Sunday, May 20, 2012

Voluminous 'Mounds Bar' Oatmeal (Gluten-free, Vegan, and Dairy-free)

Mmmm, look what I had for breakfast today.  :-)  A big bowl of voluminous oats, smothered in velvety, melty chocolate and lightly-sweetened coconut and rich vanilla.  *does the Homer Simpson drool*

I love this recipe because most of the prep work is done the night before, as if there's much prep work involved in making oatmeal in the first place.  But the oats are partially cooked and then soaked overnight, in a bit of extra liquid.  By morning, the oats will have soaked up all the extra liquid, and they will be nearly TWICE the amount in comparison to having cooked them the standard way, which for me is a 2:1 ratio of liquid to oats, and then cooking them slowly over the stove or nuking them in the microwave for about 5 minutes.  

I drew my inspiration from Chocolate-Covered Katie's Voluminous Oatmeal Trick, and I decided on the flavor combo by reading about her Coconut Cookie Baked Oatmeal, except mine obviously wasn't baked.  It truly reminded me of eating a Mounds bar in a bowl, as Katie also made the same flavor comparison, but not so much of a cookie for me.  The oats were just too soft and pillow-y!  While these oats are definitely rich, they aren't overly sweet, so feel free to adjust the amount of sweetness to match your personal preference.

I will say that I probably added a bit too much chocolate to my bowl, which caused a racing heart.  My body is incredibly sensitive to even medium amounts of fat, and especially saturated fats...yes, even those found in 'healthy' fats such as virgin coconut oil and grass-fed, raw butter.  I know that many advocates for eating healthy fat will want to argue with me, but I know my own body VERY well, how it reacts to certain foods...and I learned WHY I react to saturated fats and high amounts of fat after reading up on my particular AB blood type in the book Eat Right for Your Type.  But apart from my heart dancing around in my chest for about 15 minutes, it was totally worth the indulgence.

Voluminous 'Mounds Bar' Oatmeal

  • 1/2 C. rolled oats, preferably organic and certified gluten-free
  • 1 C. water
  • 1/2 C. unsweetened almond milk (any non-dairy milk is fine, and cow's milk if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar (or sweetener of choice--a packet of Stevia would also work)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. coconut extract
  • 1 oz. chocolate chips (I used 3 squares of Trader Joe's dark chocolate, 1.3 oz.)*
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut

1.  In a microwave safe dish, combine the oats, water, almond milk, and salt.  Microwave for 4 and 1/2 minutes, and then allow to 'rest' in the microwave for an additional minute.
2.  Take the dish out of the microwave, stir oatmeal, and then you can either put it in the refridgerator...OR you may leave this out on the counter top, overnight.  Yes, it's perfectly safe to leave out!  (Just be sure to cover it, once it cools, so you do not invite any unwanted 'guests'...)
By morning, or even in a few hours, the oats should have absorbed all the excess liquid and will yield a fluffy pile of oats, about 2 C. worth.  
3.  So now add in your sweetener and two extracts, and reheat in the microwave, about an additional minute and 20 seconds...or longer if your oats were stored in the refrigerator overnight and are still cold.
Stir in the chocolate chips and coconut, saving a bit to garnish on top.


*While the recipe is labeled as 'vegan' and 'dairy-free', I used Trader Joe's Belgium chocolate, which contains whole milk powder and is processed on the same machinery that sees the likes of eggs and wheat.  I would suggest using a brand such as Enjoy Life chocolate chips, which can be found in health food stores and on Amazon.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

AB and Gluten Free--Strawberry Oatmeal Bars (Vegan, G-free, Dairy-free)

This post is actually something I wrote over a year ago on another site to which I belong.  I was was being fairly strict with following my Blood Type (AB) diet and also staying gluten-free, hence the title 'AB and Gluten-free'.  Although I'm not as 'strict' today as I was then, I still loosely follow many of the guidelines, such as eating very little meat and dairy and embracing a lifestyle that centers around fresh veggies and not so many grains on a day-to-day basis.  

