mom’s apple cake, healthified

This is my mom’s old fashioned apple cake. Sans the 2 ¼ cups of sugar. She made it earlier this season and we gobbled it up, oh yes… but no one can feel good about ingesting that much refined sugar. So I decided to do something about it.

In my version, winter squash puree replaces the shortening to keep it moist, sugar is reduced to just 1/3 cup, accompanied by erythritol—a natural (calorie-free) sweetener—and vanilla protein powder, whole wheat flour replaces the white, and an egg yolk is omitted to reduce cholesterol. *check my notes at the bottom for simple vegan substitutions.

It’s basically a balanced meal in itself. Squash = fiber and vitamins; Apples = more fiber and vitamins; Whole wheat flour = whole grains, more fiber; Eggs + milk + protein powder + nuts = PROTEIN! And that’s my excuse for eating a big ol’ slice for dinner ;)  Try it, I dare you.

^Check out that original recipe….. got enough sugar?!

Autumn Apple Cake

  • ½ cup pumpkin or winter squash puree
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup erythritol*
  • 1 t nectresse*
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 egg + 3T egg whites, or 7 T egg whites
  • 1 cup buttermilk (make your own by adding 1T vinegar to a cup measure, and fill the rest with milk)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup vanilla protein powder – mine is sweetened with stevia
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 4 cups apples, peeled & chopped fine Continue reading
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autumn: spiced & baked

Haaaaaappy Halloween! Hope everyone is safe and recovering from crazy superstorm Sandy ♥

While I’m always one to dread the end of the warm months for the long, cold ones to come, I’m realizing how wonderful seasons are for the soul. The change of seasons brings so much to look forward to: we do different activities, eat different foods, change up our wardrobe, and watch as nature transforms around us. I did always miss the color-intense fall we have in Maryland while I was down south at school. So this year I’m taking advantage of the season’s beauty, from camping and taking many a hike on the mountain, visiting the local vineyard (just voted “Best Of D.C.”!!), carving pumpkins, and eating so much squash I should have turned into one by now.

We’ve had a gorgeous autumn here, with crisp mornings and mild days, deep blue skies, plentiful sunshine and sunset-hued leaves. And so naturally what else would I do but combine all this autumn beauty into something edible. Something simple: a squash picked from the farm across the street, spiced, sweetened with pure maple syrup, and baked into perfection. A mix between pumpkin pie sans crust, custard, and flan ……. If you could taste autumn, this would be it.

Spiced Baked Pumpkin, adapted from Adventures in Cooking

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 T Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 2 eggs (or flax eggs to keep it vegan)
  • 1 t maple extract (if you don’t have it, sub vanilla)
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1/4 t allspice
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t baking soda Continue reading

So long sweet peach…

I’ll miss your fuzzy, sunset-hued skin. Your cheery presence in my morning bowl of muesli and yogurt. And eating you like candy.

Sweet, juicy candy, made from pure sunshine.

No matter what grocery store tries to fool me mid-January, I know no look-alike can compare to your genuine summer sunshine-ripened perfection. But that only makes you sweeter come July, when I take my first blissful bite. I’ll soon be longing for that day, I’m sure.

Before I say goodbye for now, though, let’s look at some of the tasty moments we shared this summer…..

A typical breakfast.. (homemade muesli recipe coming soon)

Golden peach soup with crab ‘ceviche’ – from Cooking Light

This was delicious, but too sweet to eat as a whole meal in my opinion. It would work better as a cute appetizer / hors d’oeuvre served in mini cups.

A breakfast or dessert-worthy Yogurt Peach Tart – from Anja’s Food 4 Thought

This one’s definitely a keeper. So simple to put together, and every ingredient is 100% nutritious! no shame eating a big slice of this for breakfast :)

Peaches & ginger cheesecake – shared on the blog recently…

And last but perhaps best, my spicy peach lassi – recipe below.

Continue reading

peaches and ginger cheesecake

Today I bit into my first perfect peach of summer.

It’s a little late, I know, and now I’m regretting not stuffing my mouth with them for the past 3 weeks.

I mean come on Michele, you live less than a mile from Peach Tree Road…..

Each year I experience the same moment: biting into a soft, still-warm-from-the-sun peach that twists apart into two perfect halves in my hands, sunset colored flesh that breaks between my teeth with ease, not mushy but not too firm, and tasting of pure summer. And once again I remember why this is my most favorite of fruits. Silly of me to ever forget.

So a couple weeks ago we celebrated my summer birthday with a delicious home-cooked meal on the patio, featuring rosemary-lemon roasted chicken, fried plantains with sweet chili-cilantro sauce, citrusy jicama slaw, lots of sunshine, and great company. And I decided to make my own birthday cake :)

My idea was for a gingery peach cheesecake, to use up some of our not-quite-yet-perfect summer peaches. However I couldn’t find a recipe I was satisfied with, and out of all the cakes, pies, cobblers and whatnot my mom and sister have made over the years, neither had ever made a cheesecake. So I plunged into the unknown, using my imagination and a couple different recipes for estimates. And what do you know, it was one of those lucky days.

