buckwheat zucchini muffins

This recipe is adapted from Erin Scott’s Yummy Supper, a gluten-free cookbook I checked out of the library last week. I haven’t tried any of her other recipes, but this one is great–the muffins are what you want in the morning, sweet but not too sweet, dense and filling but unobtrusively so, leaving you satiated but not full. And, oddly, buckwheat zucchini muffinsthese benefited greatly from being made ahead and frozen. I made them the other day and thought they were just okay. Yet, as I told a friend, while I didn’t think the muffin was the best tasting thing I’d ever eaten, I couldn’t stop eating it. And afterward I felt terrific, happy and full of energy. Nourished with zero crash. But the thawed version I ate yesterday morning, after yoga and before a visit to the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin (!!), Kettle Moraine, Nordic Trailwas delicious. The flavors somehow deepened and softened, becoming one. I highly recommend. And you will note that this recipe contains no beans. I’ve been thinking about rewriting the “about” section of this blog. Because, really, I might post a lot more often if it wasn’t mostly about beans. Stay tuned for more on that. For now, though, here’s this recipe.

Buckwheat Zucchini Muffins (makes 12)

2/3 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 cup millet flour
3/4 teaspoon coarse seat salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, at room temperature (use the best eggs you can find and afford — it makes a difference)
1/3 cup honey (again, use good honey, ideally local. Good ingredients make good food.)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (sub olive oil if you dislike coconut)
1-2 Tablespoons molasses (optional–I used about a teaspoon because it was all I had)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (again, use high-quality vanilla extract. It’s easy to make your own!)
1-1/4 cups packed grated zucchini, squeezed dry in a towel, paper or kitchen
1/2 cup cacao nibs (original recipe called for walnuts, but I was out)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a muffin tin with coconut or olive oil. You could also use butter. Whisk first six ingredients together. Whisk eggs either in a separate bowl or with the paddle attachment in f a standing mixer. Add honey, maple syrup, oil, molasses if using, and vanilla, until blended. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Add the zucchini and cacao (or walnuts), and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack. Enjoy!

Thistlep.s. This is the flower of a thistle. It made me think about Mark Bittman’s recent op-ed about foraging, and wish I’d taken notes. Or brought a guide. Because I bet there were a lot of edibles out there. Next time. This time, though, while we didn’t forage for wild food, we did stumble upon a remarkably great farm to table restaurant. The Black Sheep in Whitewater, Wisconsin. It was so good! Nourishing and delicious and creative. And every ingredient is Black Sheeplocally sourced, even the flour they use for their gravies and sauces, not to mention desserts. My friend and I split the cherry cobbler. It was delicious. But full of gluten. Yet I did not get sick. Food for thought.


Boston Baked Beans

Once again, it’s been a very long time since my last post. Dreamsofmyfava is languishing. Yet I am thriving. Living. Slowly learning how to be in the world more fully as I am. Which maybe isn’t the same as being the person I wish I was or could be. It’s all very interesting. At least to me. I’ve also been very busy with big projects at work. Indeed, I think maybe all my energy for writing has been directed there. So that I’m now writing this blog post only because on Friday I finally finished the reply brief in a really big case I’ve spent huge amounts of time and energy on in the past year and won’t start work on a new case until Monday. Mental space is crucial.

view from the gazebo at Pete and Anna's cabinBut this post is meant to be about Boston Baked Beans, which I made yesterday. I was inspired by my recent trip to New England. I was there last weekend to visit a dear friend and her husband, who live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We spent a little time in Cambridge, but mostly we were in their family’s cabin in New Hampshire.

The cabin has no electricity or running water. Which maybe sounds terrible. But instead it was lovely. I’d been there once before, for their wedding several years ago. This time was different, though, because it was just the three of us and their dog, surrounded by and immersed in nature. And probably because I am so different now from how I was then.

