Orange-Oat Muffins from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free

Ricki Heller’s Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free is one of my favourite cookbooks.  It’s quite dangerous too though, if like me you are in love with the marbled halva.  Because for me it is an extreme sport not to eat it all in one go.  Whenever I’ve made the marbled halva, it goes something like this: make mixture.  Eat a fair bit of it before refrigerating. Get it out of the fridge to “trim the edges juuust a little” long before it has set. Eat most of it. If you’ve made it for visitors, you have to make something else at the last minute because marbled halva has significantly shrunk.

I like to make baked treats for the family, especially to freeze and then use as snacks.  Usually we eat most of the stuff before I freeze it.  Anyway, when it comes to baking I really don’t like using wheat flour so much, instead preferring things like buckwheat and barley. I make the odd baked treat now and then with spelt or regular flour, depending on the recipe.

On to the muffins.  These were a hit with Arthur in particular.  I was surprised because for me, millet leaves an aftertaste in my mouth (which isn’t necessarily unpleasant) and DeeW won’t eat anything made with millet flour so I guess the aftertaste bothers her. I really liked the muffins too and will make them again as a snack for Arthur and myself.  The muffins are made with orange and oats (naaaatch), flax, prunes, sunflower oil, coconut sugar, blackstrap molasses, stevia, psyllium husks, plant milk, Ricki’s All Purpose GF Flour Mix, and other regular muffiny things.  Tasty muffins meet hideous photography:

orange gf muffins

I’m very much looking forward to trying more baked treats by Ricki.

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Marbled Halva and the A-Z Bookish Survey

My parents visited this week to bring a bookcase over for Arthur’s bedroom.  Which meant lots of funtastic book sorting FOR ME, wheeee!  And dusting, boo.

My parents have always had the store bought halva, which is the grey variety made with tahini and sugar.  It’s popular around Lent as it is free of animal products.  A special treat when I was young was ‘halva sandwich’, which is as you may guess, a piece of halva between slices of bread.

‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’ by Ricki Heller contains a much better halva recipe so I made it for my parents.  By the way, have you ever eaten halva followed by a mouthful of soft drink (fizzy drink like Coke)?  Do it and tell me if the sensation in your mouth is completely weird.  I’ve only tried this with the grey store bought halva.  DO IT DO IT.

So in case you can’t tell, I am really in to this cookbook and marbled halva was one of the top three recipes I just had to try.  It’s very simple to make (food processor, woo!) though the really difficult part is two fold: 1) not eating the mixture from the bowl and 2) not going to the fridge to ‘trim the edges’ when you know you will be serving it to guests the next day.

My parents really liked it even though they never buy the chocolate swirl halva.  I want to make this as part of Christmas gifts for people but I have to be able to keep it cool, which might not be easy in an Australian Christmas!  Looks like some people will be getting ice bricks and miniature cooler bags for Christmas too:

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Now truthfully, I’ve made this twice.  The halva above was made with the runny tahini.  It was runny because I didn’t realise that at the bottom of this big tub was a solid ball of tahini.  Whoops.  So I made it a second time using the Tahini Blob, to see how it would go.  The first batch with the runny tahini came together in a ball in the food processor, as the recipe states.  The second recipe, made with the big solid blob of tahini, did not come together in a ball.  It was still okay enough to pat in to a rectangle shape for chilling, but it would crumble more than the runny tahini version when I picked it up.  No difference in the super taste though!

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And now for something fun, thanks to Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe who dobbed me in on her blog for the A-Z Bookish Survey (of course I don’t mind as this was fun thinking about and I got to take photos of books so it’s all super).  Oh, ‘dob’ is Australian slang isn’t it?  To dob on someone is to tattle.  You know how Cindy Brady was called a tattle tale?  In Australia she’d be called a dobber.  If you want to tell your parents that your big brother has made a face at you (heaven forbid) you’d say to him “I’m dobbing on you”.  Okay cool, now you’re all Aussies.

Survey time!

