Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gluten-Free Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird cake... have you heard of it? It's not a cake I was very familiar with before finding it in a gluten-free cookbook. Apparently, it's one of the "national cakes" of Jamaica... I wonder what the US "national cake" would be... This cake is truly luscious - it's rich, super moist, and has amazing flavors. I've only made the gluten-free version of this cake and I don't think I'll change anything about the recipe next time I make it. I'm finding that sometimes, I like the gluten-free versions better --- for example, I always make my banana bread gluten-free (and in the form of muffins). Speaking of bananas, this hummingbird cake has banana and pineapple. It's fantastic.


Gluten-Free Hummingbird Cake
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup sorghum four
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pecans
2 very ripe bananas
1 cup canned crushed pineapple
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs, beaten

for the frosting...
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a piece of parchment paper (here's the link with some helpful hints) and butter the parchment paper.

Spread the pecans in a pie pan or rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until very lightly toasted and fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow the pecans to cool. When cool, finely chop the nuts (I don't enjoy huge chunks of nut in my cake, so I chop the pecans as fine as possible with a large chef knife. But you could rough chop the pecans if you prefer the larger nuts in your cake.)

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, all of the flours, almond meal, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk to blend. Mash the bananas in a large bowl and add the pineapple, agave nectar, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Add the oil and eggs to the dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Add the chopped pecans and the banana-pineapple mixture and stir until blended.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Cover each pan with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pans.

Meanwhile, make the frosting...
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Cook the mixture until it reaches 239 degrees on a candy thermometer.

While the sugar and water are heating, beat the eggs whites in a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment until opaque. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat on high until thick and foamy. Add the vanilla and beat.

When the sugar reaches 239 degrees, immediately pour the hot sugar mixture into the eggs whites in a slow steady stream while the mixer is running. Continue beating the icing until stiff, glossy peaks form (about 5 to 7 minutes).

Place one of the cakes on a large plate. Top with about 1/3 of the frosting. Top with the second cake and frost the top and sides of the stacked cakes. Garnish with some whole pecans or toasted coconut if desired.


recipe slightly adapted from Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free cookbook.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Birthday - Harry Potter Style

Today is Katie's 22nd birthday! This year she requested a Harry Potter themed birthday party. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! We had a blast preparing everything and we were happy with how it all turned out.   I found some great ideas on various websites, had some help from our friends that are huge Harry Potter fans, and Katie also came up with some creative additions. 

We created a potion area with fun things like dream fluid, gillyweed, and blood worms. 
 The Transfiguration (aka "photo booth" area) was lots of fun. Katie made banners in each of the colors of the four Hogwarts houses to act as a background. Our friends Arien and Kyle made this fun cut-out to look like the Azkaban prisoner shot from the movies. 


This was the first year Katie requested cake (she usually asks for berries and cream or some type of cookies). I was excited - soy-free and gluten-free spice cake with cream cheese frosting, and sparkling candles!


Of course, creating Honeydukes was my favorite part. Honeydukes is the candy store in the Harry Potter series. We had chocolate covered gummy frogs, Bernie Bott's every flavor beans, hippogriff patties, fizzing wizzbees (pop rocks), lemon drops, jelly slugs (sour gummy worms), and Professor Umbridge's tea cookies (really just a gluten-free version of my favorite almond sugar cookies - simply substitute gluten-free all purpose flour for the cake and all-purpose flour in the recipe). Katie made quidditch broomsticks out of paper bags and sticks from the back yard, filled with candy, of course. They looked so good!


Arien and Kyle enjoying the fun.

Even the kids got into it!
We also had Ollivander's wand shop where people could create their own wand out of a chopstick. We played pin the scar on Harry (rather than pin the tail on the donkey). Preparing for this Harry Potter birthday party was very fun. I can't wait to see what Katie comes up with for a birthday theme next year!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Almond Sugar Cookies

There's a cookie place near-by called Eileen's Cookies. The iced sugar cookie from there are one of my very favorite cookies ever! I've tried a few times to create them at home, but I just can't seem to get it right. Eileen's are soft and almond-y with a yummy almond frosting on top. I saw these cookies on pinterest recently and decided to give it a try. The cookie is almost exactly like Eileen's!!!! Hooray!!! I don't have the frosting quite right yet, but I will try to add it next time and share the complete recipe. For today, I just rolled the cookies in coarse sugar. They were perfectly soft, moist, chewy, with great almond flavor! I think I ate too many...


