Saturday, June 21, 2014

Banana Muffins (gluten-free, grain-free)

I love whipping up a batch of muffins, savory or sweet, and that's something I've missed now that the hubs and I are focusing on lowering our carb intake in favor of more vegetables and protein. I've been pinning paleo-style and low-carb recipes like crazy for inspiration as we make up new dishes, and there are quite a few good-looking recipes out there for grain-free muffins. I've tried a few almondmeal-based muffins and have been very happy with the results-- they still rise a bit (not as much as a flour-based muffin), are moist and crumbly, and very satisfying after just one or two.

Banana Muffins (gluten-free, grain-free) @ Southern Spoon Blog
banana muffins, pale-style (grain-free goodness)
These banana bread-style muffins were a delicious component of our weekend breakfast, rounded out with eggs over easy and some crispy fried prosciutto. The muffins are plenty sweet with the banana and just a tablespoon of honey-- a perfect treat.
Banana Muffins (gluten-free, grain-free) @ Southern Spoon Blog
tender and just-sweet-enough banana muffins
This recipe is already grain-free and gluten free. To make it dairy-free just substitute melted coconut oil or your favorite cooking oil for the butter. I've listed my preferred mixture of warm spices, but feel free to use your favorite combination or a pumpkin pie spice mixture that adds up to one teaspoon. This makes a small batch of muffins, just six, but double the ingredients and divide between twelve muffin cups (same baking time) for a full dozen. 

For breakfast, dessert, or a sweet snack I'm sure you'll find these paleo-friendly muffins as delicious as we do. Happy (grain-free) baking! 

Banana Muffins (gluten-free, grain-free)
makes 6 muffins (double ingredients for 12)
Inspired by a number of paleo-friendly banana bread recipes

1 medium, ripe banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup mashed)
2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg
1 cup almond meal 
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coconut flour
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (ground linseed)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
dash of freshly ground sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts for topping (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 177C/ 350F, and grease 6 cups in a standard-sized muffin pan (or line with cupcake liners or baking paper).

In a small bowl, add the melted butter (or coconut oil), honey, and egg to the mashed banana. Stir thoroughly to combine.

In a medium sized bowl, add all of the remaining dry ingredients (almond meal through nutmeg), and stir to evenly combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir thoroughly to combine. 

Divide the mixture between 6 muffin cups (if desired, top with chopped walnuts), and bake at 177C/ 350F for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out without any batter on it (it may have a few crumbs). After removing from the oven, leave muffins to cool for at least 10 minutes before gently running a knife around the edges and removing them from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Muffins will keep, stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge, for 3 to 4 days.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Honestly, the first time the hubs and I made and devoured cauliflower crust pizza, we both agreed it tasted better than normal pizza. It has a *flavor*, even if the texture isn't quite the same as a crispy thin-crust pie.
cauliflower crust pizza: low carb, huge flavor
I've made this base many times now, experimenting with slightly different methods, and can impart two key points of wisdom: 
1) you must steam the cauliflower and squeeze it out before you form the dough 
2) shredded cheese works better than any other substitutes for binding the dough 

So, apologies if you're not into cheese (sorry not sorry... great pizza has gotta have cheese). You can try an extra egg as substitute, but the crust won't hold together quite as well.

Below you'll find the recipe for cauliflower pizza crust, and then suggestions for topping combos and methods. This really is a delicious alternative to grain-based pizzas, and no more time-consuming than making a wheat-flour dough from scratch. Plus, low carb, higher veg = win, win. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
makes 2 big pizza bases (about 12-inch diameter) 

1 large head cauliflower
1 egg
1/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, etc)
Optional: 1 teaspoon dried herbs (oregano, rosemary, parsley, marjaram, etc)
Baking paper to line your baking trays or pizza stones

Pre-heat oven to 215C / 420F. Place two baking trays or pizza stones into the oven as it heats. 

To prepare the cauliflower you have two options: 
1) place the heads (not stems) into a food processor and process until you achieve an even snow-like texture; OR 
2) grate the heads (holding the stems, don't grate the stems) using the large holes of a box grater, this is least messy if done over a large bowl. 

Place the grated cauliflower in a microwave-safe container, cover, and microwave for 4-6 minutes on high, stirring halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and piping hot. (Alternatively, you can place the cauliflower in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes).   Remove cauliflower from microwave, uncover, and let cool for at least 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release steam.

Once the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, pour half of the cauliflower onto a clean, dry dishtowel. Gather the towel together so that the cauliflower is in a ball at the bottom, and wring the towel over a sink or bowl so that you extract as much liquid as possible. Place the squeeze-dried cauliflower into a bowl, and then repeat the twisting-wringing process with the remaining half of the steamed cauliflower.