Author you’ve read the most books from: Enid Blyton, both as a child and to my children.  And I know this isn’t one author but as a kid I read all the Choose Your Own Adventure books and the Trixie Beldens.  Does that count?  Is this where I admit to having read all those Sweet Dreams books and trying to work out which cover was the most insipid?  Jeepers! That honour goes to Laurie’s Song:

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Best Sequel Ever: The Harry Potters!

Currently Reading: Nothing apart from cookbooks, which I like to read cover to cover when I first get them. A new cookbook means I find some quiet time and lie on the couch.  Though I’ve just been sorting out all the bookcases today and found stuff I want to read.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Nothing, I don’t want to risk spilling something on my book.

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical.

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Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: I don’t know about high school but boy that Julian from ‘The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor’ books sure made an impression when I was a youngster. I wonder if he’s the reason I always ended up attracted to the brainiacs?

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman.  A long time ago it seemed everyone I knew was telling me to read Neil Gaiman and I was all yeahhh whateverrr your hero worshipness is FREAKING ME OUT.  So I never bothered.  Then one day I picked up American Gods cheap and really enjoyed it and other Neil titles since.  See, we’re on a first name basis now.

Hidden Gem Book: ‘The Potato’ by Larry Zuckerman.  Yay for potatoes!

Important Moment in your Reading Life: Reading ‘The Snow Queen’ when I was a child. It made me wonder how many people had slivers of glass in their eyes and hearts.  When I was older, I read ‘The Bell Jar’ and it really affected me.  Negatively, ha ha…

Just Finished: I recently finished ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion.  I found this so moving and was astounded at reviews saying Joan Didion writes in a cold, clinical way and doesn’t show emotion.  I was shocked that these reviewers couldn’t see and feel the emotion, particularly grief, flying off the pages and smacking the reader in the face.  I’ve read a little of Joan Didion’s work and love the way she writes.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Romance novels, detective/CSI style books, goth horror type stuff, vampire stuff (I won’t watch those vampire tv shows either, I just got so sick of the whole Twilight vampire cashing in thing), books about war/war experience (too sad) or celebrities who consider themselves experts on parenting and publish a book after having their first child.

Longest Book You’ve Read:  Not sure, probably the Lord of the  Rings books one after the other 🙂

Major book hangover because of: probably Harry Potter. I loved the interviews with JK where she spoke about the feelings of loss she felt when she finally finished and I thought lady, I feel like that as the reader!

Number of Bookcases You Own: Quite a few: a bookcase that holds all my educational stuff (photo shows half of it as I’m moving furniture around):

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One small bookcase in DeeW’s room:

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I have a book display rack, as I’m moving books and games around this surface is all messy like:

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Then there are two large ones in Arthur’s room.  We started off with one, then my parents decided they didn’t need the matching one dad had made yeeeears ago (hence the colour, grey would not be up there (or down there) in my choice of bookcase colour).  So this week we got the matching case and I had to move books around the house to fill it:

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Arthur’s shelves contain a lot of my books from when I was young.  Only a few of the Trixie Beldens are mine, I always borrowed them repeatedly from the library.  Years ago I found an almost complete set on eBay.  That was a fine day, let me tell you:

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Then a big wall length lot of book cases we had built.  I’ve been going through these books in the last few days working out what to keep and what to move to Arthur’s bedroom.Please forgive the mess, I’m still sorting all these shelves:

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Then there are the cookbooks in my kitchen dresser.  My sister has a few of my vegan cookbooks so I’m missing some:

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Four mini bundt tins I found for a few bucks at Savers recently.  Did I need to buy them?  Of course not!

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One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: Oh this one’s easy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Years go by and then I’ll read it and laugh all over again.  Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is another I enjoy.

Preferred Place To Read: In bed or on the couch with complete quiet, so I either have to be home alone or the kids have to be asleep.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: I don’t often remember the actual quotes but I remember how I felt and for this I don’t think I can go past Anne of Green Gables for so many things but this is the stand out: “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”  I was often told to stop talking so much when I was little, and I do have the kind of name where I have to say “with an E”.  So I’m like “Anne with an E” and would have loved a kindred spirit bosom friend like her!

anne

Reading Regret: I read the first few pages of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.  ONLY because some friends were forcing me to see just how bad it was.  It was worse than I imagined and I feel robbed of those ten minutes I’ll never get back.

