gluten & sugar free chocolate zucchini muffins



I'm on a bit of a gluten-free kick. My body is loving me for it too. No more of the upset tummy from indulging in one too many baked goods. Can't eat too many of these either, but only because they're super filling. They're big, moist, yummy and great for a mid-morning snack. Plus, they turn out perfect every time so that's a good thing too.

These were born from my love of chocolate and the big beautiful zucchinis growing in the garden now (or in this case, our friend's garden). I sweetened these with xylitol but you could use maple syrup or brown sugar. 1/2 cup yields a semi-sweet muffin. Use 3/4 cup if you like more sweetness.

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

11/2 cup shredded zucchini (packed loose)
1/2 cup xylitol
2 eggs
1/2 cup yogurt
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2 cups gluten free flour (I used Cloud 9 & Bob's on separate batches and had equal success)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 Tbsp cocoa nibs (optional but adds texture)

Instructions
1. Mix zucchini, eggs, olive oil, milk or water, yogurt and xylitol in a large bowl.
2. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda in a small bowl.
3. Add dry to wet ingredients and mix well. Add nibs if using. Mixture should resemble thick pancake batter.
4. Fill prepared muffin tins with mixture (they will be really full)
5. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes (until pushing slightly on tops yields some resistance).
Allow to cool before eating.

Gluten free breading extravaganza

1. oat flour mix, 2. cloud 9 mix, 3. corn flour blend #2, 4. corn flour blend #1
A while ago, a friend asked me about gluten free breading. I don't bread much but it got me thinking. And thinking I did for several months (takes me a while to mull things over).  Finally I got around to trying all sorts of combinations and I'm super excited to share them! It was a good day for Craig too, as a lover of breading and fried-things (it's on these occasions he loves the blog).

No combination turned out 'bad', in fact they were all quite good. But there were some definite winners and some others I probably won't make again. For cooking, I used a half-inch of grapeseed oil (in a ceramic coated cast iron skillet) to fry. But they would probably bake well too, just not be as crispy. I had some chicken breasts I needed to use up, but there's no reason you couldn't use fish or tofu.

I used corn flour, a gluten-free flour blend (Cloud 9) and gf oats that I ground into flour for my bases. I cut up the chicken into little nugget pieces for my experimenting, but I would totally do them again that way. Little bites are great for dipping, snacking, sharing....
I figure between Craig and I, we give a good objective score. I'm coming from a healthy perspective where if I had to, I would choose ingredients over taste, while Craig just wants it to taste good and be 'normal'. 

My batches were small and so are my recipe amounts. I cooked 3 large chicken breasts (cut into bite sized pieces) and used all of the ingredients/recipes below. We had 3 plates like this one. So full.  

Chicken pieces were coated in egg first, then dipped and pressed into mixes to coat fully.  

Here's the results:
1. Corn mix #1
3 Tbsp corn flour
1 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp no salt seasoning (from Costco) or use garlic powder

These were as yummy. I love the texture of corn flour. Nice and crunchy. Would make these again.
**This amount would coat approx 2-3 chicken breasts (not cut up)

2. Oat flour mix
1/3 cup oat flour (I ground oats in a coffee grinder)
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

You can try them without smoked paprika but truly, it adds another dimension of flavour and both Craig and I preferred the paprika ones to the non-paprika oat flour batches. I would try this mix with tofu.

**This amount would coat approx 3-4 chicken breasts (not cut up)

3. Cloud 9 blend
2 Tbsp Cloud 9 flour (recently bought at Costco)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground rosemary

Craig loved the rosemary fragrance and found the fried batter pleasing. I liked them ok, but found the Cloud 9 flour didn't hold up to frying as good as the corn or oat flour. It was a little too fine. Still really good and might actually work better on a fish like cod or sole.

**This amount would coat approx 2-3 chicken breasts (not cut up)

4. Corn mix #2
2 Tbsp corn flour
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Very tasty. Equally as good as #1. Top points from Craig and I. Good texture and the smoked paprika is lovely in this one too.

