All week I have been craving a moist, comforting sweet bread. Since being in lockdown mode for the last eight months, I have changed my eating lifestyle. One of these changes are using nut flours such as almond, pecan and walnut flour because of my intolerance to wheat. Another important change is using coconut palm sugar, monk fruit blend or maple syrup to lower my blood sugar levels. The Pumpkin Almond Bread I made tonight features almond flour and coconut palm sugar.
2 cups almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg/clove blend
2 tsp lucuma powder
5 tbsp psyllium husk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup coconut palm sugar
3/4 cup roasted butternut squash purée
1/3 cup warm water
1. Mix all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. Mix eggs, coconut palm sugar, warm water, apple cider vinegar, psyllium husk and pumpkin purée altogether.
3. Add the pumpkin purée mixture with the dry ingredients until combined.
4. Line a 9”x 5” loaf pan with parchment paper. Pour bread mixture into pan making sure the contents are evenly distributed. Bake for 50 minutes in the oven at 350F.
I am very pleased with the result of tonight’s baking experiment. The condo filled with the nutty aroma of almonds and sweetened with pumpkin spice. The sweet bread is moist and has a slightly crunchy crust which creates a texture profile that I love. Its earthy sweetness from the coconut palm sugar and the lucuma powder are perfectly paired with the nutty flavour of the ground almonds. Pure medicine to calm my lockdown nerves.
The best part is that my son Achilles, who tends to be a picky eater loved it. One inhale of the warm Pumpkin Almond Bread and he was in bread heaven.
I’m pairing my evening treat with a warm cup of Golden Milk Tea.
How do you know when you’re comfortable making a family favourite? For me, I had a break-through affirming my confidence in the kitchen. Every Sunday, I make a pancake breakfast for my family because it is the only time we are sitting altogether at the table. Achilles noticed that the only time we eat a meal together is every Sunday morning, so he named our dinner table the “breakfast table”.
This morning to mark the beginning of a long awaited Spring School Break, I improvised a gluten free pancake recipe that was taken from a ready mixed gluten free pancake mix. I had to improvise because I ran out of the pancake mix a long time ago and have been experimenting with other gluten free grains. This morning I realized that I didn’t have enough gluten-free flour mix when the batter was too runny. For a few seconds panic set in because I wanted us to have a perfect Sunday breakfast, but my wise mind took over and I knew what to do.
I took a mental inventory of my pantry looking for grains that I could add to the runny batter. Tapioca flour is used for the Cheesy Breads. Coconut flour is used for cakes and cookies. Luckily, I had plenty of both. Next, I proceeded with caution adding 1/2 cup tapioca flour and coconut flour at a time until the batter reached the consistency I was seeking for. My calm, intuition and innovation paid off. Our Sunday pancake breakfast was salvaged.
1/2 cup melted butter
2 organic farm fresh eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp lucuma powder * you can add vanilla
2 cups goat milk
1 cup gluten-free flour mix
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup coconut flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup low sugar chocolate chips
1. In a mini sauce pan, I melted the butter.
2. In a large mixing bowl, I beat the eggs with the cinnamon, lucuma powder and salt.
3. I poured in the milk and stirred until combined.
4. I measured out the gluten-free flour mix, almond, tapioca and coconut flour mixing them into the wet ingredients.
5. Last, I poured in the hot melted butter and folded until the batter was smooth and creamy.
6. On a hot griddle I ladled the batter six at a time allowing to bubble and cook for about a minute on each side.
7. After making 10 plain pancakes, I added the chocolate chips.
8. To set the breakfast table, I prepared a cheese and cold cuts platter. A few days ago, I roasted a turkey breast and had some shaved Italian Ham. For some tartness, I quartered a Granny Smith Apple.
My April Break-Through Pancakes were a hit. Achilles who is my taste tester reviewed them saying “They were scrumptious. The chocolate chips inside the pancakes melted because they were hot. They were both delish!”
Have you ever thought what your life would be like if you didn’t meet someone, or go somewhere or be introduced to something?