My friend’s parents built the cabin thirty years ago, and have gradually added a million thoughtful details. Like this handletree handle on the screen door to the gazebo. Or the handwashing station next to the outhouse, which I didn’t photograph. So you’ll have to trust my words to convince you that it somehow managed to be more luxurious than any bathroom I’ve ever visited. An outhouse that smelled of wood and air.

I guess it smells of wood and air because there are trees everywhere and not much else. Except a few large stones, because the area was formed by glaciers.

As for the man-made aspects, another standout, which I again failed to document, was the garden, where one could easily get lost in meditation while ostensibly choosing and picking herbs and leaves for sandwiches, salads, eggs.

The cabin itself seems to have arisen organically, as if it was grown rather than built. Because there are so many considerate touches. Like the candleholders that are placed here and there and everywhere, so that they’re just where you want them, including one with a handle, and others that have been mounted to the wall in the back bedroom where I slept. That bedroom also held a basin so I was able to wash up a little inside just before bed and in the morning.

More extensive wash ups come with swimming outside in “The Pond,” which is apparently the New England word for “lake.” Whatever you called it, this pure body of water is deep and cold and still. Diving in you feel completely alive. And somehow extra clean.

Pone in the morningI think it was the lack of electricity that rendered the world of the cabin so special, so healing. My breath was deeper, like the way it is after yoga before I emerge into the clamor of city during days here in my normal life. Such a contrast from the cabin, where I felt like I could hear everything inside and out, uninterrupted by the noise I’ve become so accustomed to in Chicago. It was amazing. At one point, I even imagined I heard the trees speaking, not in words but with unmistakable meaning. Clear, direct communication.

During this moment when I believed I heard the trees speaking to me, my friend and I were in the gazebo. It had just rained, was raining, with alternating bouts of gusty wind and soft, barely audible patters. I was attuning her to Reiki, level one. (Because I’m a Reiki master now. Which is pretty cool.) I felt a deep sense of connectedness, with the trees and the stones and the rain and the gazebo and also with my friend, her husband, their dog, everything as one. And suddenly the trees were sending this message about how much they cared about my friend’s well being, recognizing her goodness, her beauty, the feeling they had of her belonging there, with the family, in that place. The trees were expressing their support for what we were doing. Which is cool. Because the trees are such a big part of everything there. It view from gazebofelt good to know or at least believe that we had their support and what felt like their love.

Now, writing this, I fear that maybe I sound a little crazy. Or, at best, eccentric. Whimsical. Like my imagination has gone overboard. Which very well may be true. But what I realize now too is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that feeling. Because the feeling, whether objectively true or not, creates an opening. And with that open heart I allow the world to come in. Then, in that opening, I’m able to come out of myself with a deep faith that things are ultimately good.

Which brings me to the recipe. Finally.

Boston Baked BeansFor a long time baked beans were the only kind of beans that I liked, especially the kind that came in a can with heavy, syrupy sweet good sauce and awful chunks of fatty salt pork that I would fish out and cast to the side. As a kid growing up in the South I would doctor cans of Campbells beans by adding dijon mustard, brown sugar, and a little ketchup, then I’d bake them until the sauce was thick and bubbling. I liked to scoop them up with potato chips as a side for burgers.

When I was married my then-husband and I graduated to Bush’s baked beans, which tasted without doctoring similar to those beans of my childhood. I ate them the same way, scooped up with chips. Although he preferred plain Lays to my beloved Ruffles. The consequence of his strong personality and definitive taste combined with my insecurities was that I, too, learned to prefer plain Lays. (Now that I’m divorced I like both. Chips, which are gluten-free, may be my worst vice.)

Nowadays, when I’m trying to avoid anything with refined sugar, I eat almost no processed food. (Except chips. Damn chips.) This means I no longer buy any kind of canned baked beans. But I still love them. So, when we stopped at Calef’s County Store on the way home from the cabin, I was super excited to see these beans.Calef's Beans Then, last Sunday, lying in the guest bed in quiet, quiet Cambridge, I searched my friend’s extensive cookbook collection for baked bean recipes. And I decided on this one, an adaption from Slow Cooker Revolution. It took a really long time and wound up having to finish in the oven. But the flavor is perfect. I recommend.

