Ginger Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (Wheat/grain and oil free)

Ginger Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
You might need to stage an intervention…or sign me up for chickpeas anonymous. I’m pretty sure Boyfriend has heard enough about chickpeas over the last month to last him forever. I suspect that the only reason he hasn’t taped my mouth shut yet is that he benefits from my delicious experiments. But even I must admit it…my chickpea addiction is becoming a problem. I’m baking so much now that I’m having to bribe friends and co-workers to take the resulting morsels off my hands. Chickpeas cakes and cookies may be relatively healthy, but even they will expand the waist-line if eaten too often. Oh well, I suppose I could be obsessed with worse things. At least I’m an EMT with lots of firefighter friends; firefighters will eat (almost) anything.

This week was a perfect storm of available ingredients and cooking inspiration. I cooked up an entire bag of dried chickpeas for the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies earlier this week, so I had quite a few left over. Our CSA bag has also been brimming with carrots for the last two weeks. I’ve been very interested in baking with chickpeas and I wanted to branch out beyond cookies. What better way to use up sweet carrots and delicious chickpeas than in a carrot cake?

I knew that it had to be possible, but I had no idea where to start. After a few days of searching through recipes, I figured out the magic ingredients from which a variety of delicious cakes could take shape: two cups of cooked chickpeas, 4 eggs, and one teaspoon of baking powder. With those three ingredients, magic happens. All of the reviews for chickpea cakes were positive, and quite a few said that the chickpeas were an all-but-invisible secret ingredient, so I was quite hopeful about this one. Then again, I had never done anything quite like this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily, those three ingredients really are magical and the flavors of carrot and ginger shined in this moist and delicious cake! The frosting is mildly sweet with just a hint of lemony tang and compliments the cake without overwhelming it.

I’m always looking for new ways to cook things. What’s your favorite way to use fresh carrots?

Ingredients
2 Cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 eggs
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamon
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1-2 Cups grated carrot

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Add the eggs and chickpeas to a blender or food processor and process until smooth; this can be done in two batches if necessary. Spoon the puree into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients stirring until fully combined. The batter should be thin.

Grease an 8×8-inch cake pan*. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting. While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting.

*If using a 9×9-inch square pan, reduce baking time to 40 minutes.

8 oz Cream cheese
1/4 Cup Butter (if using salted butter, omit salt)
1/2 tsp Lemon extract
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Powdered sugar, sifted

Whip together the cream cheese, butter, extract, and salt until light and airy. Add the powdered sugar and whip until smooth. Keep this frosting (and anything you cover in it) refrigerated.

Farm Fresh: Curried Squash Griddle Cakes

Curried Squash Griddle Cakes

Apparently it’s a great year for squash in Maine. Every week we get more squash in the CSA bag. While I’m thrilled to find zucchini and summer squash in the bag, we’re all getting rather tired of parmesan roasted squash and sauteed squash. After a brief Google search for creative ways to use squash, I decided on griddle cakes. I’ve been cooking with chickpeas a lot lately, so curry’s been on my mind. Curried squash sounded like an excellent idea!

Ingredients
1/2 tsp Curry
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Ground coriander
1/4 tsp Ground ginger
1/8 tsp Ground cardamom
1/8 tsp Ground cinnamon
2 yellow squash, shredded
1 egg, lightly whisked
3 Tbsp oat flour
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Set spice mixture aside.

To prepare squash for fritter mixture you must squeeze all of the water out first. Place a handful of shredded squash in the center of a clean dish towel. Pull the sides of the towel up and twist to squeeze water out of the shredded squash. Repeat a couple of times per handful. Place squash into a large mixing bowl.

Add eggs, flour, salt, and spice mix to shredded squash. Using a fork, gently stir until the mixture is combined.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to the pan. Using a fork, place about a heaping tablespoon worth of squash mixture into the skillet. Carefully spread out the squash mixture to form a small thin pancake shape. Cook griddle cakes for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Recipe makes 6 to 8.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (grain, oil, and refined sugar free; vegan)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite season is Autumn. Even though it’s only August first, I’m already looking ahead to cooler weather, colorful leaves, and the tastes of spiced apple and pumpkin. The orchards are just starting to sell their summer apples, and I’m looking forward to the fall varieties that are barely a month away. I’ll be spending my fall days picking apples, making and canning applesauce and apple butter, and canning pumpkin for cookies and pies.