Before marrying Rafael, my knowledge of anything Peruvian was limited. I knew that the Incas ruled Peru before the Spanish occupation and that the soothing flute music was comforting, but that was it. I didn’t know how diverse the country was and how eclectic Peruvian food was. Now, that I have almost mastered several popular Peruvian dishes, I can’t imagine indulging in the fusion of ingredients, textures and flavours of my husband’s homeland.
One of our family’s favourites is Lomo Saltado, Peruvian Steak Stir Fry. The thinly sliced marinated steak, with the stir fried vegetables and paired with neutral rice and potatoes sends everyone to comfort food heaven. This popular dish is a fusion of Peruvian ingredients with Chinese cooking methods and seasonings that dates back to mid 1800s when Chinese immigrants settled in Lima and the surrounding islands.
The combination of soy sauce, wine and spices moisten the steak which allows the meat to fry in seconds before introducing the sweet red onions, crisp pepper and tangy tomato. The addictive umami is complete with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. Every fork fully is an edible carnival in my mouth that keeps me going back for more.
Ingredients for step one
2 lbs thinly sliced steak (flank or petit tenderloin is best)
2 – 3 garlic gloves mashed
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp aji panca
2 tbsp Peruvian Spice Blend *
Instructions for step one
1. If the steak is not yet sliced, you will want to slice it first. Slice the steak 1/5” thickness. You want the steak to stir fry quickly.
2. Combine the mashed garlic, red wine, soy sauce, Peruvian Spice Blend and Aji Panca in a large bowl or roasting pan.
3. Marinade the steak for at least 3 hours before cooking. The longer you marinade the steak the more flavourful and tender it will be.
Ingredients for step two
1 large red, yellow and orange bell pepper each thinly sliced
2 red onions quartered
4 vine tomatoes quartered
1/2 bunch cilantro thinly chopped
Instructions for step two
1. Heat a wok on high. Depending on the size of your wok, you might be able to stir fry meat and veggies together. My wok is small so I have to stir fry in batches. Add avocado oil or grape seed oil to the wok.
2. When the oil is nice and hot stir fry the marinated steak slices in small batches tossing them around for a few seconds until slightly brown. Stir frying to medium is the perfect cook for Lomo Saltado.
3. If you are using a large wok just push the steak slices to the sides. I have collect the steak slices in a roasting pan. Each time putting a lid on the pan to keep the meat hot and lock in the moisture.
4. Reserve the marinade for the finishing step.
5. Stir fry the onions first until slightly brown, the add the pepper slices while pushing the onion to the sides. Next stir fry the tomatoes for a few seconds and then stir in the onions and peppers.
6. Return the steak back to the wok if you have removed it. Pour on the reserved marinade and stir fry everything together allowing the marinade to coat everything in the wok.
7. Add the cilantro at the end.
Ingredients for step three
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 garlic glove mashed
1/4 tsp salt
Juice from 1 lime
4 yellow potatoes or your favourite frozen fries
Instructions for step three
1. In a small saucepan sauté mashed garlic in the avocado oil adding salt and lime juice to taste.
2. Pour in the rice and stir it in with the sautéed garlic.
3. Add water, bring to a roaring boil then turn heat down to low. Cap it with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. If you are making your own fries cut them in 1/5” thick sticks and parboil before frying.
5. Heat peanut or avocado oil in a deep cast iron pot until the oil rolls in waves. Fry parboiled potato sticks in small patches until golden brown.
To save some time and mess because I don’t really like deep frying, I bake frozen fries. Thick cut or crinkled fries are best.
When I serve Lomo Saltado, I always plate the rice first to one side, then place a heaping amount of the stir fried deliciousness and last I trim the plate with the fries.