Boston Baked Beans

2 oz. diced bacon
1 onion, minced
4-1/2 cups water
1 pound (2-1/2 cups) dried navy beans, soaked overnight
1/4 cup molasses (I used blackstrap but recipe calls for mild)
1/4 cup maple syrup (subbed for brown sugar)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mustard
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 Tb cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

If using the oven, preheat to 350. Drain and rinse the beans. Transfer them to the slow cooker insert or a dutch oven. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until the fat has rendered. Add the onion and cook another five minutes or so, adding the mustard and cloves for the last minute. Add the onion mixture, molasses, maple syrup, and bay leaves to the beans. If using the slow cooker, cook on low for ten hours, or on high for seven hours. If using the oven, cover and cook for a couple of hours. Check occasionally and add water to cover if necessary. When the beans are soft, add a teaspoon or so of coarse sea or kosher salt. Stir and continue cooking until the sauce is thick and bubbling, and the beans are tender but not mushy. I wound up using the oven to finish because the sauce didn’t thicken in the slow cooker. But I will try again. If you try this out, please let me know how it goes. And good luck!

chocolate cupcakes with black beans (and no gluten)

I kind’ve can’t believe this recipe worked. But it did. black bean cupcakesThese pretty little things actually taste as good as they look: like rich, chocolatey, totally sinful cupcakes. Except without icing. Because while I seem to have no problem convincing myself that it’s okay to cook cupcakes just for myself, destination-free icing feels like it would be crossing the line into something deserving of diagnosis. Or at least several therapy sessions entirely devoted to my eating disorder.

As is, I’m feeling pretty good about my recent food intake. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written. But I’ve been cooking–and eating–plenty, including beans. I just haven’t felt inspired to write about anything. Until now.

This recipe is adapted slightly from Nancy Cain’s gluten-free cookbook, Against the Grain.

1/3 cup coconut oil
2 cups cooked black beans, drained
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 12 cups of a standard muffin tin with paper lines or grease with coconut oil. (I did the former this time then found myself a little angry about all the delicious cake that the paper liner stole. Next time I’ll grease.)

black bean cupcake batter2. Combine the beans and coconut oil in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, scrape the sides, and blend again. The batter will be very stiff.

3. Add the eggs and sugar, and blend until the sugar has dissolved, scraping the sides as necessary. Then add the baking soda and continue blending until it’s mixed in.

4. Divide the batter equally between the muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on a rack. black bean cupcake2Devour with ice cream, if desired. Lately I’ve been into a plain vanilla version of this one. Which is from a paleo website. Obviously I’m not into the whole paleo thing. They prohibit beans. I love beans. We are incompatible. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the good.

Speaking of beans, note that Cain’s original cupcake recipe calls for a can of black beans. You can definitely do that. But I prefer to use beans that I’ve cooked myself from dried. First, this ensures maximum nutritional value. Second, it’s more economical and, to my mind, has a smaller environmental impact.

For this recipe I cooked a pound of dried beans. Although I usually add kombu, I decided against it for this recipe. So I just rinsed the beans, soaked them overnight, then rinsed, transferred to a pot, and added cold water to cover by about an inch. I then brought the beans to a boil, reduced the heat, and cooked until tender. It took a couple of hours. At the end I added about a teaspoon of salt and let them cool on the stove. In addition to what I needed for this recipe, it made enough to eat for breakfast with eggs and tortillas with about a cup extra, which I put in the freezer for later.




