Monday, March 26, 2012

Deconstructed Baked Apple Pie Oatmeal--Guilt Free!!

Yes, you read that first line correctly.  No need to adjust your bifocals, reading glasses, or rub your eyes.  I never, ever believe we should eat anything if it makes us feel some level of guilt.  That's just setting oneself up for a mindless binge later on.  When we eat anything and feel guilty after the fact, what happens?  We become overly emotional (especially when Aunt Flo is town to visit).  And how do we COPE with overwhelming emotions?  By eating more.  LOTS AND LOTS MORE.  And then we feel guilty all over again.  And then we EAT all over again.  What a vicious cycle.  I say enough of this already!  So I decided I was going to have my pie and eat my oatmeal, too, and created this deconstructed apple dessert which happens to be vegan, gluten-free, and free of overly processed sugars with just the right amount of fat for richness and healthy, glowing hair.  

My inspiration for this dessert, which tastes like sin but is made with Heaven's love, comes from a super fun blog from a super fun blogger.  Chocolate-Covered Katie, authored by a girl named Katie (I know, did I really need to clarify that for you?), is smothered with guiltless frosting and low-fat dessert dips, and topped with birthday cake sprinkles and lots of chocolate love.  Her blog is 100% vegan, 90% dessert, 100% HEALTHY dessert, and 1,000 percent fun!  Katie is all about chocolate and dessert, but she also leads an incredibly active and health lifestyle and knows how important it is to make sure we aren't getting our sweet fix from prepackaged desserts, which are laden with the not-so-kind-to-your-waistline fats, sugars, and only Jesus and Buddha know what other sorts of 'mystery meat' ingredients (especially in THIS country).  Katie, herself, doesn't diet, aside from being vegan, and luckily has NO sweet tooth.  (I wish I had that problem...)  So many of her delectable yummies are naturally created to be low in sugar, and she often provides variations of her recipes to make them lower in fat and with healthy and natural sugar substitutes that could be used in the place of sugar.  And while Katie's blog is known for a lot of specifics, actually ALL of the specifics, I was personally excited on her take of something so simple.  Oatmeal.  A grain which will provide you with an entire world of possibilities if you'll only invite it into your life!

I particularly enjoyed making (and eating) her Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal Cakes...for one!  Ooooh, and that's another 'plus one' for her site.  So many of her recipes are scaled for one or two servings.  How cool is that!?  I can't even remember how many times I craved something warm and yummy from my oven, but I didn't want to bake even ONE FOURTH of the recipe and was too lazy to figure out the math to scale it down any smaller.  Okay, enough of me already.  You get the point.  Katie's blog is amazing.  Here's what I decided to do after enjoying one of her itsy-bitsy oatmeal cuties.  I was REALLY craving more of that super comforting feeling you get from eating warm apple pie.  Apples are great in oatmeal, but I really desired the entire flavor profile of the heavenly pastry, and I wanted those little diced apples to be super tender and soft, just as they would if I dug them out of the pie.  So, the wheels in my ADHD brain began to turn, and I thought how deliciously insane would it be if I were to deconstruct the entire thing so that I was actually BAKING the apples first, as in making an actual apple pie filling, and then smothering a baked cinnamon oatmeal cake?!  And that's exactly what I dd.  I made the apple pie filling completely gluten and dairy free, AND I only used sweeteners that were as natural as to which I had easy access.  I baked a batch of apples that would be enough to top four of the mini oatmeal cakes, but I only baked 2 cakes at a time as they tend to not be so tender and tasty after you have to reheat them a day or two later. 

Deconstructed Apple Pie Oatmeal Cakes

For the Apple Pie filling:
  • 3 medium size apples--peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 Tbsp. of your favor all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (or just regular all-purpose wheat flour)
  • 1 Tbsp. vegan buttery spread, like Earth Balance (butter is fine)
  • 1/4 C. coconut palm sugar (I actually used half xylitol, half palm sugar to cut down on sugar)
  • 1 Tbsp. water, or more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt (or kosher)
  • zest of half a lemon

For the Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake (makes 2 servings in mini fluted cake pans):

  • 1 C. rolled oats
  • 6 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce (a mashed banana would also work)
  • 1/2 C. of dairy-free milk (I used light coconut milk to make it a little richer)
  • 3 Tbsp. sweetener, such as maple syrup or palm sugar (I used 3 packets of Truvia brand stevia)
  • 1 Tbsp. melted vegan buttery spread, like Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

1.  Prep your apples, toss them with the lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt, and place them in a greased pie pan, or whatever you are choosing to bake them in.

