Autumn Appetites: Apples and Pumpkins

“Change is bad….”

My youngest went trick or treating for the first time without his parents last night. He had fun with his middle school friends, trick or treating as a group, eating pizza at the Halloween party, playing games in the dark. He laughed and played and enjoyed himself. Then… he came home and cried because he realized the Halloween traditions of his last twelve years didn’t happen because he had gone out with his friends instead of with his parents. And as is typical with children on the autism spectrum, he made this blanket pronouncement: “Change is bad!”

Change is bad. How often do we feel and think that? Even as adults whose life experiences have taught us that change can be good, we can feel uncertainty and anxiety creep up on us when something in life changes. Often, the change has to prove its goodness as opposed to us believing its potential good from the onset.

As you can imagine, I took the time last night to speak to my son about the many changes he has had in his life which were good and pointed out that last night’s change enabled him to have a really good time with his friends which he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t “changed” by growing and becoming a middle schooler who wanted to hang out with his friends instead of his parents. He, of course, remained skeptical, but I trust that, as with my older two, someday my words will resound as reasonable and not gobblygook.

For those of with food allergies that appear later in life, change can definitely seem bad. Suddenly, the foods we’ve loved, we can no longer eat, and we now have to learn a whole new way of eating which includes new foods, new ways of shopping, and creating new recipes. It can feel overwhelming and just plain bad sometimes. Trust me, I know! The last few months of accidents, family health issues, and two too many deaths have created food comfort cravings, and what I wouldn’t have given to be able to eat one of my son’s Reese’s peanut butter cups last night!

On the other hand, though, developing food allergies later in life has expanded my repertoire of new food experiences, new recipes, and new opportunities for being creative, to do a different type of work, for establishing new networks and relationships, and to add support to community life. The good outweighs the bad.

Autumn presents a similar tension for folks… the changing colder weather means heavier clothes, shorter, darker days, and the coming of snow-storm filled, winter months. It also brings Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas, though, and wonderful foods like apples, pumpkins, kale, winter squash, and opportunities for eating those more cold weather foods like stews and holiday foods like tortes and pies.

This week, we had apples and pumpkins from neighbors’ gardens as well as our own to use up, so I decided to “change” what I usually make with apples and pumpkins (apple crisp and pumpkin pie) in favor of trying something new and different. So, I made an apple brownie, which is different from a chocolate brownie but tasty nonetheless, and a pumpkin gingerbread trifle because I had leftover gingerbread muffins from a workshop. Both treats were thoroughly enjoyed by the folks who benefited from my willingness to think that change could be a good thing!

Apple Brownies

Ingredients:

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

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup vegan butter, melted

2 cups coconut sugar

eggs equal to 1/2 cup (2 or three, depending on the size of your eggs)

3 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced into thin slivers

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the melted vegan butter, sugar and eggs.
  4. Stir the chopped apples into the dry ingredients, and then add the wet ingredients, mixing well until everything is moistened and incorporated.
  5. Spread the mixture into the lined pan and bake for about 30 minutes. The brownies will be puffed but will settle when it cools.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Ingredients:

two cups pureed, cooked pumpkin

24 oz unsweetened plain or vanilla flavored coconut yogurt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp agave

container So Delicious dairy free coconut whipped cream

cut up pieces of gingerbread cupcakes Gingerbread Cupcakes

Assembling Instructions:

  1. Mix the pumpkin, coconut yogurt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and agave together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Thaw the coconut whipped cream as instructed.
  3. In a deep round dish, layer according to the following: a thin layer of the pumpkin mixture, a layer of cut up gingerbread, a layer of the pumpkin mixture, a layer of half of the whipped cream, a layer of gingerbread, a layer of the pumpkin mixture, a last layer of gingerbread, last layer of the pumpkin mixture, and a layer of the second half of the whipped cream.
  4. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Autumn Appetites: Spiced Apple Bundt Cake

apple-bundt

“Life is too short to not bake.”

To my great sadness, a friend and neighbor unexpectedly passed away. She had been fine but then wasn’t feeling well one day, discovered she had stage four pancreatic cancer, and died within two weeks of the diagnosis. The funeral was this past Friday, a week after her passing. As I dealt with the sorrow of losing her this weekend, I turned to those things which give me solace: my faith, family and friends, writing, and cooking. In their own way, each provides me comfort and renewal.