Almond Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cold butter
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
3 teaspoons almond extract
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
turbinado or coarse sugar for rolling

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a handheld electric mixer in a large bowl), cream together the sugar, butter, and shortening. Add the eggs and almond extract, mixing on low to combine. 

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the large bowl and blend until just combined. 

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper.


Scoop about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball (I used a small cookie scoop to get all of the cookies the same size). Roll each cookie in the coarse sugar (I used colored coarse sugar, but you can also use turbinado sugar/sugar-in-the-raw). Place sugared cookies on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Do not flatten the cookies. Bake for 7 minutes.


Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately press each cookie gently with a spatula to flatten a bit. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet. When completely cool, remove the cookies from the baking sheet and serve. Store in an airtight container.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gluten-Free Coconut Bread

I like to eat something "bread-like" for breakfast - a muffin, a scone, a croissant, my favorite bagel from Old School Bagel, maybe even a piece of cake! So going gluten-free this year as part of Lent and to experience what Katie experiences every day being allergic to wheat, it has been a challenge to continue satisfying my bread-for-breakfast desire. I made this bread a couple times before with whole wheat flour and it was delicious. But I have now made this bread several times gluten-free - phenomenal! It is seriously one of the best breakfast breads I've tasted. It's extremely moist and so flavorful. Emily doesn't usually like anything that's gluten-free. She says she can always tell if something is made gluten-free. This bread she declared "sooooooo good." She said it's impossible to tell this is gluten free. I love toasted coconut (the best is the kind you buy on the road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii), so I always make some extra to just eat as a snack.

Gluten-Free Coconut Bread
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 cups shredded coconut
3/4 cup turbinado sugar (sugar-in-the raw)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum*
1/2 cup white rice flour*
1/2 cup sorghum flour*
1/2 cup coconut flour*
1/4 cup almond flour*
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 (13.5 ounces) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

*If you're not worried about making this bread gluten-free, you can just use 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour plus 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and eliminate the xanthan gum and other flours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan with 2 tablespoons  melted coconut oil.

Spread the shredded coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, watching VERY carefully. The coconut can burn easily, so keep a careful watch on it and use a spatula to stir it periodically so that it gets evenly browned. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the shredded coconut, sugar, xanthan gum, flours, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1/4 cup of coconut oil, and the vanilla. Slowly stir the wet mixture into the large bowl with the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon, until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the bread and lightly tap the bottom if needed to remove the bread from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. 

To make a glaze, combine the powdered sugar with about 1/4 cup of coconut milk in a bowl until smooth. If the glaze is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If the glaze it too thick and won't pour easily, add coconut milk a teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Pour the glaze over the cooled bread, allowing some to drip down the sides of the loaf. Sprinkle toasted coconut (if you haven't eaten all the extra yet) over the top of the glaze while it is still wet. 

Cut the bread into slices to serve. Enjoy!

recipe adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook by Sara Forte

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

The ultimate dessert for St. Patrick's Day?... Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes! The are incredibly luscious, rich, moist, and have a little kick. Not surprising, considering they have a bit of Guinness, Irish whiskey, and Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur. These might be a bit too much for the kiddos... so if you're expecting some youngsters at your St. Patty's Day gathering, whip up a kid-friendly cupcake without the liquor. But I promise you every adult is going to love these delicious treats.


Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
for the cupcakes...*
1 box chocolate cake mix 
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup Guinness stout beer
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

*If you have a favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, you can use it and just replace the water or milk with Guinness. I chose the shortcut this time.

for the Whiskey Ganache Filling...
8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (or about 1 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 generous teaspoons Irish whiskey

for the Bailey's Frosting...
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
4 to 7 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream *start with 4 tablespoons and only add more as needed to thin to a nice spreadable consistency

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cupcake or muffin plan with paper liners.

Follow your favorite recipe for chocolate cupcakes using Guinness in place of the water or milk. Or... in a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the cake mix, eggs, Guinness and oil until smooth.  Fill each paper-lined cup about 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 18 minutes.

Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then remove cupcakes from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until just simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the butter and whiskey until the ganache is smooth. Allow the ganache to cool and thicken until it is a good consistency for piping into the cupcakes. 

Meanwhile, use a toothpick to poke some holes in each cupcake. Brush the 2 tablespoons of whiskey generously on top of each cupcake, allowing it to soak in.

When the ganache has thickened, add it to a pastry bag fitted with a filling tip. Carefully press the tip into the center of each cupcake and squeeze a small amount of ganache in, continuing to squeeze gently as you remove the tip from the cupcakes. (If you don't have a pastry bag, you can simply cut away a small amount of the middle of each cupcake, spoon a little ganache into the center, and replace the small piece of cake.) 

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand-held electric mixer) cream the butter until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and Bailey's and whip until light and fluffy. Add extra Bailey's a little at a time as needed if the frosting is too thick. Use a pastry bag or spatula to frost each cupcake.

I had a little extra ganache left, so I put it in a ziplock bag and drizzled some on top of each frosted cupcake. I also added a small sprinkle of coarse green sugar in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day.


recipe slightly adapted from

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gluten-Free Bacon & Onion Tart

It's pi day (3.14)... a great reason to have pie! Well, rather than share a sweet dessert pie, I have a delicious pie (well, tart actually) to share with you. It does have a touch of sweetness from a little secret ingredient. You can make this gluten-free just by using a gluten-free all purpose flour. Or you can simply use normal all-purpose flour. If you do this recipe in two steps (making the tart shell the night before), it won't seem as daunting. Hope you like it!

Gluten-Free Bacon & Onion Tart
for the tart shell...
1 cup all-purpose (gluten-free) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons ice water

for the filling...
4 ounces bacon
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon maple syrup
4 to 5 tablespoons goat cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup shredded gruyere cheese
salt & pepper to taste

First prepare the tart shell. You can do this a day in advance and store loosely covered at room temperature. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, butter, shortening. Pulse to combine until the mixture forms a course meal. (If you don't have a food processor, you could mix by hand using two knives or a pastry mixer.) Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and pulse in the food processor until the dough comes together. (If you are mixing by hand, use a fork to mix. You may also need to use clean hands to finish mixing to form the dough.) Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll the dough to about 11 inches round and 1/8 inch thick.  It works best to roll the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and carefully turn the dough over into a tart pan. Remove the second piece of plastic wrap and press the dough into the pan, trimming any excess from the edges. Prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork several times. Refrigerate the shell for 30 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove the shell from the refrigerator and line with foil. Fill the tart with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake the tart shell for 17 minutes. Then remove the pie weights and foil, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and bake another 13 minutes or until golden brown.

To make the filling...
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the bacon over medium heat in a medium skillet until browned and crisp. Remove from skillet and place on paper towel lined plate. Add the onion and cook until softened (about 2 to 3 minutes). Reduce the heat to low, add the maple syrup, and cook until the onions are caramelized. Trust me - this is the secret ingredient. Don't leave this out!

Place the goat cheese, sour cream, egg, egg yolk, spices, and cream in a blender. Pulse until blended.

Scatter the bacon, onions, and shredded gruyere evenly in the prepared shell. Top with the egg mixture being careful not to overfill. Wrap foil around the bottom and sides of the tart pan to avoid any leaking while baking.

Bake the tart for 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a simple salad.


recipe slightly adapted from

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pineapple Salsa

The weather is starting to warm up around here. I can't wait for summer!!! It's my favorite because I like to be warm and I love sunshine. This pineapple salsa will get you ready for summer. It's sweet and fresh and healthy! Get that body ready for bikini season with this quick little snack.

Pineapple Salsa
4 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 medium pineapple, cored and finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
1 serrano pepper, minced
juice of 1/2 a lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Squeeze lime over the mixture and toss gently to combine. You can adjust the amount of peppers and lime juice to taste. 

Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Italian Chopped Salad

One of our favorite weeknight dinner spots in Southern California was Stonefire Grill. Sometimes (ok quite often actually), we miss California. I particularly liked the Italian Chopped Salad from Stonefire... so I decided to recreate it at home. It worked!!! It looked and tasted just like I remembered it. It's a great weeknight meal because it's light, healthy, and fast to throw together. You'll want to try it - SOON! (Bonus: it's gluten-free)

Italian Chopped Salad
1 head romain lettuce, finely chopped
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry salami, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup diced tomatoes

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
pinch of sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Blend vinaigrette ingredients in a blender or food processor (I used our Magic Bullet - it's small and makes for easy clean up - quite a handy tool to have in your kitchen).

Toss salad ingredients in a large bowl with vinaigrette.

This amount made two medium-sized salads (perfect for Mark and me). You could serve four with this amount as appetizers. Or if you are really hungry, you could eat the whole thing yourself!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gluten-Free Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Sausage

Gluten-free doesn't mean you can't have that crispy chicken you love. This cornmeal crusted chicken is extra special with goat cheese and sausage stuffed inside. The cornmeal crust is becomes perfectly golden and crispy when pan fried in just a little bit of oil. Serve it with some simple mashed potatoes and your favorite green veggie... I made brussels sprouts, but you could use asparagus, broccoli, or green beans too.


Gluten-Free Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Sausage
5 1/2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 pound sausage, cooked and crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, cooked sausage, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the parsley.

Using a sharp knife, cut a slit along the side of each chicken breast, but do not cut all the way through. This forms a little pocket in each chicken breast. Fill each pocket with the sausage and cheese mixture and pinch the edges of the breast together to seal. 

Place the egg and water into a shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Mix together the cornmeal, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in another shallow bowl. Dip each chicken breast in the cornmeal, then egg wash, then back in the cornmeal.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breast in the skillet for 5 to 10 minutes per side until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through.


recipe from

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gluten-Free Blackberry Scones

Even if you don't typically eat gluten-free, you'll love these gluten-free scones. They are so moist, light, and tender. Honestly, they are quite simple to make. The beauty of this recipe is that you could stir in any type of fruit you like, or even chocolate chips (everything is better with chocolate chips, right?!?). I used blackberries because they caught my eye at the market the other day, but they would be just as delicious with blueberries or raspberries, or even cranberries.


Gluten-Free Blackberry Scones
for the scones...
2 1/4 cups Pamela's baking mix*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh blackberries

*You can typically find Pamela's baking & pancake mix in the flour aisle or gluten-free area of most markets. I think Pamela's has great flavor. You could also substitute your favorite gluten-free all-purpose flour.

for the blackberry glaze...
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup fresh blackberries (or thawed if frozen)

to make the scones...
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Use two forks or a pastry blender to cut in the butter until you have a course meal. Add milk and egg, combining together with a fork. The dough will be quite stick. Fold in the blackberries. Drop large dollops (about the size of an ice cream scoop) of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

to make the blackberry glaze...
Place blackberries in a blender or food processor and pulse to a puree.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the butter, powdered sugar, and pureed blackberries. Adjust glaze thickness as desired by adding extra powdered sugar to thicken or a teaspoon of water (or extra puree) to thin.

Transfer glaze to a plastic ziplock bag. Snip off one corner of he bag and drizzle glaze over cooled scones.


recipe from the bag of Pamela's baking mix

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gluten Free Almond Cookies with Coconut and Chocolate Chips

These cookies are super simple to make and they remind me of one of my favorite candy bars - Almond Joy! There's coconut in the dough, almond flour, and mini chocolate chips... it's kind of just an inside out Almond Joy. And - BONUS!!!! - they are gluten free. They are moist and chewy and oh so delicious. 

Gluten Free Almond Cookies with Coconut and Chocolate Chips
1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup muscovado sugar (or sugar in the raw)
1 egg
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, chocolate chips, coconut, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

In another bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg until doubled in volume (about 2 or 3 minutes). Add the coconut oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the egg mixture to the large bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Put the bowl in the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If you have a small cookie scoop, use it to scoop uniform dough balls (about 1 inch in diameter) and place on a non-stick baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Press each dough ball gently to flatten them just a little bit. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown lightly on the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes. Use a spatula to remove and allow cookie to cool completely on a wire rack.


recipe adapted from "The Sprouted Kitchen" by Sara Forte