2.  On the stove top over medium-low heat, combine the rest of the ingredients for the apple pie filling, stirring often to mix and until mixture has thickened.

3.  Pour this mixture over the top of the apples and bake in a 425 degree F. preheated oven until your apples are fork tender and soft.  Mine took around half an hour, but you probably want to check at 20 minutes.  All ovens vary and for many different reasons.

4.  Once apples are finished baking, set the pie pan on a cooling wrack to cook, and store the apples in an airtight container.  You won't need them all at once, unless you are really craving apple pie.

5.  Grease whatever pan(s) you are going to use to bake the oatmeal.

6.  In a mixing bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the oatmeal cake until very well mixed.  Divide mixture evenly between your pans, unless you are choosing to bake the entire recipe in one pan which is perfectly okay with me.

7.  This mixture is going into a preheated 375 degree F. oven for at least 15 minutes.  Mine usually take around 20.  You'll know when they are ready to come out when the center of the cake is set and no longer wet-looking.

8.  Allow your cakes to cook for at least 10 minutes before turning over onto a plate or bowl.

9.  Once cool enough to eat, top your cakes with a few hefty spoonfuls of the apple pie filling.  I also topped mine with TruWhip vegan whipped topping and an extra sprinkling of cinnamon.  Oh. My. Heaven.

This baked oatmeal cake is not like a typical baked oatmeal, which is usually very firm and chewy and can be held in your hand once it cools.  This one is incredibly moist while still being slightly chewy and truly decadent.  It's almost like a firm and creamy oatmeal pudding!

Some final notes...
This fabulous dessert (or breakfast, whatever point of view you choose to take) is already relatively low in fat and sugar, but if you are dealing with something like diabetes, low thyroid, or any other health concern that might  cause you to closely monitor your sugar levels, you could omit the palm sugar from the apples and strictly use xylitol in its place, which as an all-natural sugar alcohol.  I have also used honey and agave nectar when making my baked apples, and I've heard that both are tolerable by some people who experience difficulty in keeping blood sugar balance, but I know that not every body is the same nor reacts the same to certain foods, including sweeteners.  I've also heard that the coconut palm sugar is tolerable as well, in moderation, but I would definitely use caution.  I think the best thing is to listen to your body, see how it reacts, and monitor how you feel several minutes after you finish your meal.  Then you can make adjustments accordingly.  You can also substitute the vegan whipped topping, which I use, for regular natural whipped cream, unsweetened.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Favorite Gluten-free Flour Mix Recipe


You will probably begin to notice that as this blog begins to take on more life and greater character, there is so much variety to the baking I do.  Yes, my original bundt cakes were born out of the mainstream school of sugar, butter, eggs, and wheat flour.  But over the past few years, I have become much more conscious of what I'm actually eating on a daily basis.  Let's face it.  We all love Paula Deen, but we DON'T love Type II Diabetes, weight gain, and all the other health issues that inevitably tag behind a butter-and-wheat-laden diet.  The fact for me is that I've experienced some difficulties from low thyroid, estrogen dominance, and simply not understanding what my body TRULY requires and desires.  After reading Eat Right for Your Type a few years ago (and being 'diagnosed' with low thyroid and estrogen dominance a few years before that), I learned that my sensitive AB blood type did not really like a lot of the foods I had been previously consuming.  And it was evident.  I ate lots of chicken, which I thought was healthy, but I always felt tired and bloated afterward, although I was taking digestive enzymes, mixing organic apple cider vinegar with my water before a meal, doing yoga, and many other things that were supposed to aid in the breaking down of my food.  Surprise, surprise.  AB-ers don't like no stinkin' chicken.  We prefer turkey and seafood for OUR protein sources.  And I also learned that wheat was not my friend.  Luckily I can tolerate many other grains.  But wheat just wasn't on the list.  I'm not miserable eating a fresh piece of natural, organic bread a few times per week.  But if I truly ate a piece of cake every single day from one of my typically-rich bundts, I'd be 20 pounds heavier and a raging hormonal biotch.  So what's a sugar-lovin', cake-huggin' gal ta do?  Learn to make healthier things that still taste like they are bad and sinful.

