with a hammer until I got chunks. I stirred the dry goods together with a teaspoon of cinnamon and some grated fresh ginger (well, fresh when I bought it, sitting in a bag in my freezer), and then I really wished I had nutmeg. Then I threw in a little oil and water, splashes of vanilla extract, and some globs of honey and stirred it all again. Then I threw it in the wrong pan and shoved it in the oven. I took it out every twelve or so minutes and stirred it and then put it back again. It took about an hour, though I suspect if you use the correct pan, it’s only about 40-45 minutes.

Still, yum, I think. Definitely good smelling, and I’ll find out how it tastes tomorrow at breakfast.