Healthy Habits: Blueberry Oatmeal Cake

“How do I….?”

My oldest has been in Germany since the beginning of August, and if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have cried so much when she left! Though she is across an ocean, I have heard from her every single day. The reason? To pepper me with questions about how to cook this or prepare that. Now that she is on her own for the first time in an apartment, she has to cook for herself, and every evening, as she prepares her dinner, she texts or calls with several questions.

So, not only am I not missing her because we speak more than we did while she was in college, but I have been happy to note that she is doing all she can on a limited budget with little cooking supplies to still try to eat as healthy as she can. In fact, she has an app she uses to help her make sure she gets all the nutrients and vitamins she needs from the food she eats. I am pleased that some of the lessons I imparted actually took root!

In the past couple of weeks, I have been working on those same lessons for healthy eating and revamped a couple of cake recipes for an uncle who is diabetic. He likes his sweets but white flour and sugar products don’t like him! Since dessert is something he often looks for, though, I put my hand to creating a couple of cakes which might be slightly better for him to consume.

To make a healthier cake, I chose to begin with whole grain, whole rolled oats because they contain a lot of fiber and protein. Then, I removed the sugar, opting instead to use smaller amounts of coconut sugar and/or agave and fruit like blueberries and chunky applesauce which contain fiber as well. My last change was to reduce the fat by swapping a reduced amount of oil for the usual butter and to use egg whites instead of whole eggs.  And of course, I made them gluten, dairy and tree nut free so I could eat them as well!

Below is the blueberry oatmeal cake recipe.

Blueberry Oatmeal Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten free, whole grain, whole rolled oats

2 cups boiling water

1 cup gluten free flour blend

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup agave

1/2 cup extra light olive oil

1/2 cup liquid egg whites (or two whole eggs if you’d prefer or 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp water if you want it vegan)

1 cup to 2 cups fresh blueberries (depends on the ratio of cake to berries you want and the size of your berries)

Optional Topping:

In a pan, melt 2 tbsp of vegan butter, add 1 cup of whole rolled oats with 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 tbsp agave or coconut sugar. Mix well and cook for another minute. Sprinkle on top of the cake before putting it into the oven to bake.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper or grease as you prefer.
  2. In a bowl mix the oats with the boiling water and let them sit until the oats have absorbed all the water. Usually only takes about five minutes.
  3. In another bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl with the oats, add the agave, olive oil and egg whites and mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix well.
  6. Fold in the blueberries.
  7. Spread the batter into the prepared pan (adding the optional topping if you’d like now), and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is puffed, golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Enjoy!

 

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Recipe Revamping: Chocolate Chip Cake

“You need a reset….”

I always anticipate summer to be an opportunity for rest and relaxation, and every year, summer whizzes by with a full schedule of appointments and family visits and school readiness with little rest and even less relaxation. Though we do take time here and there as a family to capture little pockets, the concept of taking time to sit back and revive one’s energy remains just that, an idea.

Some of the reason is simply the season of life we are in at the moment. The years raising children tend to be rather hectic and chaotic. Another reason is that working in the public school system during the year means having to work during the summer to supplement the income which precludes “vacation time”. Yet a third is that we live in a world that is busy, and we get caught up in that busyness.

As I was pondering busyness this week, I realized that as a family we are beginning a time where a “reset” is quite possible. Two of our three children will be away at graduate and undergraduate schools. I have stepped down from most of the obligations I have spent 17 years pursuing. My husband and I are looking at new life ventures. If ever we could make choices about health and lifestyle and time spent, it is now.

Deciding to make the choices, though, tends to be easier than following through with action. A recent email illustrated this. Someone’s health issues meant she had to really begin to watch what she ate. Her grandmother, however, had passed down a chocolate chip cake recipe which she loved and made frequently for the family. Lately, though, as her health has had more complications, she finally realized she couldn’t continue to eat her grandmother’s cake as it was originally made. She needed to remove the gluten and dairy which were making her sick and to make it healthier, fat-wise.

She reached out to me to see I might be able to revamp the recipe. The original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of butter, 2 1/2 cups of sugar, 4 whole extra large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 cups all purpose white flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 cups full fat sour cream, and 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips.