Fortunately for me, my husband is teaching a class on Sundays which I tend to bake for, so I had the perfect opportunity to create a recipe. Because a friend generously gave me tons and tons of my favorite Honey Crisp apples, I knew I wanted to make something apple-y. I wanted something a little special, though — something wonderful like my friend. A bundt cake came to mind.

In a previous post, talking about bundt cakes, I mentioned that they’re tasty, dense cakes which are pretty to serve because they retain the shape of their molded pans. Usually bundt cakes are filled with goodies like fruit and nuts and chocolate, so they’re even pretty once they’re cut into slices. Since I had the abundance of apples, I decided that a spiced apple bundt cake would be perfect.

The batter is very important to a bundt cake. I decided that I’d combine sorghum and millet flour with arrowroot starch for my gluten free blend with a little bit of xanthan gum. For the spices I opted for cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves because they remind me of Autumn. With the sweetness of the apples, I didn’t really need to much for a sweetener so I chose to add Agave which would add mild sweetness as well as some liquid moisture to the cake. For the fat, I decided safflower oil would be best because of it’s light taste. To add some more spice to the cake, I mixed the apples with the same spices as the batter. Then to finish the cake, I drizzled a little mixture of cinnamon and powdered sugar mixed with flax milk on top of the cake. The result was both pretty and tasty.

Spiced Apple Bundt Cake

Ingredients:

3 cups of finely diced peeled and cored Honey Crisp apples, about 3 to 4 apples (My daughter and I liked the batter to apple ratio in the cake but my son and husband suggested that next time I increase the apple pieces to four cups so there would be “apple pieces in every bite”; I’ll let you decide what you’d prefer to do. *grin*)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 cup sorghum flour

1 cup millet flour

1 cup arrowroot starch (you can also use tapioca or potato starch if you’d prefer)

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup safflower oil (I like a drier cake which goes well with tea and coffee or glass of milk so this was perfect in my opinion, but I know some folks prefer a moister cake, so if you do, increase the oil to 1 cup)

1 cup agave

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp gluten free vanilla

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and liberally grease a bundt pan with your preferred method and then dust it with your preferred flour. (I used vegan shortening and brown rice flour.)
  2. Mixed the peeled, diced apple pieces with the cinnamon and cardamom and set aside.
  3. Blend the sorghum and millet flours, arrowroot starch, xanthan cup, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  4. Whisk together the oil, agave, eggs and vanilla.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet with the apple cider vinegar and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  6. Carefully fold in the apple pieces until the apples are fully incorporated into the batter.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes until the cake is golden and pulling away from the sides and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake sit in the pan on a cooling rack for at 15 to 25 minutes.
  10. Turn the cake over onto the cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. The cake can be served as is or you can top it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon, or you can glaze it. I glazed it by mixing a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and just enough flax milk to make a drizzable glaze.
  12. Enjoy!

 

 

Autumn Appetites: Cinnamon Apple Strudel Muffins

apple-cinnamon-muffins

“Will you teach me to cook?”

A couple of months ago my son asked if I’d give him weekly cooking lessons because as he explained, “When I grow up I need to know how to make the two most important meals of the day:  breakfast and dessert!”

So, over the past several weeks he’s learned how to make pancakes, waffles, French toast, marble cake, brownies, and oatmeal crumb cake. This morning, since Autumn has officially begun, and my favorite apples, Honey Crisp, are finally in season, I thought I’d teach him how to make my version of an apple strudel.

Strudels are lovely recipes where dough is filled with yummy fruit, rolled and cooked. I have found them to be rather messy, though, and not easy to eat without a fork and knife. I do, however, love to make use of Honey Crisp apples during the Fall months because they are naturally sweet which means I don’t need to add any additional sweetener to them.

The recipe that follows is sort of a combination between an apple strudel and a cinnamon roll which is cooked in the shape of a muffin using muffin tins. I got the idea from a recipe by Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring (http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/). If your only issue is gluten, she is a good source to refer to for recipes. Since I, however, have multiple allergies, I’m always having to adjust her recipes to fit my particular needs. In this case, though, her idea of making cinnamon buns in a muffin tin appealed to me, and I adapted that method for my recipe, which it turns out even my eleven year old can easily make.

Making this recipe for a Saturday morning is lovely because while the forming of the muffin takes about 20 minutes, the last half of the time is them baking in the oven while you make something else to go with them, which in our case this morning was turkey breakfast sausage.