Autumn

While I wait longingly for apple and pumpkin season, I decided to pick up some canned pumpkin and create something fall-inspired. Boyfriend is kind of picky when it comes to my healthy cookies. He’ll never turn down a cookie, but he can usually tell that they contain something…non-traditional. These were not only well-received, he gave them 4 forks out of 5 (which he reserves for only the most spectacular of foods)!

Gratuitous gooey melted chocolate picture. You're welcome.

Gratuitous gooey melted chocolate picture. You’re welcome.

Ingredients
1 1/4 Cup Cooked chickpeas, well-rinsed
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp Pumpkin
1/4 Cup Honey or maple syrup
1 tsp Baking powder
a pinch of Cinnamon
a dash of Nutmeg
a pinch of Salt
1/2 Cup Semi-sweet chocolate chips**

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Scrape the top and sides and process again until fully combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough for 10-20 minutes until firm.

Form the dough into 1½” balls. Place balls of dough onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Press down with fingertips or the back of a wooden spoon to flatten (about 1/2 inch thick). Bake for about 15-18 minutes.

These cookies will not rise and will generally hold their round shape. They have a soft, slightly cake-like texture.

**These can be made vegan by using vegan chocolate chips.

Adapted from Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites.

Spiced Applesauce Muffins (grain, oil, dairy, and sugar free)

Spiced Applesauce Muffins

I’ve been doing a lot of non-traditional baking lately. I’m feeling pretty confident with my non-traditional cookies, but I was missing things like banana bread, applesauce cake, and crepes. I started researching paleo cooking and discovered that they have some ingenious recipes for muffins, including this one for Grain-free Banana Muffins. With a few tweaks and a bit of experimentation, I managed to recreate my favorite Spiced Applesauce Cake in a grain-free muffin form. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these as much as I did!

These can be made vegan with chia or flax eggs. They can also be made with other types of natural nut butter (no added sugar or oil), although I prefer cashew because it is mild and doesn’t compete with the apple flavor.

Ingredients
1 Cup Natural cashew or sun butter
3/4 Cup Apple butter or applesauce (strained in cheesecloth)
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 Cup Apple, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into a greased mini-muffin tin.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The muffins will rise during baking and will fall somewhat after they are removed from the oven; don’t worry, this is normal.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Vegan; wheat, oil, and dairy free)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
I absolutely love to bake. I also love to eat the results. What I don’t love is the way most baked goods make me feel. Wheat brings on a major allergy attack reminiscent of the peak of pollen season and often starts an argument between my tummy and I. It is simply not worth it. When I first realized that I needed to cut out wheat, I thought that I would have to spend a ton of money and time learning to bake with exotic flours. I was beyond wrong.

My first clue that I was thinking about wheat-free baking in completely the wrong way was this recipe by Erin over at Texan Erin Baking. It didn’t contain flour of any kind and relied wholly on cooked chickpeas, a staple in my kitchen. Erin mentioned that she had tried an oatmeal variety, but they didn’t work at all. I kept researching and eventually came across this recipe on Carrots ‘n’ Cake. The recipe looked great, but I wasn’t thrilled with the ratio of oil and sugar to other ingredients.

Eventually, using the knowledge I gained from Erin’s cookie recipe and a few experimental variations, I came up with the recipe below. Thanks to both Tina and Erin for the inspiration!

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 Cup Oat flour
1/2 Cup Rolled or quick oats
1/2 Cup Brown sugar (or 3 Tbsp maple syrup; if using maple syrup, reduce applesauce to 3 Tbsp)
1/2 Cup Unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Chocolate chips (or raisins)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place all ingredients, except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough by tablespoons onto a silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. (I admit it…I can never wait. These are awesome straight from the oven!)

Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

Snack Time
In my quest for the perfect granola bar, I had a few failures. My first attempt for chewy peanut butter granola bars was a melty, gooey mess. However, they turned into a delicious, crunchy, peanut butter candy bar. I store these in the freezer for a sweet treat! Best of all, with only a little honey as a sweetener, these are almost healthy.