You can see why she shouldn’t be eating it on a regular basis!

Making the cake gluten free was simply a matter of swapping a gluten free flour blend. I chose to use King Arthur’s wholegrain blend, but since I wanted to give the cake more protein and fiber, I opted to substitute one cup of the flour with gluten free oat flour which I made by finely processing gluten free whole rolled oats into a flour. This added the overall protein and fiber count of the cake.

Since making things healthier for me always includes removing the white refined sugar, I reduced the sweetener down to 1 cup and used agave instead of sugar.

The butter, sour cream and eggs, however, required some thinking. I needed to reduce all three if we wanted a healthier cake but how to do that without sacrificing the moisture in the cake? I switched vegan butter for the regular butter and reduced it to 1/2 cup. I substituted tofu sour cream for the regular and used only 3/4 cup. Then I reduced the eggs to two large.

All these reductions needed to be replaced, though, and as I thought about it, I finally decided to use banana cream. For folks not familiar with this, you simply freeze banana slices to the point where they’re mostly frozen but still a little flexible. Then you pop them into your food processor and let it zoop for several minutes until the frozen banana slices become the consistency of soft ice cream, which is how many folks eat it. I used it as a replaced for the missing butter, eggs and sour cream, and it worked beautifully, adding the moisture needed but not tasting overly much like bananas.

The final few changes I made were to use mini allergy friendly chocolate chips instead of the regular larger sized ones and to reduce the amount to 1 cup. Since the chips are mini, they distribute more evenly into the batter, and you need a lot less to get the same chocolate chip to cake ratio. I also added a tablespoon of cinnamon to add flavor and to help regulate blood sugar levels.

The folks I served it to this week, thought the cake was delicious, and the person who had originally emailed was glad she could eat it without making her health issues worse.

Chocolate Chip Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup vegan butter

1 cup agave

3 cups banana cream*

1 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs

3 cup whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 cup gluten free oat flour**

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup tofu sour cream

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

*To make banana cream: Slice bananas into three cups worth and put into the freezer. Freeze just long enough to begin to freeze but so they are still slightly flexible. If you put the banana slices until a shallow pan in an even layer, this would only take 15 to 30 minutes. You can also freeze the bananas ahead of time in a tupperware, and when you need it, microwave them for just a few seconds to keep them frozen but pliable. Put the mostly frozen pieces of bananas into a food processor and begin to process until the pieces turn into a creamy soft ice cream mixture. This will take several minutes. Make the mixture just before you are ready to add it to the wet ingredients.

**You can use store bought gluten free oat flour, but if you want more protein and fiber, take gluten free wholegrain rolled oats and put them into your food processor and process until you have oat flour. This will take several minutes.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and prepare a Bundt pan. (I used a non-aerosol olive oil and ground flaxseed.)
  2. In a mixer, cream the vegan butter. Scrape down, and with the mixer on low, slowly pour in the agave and blend the butter and agave until smooth.
  3. Add the banana cream and blend just until mixed. Add the vanilla.
  4. Add the eggs, one at time, mixing well with each addition. Set the wet mixture aside.
  5. Mix the flour blend, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  6. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet and blend. Add the tofu sour cream. Mix well, and then add the second half of the dry ingredients.
  7. Mix in the mini chocolate chips.
  8. Add the vinegar and mix just until blended.
  9. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes until the cake has puffed, is golden, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe Revamping: Blueberry Buckle

“Simply relax and enjoy when you can….”

Two graduations, a wedding, a family reunion, visits with extended family, and a funeral, sprinkled in between doctor appointments for all family members and added on top of a summer work schedule and preparing our daughters to go away in August for their masters and bachelors programs, has left no time for vacation during our summer. So, we have been making the most of little pockets of time – playing family board games when we can, doing an Escape the Room adventure, getting massages, taking an afternoon walk.

This week, we took time to bake together, making the most of prime blueberry and peach season, and one of the items we made was a blueberry buckle. For folks not familiar, blueberry buckle is similar to a coffee cake but the ratios of fruit to batter are flipped. In coffee cakes, the cake is the star with fruit lending flavor. In a buckle, the fruit is in abundance and the batter is scant, just enough to suspend the fruit. Both have signature crumb toppings.

