Cocoa-Banana Breakfast Cake (or Muffins)

Breakfast.  It can be so boring ~ so unhealthy ~ and so expensive.  Are you stuck in a rut?  Are you tired of paying an arm and a leg for boxed cereal that has little staying power and often little true nutrition?  I am going to start a series on make-ahead breakfast recipes to take the ho-hum out of mornings.  You’ll find yourself looking forward to breakfast!  You might even want to take a look at some of your current recipes and rethink the possibility of using them for a morning meal.  Of course, I always add some fresh fruit to the meal to round it out nutritionally.

Cocoa-Banana Breakfast Cake (or Muffins) 001Whether you have to eat gluten-free, or not, this breakfast cake will please you!  It was so exciting to put the first forkful into my mouth and taste how delicious it was.  The texture is moist and heavy like some decadent muffin that you might buy.  Mmmm.  In fact, Continue reading

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Blondies

(Sometimes when a blogger does a variation on a former recipe it seems almost like cheating to me…but…if you just stick an addendum onto the first-time-non-altered recipe, most people aren’t going to see it, right?  That must be why we do it.  It couldn’t be because we’ve been too busy/tired/burned out/bored/exhausted to create a new recipe, right?  Um-hmmm…that’s what I thought.)

Everyone was missing cookies.  I hadn’t had time to bake and it had been too hot to slave over an oven for a long time period anyway.  However, when the natives get restless for cookies, you know you’d better do something about it!

I thumbed through my pile of recipes (the ones awaiting hole-punching so that I can file them in my already-stuffed notebook…) and saw my Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  Mmmm…man, those sounded good!  And I actually had all of the ingredients available.  But I still wasn’t interested in standing in the kitchen for an extended period of time dropping cookies onto the cookie sheets.  (There is just something about hot weather that makes me lethargically lazy.)  I wondered if I could turn them into blondies?

I added a little more coconut oil and put parchment paper in the pan (although, you might not need that, but it makes clean-up a snap!)  They came out very nicely.  They are still a relatively tender, fragile cookie/brownie ~ it seems that gluten-free cookies are either fragilelike this, or tough as nails ~ but they taste so good, I didn’t mind.

You’ll notice this recipe has very little variation from the cookie recipe I mentioned above, except it’s easier!

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Blondies

  • 1/4 c. non-hydrogenated soy margarine, softened (1/2 stick), such as Earth Balance
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice or sugar
  • 1 T. molasses
  • 3 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no added water)
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk plain or vanilla soy)
  • 1 c. chocolate chips (more if you want them bursting at the seams)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 1 1/2 c. fine almond meal or almond flour (I used Trader Joe’s brand), breaking up any lumps
  • 3/4 c. coconut flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place parchment paper in a 9×13″ pan so that the edges stick up above the pan.

With a wooden spoon, in a large bowl, combine and beat margarine, coconut oil, cane juice, molasses, and vanilla.  Thoroughly stir in egg replacer powder.  Add a fourth of the non-dairy milk, or so, at a time, beating it in completely after each addition.  Keep whipping it until well incorporated.  It may look a little separated due to the extra liquid needed with the coconut flour.  (You can toss the milk in all at once, but it tends to cause separation and then you have to work harder to whip it together.)  Stir in chocolate chips, salt, and baking soda, mixing well.  Stir in almond and coconut flours until no dry spots remain.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking after 25 minutes to make sure your oven isn’t running too hot.

Place on cooling rack in the pan for 15 minutes or so, then lift the whole batch out (using the edges of the parchment paper sticking out of the pan) onto the rack to finish cooling and to make sure the paper doesn’t end up damp beneath the blondies.  After completely cooling, you can either transfer them back to the pan to cut them (esp. if you have one of those neat cake pans with plastic lids that can store the blondies – less dishes to wash!) or you can put them onto a cutting board to slice them into bars and store them in an airtight container.

Barley Flour Biscuits (wheat free)

These are simple drop biscuits that I like to use as a base for strawberry shortcake or under a tasty gravy.  They are not a light, fluffy, Pillsbury pop-out-of-a-can biscuit copy.  They aren’t bricks, either, but are full of whole-grain goodness that gives sturdiness to a simple meal of strawberry shortcake.  (Whole wheat flour ~ I especially like King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour ~ can be substituted for the barley and coconut flours, though you may wish to decrease the milk and baking powder a little.)

I like drop biscuits, because I’m more likely to make them if I don’t have to roll out dough and clean up the counter afterward.  Some people are really into the process of making food ~ and I applaud them.  We need those chefs and marvelous in-depth homemakers/bakers/cooks.  I love to cook and love good tasting food, but if it takes too long to make, I tend to skip it entirely!  There are just too many things clamoring for my time.  When I learned that my family didn’t notice a difference in drop biscuits vs. rolled-out ones, I never rolled out another biscuit.