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Peanut butter
1/3 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Coconut oil
1 Cup Oats
3/4 Cup Shredded coconut
1/2 Cup Rice crispies

Melt the peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil in a medium sauce pan until fully combined. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Press into a parchment lined 9×9-inch baking pan and refrigerate for two hours. Cut into 12 bars, individually wrap with parchment paper or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Spiced Apple Granola Bars

Granola Bars
I love granola in all of its forms. I could probably live on the stuff if given the opportunity. I’m sure you could understand my disappointment when I realized corn (in all of ITS forms) was one of the foods making me sick. Just about every granola product in the grocery store contains some form of corn syrup. Every time I picked up a box of granola bars for Boyfriend, I struggled with my desire to sneak just one. The occasional failure quickly reminded me that my body was not impressed with my lack of willpower. There was only one solution: figure out how to make my own.

My first attempt at granola bars was a complete failure, although what began as a granola bar failure turned out to be a candy bar success. (Peanut Butter Crunch Bars will be posted tomorrow!) The second attempt was far more fruitful. I mixed these up in just a few minutes, popped them into the oven while I got ready to go to the gym, and pulled them out right before I left. They were cooled and ready to cut when I got home…and I immediately ate 3! At least I worked out today. That balances out my granola bar indulgence, right?

See the notes below the recipe for alternative flavors.

Ingredients
1 Cup Apple butter*
1 1/2 Cup Rolled or quick oats
1/2 Cup Pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 Cup Golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the bottom. Dump the mixture into the center of the pan; use a rubber spatula to firmly press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. Use the parchment paper to remove the granola from the pan. Cut into 12 bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

*If you do not have apple butter on hand, substitute 1 Cup applesauce**, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Any other fruit butter (including pumpkin butter) may also be substituted.
**Canned pumpkin may be used in place of the applesauce if substituting.

This recipe was loosely adapted from Pumpkin Granola Bars on Girl Makes Food!

Farm Fresh: Vegetable and Beef Stir-Fry in Peanut Sauce

I made this for Boyfriend to take for lunch, hence the sad tupperware.

I made this for Boyfriend to take for lunch, hence the sad tupperware.

I’ve been out of college for just over a year, but I still remember the days of monotonous dining hall food quite clearly. I have to admit that Bates College is better than most, but the same recipes week after week and month after month do get boring and old. Many of the students created a variety of concoctions to combat the boredom and the college eventually took notice, creating a ‘Bates Chef’ competition so the students could show off their creations and compete for the top prize. I had plenty of my own creations (chocolate crescents, garden pesto pizza, Chana Masala chicken wraps, etc.), but my favorite by far was the winner of ‘Bates Chef’ during my senior year. My friend and fellow psychology aficionado, Mikey Pasek, created a recipe for Peanut Sauce Tofu.

Garden Fresh Vegetables

Ultimately, his recipe inspired this one over a year later. Our CSA this week included beets, lettuce, carrots, summer squash, snap peas, potatoes, dill, and small cloves of garlic. I’ve been struggling to use all of the produce some weeks, but I hate throwing it away, so I’m trying to be much better about squeezing veggies into our meals whenever possible, and what better way to use a lot of vegetables than in a stir-fry? I would usually toss in a bit of sesame oil and teriyaki sauce into my stir-fry, but I was out. As much as Boyfriend tries to put up with my healthy cooking, I knew he wouldn’t go for straight up vegetables over rice so I needed another sauce, and that is where Mikey’s peanut sauce came to mind!

Sauteed Veggies

Ingredients
1 Cup Creamy peanut butter
1/3Cup Soy sauce
3/4 Cup Hot water
1 Tbsp Brown sugar
2 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch Curry powder
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Sesame oil or butter
1 Cup Squash, cut into 1×1/2″ pieces
6 Small to medium carrots, cut in half
1 Cup Sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 lb Thinly sliced beef, optional
2 Cup Cooked Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions
Toasted sesame seeds, optional
Minced chives, optional

In a small sauce pan, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, water, sugar, red pepper flakes, and curry powder over medium-low heat. Stir until fully combined and creamy; cover and set aside.