I wanted to make a blueberry buckle which was gluten and dairy free and which didn’t use white refined sugar. It turned out to be quite easy. I simply substituted a store bought gluten free flour blend for the flour, used half the amount of coconut sugar for the regular sugar, and creamed vegan butter instead of regular butter. The result was quite tasty when we had it for dessert with nondairy vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Buckle

Ingredients:

Topping:

1/2 cup gluten free flour blend

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 tbsp vegan butter

Batter:

1 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup vegan butter

2/3 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 eggs

4 cups fresh blueberries

Baking Instructions:

  1. Line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the topping flour, coconut sugar, and cinnamon. Using clean hands, squeeze the vegan butter into the dry ingredients until you have thick crumbs. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the batter flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Set aside.
  4. In a mixer, cream together the vegan butter and coconut sugar. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between. The batter will look messy, like it’s all broken, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
  6. Add the dry batter ingredients to the wet and mix just until blended and smooth. The batter will be thick.
  7. Gently fold in the blueberries until the batter is completely mixed in with the berries.
  8. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, turning the pan halfway through at 25 minutes.
  9. The buckle will be golden and puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean when it is done.
  10. Cool for ten minutes on a wire rack. Loosen the sides of the cake with a butter knife from the springform pan, and release and remove the side pan. Let the cake cool completely and enjoy!

 

Creative Cooking: Chicken-Kale-Corn Fritters

“You deserve it….”

I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of what people deserve. My daughters recently graduated from college and high school and received honors and recognition, and folks said, “They deserved it!” I received an award, recognizing 17 years of volunteer work in our school district, and everyone said, “It’s about time! You deserved it!” A person I know who has made bad choices was told, “You get the consequences you deserve.”

We hold notions about worth very highly in our society. The standards of worth vary from situation to situation, within contexts, and between race, gender, class, and other constructs, but the idea of folks being deemed deserving, whether of something good or something bad, hold strong and fast, even if people are not always aware that they do.

Recently, some friends and I went out to dinner, and in an age of food allergy awareness, I was surprised that this particular restaurant only offered two options for me to be able to eat out a very extensive four page menu of selections. I could have grilled chicken or grilled steak. Fortunately, I am not vegan, so I opted for the grilled chicken, but what if I had been? As I pondered this with my husband, we concluded that the restaurant might presume folks with dairy allergies would just go someplace else to eat, given that they don’t cater to that type of clientele.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Plenty of other restaurants do cater to folks with multiple food allergies, and now my friends and I know not to choose that particular restaurant for a future gathering. I can’t help but wonder, though, about whether or not folks with food allergies “deserve” to be able to have more than a choice of grilled chicken or grilled steak when going out to eat to a restaurant which comes highly recommended.

Whether we think we do deserve it or not won’t change that particular restaurant’s menu for now, but it serves as yet another reminder to me that I firmly do believe all people deserve to be able to eat good food, regardless of food allergies and health restrictions. So, last week, when I decided to make chicken and corn fritters, my goal was to create something which was healthier than all the recipes I found.

I had leftover corn and chicken which I wanted to use, and when I put the ingredients into “recipes”, out popped many recipes for chicken and corn fritters. The problem, though, was that they all called for deep or pan frying with a lot of oil, as well as a lot of white flour and many eggs. I wanted something which I could feel good about eating.

So, I made several changes. First, I added kale to the chicken and corn, because I also had leftovers of that. Secondly, I opted to puree cooked carrots as the main binder which allowed me to reduced the flour substantially and use half as many eggs. I also chose oat flour for my flour to add protein and fiber, and used egg whites instead of whole eggs. Finally, instead of frying the fritters in oil, I used the Pompeian non-propellant olive oil only spray and cooked the fritters on a griddle. The result were delicious, healthier fritters which used up my leftovers and didn’t leave anyone with that heavy feeling you often get with fried foods.