To the squeeze-dried cauliflower, add the egg, shredded cheese, and, if desired, a teaspoon of dried herbs. Mix well to combine evenly. 

Remove the baking trays or pizza stones from the oven and line them with baking paper (or oil the trays generously... but note that using baking paper yields the best results). Divide the cauliflower dough into two equal portions, and, using your hands, carefully spread the portions out on the trays into a large, thin circle, about 12-14 inches wide. Pat together any holes that appear.

Place the crusts into the oven, and bake for 15-25 minutes at 215C / 420F, rotating the trays halfway through, until the crust is completely cooked through and browning well around the edges. Remove crusts from oven, add desired toppings, and return the pizzas to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until your toppings are done. Serve immediately.


Cauliflower Crust Pizza: Topping Suggestions

We find we like our toppings best if we sauté the vegetables in a pan for a few minutes, then place them onto the pre-baked cauliflower crust with the meat, top with shredded cheese, and bake again for a good 15-25 minutes at high heat (215C / 420F). But we pile our pies high.  If you're more minimalist in your toppings, placing them raw on the pre-baked crust, topping with cheese, and baking 15-25 minutes at 215C / 420F will be sufficient.

Because we have food sensitivities to tomatoes in our house, we simply spread a little olive oil over the crust before piling on the toppings. But of course you can use tomato sauce for a traditional pizza base.

The amounts below are for *one* pizza, double amounts for two pizzas.

Chicken-Avo
1 cup chopped, cooked rotisserie chicken 
half of an avocado, thinly sliced
1 thinly sliced red or yellow bell pepper (capsicum)
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 thinly sliced purple onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
a few dashes of Cholula or another mild chili sauce to top

Prawn-Brie
1 cup cooked prawns
3.5 oz (100 g) brie, diced into 1-inch chunks
1/2 thinly sliced purple onion
2 cloves minced garlic
big handful of fresh basil leaves
freshly ground pepper

Prosciutto-Olive
3-4 slices prosciutto, torn or cut into pieces
1/2 thinly sliced purple onion
1 cup baby spinach leaves or rocket/arugula
1/2 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons chopped ripe (black) olives
1 tablespoon capers
1/3 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
freshly ground pepper

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Homemade Dukkah... and a Snack of Mandarins with Yogurt, Olive Oil, Sunflower Seeds & Dukkah

I loved the winter snacks post that Laura of The First Mess posted a couple months back. I thought her suggested combination of cara cara oranges with savory yogurt, olive oil, za'atar and pinenuts was inspired-- a little sweet, a little savory, perfect. I had some leftover dukkah that I made a couple of weeks ago to coat cubes of pumpkin before I roasted them, and thought it would go well with the mandarins I like to keep on hand.
mandarins with yogurt, olive oil, sunflower seeds & dukkah (pardon my retro, tea-stained countertop)
So this is my version, and it's a little out of season here. We're still getting a few Aussie mandarin oranges on the shelves, though they aren't as juicy as the ones we'll have a little later in the year. I used my favorite plain yogurt, and a local extra-virgin olive oil. I didn't have pinenuts on hand, so sunflower seeds were a good substitute, but any small nut or seed would do here.
Middle Eastern inspired snack, gluten-free and delicious
Hope you enjoy this tasty, Middle Eastern-style alternative to your typical mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Madarins with Yogurt, Olive Oil, Sunflower Seeds, and Dukkah
serves 1

1 mandarin orange, peeled and separated into segments
1/4 cup yogurt (I used plain cow's milk yogurt)
1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
1 tablespoon shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon dukkah (recipe below)

In a small bowl, arrange mandarin segments. Top with yogurt, olive oil, sunflower seeds, and dukkah. Serve immediately.

Dukkah
makes just over 1/4 cup

1/4 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
pinch of freshly ground sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 177C/ 350F. Roast the hazelnuts in a baking tray for about 10 minutes. Remove hazelnuts from the oven, and carefully rub them together (in your hands after they cool, or in a tea towel) so that the outer papery shell comes off-- discard the outer shell. Finely chop the hazelnuts.

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat, and toast the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds for about 3-4 minutes, until they are beginning to brown and fragrant (be careful not to burn the sesame seeds). Remove from the skillet and crush/chop the seeds with a knife (I used the side of a large knife to crush the seeds, then chopped them more finely)... or use a mortar and pestle to grind them down to a coarse mixture.

Add the finely chopped hazelnuts, pepper, and salt to the toasted, crushed seed mixture, and blend well.

Store covered at room temperature or in the fridge for up to six weeks.

Serving tips: Dukkah is delicious sprinkled over roast meat (before or after roasting), coated over vegetables such as pumpkin before roasting, sprinkled over salads, or in savory-sweet dishes like the mandarin-yogurt snack above.