Series You Started And Need To Finish: Probably the rest of ‘The Eyre Affair’ by Jasper Fforde.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: The Hobbit, Stig of the Dump (Arthur loved both of these when I read them to him) and HHGTTG.

Stig

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Vegan cookbook authors!

Very Excited For This Release: MORE HARRY POTTER.  Please?

Worst Bookish Habit: borrowing stuff I never end up reading.

X Marks The Spot: (go to a bookcase and select the 24th book across) My cookbooks shelf is the closest to me right now so I’ve selected ‘Vegan on the Cheap’ by Robin Robertson.  From Arthur’s bookcases I randomly chose a starting point then ended up on ‘Thimble Summer’ by Elizabeth Enright.

Your latest book purchase: Some sewing and craft books for DeeW’s birthday present.  My latest cookbook purchases are Ricki Heller’s ‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’ and ‘Vegan Food Gifts’ by Joni-Marie Newman.  I always order from Book Depository.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): Oh man… that would have to be *cough* ‘The Da Vinci Code’.  It was a case of “just one more chapter… just one chapter more…”

Thanks again to Johanna, it’s been fun reading other responses too.  It seems Harry Potter is a popular response!

Best Bean Brownies from Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free

So lately I’m on a baking roll with Ricki Heller’s ‘Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free’.  I’m really enjoying these recipes and seeing how Arthur and DeeW react.  Their reactions, and this book, are proof enough that you don’t need to bake with refined flours and sugars.

A recipe I marked was the Best Bean Brownies.  I’ve made brownies with beans before from different websites and cookbooks and they’ve all been blah.  You can either taste beans, or the final result was just moosh inside, or you were left feeling like “I may as well have poured a heap of sugar on a bowl of beans and eaten that”.  If I’m going to be baking something like bean brownies, they better be damn good!

And so it came to pass that I, not a lover of brownies, now consider these one of my favourite treats to bake.  First of all, things are thrown in the blender.  BRILLIANT.  Secondly, the recipe contains tahini and I loooove tahini and chocolate (I used my raw cacao powder).  Thirdly, I finally got to use the packet of teff flour I bought a while ago and it has been sitting in the freezer doing nothing.    I used canned cannellini beans so it really was so very easy.  Mix your wet ingredients with your sifted dry ingredients (which include psyllium husks), bake for about an hour, walk around the house Hoovering up the amazing baking-brownie smell and then sit down to stuff your face with THIS (yeah, I cut a big piece as soon as they were out of the oven, stuck it in the freezer and hopped around impatiently for it to cool down enough):

bestbeanbrownies

I love this recipe (the white choc chips made an appearance again) and Arthur loved it too.  I did use slightly less coconut sugar and they were great.  You absolutely can not pick up the flavour of beans.  I could taste the sunflower oil so if you don’t like that taste, perhaps another neutral flavoured oil would suit you.  I didn’t mind it at all, which is why I polished off most of the finished product.

I will definitely make this again and perhaps add some pecans or walnuts.  I’m planning on baking for Christmas gifts this year so if it’s not too hot to use the oven, these brownies will be a main feature  😀

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins from ‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’

I’m pleased to share today’s baking adventures with you.  Because of THIS:

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My copy arrived a fortnight ago and I swear my eyes just kept popping out a little more with every page.  Although I’ve blabbed on about going gluten free on my blog before, I have slacked off but Ricki’s book and blog have really made me sit up straight and make more of an effort.  Ditto for changing the way I use sweeteners, and what sweeteners I use.  I use white sugar rarely but there are times when I’ve used white caster sugar.  I use more brown sugar and raw sugar but again, I want to move away from those. I’ve fallen in love with coconut sugar though, so I have to be mindful not to start baking too much!

Ricki is the author of the blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, though her site is now found at http://www.rickiheller.com.  In the past I used Ricki’s walnut-cauliflower ‘meat’ recipe in my vegan moussaka. From there I was sold and Ricki’s recipes have worked out well for me since.  Although I tested negative in all my coeliac-y tests I do sometimes feel blergh after gluten (and sometimes outright sick after eating something with vital wheat gluten) but the most important consideration here is my children and I would like to improve their diets further.  I would like to bake a couple of times a week but even then I’m mindful of that they’re eating.