When I made the choice to start following a more gluten-free lifestyle and to veganize some of the meals I was enjoying, I absolutely knew I didn't want to learn how to make cakes tasted like health food.  What's the point?  If we are going to eat like piggies and consume guilt-inducing amounts of calories, why waste it on garbage that tastes like cardboard?  So after pouring hours of my life through more than 50 food blogs, mostly devoted to gluten-free living but also some on sugar-free and vegan, I decided that I needed to come up with an all-purpose flour that I could make at home that would easily plug in for regular wheat flour, at least for 70% of my recipes.  And not long after, I came across what is now one of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, Gluten-Free Baking Classics by gluten-free genius, Annalise G. Roberts.  This book has it all.  Pizza crust, breads and rolls, cakes, cookies, muffins, big soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls!  And nearly all of it tastes as good as the gluten-filled counterparts.  Except for the pancakes.  I didn't care for them, so I stick with Pamela's.  Those are the best!

Annalise has a gluten-free mix in the front of her book that is used for nearly everything, except the breads, which have their own mix.  But everything else calls for her brown rice flour mix.  And the mix is simple to put together as it only contains three different flours.  The thing that makes this mix so unique and what makes it work so well is that Annalise doesn't just use any old brown rice flour.  She recommends using a SUPERFINE brown rice flour, which is ground so finely that it actually feels like wheat flour between your fingers.  Regular rice flour tends to have a coarser grind, and it often results in a gritty product.  And yes, I put this to the test.  When I first got the book, I was bummed to find out that I didn't have the right type of flour in my pantry, and the superfine flour isn't as easy to come by in the supermarkets.  It's also more expensive.  So I decided to be a cheap ass and just use the standard Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour.  I attempted to make blueberry muffins as my first tester recipe.  So, yeah.  The batter held it's shape, didn't quite rise as beautifully as a wheat muffins would, and it had a slightly chewy/gritty texture to it.  Determined not to screw up any more of my recipes (gluten-free baking can wrack up quite a bill, and fast!), I bit the bullet and purchased the Authentic Foods SUPERFINE brown rice flour.  This was the wisest decision I've made along my gluten-free journey.  My baked goods turn out perfect almost every time, and I've been able to EASILY convert some of my regular cakes into gluten-free cakes, cup for cup, with NO grit or chewy texture.  I will say that gluten-free bundts tend to turn out best in smaller pans, but I've still made several big, fat bundts with satisfying success.

I know.  You want me to shut up and just give you the recipe.

'Food Philosopher' Gluten-free Brown Rice Flour Mix

2 parts Brown rice flour* (extra finely ground)
2/3 part Potato starch** (NOT potato flour...please don't confuse the two, you will hate me if you do)
1/3 part Tapioca flour/starch** (I usually sub in arrowroot starch as my body seems to like it better)

Just put everything into a large mixing bowl and whisk well.  I usually make what I consider to be a double-batch, which is 4 cups of the brown rice flour, 1 and 1/3 cup of the potato starch, and 2/3 cup of the tapioca or arrowroot starch.  I store the mixture in either a large freezer bag or a large tupperware container and keep in the freezer.  Most gluten-free flours are made from ingredients that can go rancid fairly quickly if left out at room temperature, so it's always best to keep in the freezer.  Just make sure you bring the flour back to room temp. before using it to bake.

*The brown rice flour I use is made by a company called Authentic Foods.  I would advise you to check around with health food stores first before resorting to ordering online.  The flour is not only expensive, but so is the shipping, even if you order from Amazon.  It's nearly as expensive as the flour itself.  I don't know why this is, it doesn't make much sense, but it is what it is.  One of my local grocers carries a 3-lb. bag for a little over $13.  At that price, it's obviously not for bulk baking.  But you can still afford to keep incredible-tasting treats around your house without having to piss off your IBS or sending yourself off into the land of hormone hell.

**For the potato starch and tapioca flour, check your local Asian market if you have one.  I am able to get 1-lb. bags of the stuff for just a few dollars a piece.  If I were to purchase a name brand at somewhere like Whole Foods, I would be paying at least double, if not triple, that price.  You might even be lucky enough to find some finely ground brown rice flour at the Asian markets as well.  For some reason, my local market didn't carry brown rice flour, only the sweet rice flour which is a white, super-starchy flour that should only be used in small amounts unless you want a sticky, stretchy, gooey mess.