**This amount would coat approx 2 chicken breasts (not cut up)

5. #4 with a corn chip finish

This was delicious. Full points from both. Great crunchy texture.  I crushed organic corn chips with a rolling pin in a baggie. After coating with corn mix #2, I dropped the piece in the baggie and rolled it around to coat in chips.

6. #1 with a corn meal finish

I coated these with corn mix #1 then added a coating of raw corn meal. The corn meal or corn grits are a little too gritty for this and don't soften enough with frying. Not horrible, but I wouldn't add that step again. Craig said good but not as good as #5.

More testing going on this plate below. Numbers getting a little greasy.  #4 I tried coating with #1 and #2 both. Not super exciting. #6 is #1 with a corn chip finish. Yummy. I think the corn chip finish is a winner.

Craig wanted me to try #3 with a corn chip finish but I ran out of chicken. He thinks it will be the best one yet. I'm not convinced, but if you happen to try it, let me know :)

Happy GF breading.

Cheap renos that look great

I like to call my home a cabin, when yes, it is clearly a trailer. A cozy, comfy trailer. Cabin sounds more romantic for a home in the mountains. But with being an older trailer, our goal with renos is as cheap as possible or free (best).

In part 1 of my summer update, I posted 3 cheap and cheerful projects.  For part 2, I'll share renos I'm proud of & a garden update.

1. First the garden

Big changes including a taller fence (4' plastic chicken wire. It's fantastic). Expanded the size by more than double. All the grass will be gone soon and next year black mulch around the beds. The fence is a must for both the cats as well as deer.

I especially love the gate. All built with reclaimed wood!

Will these tomatoes ripen already!? Things are looking pretty good but it's the end of August and only had 10 ripe cherry tomatoes thus far. Drastic measures need to be taken soon.
Things are looking wild in the boxes with flowering peppermint and oregano. I can't keep up with production. I don't use oregano for anything it seems. Red potatoes growing everywhere too. Lettuce mix is in the front of the first box, hope to be eating it in another couple weeks. 
Planted more peas after the deer fiasco with the first pea planting of the season. 

2. Cabin renos
I showed you this 'before' a while ago. Craig and my brother took down the rotting deck about a week ago. Still some deck work to be done. Except the paint and stain, the materials were free or bartered for.
The lean-to project was done last year, all except for painting and staining. What a world of difference it makes! (the project next door is our neighbours workshop). 

There were so many more projects done and more still that need to be done. But the summer is short and we also get out in the camper and do fun stuff. Here we are heading out on the way to Nakusp then Nelson, BC.
What's the best thing you've done so far this summer?

Beautify on a budget: simple, easy and useful projects

Summer is winding down, but we're been making the most of it around here with renovations, family visits and craft projects. It's been busy! So busy that I'm diving this post into two parts. Today, part 1, I share some fun projects I've completed that cost $$ peanuts, are useful and help beautify your surroundings. 

1. Oversize kitchen chalkboard 
Using just leftover cedar scraps, Craig created this awesome board with lots of room to write recipes, grocery lists and inspiring quotes like 'seize the day!' Cost was minimal using all leftovers including chalkboard paint from this super fun project. There are some great versions made with old picture frames too. Makes me want to make more...although I have literally no more wall space.

2. Custom rain chain
Craig had just finished some fixing up of the eavestrough and we needed a down spout.  I did some research because I love the look of rain chains. This one we came up with after scouring the local dollar store. 12 plastic cups at $0.50 each and a length of chain from the hardware store for $10. Craig had the nails and pushed them through the cups and chain after drilling holes. The bottom of each cup has been drilled out too. When it rains the water just trickles down, looking all sparkly, leading to a bucket filled with rocks. Saves water from splashing all over the dirt. 