The 2 biscuits pictured show 2 options – spooning up and treating the dough like a huge drop cookie (left), or taking that same amount of dough in damp hands and forming it slightly into a smoother, somewhat formed biscuit (right.)  If you use more dough, you can form the biscuit so that it has a higher profile so that it can be split in half more easily.  I am going to do that next time.

Barley Flour Biscuits (wheat free)

  • 1 1/2 c. barley flour
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. evaporated cane juice crystals (optional – use for shortcake biscuits)
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil OR 1/2 of an Earth Balance vegan buttery stick
  • 1 c. non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 450° and cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut in coconut oil (if it is warm at your house and the oil has liquified, you can either harden it up in the refrigerator before hand, or you can melt it and whisk it into the non-dairy milk that has been brought to room temperature) OR vegan butter substitute into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until everything begins to look a bit crumbly and like there are tiny clumps that easily break apart when mashed with the blender.  Stir in the milk all at once with a fork, making sure that you get the flour in the bottom of the bowl that tends to hide there.  It will look way too runny at first, but it will firm up.

Drop or form into approximately 10 biscuits on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until firm and the bottoms are golden brown.  Serve right away under gravy, or cool for strawberry shortcake.

Island Cookies

I love taste testing my cookie recipes!  😀  Of course, sometimes it gets out of hand….  Like this time.  (By the way, you can click on the pictures to see bigger versions.)

Last weekend, I needed a new cookie recipe, because somebody (or bodies) had snacked on the chocolate chips and I couldn’t make the requested lunch box favorites – chocolate chip cookies.  I also needed a gluten-free cookie.  This is what I found.  It was based off of this recipe.  I was intrigued, but frustrated.  Too often gluten-free, grain-free recipes call for massive amounts of eggs.  It can be difficult to substitute, because often they are doing more than one job – leavening, binding, moisture, flavor.  I can fix the moisture issue, as a general rule, but the leavening/binding issues can be tricky.  Flavor can be adjusted to make up for the lack of eggs, too.  I did some reading on other websites about replacing eggs in things (thus reinforcing the on-going thought that we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us when it comes to creating something “new.”)

Often times, you don’t know for sure how things will work out until you’ve made at least one batch….or two…or….well, you get the picture.

My first attempt came out ~ well ~ in my mind…plain.  Remember what I said about eggs giving things flavor?  Hmmm…they had a very mild flavor.  I was afraid my non-taster hubby wouldn’t be impressed.  I was sure tweaking would be in order.  Guess what?  All the guys liked them!  The impression they got was of a sugar cookie with a little cinnamon.  Who knew?  However, I wasn’t finished tweaking.

The “worst” of it was that I didn’t finish tweaking until about half of the cookies were baked!  😀  I had the dough mixed up and decided if I threw in some rum flavoring it would add a lot to the overall flavor.  Then I thought, “What about some coconut flakes?”  Before I threw those in, I made up 2 cookies from the original dough in the mixing bowl – 1 to taste test and 1 for the photo shoot.  (Those taste a lot like coconut snickerdoodles.)

While I was stirring in the coconut, I thought about how much hubby prefers chocolate chips in his cookies.  So, I put 2-cookies-worth of coconut-laden dough onto the cookie sheet and added chocolate chips.  I no longer thought they would need to be rolled in the cinnamon sugar.  One cookie later told me ‘no.’  It stuck like crazy to the glass I was using to flatten the cookie balls.  Back to the sugar…but I really thought just plain sugar (aka: evaporated cane juice crystals) would be good enough.

By this time, I had the first pan in the oven – can you believe it?  Finally.  When the cookies came out, I almost burned my mouth tasting the first one before they cooled!  By this time, the 2nd pan was already in the oven with plain-sugar-coated cookies on it.

I bit into the first cookie ~ the plain one.  MMmmm…it was SO much better than my first attempt.  I only ate a bite, because I hadn’t been hungry this morning and hadn’t actually had breakfast yet.  Next I broke off a piece of the coconut-flakes-added cookie.  Oh, man, this was even better than the last one!  I couldn’t wait to try the ones with chocolate chips.  All set to get a bigger burst of flavor than before, my mouth watered….ah, let down.  Without the cinnamon sugar, they were just plain ol’ cookies!

Quickly I got the next pan ready with cinnamon-sugar on them.  When they came out of the oven, I finally got that amazing burst of flavor I knew was coming!

