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I’ve mentioned before how much I like using bananas in making espresso banana muffins or the cocoa banana loaf, but this one just might be my new favorite simply because it doesn’t use any sugar.  All the sweetness comes from the bananas and dates.  There isn’t any stevia, either.  So if you hesitate to use stevia because you don’t love how it tastes, this could be the banana bread for you.  I use two bananas that are pureed to help sweeten the batter and a third that’s chopped up and mixed in because I like to taste the chunky pieces.  The number of bananas or dates can be adjusted to suit your sweet tooth. 

Date Sweetened Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf (7¾ × 4½ × 3)

3 ripe bananas

1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted (5 – 6 dates)

5 eggs

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted

1 /2 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup of pecans or walnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a loaf pan.
  2. To a blender add two peeled bananas, pitted dates, eggs, and melted butter or coconut oil.  Puree until smooth.
  3. Sift all dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir until there are no lumps.
  5. Chop the remaining banana and add to batter along with the nuts. 
  6. Pour into loaf pan bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Let cool completely on rack before serving.

If making these into muffins, bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  For even more sweetness and some melted gooeyness, mix in some dark chocolate (72%) chunks.  It’s all good.

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This is one of my favorite cookies courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa.  It’s sweet, buttery, and crispy and so, so good.  I’ve been making it for years now, usually around the holidays, but it’s good any time of the year, really.  Like when you’ve scrubbed the floors and washed the dishes and wished you have one more thing to do, bake these.  The dough itself doesn’t require eggs and comes together very easily.  I didn’t mess with the recipe too much other than to switch out the flour and size the recipe down a bit.  I normally make it with fruit-sweetened raspberry and apricot jams but this time opted for a fig preserve.  Mmm…

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup Zsweet

1/4 teaspoon stevia

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

3/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

Jam of choice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar then add the vanilla.
  3. Combine the almond flour and salt and add it to the butter and sugar.
  4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls.
  5. Dip each ball into the egg wash and roll it in coconut.
  6. Place the balls on cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your thumb.
  7. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown.
  9. Make a cup of tea and eat some jammy cookies.

Unlike the original recipe, I did not chill the dough before baking, I just proceeded to form the cookies and bake.  I didn’t notice any difference from skipping this step but if your dough gets too soft, it will probably help to stick it in the fridge.  Also, when pressing the center of the cookie with your thumb, be careful to make a well without any cracks, or you may end up with jam escaping the center during baking.  Enjoy!

Happy new year!  I know it’s the third week of January and my greeting is a little late but I have to be honest – the holidays wiped me out.  I must have fallen into the old age time warp or something because time is speeding up on me.  Once Halloween hit, Christmas was right behind and before I knew it, it was time to take down the tree.  It doesn’t help that the Santa Ana winds are blowing right now either.  One day it’s a frigid 55 degrees outside (don’t laugh) and then all of a sudden it feels like summer.  I’m quite happy with the  warmer temperatures, though, it suits me just fine.  All the rain we’ve had this year has kept us indoors a lot and made us a little cuckoo.

So now that I’m back to do a bit of blogging, I want to first say thank you.  THANK YOU!  2010 was a good year for my little webdom.  I managed to post some stuff people actually wanted to read and got many more visitors than I could have imagined.  Thanks for checking out “What I Crave” and giving me your feedback – keep ’em comin’!

My first recipe for the year is a simple one and requires no cooking.  I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who’ve not yet fallen off the new year’s resolution health wagon, so this is one food that can keep them on for a little while longer.  I’m a big fan of chia and I created this for my husband who is a cereal junky.  He was getting a little burned out on the Nutty Granola, so this was a good change of pace.  There are chia-based cereals that you can find in the health food stores but they’re kind of pricey and contain more sugar than I’d want to eat.  You can add cold milk and enjoy it right away, like hubby does, with some crunch.  Or, if you prefer, and I do, you can add warm milk, let it sit for a few minutes and have something more akin to a pudding.

Chia Cereal

Makes 5 1/2 cups

2 cups chia seeds

1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins

pinch of salt

Toss everything together and store in an air tight container.

The cereal will keep for at least a couple of weeks.  You can add any type of nuts or fruit and flavor it with any spices you crave.  I kept it simple and didn’t add any sweetener because the dried fruit was plenty sweet for us but a tablespoon of coconut sugar with some cinnamon would probably taste really yummy.  Try it out and let me know how you like it.

Over the weekend, my sister, brother-in-law and their two kids came up to stay.  We wanted to have our cousin Elsie, resident family photographer, photograph the kids so that we could surprise my parents for Christmas (shhh..).  I see my sister fairly often and when we get together, it’s a zoo.  I always imagine that the mornings will be leisurely, where my sister and I lounge around with our coffee cups and chit chat about this and that.  In reality, the kids go nuts and run around in circles until someone barfs or drops from dizziness and we get to clean up the mess.  But it is fun.  And we do get to talk a bit over coffee.

Knowing it would be a little chaotic to whip up a big breakfast the next day, I made a cream cheese coffee cake the night before.  I served it at room temperature the next day and it was good but it would be great warmed up.