I would expect no less on my birthday, of course ;)

From the oven emerged a naturally sweet, nutty, and gingery crust surrounding a light and creamy filling, flavored with vanilla and fresh ginger. The early summer peaches which topped it off were slightly less-than-perfect, but the cake didn’t seem to mind.

I get pretty excited when I luck out like this with a made-up recipe. Because it doesn’t happen often. Soo, I’m sharing it with the world in hopes that you’ll try it, or at least go take FULL advantage of summer’s sweetest fruit. Continue reading

a well balanced cookie

It’s been a while since I’ve made a good, wholesome, nutritious cookie — one that I can feel good about snacking on for a boost of energy first thing in the morning, or as a perfectly sweet treat after dinner.

As a self-professed cookie monster, I’ve embraced the art of “healthy cookie” making so I’d always have something slightly more nutritious than a box of nutter butters when the monster decided to come out. But lately my cookie baking has been less-than-healthy, and I’m longing for those guiltfree goodies of my past….

Some may laugh at cookies for breakfast, but to that I say simply compare the ingredients & nutrition facts to a your typical banana-nut bakery muffin and thennn we’ll see who’s laughing….

These pack serious protein from the egg, protein powder and nuts, a modest amount of healthy fat from almond butter, coconut oil and hazelnuts, slight sweetness from agave nectar, vanilla protein and cherries, and antioxidants from the cocoa nibs.

And in terms of taste, the sweetness contrasts with a peppery kick and tart cherries, nuts and nibs provide bits of crunch, the whole wheat and oats lend a dense and hearty chew, and the gentle scent of vanilla reminds you that you’re nibbling on a delicate little cookie. (For breakfast).

A cookie as balanced in nutrients as it is in texture and flavor. What more could a cookie monster ask for?

Cherry Hazelnut Power Cookies, adapted from the 17-Day Diet Book. Thanks Janet!!

makes ~18 cookies

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 T almond butter
  • 1 T flaxseed or coconut oil
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • 1 egg or 3 ½ T egg whites
  • ½ t vanilla extract
  • ½ t almond extract
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ t ground white pepper
  • ½ cup vanilla protein powder (I use tera’s whey bourbon vanilla)
  • 1 ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup cocoa nibs (optional) Continue reading

treats for tara

So I’m not big on posting recipes that I copy exactly from someone else. Writing up my own creations (the few successful ones) or a recipe that I’ve at least adapted to make my own feels much more like an accomplishment.

But I’ll make exceptions when something turns out just so perfect and everyone’s begging for the recipe.

Like these…..

When my family went to Colorado to celebrate my sister’s graduation, she threw a little party featuring sumo wrestling and tasty food prepared by us. Two pretty great things.

Among many other nibbles, mom made cute shrimp gazpacho shooters…..

…and I contributed the sweets, of course. My favorite chili-chocolate-cherry bean cookies emerged from the oven sadly flat (blaming that on the altitude..), but these almond butter rice crisp treats certainly made up for it.

Continue reading

coconut flour cookies – gluten free & grain free

Not often does one get offered a giant bag of coconut flour because someone has just too much of it. So when my uncle offered me an extra bag he had lying around (my gluten-free aunt orders online in bulk because it’s cheaper), I was glad to take it off their hands :)

I left their home after dinner with arms full of goodies— coconut flour and bunches of collards and lettuces fresh from their garden. It’s been nice living close to them for 4 years of college; I never left without something yummy, usually homemade applesauce or jarred South Carolina peaches. mmmm.

Anyway, with more coconut flour than I ever thought I’d have in my possession (that stuff can be expensive!) I was dreaming up all the recipes I could add it to. And what did I settle on first? The classic chocolate chip cookie, of course. Except this one’s not so classic

I knew my aunt had been on a search for the best tasting gluten-free cookies, so I thought I’d add a homemade recipe to the competition. And it’s not only gluten-free, but grain-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, and very low in sugar overall. The baked cookie certainly has a different texture than the classic—a bit more dense, soft, and dough-like—but delicious in its own way.

I absolutely love these cookies and could easily just eat balls of the raw dough as well. I know my aunt enjoyed them, and even if you’re not avoiding gluten you should give them a try! A soft, dense, chocolatey, coconutty, just-sweet-enough treat, without any of the guilt ;)

grain-free coconut flour cookies, adapted from girl meets life.

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 T agave
  • 1/2 T coconut oil
  • 1/4 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
  • 3-4 T dark chocolate chips (I use grain-sweetened or dark mini chips)
  • other options: cocoa nibs, coconut flakes, chopped nuts Continue reading