In a large skillet, add 1 Tbsp of the sesame oil and heat the pan over medium heat. Add the squash spread in a single layer, cooking over medium heat; turn it after 4 minutes. As soon as the squash is started, add the remaining sesame oil and the beef to a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fully browned. When the squash is turned, add the carrots and continue cooking the vegetables for 4 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat.

Add the beef and sauce to to the pan of vegetables and stir to combine. Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds and chives if desired.

Farm Fresh: Balsamic Glazed Beets

Yummy Beets

It’s been a hectic weekend. I know I mentioned that we were moving, and it finally happened. Last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, BF and I spent almost all of our waking hours sorting and packing. Despite our efforts at preparation, moving day was still chaotic. Luckily we had three big guys helping us. Boyfriend and Roommate are both strong guys, but between the three of us, we have a ridiculous amount of stuff! (Things with nicknames like “couchzilla,” “the horde of futons,” and “the La-z-boys,” yes…plural)

With little time to prepare for the move, we selected a small two bedroom apartment with a month-to-month term, which buys us time to look for exactly what we want…although the idea of moving again makes me want to run away from home and join a circus. Unfortunately, that left us scratching our heads while trying to figure out how to fit the contents of a three bedroom house with a full basement into a small two bedroom apartment with minimal storage. Suffice it to say that moving our belongings to the new apartment and a rented storage unit turned into two giant games of 3D Tetris.

As you can imagine, with the move less than 48 hours behind me, both my house and my life are in a state of disarray. And yet, somehow, I’ve managed to create not one, but two delicious recipes from our CSA bounty today. The first, Balsamic Glazed Beets was a show stopping side dish with dinner. I don’t have a forks rating for this one yet, but Boyfriend ate these and took seconds. Considering his relative aversion to vegetables, that is a huge endorsement! (I’m not a huge beet fan, but even I loved these!)

Beets are one of those polarizing foods. Most people either love them or hate them, with very little in between. Where do you fall? If you love them, what is your favorite way to prepare them? Let me know in the comments!

Trimmed Beets

Peeled Beets

Ingredients
8 Beets
Olive oil
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Lemon zest
1 Tbsp Brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Trim the leaves of the beets, retaining about 1 inch of the stem. Scrub each beet, being careful not to break the skin. Place the beets on one half of a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Cover loosely with foil and tightly seal the edges. Bake for 1 hour and allow to cool until they can be handled, 20 to 30 minutes.

When the beets are cool, combine the butter, vinegar, lemon zest, and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat.

Remove the stems, roots, and skins. The skins should slip right off; if not, peel thinly with a sharp knife. Slice the beets. Bring the sauce to a boil for one minute. Add the beets and stir gently to coat.

Recipe adapted from Roasted Beets with Honey Balsamic Glaze by Elmotoo.

Farm Fresh: Swiss Chard Chips

Swiss Chard Chips

I’m a week behind on these Farm Fresh posts. Hopefully you’ll forgive me because we’re in the middle of moving and things are a bit chaotic around here. We got a ton of Swiss chard the first week of our CSA, and the second week brought more of the same. Although I love pesto, I already had 44 servings safely stored in my freezer, so I needed another way to use it all. I’ve been reading about kale chips for months, and I had a hunch that just about any leafy green (like Swiss chard) could be substituted successfully. As it turns out, my hunch was right on target!

Our week 2 CSA: summer squash, new potatoes, radishes, cilantro, garlic scapes, chives, Swiss chard, and lettuce.

Our week 2 CSA: summer squash, new potatoes, radishes, cilantro, garlic scapes, chives, Swiss chard, and lettuce.

I feel almost guilty for eating the whole pan in less than 10 minutes. Then I remembered that I wasn’t eating calorie laden potato chips. These little green chips are sinfully delicious and heavenly healthy. I like a bit of spice with my chips. Let me know in the comments how you like yours.

Ingredients
8-10 Swiss chard leaves
Nonstick cooking spray
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 275° F.

Thoroughly clean and dry the Swiss chard leaves. Trim the stems and cut into 2″ pieces.

Lightly spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the leaves out on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and paprika.

Bake for 20 minutes. Gently turn the leaves over and continue cooking for 20 more minutes until crisp. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes…if you can.