I was also super pleased to see fellow Melbourne veg blogger Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe post up an interview with Ricki. And to add to the excitement, Johanna has made the exact same recipes I bookmarked to try first!  During the past week I shopped and waited for deliveries to arrive and now everything is here, wheee!  I went down to Naturally on High in Thornbury to get some supplies:

naturallyonhigh

From there we drove down to Fruit Pedallers.  I wish I had more time to look around but Husband and kids were in the car and the shop was packed so I decided to get out of there as soon as I could (because I was hungry and the very glutteny Lord Of The Fries was a ten minute drive away):

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I really like this part of Melbourne:

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When we got back home it was baking time.  I had previously cooked, pureed and frozen some sweet potato so I had it ready to go this afternoon.  The rest of the ingredients were easy to get together, including Ricki’s own flour mix (there’s a recipe for that at the start of the book). One of the flours in Ricki’s mix is garfava flour, which I’d never heard of before and briefly worried about how I’d get it in Australia.  I then discovered it’s garbanzo (chickpea) and fava bean, whew!  Bob’s Red Mill garfava flour is sold in Australia.

Enough chat.  How did the muffins turn out?  Good!  And blurry:

sweetpotatochocchipmuffins

Now ah, you may notice the choc chips are white choc chips.  That’s because I can’t find Sweet William small dark choc chips anywhere.   I have found the white choc chips and buttons and the dark choc buttons but not the dark choc chips.  So this part of the muffins was probably using refined sugar, gahhh.  And I guess the dark choc chips would be the same, right?  I don’t like carob chips so if anyone can suggest another vegan choc chip, please leave a comment!

For me, the muffins didn’t have that strong taste of bean/chickpea like some “I swear you can’t taste the beans!!!” recipes have. You can’t taste the sweet potato either, if you’re worried about that.  I was surprised at how light and delicate they were, I was expecting something more dense, like every other sweet potato baking recipe I’ve tried.

The flavourings (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla) in my opinion are just right.  I found these helped to disguise the taste of the flours.  Husband said he would have preferred them sweeter and he found the aftertaste a little strange, however that’s how I felt when I started using things like besan and millet flour.  The kids liked them but I think next time I will make them in the mini size.  I suspect the regular size resulted in too much “strange tastes”.  I’ve used things like millet and quinoa flour before but not in things they liked, so I think they need to get used to the taste.  Arthur absolutely hated soy milk and tofu once upon a time, now he asks for tofu, or stuff made with soy milk, or vegan ham and cheese pizza.  I confess I must also get used to the gluten free flours and different sweeteners, though it’s easier for me now as I know what is better for me.

I’m looking forward to making more recipes and sharing them here (like the marbled halva and brownies, yummm.  And I don’t even like brownies much)  😀

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi from Cupcake Kitteh

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Ahhh gnocchi.  I have always had a love-hate relationship with these little balls of goodness-badness.  Goodnes, because they are lovely with a taste sauce.  Badness, because traditional gnocchi often results in feeling like I have lead balls in my stomach and I feel blergh.

I’m subscribed to Cupcake Kitteh‘s blog and I squealed with excitement when I saw Mandee post this recipe for gluten free sweet potato gnocchi.  I love sweet potato, I had lots of sweet potato so that was what I chose to make for dinner a couple of days ago.

I first made a few small proper gnocchi sized balls with the fork marks as a test because I was worried the mixture was too soft.  I needn’t have worried as they turned out fine, especially pan fried in a little oil.

Then the laziness crept in and took over… look, jumbo gnocchi:

gnocchi

These were great!  I held my breath when the kids tried some.  Arthur’s rating was “38% goodness” so at least I can use this recipe as a base.  Husband was out for dinner and didn’t have any.  DeeW was not a fan but I didn’t expect her to be as she doesn’t like this kind of texture.

This is such a simple recipe and one I will make again with a really nice pesto  🙂