Overall, I love each of these cookie variations for different reasons.  They were all moist inside with a nice crumb.  Since I made a double batch, by the time I got to the very last pan, the coconut flour had soaked up a little too much moisture and the finished product was a bit on the fragile side as it came off the pan.  If you make a single batch, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Island Cookies

  • 3/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 1/4 c. Earth Balance buttery spread sticks (1/2 a stick)
  • 1/4 c. softened virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. rum extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. molasses
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2 c. Silk vanilla coconut milk (you could probably substitute canned coconut milk)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder, sieved to remove lumps
  • 3/4 c. coconut flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c. coconut flakes – I used sweetened ones (opt. – if not using chocolate chips, increase)
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (opt.)
  • 3 T. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (use the good stuff for the best flavor – Saigon, etc.)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugar, Earth Balance, coconut oil, vanilla, rum extract, salt, and molasses until creamy.  Stir in the egg replacer powder.  Add roughly a 1/3 of the coconut milk, stirring until batter begins to fluff up.  Add another 1/3 of the coconut milk, again mixing well.  Reserve the remaining coconut milk.  Sprinkle the baking soda over the dough and whip into the batter.  Stir in the coconut flour and when almost all is incorporated, add the reserved coconut milk.  Add coconut flakes and chocolate chips if using.  Let rest for 5 minutes while mixing remaining sugar and cinnamon in a cereal bowl.

Form dough into no-bigger-than-ping-pong-sized balls and roll/toss in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place on cookie sheets and press lightly down with the bottom of a wide drinking glass.  (If you prefer, you can use a fork, but I didn’t care for the looks as much.)  If the chocolate chips resist the pressing, just wiggle the glass a bit and they will give in.  😀

Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Cool on racks.Yields 25-28 cookies

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Celiac disease seems to be on the upswing.  All of a sudden, you have friends or family who can’t eat wheat and other grains.  What do you feed them?  Panic ensues.  The packaged gluten-free items can be tasteless or hockey pucks – and expensive.  Plus, how good for you are those starches that they use to replace the flour?

As I researched cookies online, I found that there are a lot of recipes that I wouldn’t even want to try to gather the strange ingredients to make.  Who wants xanthan gum in a cookie…and what IS it?  After a few “unorthodox” recipes (read: not the gluten-free industry standards) were perused, I decided that I was probably better off to quit reading and start cooking.  Those “unorthodox” cooks had used some healthy ingredients in their baking and the pictures looked tasty!  Modifying my already-modified vegan recipes was obviously the place to start.

There’s another thing ~ if you have been vegan for long, you know it can be sticky enough bringing vegan cookies to a school, church, or family function, but gluten-free vegan cookies?  Oh, my.  Now nobody will touch them, right?  Relax.  These actually taste pretty good!  My teen boys, J & R, gave them a thumbs-up.  In fact, J even liked them better than my usual ones because he likes a softer cookie.  (Which means if you put a little sign on them “gluten-free vegan cookies,” it virtually guarantees nobody will eat them, and you get to take them home.  Win!)  (Addendum ~ that actually didn’t work at a party we attended.  There were only crumbs left.)

I started with the chocolate chip cookie recipe that I posted yesterday and cut it in half.  (Just in case my plan didn’t work and they flopped!)  It was a good thing that I did.  By the time I got to the last pan, the dough had begun to change a bit and become drier.  Therefore, I do not recommend doubling this recipe. The next time I make them, I might drizzle in some more non-dairy milk toward the end and see if that changes anything.  (If you try it, let me know how they come out.)  The picture shows the story of the order of baking from top to bottom ~ it’s readily apparent that things changed.  (I used 17″ cookie sheets and had 3 sets go into the oven.)

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/4 c. non-hydrogenated soy margarine, softened (1/2 stick), such as Earth Balance
  • 2 T. melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice or sugar
  • 1 T. molasses
  • 3 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no added water)
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk plain or vanilla soy)
  • 1 c. chocolate chips (more if you want them bursting at the seams)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 1 1/2 c. fine almond meal or almond flour (I used Trader Joe’s brand), breaking up any lumps
  • 3/4 c. coconut flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheets.  This step is non-negotiable.  Without it, I cannot be responsible for how awful your cookies look.

With a wooden spoon, in a large bowl, combine and beat margarine, coconut oil, cane juice, molasses, and vanilla.  Thoroughly stir in egg replacer powder.  Add a fourth of the non-dairy milk, or so, at a time, beating it in completely after each addition.  Keep whipping it until well incorporated.  It may look a little separated due to the extra liquid needed with the coconut flour.  (You can toss the milk in all at once, but it tends to cause separation and then you have to work harder to whip it together.)  Stir in chocolate chips, salt, and baking soda, mixing well.  Stir in almond and coconut flours until no dry spots remain.

Drop by teaspoon onto parchment-covered cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Carefully remove to cookie racks to cool.  I found the last cookies will be more fragile than the first ones.

Variation:  Make into blondies/bars here