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Makes one 8-inch round cake

Filling

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/8 teaspoon stevia

Cake

6 eggs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon stevia

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease one 8-inch round cake pan.
  2. Beat together all ingredients for cream cheese filling.  Set aside.
  3. Combine wet ingredients for cake then add the dry ingredients through the salt.  Mix well.
  4. Toss pecans, cinnamon and coconut sugar together in a separate bowl.
  5. Pour cake batter into pan and drop bits of the pecan mixture throughout batter.
  6. Top with cream cheese filling and use a knife or tooth pick to swirl it around.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes and let cool slightly before slicing.

I made a cake the other day with the ripening pears on my counter to serve as a quick snack.  It was pretty good but the whole time I was eating it, I thought it needed more pear and less cake.  Pears are plentiful this time of year and whether they are fresh and crunchy or ripe and juicy, they are full of flavor and taste great cooked.  So I decided to change the fruit-to-cake ratio and turn the recipe into one for a cobbler.  Mmm!  The result was lots of chunky, baked fruit with the cinnamony pears and the tart blackberries, and just enough cakey topping to complete the ensemble.  I served this dessert after dinner with my in-laws and parents and no one could tell that it did not contain any wheat.  My dad, who isn’t big on sweets had a second helping.

Pear and Blackberry Cobbler

Makes one 9 x 13 dish

Filling

6 pears (8 – 9 cups)

10 ounce bag of frozen blackberries (1.5 cups)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon stevia

2 tablespoons arrowroot

1/3 cup water

Topping

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 teaspoon stevia

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, cold

2 eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Wash, peel and core pears, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
  3. Combine pears, blackberries and cinnamon in the baking dish.
  4. Mix honey, stevia, arrowroot, and water together and pour over the fruit.
  5. In food processor, pulse almond flour, coconut sugar, stevia and salt just until combined.
  6. Cube the cold butter and add to processor and pulse to a coarse meal.
  7. Add the eggs and pulse again just until combined.
  8. Spoon the batter over the fruit and smooth slightly.
  9. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until pears and blackberries are bubbly.
  10. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  11. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

The fruit takes center stage in this dessert so not much sweetening is needed.  Either the coconut sugar or the stevia can be omitted if you have really ripe pears.  Other fruit can be used also, like apples or peaches, or any combination of berries.  There’s just something so homey and comforting, though, about baked pears that I’ll keep making it this way for a while.

For me, Thanksgiving is THE feasting holiday, more so than Christmas, because all the attention is focused on the food.  I am really looking forward to having some turkey come Thursday.  Lots and lots of turkey.  And let’s not forget all the side dishes, most of which are pretty carby.  So my compromise is this herb dinner roll.  I used my coconut flax bread recipe as the base and added some fresh herbs.  These rolls are made in muffin tins and smell like Thanksgiving when they are baking.  I will also be making croutons for stuffing using these rolls.  The original bread recipe is so versatile – throw in some cheese, add bacon bits, mix in fruit and nuts – it will all come out tasty.   

Herb Dinner Rolls

Makes 8 rolls

1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1 /2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

5 eggs

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  3. Combine all the wet ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and herbs to the wet and beat well. 
  5. Pour into muffin tins and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Serve warm with lots of butter.

The rolls freeze really well so you can make a big batch, store them in the freezer and take out as many as you need for a meal.  Reheat in the oven at 200 degrees F.  I don’t use the microwave but if you do, you can defrost them in there, too.

I can scarcely believe that two weeks has gone by since my last post.  I’m writing this in my hotel room in Portland, OR, with the howling wind and the steady rain outside.  It may seem like the blog has just been sitting idle in that time but it’s hardly been far from my mind.  I’ve been busy with work and business travel and keeping up with home life when I am actually at home that it has kept me from posting new content but my mind is constantly running through various food ideas.  I applaud all of you bloggers, especially the mommy ones, who keep up with fresh and exciting posts.

Being in the Pacific Northwest is really getting me ready for the holidays.  And by being ready I mean, of course, being ready for all the treats of the season.  The weather here is cold (brrrrrr) and it’s driving me to turn into one of the many corner cafes in search of something hot to drink.  Oh, and I have to have something to nibble on as well.  Which brings me to sharing this recipe for a chocolate biscotti inspired by Elana’s Pantry (also featured in her cookbook).  This crunchy cookie, paired with a steaming hot cup of tea, makes a great afternoon reprieve from work, travel, or holiday preparations.

Chocolate Chunk Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes 24 cookies

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup Zsweet (or 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Mix wet ingredients together.
  4. Combine with dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Fold in the chopped dark chocolate and hazelnuts.
  6. Divide dough into 2 portions and form flattened logs on lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes then let cool for about 30 minutes.
  8. Cut the biscotti into 1/2 inch slices and lay each cookie on its side on the baking sheets.
  9. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Flip the cookies over and bake for another 15 minutes or until they are dry and no longer soft in the middle.

These are crunchiest when they have cooled but when they are slightly warm, the chocolate is still gooey and melty and crazy good.