It’s been almost two years since I have been experimenting with my food choices for optimal health. Growing up in a Greek home, the first thing that went on the dinner table was several slices of white wheat bread. We ate it with everything not just dinner. For breakfast we slathered it with Merenda (Greek version of Nutella). Mom send us peanut butter and honey sandwiches to school. At dinner it got plunked into any soup, sauce or salad that was on the menu that night. Ohh bread! I love bread. Any kind of bread. You name it, I love it! Sourdough, focaccia or bannock. Pita, nan or roti. Little did I know that my one true love would be my downfall. Before starting middle high, I wore a C cup bra, had been getting my period on the regular and my hips looked as if I could be carrying a bun in the oven. I was a short, round girl. My mom was beside herself, trying to find out why I was so fat at such a young age. Decades later I learned it wasn’t how much I ate but what I was eating that was jacking up my hormones at ten years old launching into an adult female body before I even understood my own sexuality. For the ump-tenth time I had enlisted into a program to “lose weight”. Although I didn’t get the dramatic results I have been seeking for three decades, I did get answers about why I’m fat. The DNA test revealed that I am gluten intolerant, allergic to yeast and blowup ingesting refined sugars.
This revelation spurred on my journey through “alternative foods” or as the commercial food industry has coined it “natural food”; as if the thousands of breads I ate before were unnatural. Perhaps they were because of GMO wheat and the highly processed refined sugar. Now, I satisfy my craving for the neutral flavour of a fluffy baked morsel of happiness made with ingredients like almond, coconut and / or tapioca flours; sometimes even a combination. Tonight’s recipe is the Brazilian Cheesy Breads. The nutty cheesy taste with the light tapioca flour make these little globes of goodness perfect companions for pretty much everything.
These cheesy breads are so simple to make, my seven year old is getting into the action.
3/4 cup milk ( we use goat milk )
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup extra sharp Cheddar * You can use a combination of cheeses. Maybe combine Cheddar and Parmesan or Cheddar and Monterey Jack.
3 cups of tapioca flour
1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until all the ingredients are combined. The batter should be smooth and creamy.
2. Grease a muffin tin. Pour the batter in each cavity about 3/4 of the way. They will puff up.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in 400F oven.
4. Let stand for 10 minutes before breaking into the golden globes of goodness.
The continuing pandemic lockdown has peeked my sweet tooth cravings. Since my 2021 intention is to be good to my body, traditional sugar and flour blends don’t align with my lifestyle. Last night, I satisfied my craving for chocolate cake with my Choccini Bread – Chocolate Zucchini Bread.
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup grated zucchini
1 tsp lucuma powder ( you can substitute for vanilla)
6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup semi sweet sugar free chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5” loaf pan.
2. Combine the almond flour, coconut flour, cocoa, salt, coconut palm sugar baking soda,baking powder and lucuma powder. Set aside.
3. Whip the eggs until light and foamy. I used a handheld mixer but you can use a stand mixer.
4. Switch to attachment to blend the almond flour mixture until creamy. Add the grated zucchini and melted coconut oil. Mix until combined well.
5. With a wooden spoon gently stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Spoon into the loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes.
Gone are the days when we believed that sweet foods were bad for us because they were once laden with wheat flour and heavily processed white sugar that only elevated our blood sugar levels and inflamed our guts. Desserts such as this delectable Choccini Bread is proof that sweet foods can be delicious and good for us too. My kids who are reluctant veggie eaters devoured my alternative to a family favourite.
I was so pleased again that my whole family enjoyed the Choccini Bread. The whipped eggs made a huge difference because it helps the loaf to remain moist and fluffy even the day after. Another hit!
In the pursuit of my teaching career I have neglected my passion for cooking. With countless hours of marking essays, planning lessons and preparing progress reports, I was starving my creativity. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cultivating young minds but I’ve been feeling like a spectator of life but not a participant. I’m excited and very happy to share that my good friend Mary Luz Mejia invited me to participate in a food competition at this year’s Pan American Food Festival. Come down to the Yonge and Dundas Square on August 25th and cheer me on as I battle with 5 other worthy opponents for the best hot and spicy dish.
My inspiration will come from a place I like to call my own but to which I married into. I will be dishing out a favourite Peruvian dish. I haven’t decided yet but I promise it will muy rico.