My friend Tatiana sent me a lovely recipe for Raspberry Oat Bars a few months ago. I ADORE raspberries and oats...especially together in a tasty, chewy bar of bliss. Unfortunately this recipe had oats AND wheat. Sooooooooooo, I decided I would find a gluten-free version of a similar recipe, or take some time on my own and experiment with some GF flours. Well, as luck would have it, I picked up a bag of Bob's Red Mill Oat Flour at the grocery store a few weeks later, flipped it over to its back and delightfully spotted a recipe for Raspberry Oatmeal bars, gluten free! I love when the Universe does my dirty work. :-)

However, in this moment of time that the recipe was found, I was really in the mood for STRAWBERRY oat bars. So I just made a quick switch-a-roo on the ingredient list and used all-natural strawberry preserves (with no added sugar and only sweetened with fruit juice) in place of raspberry. Aside from the switch, I almost followed the recipe precisely, which I rarely do (I'm a Leo AND a rebel!), and the bars turned out to be Heavenly! They were perfectly moist and slightly chewy, but almost more of a cake-type bar than a chewy oatmeal bar. If I had to compare these to something in texture, they would be similar to the Quaker breakfast oatmeal bars, but not nearly as dense.  You know, the ones you pull out of a foil wrapper and then pop into the microwave for a few seconds and then get to wonder about the origins of some of the ingredients. The bars I made tasted a million times better, and I KNEW exactly what went into making them. I was naughty and ate some of mine topped with TruWhip frozen whipped topping, which is all-natural and non-dairy AND free of hydrogenated oils. Whoo-hoo!

Here's the recipe!

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars:
  • ½ Cup Earth Balance buttery spread (non-hydrogenated, I used the soy-free version)
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract, divided
  • 1 C. Oat Flour (certified gluten free)
  • 1 C. Roll Oats (certified gluten free)
  • ¼ C. Raw Cane Sugar
  • ¼ C. Xylitol (can substitute sugar if xylitol isn't available)
  • 1 ½ tsp. Xanthan Gum
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Grated Lemon Zest
  • ½ tsp. Sea Salt
  • 2/3 C. Natural Strawberry Preserves (you can use any flavor you like!)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (I only preheated to 350 since my baking dish was glass)
2.  Generously grease, or spray with cooking spray, an 8x8 inch pan. 
3.  In a medium bow., combine the melted buttery spread and 1 tsp. of vanilla. 
4.   Stir in flour, oats, sugar/xylitol, xanthan gum, baking poweder, lemon zest, and salt until thoroughly combined.
5.  Press 1 C. of the oat mixture firmly onto the bottom of the pan. 
6.  Stir the remaining vanilla in with the fruit preserves until smooth, then spread evenly over oat mixture.

7.  Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over top of the preserves and lightly pat down or press into the the fruit filling. (I just crumbled mine in very loosely and lightly smoothed it out with my finger tips to give a crumb-topping look to the bars.).

8.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is lightly firmed and brown. (It actually took me closer to half an hour for mine to firm up, and this could partially be because I dropped the cooking temperature.) 
9.  Cool bars in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.

This dessert will yield approximately 12 servings and should be kept at room temperature for best taste and texture. I kept mine on the counter top in a plastic container. They didn't last more than three days in my house.

If you don't want to fuss with finding Earth Balance spread (it's a tad expensive, although Wal-Mart Super Centers carry it at a reasonable price, if you're in the U.S.), you could certainly use any other buttery spread you prefer or even just real butter, which I'm sure would taste fantastic and rich! I use Earth Balance because it's the only non-butter spread I've been able to find that is truly natural, has no hydrogenated fats, and offers a soy-free version. No, it should not be consumed all the time as it still a processed collection of oils, but it is a wonderful alternative to the blood type AB's, who just simply cannot tolerate the saturated fats in real butter. And you definitely don't have to go through the the trouble of purchasing xylitol and raw can sugar. You can use the standard granulated sugar if you wish, but I would recommend at least using organic sugar as there will be a lot less chemicals and bleaching involved in the process. I prefer the raw cane sugar as it's only been washed and nothing has been done to alter its color. It resembles a light brown sugar used in baking and has the same rich, molasses taste. It does however have a fairly coarse granule, so you could further grind it up in a food processor if you prefer something a little finer. And the xylitol is there simply to cut back on the some of the sugar without sacrificing any taste (and having to use any chemical-laden sugar substitutes). It's easy on the blood sugar when eaten in moderation and actually good for the teeth!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer SCREAMS Lemons!!...and an Impossibly Easy Bundt Cake