For the recipe, I created my own flour blend because I wanted the “breakfast” muffins to be fiber full and have some protein. I found over time that a combination of sorghum, millet, oat, brown rice and tapioca flour gives us the best taste and texture. I also opted to use coconut sugar because I stay away from refined white sugar. Folks who have coconut allergies, though, should go ahead and use sugar or some other sugar substitute. In addition, I chose flax milk for my liquid because I figure it doesn’t hurt to add more omega 3’s to our diet, but again, if folks are allergic or prefer some other milk, go for it.

Cinnamon Apple Strudel Muffins

Ingredients:

Filling:

Apple:

2 Honey Crisp apples

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cinnamon:

1 cup coconut sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 cup vegan soy free butter (or regular if you’re not allergic and prefer)

Batter:

1 cup sorghum flour

1 cup millet flour

1 cup tapioca flour

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup oat flour

2 tsp xanthan gum

2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup coconut sugar (or sugar, if you’d prefer or are allergic)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of vegan soy free butter (or regular if you’re not allergic and prefer)

2 eggs

1 cup flax milk (or other type if you prefer or are allergic; I would’t recommend rice milk, though, because it’s too thin)

Topping:

1 tbsp vegan soy free butter

1 tbsp coconut sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 12 muffin tin with your preferred method.
  2. Peel, core and chop the apples by cutting them into quarters, then slicing each quarter thinly into five or six slices, turning the slices on their sides and cutting them on the short ends into small strips. You’ll have a couple cups worth of matchstick width pieces of apples.
  3. Put the apple pieces into a shallow pan which allows the pieces to be one layer. Pour the water over the apples and sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Stir the apples to coat them well with the cinnamon and then saute the apples over medium-low heat. The water will come to a boil and then slowly dissipate. Stir occasionally until all the water is gone and the apples are soft. Usually this entire process only takes about five minutes. Turn the heat off and let the apples cool while you make the rest of the filling and the batter.
  4. Mix the coconut sugar with the cinnamon and set aside. Melt the vegan butter and set aside.
  5. Mix the sorghum, millet, tapioca, oat and brown rice flours with the xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and coconut sugar.
  6. For the next part, it works well if you have a mixer with a dough handle but if you don’t have a dough handle, you can mix the dough with spoon and then finish kneading everything in by hand: Add to the dry ingredients, the vegan butter, eggs and milk, incorporating them just until you have a ball of dough, if you’re using the mixer. If you’re doing it by hand, mix the ingredients into well incorporated and then knead on parchment paper sprinkled with flour until you have a soft, pliable ball of dough.
  7. Put the dough ball onto parchment paper sprinkled with flour (I use the brown rice flour but you can use any type you’d like). Lightly sprinkle the dough with flour and roll it into an 15 by 12 inch rectangle. I find it’s best to start in the center and slowly work your way outward in all four directions, occasionally shaping the dough with your hands into a rectangle shape. (This was the part my son found to be the most fun!)
  8.  Using a brush, brush the melted butter over the surface of the dough, leaving about a 1/4 inch on one of the short ends free of butter. It’ll seem like you have a lot of butter but be sure to use all of it on the top of the dough.
  9. Sprinkle the butter surface of the dough with the coconut sugar mixture, leaving that 1/4 inch on the short end free as before of anything.
  10. Carefully spread the apple slices evenly on top of the cinnamon covered dough so that they’re in an even single layer but mostly covering the surface with the exception of the 1/4 inch on the short end.
  11. Starting on the short end opposite the free 1/4 inch side, carefully tuck in the end and begin rolling the dough toward the uncovered end. You can use the parchment paper to help roll. With every roll of the dough, it helps to use your hands to tighten it along the entire edge before continuing with the rolling. If you are using the parchment paper and have sprinkled flour, the dough will easily roll off the paper. If you are finding that it does stick, use a spatula to gently unstick the dough from the paper before continuing with your rolling. (I have never had to do this, but just in case….)
  12. When you reach the end which is free of filling, gently seal the edge and use your hands to carefully shape the log so it’s evenly round along the entire log.
  13. Slice the log into 12 even pieces. I like to just lay a 12 inch ruler and mark off the 12 inches and then use a serrated knife to cut the pieces.
  14. Put the pieces into the greased muffin tins. You should find that they just fit into the tins. You may need to shape/squash them a bit on the sides to get them in if your dough is nice and puffy, but that’s okay.
  15. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. They’ll be puffed and golden brown. While the muffins are baking, mix the tablespoon of coconut sugar with the cinnamon. Set aside.
  16. Using a butter knive, gently go around the edges to release them from sticking. Let them cool about five minutes in the tins before removing them to a cooling rack. While they are cooling in the tins, divide the tablespoon of butter evenly on top of each of the 12 muffins and brush them until the butter is melted. Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly on top of the muffins and let it melt into the butter.