3. Write-on banana pepper vase
Making more use of chalkboard paint (a little jar goes a LONG way). I took one of those huge pepper jars from costco, cleaned up the label area with goo gone then taped off a square where I painted 2 coats. I found some old ribbon to tie around the top and done! I can't imagine the cost was more than $4 (if that, and that includes buying the huge jar of peppers). 

Stay tuned for exciting part 2 where I'll show you our recent cabin renos and garden updates. 
What have you been up to this summer?

5 indispensables in the kitchen

Lists are fun...I don't do enough list on the blog, so here is one today. First, I don't think I have to say, but this is not an exhaustive list. Just 5 things I'm loving and use all the time. Can't image not having these 5 in my kitchen. 

1. Big knife
Maybe it's wrong to use this knife for everything, but it works for almost everything...great for chopping veggies, nuts, fruit, bread. I keep it sharp with a knife honing steel.

2. Silicone baking mat

A Christmas gift that keeps on giving. I love it. It gets whipped out whenever I use a baking sheet. I don't have a proper sized baking sheet (half sheet), but I make it work and wedge it in there. Nothing sticks to it but over time is gets somewhat stained and greasy.


3. Silicone moulds for chocolate making

Since I started making raw chocolate, one of the best tools I've bought are silicone moulds. I think they make the chocolate taste better too. My first attempt though, was a bit of a gong show.

4. Citrus juicer
Juicing by hand is totally fine, but after getting a citrus squeezer ($5 at ikea), the job is easier and I waste less. It gets used more for volume orders like zippy lemonade pops.

5. Jar funnel

This was bought on a whim at Princess Auto (Craig's store not mine). Only $1. Makes filling mason jars less messy.

What are your indispensable 5?

2 gluten-free, sugar-free ways to use almond meal (from making almond milk)

I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I found commercial (sugar-free) almond milk. But with all my blissful consuming, pouring almond milk over everything, I had overlooked the ingredient carrageenan. There is research showing its potential harmful effects including gastrointestinal inflammation and it's in the brand I was drinking (Earth's Own). It's often found in other milk substitutes too. Not sure how I feel about that, so until I find a better alternative I make my own.

My almond milk recipe: 1 cup (soaked overnight) raw almonds + 3-4 cups water whirred like crazy in the Vitamix (you can add a little maple syrup and or vanilla if you wish). Squeeze the milk through a cheesecloth. What you are left with is lovely creamy almond milk and what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-it, almond meal.

These leftovers can be guilt inducing; expensive ground up almonds, what to do with them? Sure you can just eat them, or hide them in smoothies. Something amazing would be better. A search turns up many options including dehydrating (I might try that). But I discovered some tasty alternatives this weekend and wanted to share.
These muffins are the perfection in my quest for the perfect apple muffin. After creating many litres of applesauce last fall, I've been honing several variations. These are made with xylitol and taste truly amazing. Moist, fluffy, sweet (enough).

Sweet & spice apple muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1/2 cup xylitol
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tbsp coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 cup gluten-free flour (I use Bob's)
1/2 tsp zanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice

Instructions
1. Mix applesauce, eggs, almond meal, coconut oil & xylitol in a medium bowl
2. Mix flour, z-gum, powder, soda and spices in another bowl
3. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until well combined
4. Spoon into lined muffin tins (parchment is best)
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until pressing gently on the top of muffins feels slightly firm)

Try spread with: coconut oil, peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Ok, on to the next thing......Almond meal crackers
Seed crackers. A little garlicky, crunchy and totally savory. Would hold up to dips, spreads and pretty decent on their own. The recipe is from the I Quit Sugar cookbook by Sarah Wilson.

Very, very good. I would recommend trying them at least once. Kind of addictive.