Gluten- and dairy-free blueberry muffins without refined sugar

blueberry muffin insideDespite the almost slogan-like title, these muffins are delicious, solidly structured with a perfect balance of sweetness that’s just right for breakfast. Or at least so I believe. But I could be wrong. Because I made them yesterday for a brunch that wound up being cancelled at the last minute. So no one but me has tried them. And I have a cold. Which brings my palate into question. Still. I’m pretty sure they’re good. And I’m certain that they’re good for you, full of whole grain flours, coconut oil, and blueberries. And free of all those trendily objectionable ingredients.

Indeed, my original goal was to make free muffins that were vegan to boot. blueberry muffin failBut that version (the little sunken lava cakes pictured on the right) refused to rise or even cook all the way through. So I gave up. Used eggs. Because, while the problem with version #1 may well have been an excess of blueberries, I was in a rush, and just didn’t trust that ground flax seed and water can really provide the structure eggs lend to baked goods. And I have no regrets. Because the end result  turned out perfectly, with a crispy rounded muffin top, a tender crumb, and a rich bite that reminded me of  a much less sweet form of pound cake.

blueberry muffinsAll that and the recipe includes beans! Sort’ve. Here’s what I did.

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato starch

My mix is based on a thoughtful post from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. (http://bit.ly/1fARZsO) I discovered the site a couple of years ago after Shauna (Gluten Free Girl) and Danny (The Chef) Ahern published their first book, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes. (http://bit.ly/Lrhj9I)  In addition to great recipes, both their books and their blog include a ton of useful information about living well on a gluten-free diet. Plus their entire life seems like a sweet love story that is real and true and thus inspiring. So that’ s nice too. But I digress.

If you read Shauna’s post, which I encourage you to do, you’ll see that she and the Chef don’t like bean flours. Which gave me pause. I wanted to use garbanzo bean flour so that these muffins could include beans. That seemed like the only way I could avoid feeling like a total fraud for posting this recipe on my bean blog. Yet I didn’t want to make something icky. What to do?!

For this first time, I decided to risk the garbanzo bean flour. For the sake of the blog. Happily, my gamble paid off. Next time, though, I’ll probably try a different blend. Just to see.

To mix the flours, I started with the whole grains: brown rice, garbanzo bean, and sorghum. (Check out this post for some good information about sorghum (http://bit.ly/1envadS).) (The bags (I used Bob’s brand) are pretty small, so I had to pour the flours into the measuring cup instead of using the cup to scoop it out. To avoid waste, I measured over a bowl. When I finished the whole grains, I put the excess into a separate bag. Then I repeated the process with the white flours. So I now have three gallon-sized freezer bags in my freezer that are labeled as follows: 70/30 G/F mix; mixed whole grain G/F flours; and mixed white G/F flours. The idea is that over time, I’ll wind up with a sort’ve grab bag approach to gluten free baking. Super fun! And convenient. Because I’ve recently considered that the sometimes painful stiffness in my joints may correspond with my all too frequent over-indulgences in baked goods. This doesn’t mean I’m anywhere close to giving up bread. Or delicious pastries. But, as with refined sugar, it does mean that I will mostly eliminate gluten from the food I cook at home. If you’re not so committed, however, you may be interested in reading this review of a few commercial blends. (http://bit.ly/1alqlAZ)

MUFFINS (recipe adapted from Laura C. Martin’s trusty Green Market Baking Book (http://bit.ly/1k5guCC).)
2-1/4 c. gluten-free flour mix
4 t. baking powder
1 t. sea salt
7 T. coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup maple syrup
zest from one Meyer (or regular) lemon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
11/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 12-cup muffin tin with a little bit of coconut oil. Whisk the flour mix, baking powder, and salt until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk the coconut oil, syrups, lemon zest, eggs, and milk together until well blended. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients. Fold in the blueberries. Using a 1/2 cup measure, spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling each cup almost to the rim. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then cut along the sides and pop out to cool on a rack.

