Tropical banana muffins (Gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar)

Tropical banana muffinsI love banana muffins and banana bread but today I was feeling a bit bored of my regular nutty ones. It’s February and I was feeling like a taste of the tropics, so I decided to break with tradition and make banana muffins with coconut and mango. (Mango is high-FODMAP but I find I can stand a little bit. It can easily be replaced with papaya if you’re more sensitive to it.) I also wanted to make muffins with little or no added sugar. Loosely using my own sweet potato coconut muffins as a guide, I added a little bit of this and a little bit of that, fully expecting this initial attempt not to turn out very well. To see what disaster I’d come up with, I made a single small test muffin. Much to my surprise, it turned out perfect.*

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Polvorones

Polvorones almond cookiesHappy New Year! For what’s still the holiday season, I bring you polvorones. We were recently in the Canary Islands on holiday (in quieter parts of Tenerife where we actually didn’t see any lobster-red beach sardines or drunken English louts) and I wanted to make some Spanish food for Christmas. Polvorones are a traditional Christmas treat and I thought they sounded easy enough to make in a limited holiday rental kitchen. However, the oven turned out to be malfunctioning so I ended up doing fruit and ice cream for Christmas dessert instead. Back home, however, there was nothing stopping me, so I made polvorones for New Year’s instead of Christmas. Continue reading

Chocolate zucchini fruit rainbow cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Chocolate zucchini cake with fruit rainbowWe interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging about foods of the world to bring you probably the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Because, well… chocolate cake. Need I say more? This one actually contains zucchini (courgette) and is gluten-free and dairy-free. Not that you’d ever know. I topped it with a rainbow of fruit for my five-year-old’s birthday party and it was divine – moist, the perfect balance between dense and fluffy, with a fine crumb. It was sweet enough but not TOO sweet and the juicy fruit perfectly complemented the dark chocolatiness. Heaven!

With the exception of the little girl with the dairy allergy, none of the kids knew it was a gluten-free, dairy-free cake. Nor did any of them know it contained zucchini. I gave all the kids generous slices after a substantial snack of fruit, veg, crackers, and cheese. Yet almost without exception the cake slices were gobbled up practically before the candles were blown out. I can think of no better testimonial from a roomful of five-year-olds. Continue reading

Gluten-free stuffed Brazilian cheese bread (pao de queijo)

Cheese-stuffed cheese breadI have a new addiction. I was first introduced to Brazilian cheese bread several months ago when I ran across the Bolitas stall in the Oxford covered market. These were delicious. Then a Brazilian friend of mine brought some homemade ones to a little party at our house. These were even better. But when I made my own and had the results straight out of the oven, they were sublime. My whole family attacked them, even the picky little girls. Still steaming, crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, most of them stuffed with little surprises, they were the most delicious thing I’ve had in I don’t know how long. The only problem was that we ate way too many of them.

These little cheese puffs are surprisingly easy to make, especially with a stand mixer. It would definitely be harder without, as the recipe calls for a lot of mixing of hot, stiff dough. I saw a lot of recipes online but the one from theKitchn looked most like what I was after: gooey, puffy, no mini muffin tins involved. However, I wanted mine to be stuffed, and I wanted them to be cheddary, since my family and I love cheddar. So I tweaked the recipe slightly. This is what I ended up with. Continue reading

Sweet potato coconut muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Sweet potato muffins in baking tinsWhen I decided to focus on the Dominican Republic this weekend, I was attracted by a recipe for a recipe for pan de batata from the excellent Aunt Clara’s Kitchen Dominican cooking blog. It looked to be naturally gluten-free and probably tasty. However, it looked more like pudding than bread (“pan” means bread) or cake, and other pan de batata recipes I saw on other sites confirmed this. I didn’t want pudding. I wanted muffins. Partly because they freeze well and go nicely into lunchboxes. Partly because, well, I just like muffins.

In addition to the aforementioned pan de batata recipe, I found a couple of gluten-free sweet potato muffin recipes that sounded good, one at The Roasted Root and one at Meg’s Vegucation, but neither of these seemed 100 per cent perfect to me, though the Roasted Root one ended up being my rough template. It’s true – although I was going to be baking with the notoriously difficult coconut flour for the first time, I couldn’t resist experimenting a little.

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Gluten-free, dairy-free Chinese almond cookies

Chinese almond cookies in a plastic containerThese cookies were born of disaster. I had actually made another batch of almond cookies beforehand, using a grain-free recipe. The pictures of the cookies from that recipe showed nice, firm little balls. I followed the recipe quite exactly, I thought, and put them in the oven a few inches apart, at the indicated temperature, thinking they would take 20-25 minutes to bake. Within minutes, my husband noticed they had melted and spread flat, all fused together. Because they had been in the oven such a short time at that point, I turned off the oven but left the cookies in there thinking they might need a little more time to bake properly. Not long after, I smelled something burning. Although the oven was off, it was hot enough to continue baking the now super-thin cookies, which had burnt to a crisp. Grr!

I was, however, determined to have almond cookies. I love almond cookies, though almonds are moderate in FODMAPs so I can only have a limited quantity. So I started over, consulting a number of different recipes to figure out what the problem might have been. The first thing I decided was that grain-free was out. The cookies needed more structure. The second thing I decided was to use vegetable shortening (vegetable fat) rather than butter, as that tends to produce a more tender cookie that spreads less, because it melts at a higher temperature than butter does. I also added an egg. All three decisions turned out to be right. Continue reading

A Chinese feast

Table full of Chinese foodThe weekend of Chinese New Year, I wanted to do traditional Chinese New Year food. However, I didn’t want to work too hard at it. I thought about making dumplings (AKA potstickers or gyoza), but I’ve done that before, and while they came out delicious, it was a LOT of work. Even in my pre-gluten-free days, when I could just buy wonton wraps at the store, dumplings were labour intensive. When you factor in having to make all the wraps as well as the fillings, then form and fry/steam the dumplings, it becomes a huge undertaking. So that was out.

Next, I thought about making gluten-free barbecue pork buns, which I have also done before using more or less the recipe linked to in this sentence (I followed the directions for the bun part but made up my own low-FODMAP filling), but that too was pretty fiddly. I also rejected the idea of making turnip cake because I’d have to go to the Asian grocery store to look for rice flour and daikon, and besides, my husband is allergic to shrimp and lap cheong, with its inimitable taste, is typically not gluten-free.

The more I researched, though, the more it became clear the Chinese New Year foods that most readily popped to mind for me were far from the only ones. In fact, it seemed like almost any Chinese dish could be considered a New Year dish. So I decided to do what was tasty, easy and would create enough leftovers that I wouldn’t have to cook for a few days. On the weekend menu: kung pao chicken, gingery tofu vegetable stir-fry, mu shu duck, steamed aromatic fish, almond cookies, and “ants climbing a tree” (Sunday lunch). Yeah! Continue reading