I love summer.  I love everything about summer.  The bright green grass, the fresh produce in River Market on lazy Saturday afternoons, the smokey smells of BBQ grills, fired up all over the neighborhood, and the much-needed change of pace in my cooking and baking agenda.  Everything in the fall and winter seasons is about the aroma of spices, stick-to-your-ribs slow-cooked meals, and spending more time indoors, hopefully snug in my Snuggie in front of the beautiful and fake, gas-powered fireplace.  (Yeah, we didn't look very closely before we signed the lease...)  When the warmer weather claims its stake, I shake things up in the kitchen.  My meals suddenly revolve around veggie kabobs and grilled fish (KC strips for the hubby), tons of fresh salads, strawberry EVERYTHING, and lots 'o lemons.  I consume lemons year round, squeezing them in my warm water upon rising, mixing them in salad dressing and marinades, and drizzling over roasted fish.  But they are much more accessible this time of the year, and I'm often able to find them at cheaper-than-dirt prices, such as 4-6 for $1.00 at the market.  That's a stock-up price, and a stock pile means super tart lemon bars, brightly and lightly-sweetened lemon muffins, and my husband's favorite...lemon bundt cake.  My husband does not have the sweet tooth that I was born with, but he will tear up some lemon cake, and fast!

So as much as I enjoy baking all these lemony goodies in the summertime, I DON'T love standing in the kitchen and sifting flour, creaming butter and sugar, and having more cleanup than necessary.  I have walks by the river to tend to, and birds to watch, and neighbors' dogs to play with.  Summer livin' is a full-time job, and I just simply have no time to be dealing with mindless distractions.  So sometimes I need a little LESS time in my kitchen, and this ridiculously easy lemon bundt cake fits the bill.  It is perfect for those days where hubby announces that so-and-so is stopping by for dinner, and you need to make triple what you had planned out for tonight's dinner, and oh, you KNOW they are going to be expecting dessert.  This is why I ALWAYS have a few boxes of premium cake mix in my pantry.  Being a pastry chef I prefer to bake from scratch and I LOVE creating my own recipes, but I claim NO SHAME when I need to do a little doctoring to Duncan Hines.  Many of my current cake creations started out in the form of a doctored cake mix, seeing what would and wouldn't work without having to worry about cakes sinking in the middle or being too dry...less waste on more expensive ingredients.

Yes, this particular bundt cake celebrates its birth from a box.  But its flavor is brightened up considerably with all those fresh lemons I was telling you about.  I use tons of fresh zest for the batter, and the juice gets used if I decide to make a glaze (which I decided NOT to do this time since I had other plans for the remaining juice in the lemons).  We also add some buttermilk for a SUPER rich flavor and to add tons of moisture, and a box of Jello pudding right into the mix to seal the deal!  Yes, that's right!  Dry Jello in Mr. Bill Cosby, J-E-LL-oh!  With this particular cake, I usually use lemon-flavored Jello pudding, but all I had on hand was vanilla.  So I made do and added extra lemon oil/extract to draw out the fresh lemon flavor.  And by the way, this cake is so impossibly moist that it would be a travesty to even THINK of putting a frosting on it.  If you must...a simple glaze of lemon juice and powdered sugar will do.  But it isn't really necessary.  I think freshly whipped cream would be even better!

'Doctored' Duncan Hines Luscious Lemon Supreme Bundt Cake

  • 1 Box of Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
  • 1 Box of Jello Lemon-flavored pudding mix (3.4 oz)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 C. oil
  • 1 C. buttermilk
  • 1 C. water (or milk)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon extract (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Prepare your bundt pan with butter and flour or baker's spray.  (I use Baker's Joy.)
3.  Lightly whisk together the cake mix and pudding mix, or simply put it in your KitchenAid mixing bowl and on low speed, mix together for about 20 seconds.

4.  Simply add in the remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.  It's going to look a little runny at this stage.

5.  Put mixer on medium-high speed for an additional 2 minutes, or until the batter is smooth and has thickened up.  (The pudding mix will do this, thicken up the batter despite all that liquid you just added.)

6.  Pour batter into your bundt pan and bake until lightly browned on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7.  You need to allow the cake to cool off for a while in the pan.  Because of all the moisture, it will be heavy.  So it needs to hang out in the pan for at least half an hour before turning over onto a cooling rack  At that point, you can dig in.  But I advise cooling at least an additional hour so the cake will slice more easily.

It's incredibly moist and WILL fall apart if you do not allow it to cool properly.

Enjoy.  xoxo