Ingredients
1⁄2 cup each chia seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds
1⁄2 cup almond meal 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon dulce flakes (optional)
1 cup water
2 teaspoon fresh herbs (I like sage for these)
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine the seeds and meal in one bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients in another. 
3. Pour the liquid mixture onto the seeds and stir until thick and combined.   
4. Spread the mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper until it’s 1⁄2 cm thick.  
5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool a little. Slice into crackers, flip over and bake for another 25 minutes

2014 Update: another idea, Snicker balls! 

zippy lemonade pops

I love my lemonade strong (tart & sweet) and that means my frozen lemonade needs to be stronger (don't you find with popsicles, unless they are flavoured strong, you can't taste anything?). We treat ourselves frequently to these. So much flavour and super quenching in the heat. But no sugar, yay!

The moulds I use are from superstore and cost $2. They work ok, but you could use anything you have, or make your own.

Yield: 7 popsicles (around 2 cups of liquid)

Ingredients
4 organic lemons, juiced
zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp liquid stevia (use up to 1/2 tsp if you like it really sweet--I like to maintain some tartness)
11/2 cup plus 2 tbsp coconut water

Instructions
Mix all ingredients in a pour and pour into popsicle moulds. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

What's your favourite popsicle?

Raw chocolate cheesecake

It's been too hot to do much, especially turn on the oven. But treats are important and no-bake treats are some of my favourite kinds. This cheesecake turns out creamy and mousse-like. The citrus gives it a little tang that tastes like cream cheese.

Yield: 6 servings
 
Ingredients
Chocolate base
1/2 cup raw walnuts
6-10 drops liquid stevia (or powdered stevia or use a little honey)
2 tbsp raw cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake topping
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 tsp vanilla powder or pure vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tsp fresh lemon or orange juice
1/4 cup honey or brown rice syrup
1/4 cup almond milk


Instructions:
Base: In a food processor combine walnuts, stevia, cocoa powder and salt. It should look mealy and stick together when pressed. Put mixture into a small baking dish (I use a small glass storage container, the serving size is smallish but it's rich and filling). Press mixture firmly into the dish with your fingers or spatula.  

Topping: Drain cashews, place in food processor or powerful blender and blend on high until almost smooth. Add cacao, and vanilla and mix. Add sweetener. If coconut oil is solid, gently warm it then add it to the mixture and continue blending on high until you have a smooth consistency. 

Top the base with the topping and cool in the fridge or freezer until firm. 

Serve with fresh berries or berry puree (combine fresh or frozen berries with a little honey and blend until smooth). 


Manna mania (guilt-free bread)

Ok, the mania is baking bread when it's 36 degrees out. This takes a little pre-planning. It's a spouted bread and you'll need about 2 1/2-3 days. You are not doing much during those days. Very little in fact. Just hope it's a cooler day when you need to bake yours.

Yes, I agree, this bread looks a little non-traditional in the traditional sense of bread. But in fact, it's super old style bread (look it up, it's in the bible!).
I've been making my own non-sprouted bread for over a year now, a simple recipe I adapted from kingauthorflour.com. I updated it lately to include organic rye, whole wheat and unbleached white. It's delicious and slices beautifully but I haven't been eating it myself for several months. Just felt like it was too heavy once Spring arrived. But I still want something to spread almond butter on or sliced avocado and coconut oil. You know? Sometimes I want some dense chewy carbs. And I think I've found a guilt free bread that tastes fantastic and is super healthy.  

To be honest, I'm new to manna (this is my second loaf ever). I've tried commercial 'sprouted' bread loaves and this is nothing like those. But I think many have only a percentage of sprouted grain rather than the whole loaf like this one. The results for me are a nutty, chewy and sweet loaf. Super, super yum.

Btw, the pics are not great, I know. Went outside to get better lighting. I'm sure my neighbours think I'm different.
Day 1 on right. Day 3 morning before being used. 