So far, I am really enjoying my stay in Portland.  It’s really easy to navigate on foot or with its convenient light rail system.  There are some fantastic restaurants in the downtown area and it’s been fun exploring the Pearl District.  I hope to see some of the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls, if the rain lets up.  But I will be very happy to go home at the end of the week and get finally back into the kitchen.

There’s something about blueberry muffins that feels so homey and comforting.  When I was eating wheat, I had a favorite blueberry streusel muffin recipe that I made frequently.  It was simple to put together and the crunchy, sweet topping made eating the muffin feel very indulgent.  Now I’ve adapted the recipe using coconut flour and I got to keep the topping with some changes.

Blueberry Crumb Muffins

Makes 9 muffins

6 eggs

6 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)

1/4 teaspoon stevia

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup frozen blueberries

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons butter, softened

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease or line muffin cups.
  2. Prepare crumb topping by placing walnuts, coconut sugar and cinnamon in food processor and pulse until walnuts are chopped.
  3. Add butter and pulse until mixture is roughly combined.  Set aside.
  4. Mix wet ingredients together.  Mix dry ingredients separately.
  5. Combine wet and dry and mix thoroughly then fold in blueberries.
  6. Fill muffin cups and top with crumb topping.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

One of the things I used to eat all the time was a bagel.  Whether it was a blueberry bagel with plain cream cheese or an onion bagel with lox and tomatoes, I relished them equally.  The local bagel shop near my college campus churned out fresh bagels non-stop and was very friendly toward cash-strapped students.  Bagels in all forms were a staple of mine.  And the more I ate them, the more I craved them.  The last time I had a traditional wheat bagel, though, is nearly two years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter and my third-trimester cravings ruled all dietary decision making.  I haven’t really thought about them much since I gave up grains and I don’t crave them as I did in my former student/gestating days.  That is until I saw the ones from the Spunky Coconut.  Would these be as good?  Could they be better?  I headed straight for the kitchen to find out.  The first batch became cinnamon and raisin bagels and the second batch were made into savory onion poppy seed bagels.  Both variations turned out well.  And while they can’t really be compared to a chewy, yeasted New York-style bagel, they were quite good in their own right.

Wheat-Free Onion Poppy Seed Bagels (adapted from the Spunky Coconut)

Makes 4 bagels

4 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

4 tablespoons coconut oil, liquified

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1/2 cup blanched almond flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

poppy seeds and sesame seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients together with the xanthan gum.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients to form a dough.
  5. Use oiled hands to split the dough into 4 equal portions and shape into a ball then poke a hole in the middle.   Flatten slightly.
  6. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone.
  7. Sprinkle poppy seeds and sesame seeds on top.  Gently pat seeds into dough.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.

The original recipe calls for the dough to be refrigerated for an hour before shaping but I didn’t find that it made much of a difference for me.  The dough does rise quite a bit in the oven so next time I would probably shape them into smaller or even mini bagels.  Once it’s cooled, the bagel can be sliced and toasted which is how I like it.  Smear some cream cheese on them and they are good to go.  I don’t plan on having these all the time, but these bagels will definitely make a few more appearances on our breakfast table.  I hope you’ll try them.

What is an accidental pumpkin biscuit?  Well, it’s what you get when you are reworking your pumpkin cookie recipe while talking to a friend and suddenly realize, half way through baking, that you forgot to add the sweetener.  That sort of mishap, my friends, occurs on a fairly regular basis in my kitchen and doesn’t normally make it onto the blog.  But this one had some redeeming qualities.  Enough so that it became something altogether different. What makes this a terrible cookie is what ended up making it a pretty good biscuit.  Out of the oven, it’s tender, a little crumbly and ready for some butter slathering and honey drizzling.  The pumpkin and spices were a nice departure from the standard buttermilk variety.  As for the pumpkin cookies, that post will come a little later.

It’s a good thing that this became a biscuit recipe because, for once, I didn’t use room-temperature eggs.  When the melted coconut oil was mixed in with the cold eggs, I got little solid lumps of fat.  That cold fat and a hot oven are what make steam during baking to provide a tender and almost flaky biscuit.  The biscuit is not exactly flaky and is a little dense because, after all, this is grain-free so the texture won’t be the same as that of a wheat one.  No matter, though, this cookie endeavor was destined for biscuitdom.

Accidental Pumpkin Biscuits

Makes 13 biscuits

1 cup almond flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 egg, cold

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together.
  3. Mix wet ingredients together.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Alternatively, cut cold coconut oil into the flour mixture, then add the wet ingredients, so that there are lumps of cold coconut oil throughout the dough.
  5. Use cookie scoop to portion out the dough onto a cookie sheet.  Flatten the top of each scoop.
  6. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes.
  7. Serve while warm.

The dough does not spread so you can place them fairly close together.  The biscuits are crumbly and hold together better if kept on the smaller side.  Next time I might try adding some xanthan gum or an extra egg and perhaps increase my oven temperature to see what difference it makes in texture.  These are best served warm and any leftovers can be reheated slightly.  Make sure to have plenty of butter and runny honey on hand.