White bean, gluten-free, vegan pancakes

This morning, near the end of a three-hour Kundalini class, when I was meant to be deep in meditation, I started laughing out loud, realizing that the title of this post, a literal description of today’s breakfast, would fit perfectly into the sketch show I’ve been working white bean vegan gluten free pancakeson for the past several months.  (And which is finally almost finished!!!) So many health-food buzzwords crammed into a single recipe title, and all of them modifying the ultimate empty calorie breakfast food, pancakes. This recipe sounds like it would taste awful. So much so that it’s hilarious. And yeah. This may be the first time ever that I’m posting a recipe for which the photograph makes the food look better than it was in real life. But while I admit that these weren’t the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted, they were far from the worst.  In fact, they’re pretty good so long as you cover them with enough fresh fruit to ensure that each bite includes at least equal parts fruit and pancake. And maple syrup.

The truth is that I’d probably appreciate these much more if I did not have the luxury of a digestive system that tolerates gluten just fine, or if I was actually vegan. Because while the end result of this experiment is not light or fluffy, and a hint of beany flavor comes through if you don’t get enough fruit and syrup in each bite, they are pancakes. And who doesn’t love pancakes? Well, okay, I don’t. They just don’t compare to waffles, which I love without condition. But when I saw Kathy Hester’s beany pancake recipes, I knew I had to give them a try. (http://bit.ly/JP2DjX) Especially because I’ve had gluten-free pancakes in the back of my mind for almost a year now, since I saw this recipe for flax coconut pancakes in Food and Wine. (http://bit.ly/1dfRbcJ) So I decided to combine the two recipes, coming up with my own version. Which I ate this morning, a couple of hours before yoga.  The end result may not have been the very best pancakes I’ve ever tasted, but, as I said at the start, they were tasty enough. Especially given the title.

Note that the following recipe calls for several different types of flour, all of which I happened to have on hand. Because a while back I became interested in gluten free baking, trying to pack more nutrition into the baked-good punch. If you aren’t so stocked, however, please just use whole wheat pastry flour or even regular white flour. Although the nutritional value will decrease, I’m guessing the texture will improve. And it will definitely be less expensive and troublesome than going out and buying all these fancy flours. Now, here’s the recipe.

2/3 c. brown rice flour
3 T. potato starch
3 T. tapioca starch
3 T. coconut flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1-1/2 c. cooked (or canned) white beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/2 c. unsweetened almond (or other nondairy) milk
1/2 c. rolled oats (make sure they’re marked gluten-free if gluten is an issue)
2 T. olive or coconut oil, plus more for the pan
2 T. maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 T. ground flax seed mixed with 2 T. warm water
1 t. vanilla extract

1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.

2. Using a food processor or immersion blender, puree the beans, milk., oats, oil, syrup, flax seed mixture, and vanilla together until smooth.

3. Stir the pureed bean mixture into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

4. Heat a skillet (I always use cast iron, because that’s what I have, but use what you like) over medium heat. For each pancake, scoop about 3 T. of batter into the skillet, making sure to leave space around each pancake. Cook the pancakes for 3-5 minutes on each side. Serve with fresh fruit and maple syrup. This makes a lot but they should freeze well. Enjoy!

Vegan Slow Cooker Baked Beans

My love affair with baked beans began as a child, well before I understood–or cared–about the connection between food and health. I just liked them because they tasted good. Simultaneously sweet and savory, a necessary accompaniment to grilled burgers and chips, the tastes of summertime.

As a kid lucky enough to be given free rein in the kitchen from age eight or so, I used to make them from a can of Campbell’s pork & beans, which I poured into a square Pyrex baking dish before carefully picking out every trace of the white salt pork and adding ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar. This concoction, a classic “recipe” comprised of various processed foods, was baked at 350 for about an hour, until it was bubbling, brown, edges starting to caramelize. It was so delicious that sometimes I made it even without burgers, using it as dip for chips.