Note: For the holidays, instead of using the cinnamon sugar on top, I make an icing to drizzle on top which is tofu cream cheese blended with agave and cinnamon. If you prefer to use sugar, you can mix powdered sugar with cinnamon and milk.

 

 

Autumn Appetites: Apples

website apples

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

For many folks autumn in New England is all about the beautiful colors and the opportunities for leaf-peeping. For me, I adore that it’s apple season. Orchards abound with every type of apple you can imagine, and you can pick them right of the trees by your very self.

My favorite is a variety called, Honey Crisp, which is just as it sounds – crisp and sweet. For someone like myself who doesn’t use refined sugar, these apples are wonderful for making pies and cakes and cookies and for sauteing slices to put on top of pancakes, waffles and ice cream (or rather nondairy frozen dessert, in my case!).

The thing about apples, though, is that most of the fiber and nutrients which are healthy for you are in the skin which people peel and throw out. So, I like to make recipes which require using washed, unpeeled apples which will mean that me and my family will receive the many benefits one can receive from eating apples.

Some suggestions for whole apple eating:

1. Make baked apples:  Wash and core your apples and put them whole into a baking pan. Melt a little bit of vegan butter and mix it with a little bit of natural sweetener like agave or coconut sugar and spices like cinnamon or cardamom or ginger or nutmeg or allspice or orange peel or a combination and sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Pour some hot water into the bottom of the pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour, remove the foil, and bake the apples until they are fork-soft.

I usually can bake about 15 to 18 apples in a 9 x 13 pan, depending on the size of the apples, and I mix 2 tbsp of vegan butter with 2 tbsp of agave and 3 tsp of mixed spices.  To top the apples after they’ve cooked, I saute gluten free whole grain oats on the stove top with spices and butter and agave. (2 cups oats mixed with 4 tbsp melted vegan butter, 1/4 cup agave, and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp ground coriander.)

2. Make apple cake:  A lovely cake I recently developed using all that extra sorghum flour I have is:  Mix 2 c sorghum flour with 1/2 c garbanzo bean flour, 1 c gluten free flour blend, 2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 c coconut sugar.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 1/2 cup grated apples (keeping the peels on but draining the shredded apples in a colander for 5 minutes before adding the other wet ingredients) with 2/3 cup safflower oil, 2/3 cup milk mixed with 2 tsp lemon juice, 3/4 cup agave, and 3/4 cup liquid egg whites.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, quickly and thoroughly. Bake in a parchment paper lined 9 x 13 or 11 x 14 pan (depending on how high you want the cake) for 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Baking time may vary depending on the type and size of pan.

3. Make apple crisp or apple pie with the peels on the apple:  I have recipes for both on the site already. Both say to peel the apples because that is how we make them for company, but for home we keep the peels on and the crisp and pies are just as tasty and actually more filling.

4. Saute the apples: Wash, core and slice apples with the peels on. Put into a pan and saute over medium low heat with a couple of teaspoons of agave mixed with an equal amount of water and cinnamon and nutmeg. Usually within five minutes or so, the apples are fork tender and delicious for topping pancakes or waffles or cake or ice cream.

5. Make quick and easy homemade applesauce:  Cut up an apple with the peels on and put into a microwave safe bowl. Add spices of your choice and microwave until the apples are soft enough to chop up and mash (usually just a couple of minutes in my microwave). Mash up with a fork or in your food processor. Cool and enjoy.

6.  Make an apple sweetened squash or carrot soup: Roast chopped butternut squash and/or carrots with cut up apples with the peels on. Be sure that everything is cut to the same size so they roast equally. When the vegetables and apples are soft, cool them for a few minutes and then puree with a hand blender or processor, adding fat free, low sodium broth of your choice and seasonings like thyme or rosemary or onions or black pepper to add extra flavor. Warm the soup to the temperature you’d like, and enjoy.

7. Add unpeeled chopped apples to salads:  Put apple slices into your green leaf salad for added flavor. Add finely chopped apples to your tuna fish or chicken salad for some crunch and texture.

8. Eat the apples as are:  I like to slice the apples and eat them with little dabs of peanut butter on them. When my children need a snack after school, they will eat apples whole, enjoying the sensation of biting into a sweet, crisp apple. Sometimes on a cold day, I core an apple and microwave it to soften it a bit and eat the apple warm which is soothing and tasty.