Chicken-Kale-Corn Fritters

Ingredients:

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken

3 cups cooked corn, cut off the ears

1 cup cooked, chopped kale

3 cups cooked, chopped carrots

1 cup “milk” (I used soy milk but you can use whatever type you’d like)

1 cup chopped green onions

3/4 cup egg whites (can also just use 3 whole eggs or if you want an egg free version, substitute 3 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 9 tbsp of hot water which you let sit to thicken or use 3/4 cup of aquafaba or simply increase the flour below to 1/2 to 3/4 cup)

1/4 cup gluten free oat flour (or any high protein/high fiber flour you’d like)

1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used cilantro and basil, but feel free to vary it)

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional but I like the flavor it adds)

Pompeian non-propellant olive oil cooking spray

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Mix the chopped chicken, kale and corn together.
  2. Puree the cooked carrots with the “milk” and add to the chicken-veggie mixture and blend well.
  3. Add the green onions.
  4. Whisk the egg whites (or whole eggs or flaxseed mixture) and add to the fritter mix, stirring well.
  5. Add the oat flour, herbs, garlic and the peppers and stir until all is well incorporated.
  6. Preheat a griddle to 350 or a shallow pan over medium heat and spray with the Pompeian olive oil spray.
  7. Stir the fritter batter and scoop mixture by the 1/4 cup and drop onto the hot griddle. Using a spatula, spread the mixture into 1/2 inch think circles.
  8. Cook for a couple of minutes on one side until browned. Flip with the spatula and cook on the other side until browned. Remove and repeat with the remaining mixture. You may need to occasionally respray the griddle with the olive oil spray. (Tip: to keep them warm, preheat the oven to the lowest temperature and put the fritters onto an oven safe plate in the oven.)

 

Recipe Revamping: Carbonara

“It’s just that it was one of his favorites….”

Most folks ask me to revamp baked recipes since that is what I mostly post about, but I received a request this week from a mom after she saw my roasted garlic bread recipe, asking if I might help with one of her son’s favorite recipes, carbonara. Her son is eight, and the family recently learned that much of his stomach issues were due to eggs, dairy and wheat, all three of which are in carbonara.

For anyone who might not be familiar with carbonara, it is an Italian pasta dish which is essentially a creamy, cheesy sauce over noodles which tends to use cured meat products such as bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, or Italian sausage to flavor the sauce. To make the sauce creamy, recipes usually use cream or half and half and egg yolks with a variety of fancy cheeses and then adds the cured meat and white pasta to the dish. So, as a rule, even if you do not have food allergies, you probably should not make carbonara a regular part of your diet.

Unless, of course, you can find a way to create a healthier, allergy friendly version….

My first order of business was to tackle the cheesy sauce. The beauty of a carbonara sauce is that it clings to the noodles, so the sauce needs to be a thick, heavy sauce, which is why usually cream and egg yolks are utilized. I opted to make a basic white sauce with olive oil, millet flour and dairy free milk. To that I added Daiya cheddar cheese, garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and a tiny bit of red pepper.

The next item to tackle was the cured meat. To make it a tiny bit healthier, I chose to chop just four low fat, reduced salt, no nitrates, sweet Italian style fully cooked chicken sausage links into small pieces. This distributed the flavor without all the extra added fat and sodium and nitrates.

The final decision I made was to nix pasta altogether and use spiral cut veggies. I used a mixture of turnips, yellow squash and zucchini. Because I like my food to have lots of color, I also added diced petite tomatoes, which added a slight flavor twist to the whole dish. The result was quite yummy!

Vegetable “Noodle” Carbonara

(This recipe makes a lot because I wanted to feed a family of five and have leftovers for a second meal. You may want to halve the recipe.)