How to make 100% sprouted grain bread

Ingredients

2 cups organic wheat berries (I used the red variety as that's all the store had)
Water
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt (optional)

Instructions

  • Pour wheat berries into a large mason jar and cover with something that will let water drain. I used a piece of fishnet stocking. Fill jar with water, cover with your cloth and let set for at least 8 hours or overnight.  
  • After 8 hours (or overnight), drain water. Let sit for 12 hours then fill with water and drain. Repeat this every 12 hours for about 2 or 3 days. I started this batch on Sunday night and was baking the bread this morning (Wednesday). Taste a sprout or 2, they should be slightly sweet. You can put them in the fridge if ready to use, but use them up soon or they'll start to turn bitter. 
  • After a couple days you'll have some lovely sprouts. The sprout tail should be at least as long or longer than the berry itself. 
  • Using a food processor, process all the sprouted wheat berries until they form a thick dough-like paste. I have a fairly small processer so I divided the amount into 2 to process. Before processing, add 1tsp of salt if you would like (I added 1/2 tsp to each of my 2 processing batches). 
  • Dump the dough on to a lined baking sheet (use a silpat or parchment paper). Using well oiled hands, shape the dough into a loaf. Keep the height of the loaf to under 1.5 inches. If it's too thick it won't dehydrate properly. 
  • Bake at 225 for 3 hours. A golden browned crust should form. 
  • Allow to cool for several hours before slicing.
It is sooo good. I ate a few slices before I realized I hadn't taken a pic yet! I comes out a couple slices larger.

My favourite. Generous spread of coconut oil with sliced ripe avocado and a dusting of herbamare.  

Another plus, it's super filling. A generous slice for breakfast spread with almond butter or the coconut oil/ avocado fills me up for a solid 4 hours. I hope you give it a try.

Gwyneth Paltrow's bummer bars

I've been wanting to try these for ages. The name is odd but how many granola bars or fruit and nutty granola bars or chewy spice bars can you have?...With a name like bummer, they must offer something different right?....Gwen sucked me in (and thankfully so-these are delicious!!).

Yield: 12 bars
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 30 mins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups quinoa flakes
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
A pinch of fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup good-quality maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1/2 cup chopped prunes or apricots
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a brownie pan (we use a 9 x 11 inch dish that's 2 inches high) with parchment paper or line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and pour the mixture into the brownie pan, or evenly divide it among the muffin cups.  Pack the mixture down with a rubber spatula.  Bake for 1/2 hour, or until the bars have firmed up and are golden brown.  Let cool before removing from the pan or muffin cups.  If you used a brownie pan, use the parchment to lift the bar out of the pan, and cut into rectangles.  Serve right away or store in an airtight container.


Ok, that was Gwen, this is me. I used quick oats instead of quinoa and chopped dried figs for the fruit. 

The recipe says you can 'serve right away', but I found that while, yes, you could, they didn't properly 'set' for about an hour. They are a little sweet (especially when you eat 4 at once) but I presume that's what's holding them together so I didn't do my usual cut the sugar in half thing. But still, Craig and I basically ate the whole pan in one evening. These are very good bars: stay together and crispy/chewy.

Like these? I tried more from Gwen a couple weeks ago: 5-spice and yam muffins. So far she's 2 for 2. I might even think about getting the cookbook one of these days. 

Before and after fence project & garden tour

Ah summer. Second year of garden growing. How are things going you wonder? Last time we looked, there wasn't much to see. But now? Lettuce, lots of herbs. Especially mint. Three kinds! I think I'll dry it for tea. 
Marigolds help with bugs. The petals are edible and look beautiful on salad.
The good: growing potatoes and zucchini for first time and things seem to be going well.
The bad: beets are super tiny and tomatoes have taken on blight. I think it's fungus from the damp last month. The leaves are spotty, turning brown and dying, drat.  Last year I had another problem with tomatoes.
And much to my extreme pleasure, a fence! Privacy is a good thing. The other thing was the worst fence ever and slapped together, obviously. Did it even look like a fence? Come on.
Next project started: refurbishing/hole filling. Yep, that's tape and it's been there all winter.
 What's happening around your place?
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