Later, as an adult, I discovered Bush’s baked beans. Full of sugar and all kinds of savory spices, they, too, are delicious. And I will definitely eat them in a pinch. But I’d rather not. I’d rather make my own. So, yesterday, I did. baked beans version one

I’ve actually made baked beans from scratch before, a little over ten years ago. The rehearsal dinner for my wedding was a big bbq at my oldest sister’s house. One of her friends smoked a pork butt, and my sister made a bunch of other awesome food. She drew the line at baked beans, though. Which was reasonable. We could have bought canned beans, of course. But I was trying to save money. Plus I wanted it to be special. And vegetarian. I was on my own.

Back then, the first time I made baked beans from scratch, I came up with something good after weeks spent scouring the internet and making several test batches. My former husband was a great test subject, enthusiastic and appreciative, but unafraid to say when something wasn’t right. In the end, what I made was spicy and rich and perfectly cooked. But I kept no record. Which is just as well, maybe. After all, that was another lifetime. I’m moving forward as this new and improved version of myself, alone. There’s plenty of good from my past that I’m taking with me into this new life. But the baked beans that I made for my wedding party? Like the paint choices in my condo, which I seriously loved, there are some things that should be left behind.

So. Starting over. Yesterday morning, I sat down over coffee and thought about what I wanted to achieve. I realized that my goal was simple: a vegan slow cooker version of baked beans without any refined sugar products. After looking at several recipes, I settled on three from these cookbooks: How To Cook Everything VegetarianMark Bittman; Southern Sides, Fred Thompson; and Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman.

All of the original recipes I looked at contain at least one refined sugar product (molasses, brown sugar, ketchup), two out of three call for chicken broth, and Fred Thompson’s drool-inducing recipe includes bacon. But I was undaunted, in part because of Mark Bittman’s directness about the absence of bacon being a problem, which he resolves by using kombu. As he says right at the start of his recipe, “[i]t’s tough to find a vegetarian version of baked beans with bacon, with that creamy texture and delicate balance of sweet and smoky flavors. Enter kelp, also known as kombu…. Kelp contains a natural acid that tenderizes the beans as the seaweed itself melts away, leaving behind a luxurious sauce with complex flavor.”

Armed with this promise from the trusted Mr. Bittman, as well as various other tips and ideas from the two other recipes, I got started. And I was happy, chopping onions to Jeff Buckley and  singing along with the New Pornographers while I sauteed the onions and watched the tomato paste begin to caramelize. By the time I finished and left to go about my day, I was totally excited, anticipating the aroma that would fill my apartment when I got home, eager to test what could only be the best beans ever.

But no. I’m sorry to say that even today, after the flavors have had a chance to develop, the end result is almost pallid,  lacking in character and borderline mushy from the baking soda. On the upside, I’m pretty sure the baking soda cut the cooking time considerably. I used older grocery store beans that were not presoaked, yet the dish took less than six hours, start to finish. And these beans are not a complete failure. They taste fine and are quite healthy. I think they would be terrific for kids. But they are not special. Not what I’m looking for. Work remains to be done. More research. Testing. For now, here’s what I did in round one.

2-1/2 c. navy beans
1 5″ piece of kombu
1 dried red chili
1/4 c. grapeseed oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. brewed coffee
2 t. dried mustard
3 springs thyme
pinch of baking soda
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T. apple cider vinegar

1. Pick over the beans and discard any that are seriously discolored or broken. Rinse, drain, and place in the insert of your slow cooker.  Crumble the chili into the beans, add the kombu, and cover with 1-1/2 or 2 inches of filtered water. Cover and turn the heat to high.

2. Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the garlic, stirring, for another minute. Then add the tomato paste and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until deeply aromatic and shiny. Add about 1/4 cup of water, stirring to get any stuck parts off the bottom of the pan, and add to the beans together with the remaining ingredients except salt. Turn the heat to low and cook for 4-6 hours. Add the vinegar and salt to taste (I used about 1-1/2 teaspoons).  Turn off the heat and let the beans cool for a bit so the salt can sink in. Serve with chips.