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra light olive oil (you don’t want a heavy taste)

1/4 cup millet flour (or any other variety you’d like to use)

2 cups dairy free “milk” (I used soy but any variety will work)

8 oz shredded Daiya cheddar cheese

garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and red pepper (to your taste and liking)

16 oz each spiral cut turnip, yellow squash, and zucchini (you can change up the spiral cut noodle veggies as long as you have 48 oz total so the sauce and “noodle” amounts are in a good sauce to noodle clinging ratio)

4 low fat, reduced salt, no nitrates sweet Italian style fully cooked chicken sausage links

garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and red pepper (to your taste and liking)

14 oz can of no salt, no sugar added petite diced tomatoes (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a shallow sauce pan, heat the olive oil for a minute over medium-low heat, and then stir in the millet flour until well mixed and cook for another 30 seconds.
  2. Slowly add one cup of the milk, stirring until the flour mixture is incorporated into the milk. Let the mixture begin to thicken. Time will vary, depending on how shallow your pan is but shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
  3. Slowly add the second cup of milk, stirring to evenly mix the sauce.
  4. Add the Daiya cheese and stir well. Add the spices, and stir until the cheese is all melted, and turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a larger shallow nonstick pan (if you aren’t using a nonstick pan, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil), cook the turnips until softened, usually about 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Dice the sausage links into small bits and add to the turnips. Mix well and cook for a minute.
  7. Add the yellow squash and zucchini with the spices, and cook just until the squash and zucchini begin to soften.
  8. If you are using the tomatoes, add the diced tomatoes to the cheese sauce and stir well. Then add the sauce to the veggie noodles, mix well and serve. (As a garnish, you may sprinkle a mixture of fresh basil and chopped garlic as I did in the picture.)
  9. If you are not using the tomatoes, simply add the cheese sauce to the veggie noodles, mix well, and serve.

 

 

Roasted Garlic Bread

“It’s the simple pleasures….”

I celebrated another birthday this year, and unlike many people, I don’t mind that I did. While I am not thrilled that my metabolism is slowing down and that aches tend to last longer, I am grateful for the maturing process which only aging and experience can bring. One gets to know oneself better as time goes on, and that’s a good thing, in my opinion, because only then can you really embrace your strengths, recognize and work on your weaknesses, and allow yourself to be the best version of yourself.

My husband wanted to know what I wanted to do for my birthday this weekend, because we have had a particularly stressful couple of weeks with a funeral and a graduation and time at a hospital with a dear friend. As I thought about what I wanted, I realized I simply wanted to hang with my family, particularly to have a good meal and to watch a movie while all three of my children were actually with me on my birthday for the first time in a few years.

Now, both cooking and watching a movie are not my husband’s ideas of a good time, but as a loving husband, he dutifully grilled the zucchini and chicken I prepared and sat through a movie. My gift to him for being kind enough to grill for me was to figure out a starch to go with the meal. Since I do have that slowing-down metabolism, I tend to eat less carbs these days, but I know that my husband thinks a meal is not complete without bread.

So, I decided I’d make garlic bread, but I didn’t want to use traditional white bread or the large amounts of butter. As I thought about garlic bread, I realized what I love best is the garlic so it occurred to me that garlic should be the the “showpiece” of garlic bread as opposed to the minced versions usually made, which led me to the idea of roasting the garlic and making a garlic bread similar to bruschetta which used olive oil, tomatoes and basil, only I used a gluten free whole grain bread instead.

The roasted garlic bread was ridiculously easy to make and added a nice dimension to the grilled dinner!

Roasted Garlic Bread

Ingredients:

peeled garlic cloves

olive oil

whole grain bread (gluten free or whole wheat or multi-grain)

fresh basil

grape tomatoes (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Mix a couple of cups of peeled garlic cloves (how much you need depends on how many slices of bread you are making; also if you buy them already peeled, it makes life easier) with just enough olive oil to coat them, and roast them in the oven, turning them every five minutes until the garlic has darkened in color. (Usually this only takes ten to 15 minutes.)
  3. Remove the garlic from the oven and reduce the oven to 350 degrees. Let the garlic cool for a few minutes.
  4. While the garlic is cooling, slice your whole grain bread (whether gluten free or not) into thin slices (unless you bought the already sliced version, in which case you’re set) and place the slices on a cookie sheet or shallow pan.
  5. Chop up a couple of cups of fresh basil into small sprinkle-able pieces (how much you need depends on how many slices of bread you are making; also, if you don’t have fresh basil, you can also use dried basil, but you’d only need a couple of teaspoons then).
  6. Slice the roasted garlic into thin slices and sprinkle evenly among all the bread slices. Then sprinkle the basil. (Optional: slice grape tomatoes into think slices and sprinkle in between the garlic before sprinkling the basil.)
  7. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over each bread.
  8. Bake in the reduced-heat oven for five to ten minutes until the bread is toasted.
  9. Serve immediately and enjoy.
  10. Leftovers keep well in the fridge. Simply reheat in the oven for a few minutes for crispy bread or microwave for a few seconds if you simply want it warm.

Recipe Revamping: Cardamom Citrus Bars

“It was so nice of someone to think of us….”

The first full week in May is designated as appreciation week for teachers and nurses, and in our schools, the local PTO plans a week of nice surprises for the teaching staff. One day might be a luncheon. Another could be a day of raffles and winning prizes which have been donated. Sometimes they provide a breakfast. A few years included massage therapists coming in for 10 minute chair massage opportunities.

In the past I’ve helped to coordinate appreciation week for our schools but recently I’ve stepped down and help just by donating food for whatever special opportunities are being provided. This year, I made a couple of soups for the luncheon and signed up to bring in desserts for a special salty and sweet day the PTO planned.

Since I wasn’t sure what to make for the dessert, I asked for ideas from the staff, and someone mentioned that it would be lovely if I could make lemon bars for those with dairy, soy, gluten and nut allergies, all of which were prevalent among a number of the teachers. Since usually the bars I make are made from tofu, which was one of the allergies, I looked up a basic lemon bar recipe to revamp.

The recipes I found were all pretty much the same: To make the crust, mix 2 cups of flour, 1 cup butter, and 1/2 cup sugar, which was baked in a variety of pans sized from 8 x 8 to 7 x 11. The filling was usually 4 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and lemon juice which strangely ranged from 1/3 cup to 3/4.

Revamping the recipe:

For the flour: It was easy to simply substitute the flour with a gluten free flour blend. I chose King Arthur’s whole grain blend which is my current favorite since it is easy to get at the grocery store and has more protein and fiber than the other blends.

For the butter: To make the bars dairy free, I simply used Earth Balance’s soy free vegan butter.

For the sugar: The sugar was where I simply had to make some cuts. 2 1/2 cups of sugar in bars in an 8 x 8 or 7 x 11 or 9 x 9 pan is just too much sugar. I opted to use only 2 tablespoons in the crust, switching powdered sugar for the white sugar because it would combine more easily with the flour. And for the filling, I reduced the amount to 1/2 cup of white sugar and used 1/4 cup agave. As a final change, I used a 9 x 13 pan for thinner bars.

For the lemon: As a general rule, I suggest folks use fresh lemons for lemon bars. As I was looking at the recipe, I decided that I wanted to change things up a bit, so I opted to make citrus bars instead where I mixed freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice together. I also decided to add cardamom which is a spice that I like, just to further change things up a bit. Since the recipes varied greatly in amount, I cut the difference and used 1/2 cup of juice.

When I went to the school later in the day to help clean up, several staff stopped me to say how much they enjoyed the citrus bars, mostly because someone thought to make something they could eat, but also because they liked that the bars had so much less sugar but still tasted good.

Cardamom Citrus Bars

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain version)

1/2 tsp cardamom

2 tbsp powdered sugar

1 cup vegan soy free butter

4 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup agave

1/4 cup gluten free flour of choice (I used sorghum flour)

1/4 tsp cardamom

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice (I used 1/4 cup of each)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the gluten free flour, powdered sugar and cardamom together. Using a pastry knife or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly.
  3. Spread the crust mixture into the prepared pan and use your clean fingers to press the mixture evenly into the pan.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until the crust is puffed and golden.
  5. While the crust is baking, mix together the eggs, sugar, agave, flour, cardamom, and lemon and orange juices.
  6. Pour the citrus mixture over the hot crust and spread evenly.
  7. Bake in the oven, another 15-20 minutes until the filling has solidified.
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. (Note: The bars absorb the powdered sugar, so sprinkling just before serving allows you to serve pretty bars without having to add more sugar than you ought to be eating.)