Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gluten Free Banana Bread + How to Make Homemade Oat Flour

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Long post alert!  We have had quite the exciting dramatic eventful week over here, folks.  Memorial Day weekend brought the unofficial official kickoff to Santa Barbara's fire season - complete with a brand new fire, dubbed the "White Fire":

Around 2:30 Monday afternoon I thought I smelled smoke.  Hubby had said that the neighbors were getting ready to BBQ, so I thought maybe they had tossed some wood into their pit.  A bit later as Chico and I were in the backyard, I noticed the telltale red tinge when I looked around... then looked up and saw a thick, heavy blanket of smoke in the sky.  These images were taken from La Cumbre peak using my iPhone. 

Firefighters here in Santa Barbara work so hard during fire season.  This area is notorious for its many wildfires, and the red, smoky sky is, unfortunately, an all too familiar sight to us locals.  Thankfully, this fire has stayed on the other side of the mountains. Despite strong winds and soaring temps, not a single home has burned and no one has been injured.  Fires in the past (Painted Cave, Tea FireJesusita Fire, Lightning Series Fires) have had devastating, long term effects on California and its residents.  Many of our friends have lost homes over the years, and Hubby's family came extremely close to losing their home during the Painted Cave Fire.  We are very thankful that this one has not come down into town!

Mother Nature couldn't let us get too comfortable once the fire was somewhat controlled... Wednesday as I was about to leave for work, I heard a loud *BANG* as the house lurched and started shaking to the tune of a 4.9 earthquake hitting just 3 miles off of our coast. It was so loud I thought someone/something had crashed into our house!  Dramatic little city, aren't we?  I think I've had enough excitement for one week.

So, anyway, back to the good stuff - food!

You may remember the Flaxseed Nutella Banana Bread recipe that I posted last year.  As delicious as that recipe is, it desperately needed a healthy makeover.  Lately I've been really paying attention to how I feel after I eat certain things; I feel my best when I keep to lean proteins such as fish and chicken.  Sugar gives me an awful headache and a jittery feeling in my gut, so I've been trying my hardest to keep it out of my diet. I allow myself to indulge in moderation, which keeps my sweet tooth satisfied without making me feel like crap.   Win!

This banana bread freezes well, and isn't overly sweet.  Hubby loves it drizzled with local honey.  Feel free to toss in some golden raisins, mini chocolate chips or whatever your heart desires.  At the last minute I decided to top mine with oats mixed with a smidge of brown sugar and cinnamon.  It gives the bread the perfect tiny bit of sweetness.

Gluten Free Banana Bread
| Servings: 1 loaf | Prep: 10 mins. | Bake: 50 Mins |
1/4 c coconut oil, melted
1/2 c plain greek yogurt
1/4 c (scant) agave
1/4 c honey
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 c oat flour (see below)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 c bananas, overripe, mashed
1/2 c chopped nuts
For the topping
1/4 c oats
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x5 loaf pan lightly with non-stick spray.  Set aside. {Alternately, you could make this recipe into muffins - bake for about 15-20, or until cake tester comes out clean.)

In a small bowl, mix together the coconut oil, greek yogurt, agave, honey, egg and vanilla and bananas.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir the wet ingredients into flour mixture until thoroughly incorporated.  Gently fold in the chopped nuts and any other additions (dried fruit, choc chips, etc.) and stir until just combined. Pour bread dough into the prepared loaf pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the 1/4 c oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over the top of the bread dough.  Bake bread for 45-55 mins., or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool completely before slicing and serving.  Or not.  It's really great still warm.

To make the oat flour...

I will not call this a "recipe" because it simply involves one ingredient and one easy step.  "Gluten Free" is everywhere and I personally know several people who are intolerant to gluten, so I wanted to make this recipe accessible to all.  If you have gluten free oats on hand, you can make this oat flour to use in your baking adventures.  Woohoo!

Gluten Free Oat Flour
Makes 2 cups
What you need:
2 cups gluten free oats*
Food processor

Pour the oats into the food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Tada!  Oat flour!

*Not all oats are gluten free.  Trader Joe's carries a large bag of GF oats for $3.99.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Baked Chile Rellenos {Saying Goodbye to Grandma}

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I've tried over and over again to open this post eloquently, and have been failing miserably.  It could be a lack of coffee, or perhaps it's a product of the past week's ride on an emotional see-saw.

On Monday, May 13, one day after Mother's Day, my Grandma passed away.

AnnaBelle Chaparro had suffered from Alzheimer's for several years, and in all honestly, she had left us long ago.  But the finality of her passing means a different kind of goodbye, one that we can't tuck away in our minds as "not really goodbye."  For a long time we still had her here, albeit somewhat absent.  My mom put it perfectly when she said that Alzheimer's is "the long goodbye."

During my Grandma's final years, my mom and dad worked day and night to make sure she was well taken care of.  What started out as merely being there to make sure she wasn't in the house alone gradually became much, much more, and eventually turned into a complete role reversal, wherein they became the "parents" of a now fully-dependent Grandma.  It's a thankless and extremely hard job.  There truly should be an organization somewhere that awards medals and accolades to caregivers.

When I think of my Grandma, I picture her in the kitchen or in the garden.  She had a beautiful, lush garden that she took great pride in.  In the backyard she had apples, apricots, tomatoes, rhubarb, veggies of all kinds, and even a cherry tree.  She was an avid composter, and to this day I can still picture her coffee can sitting under the kitchen sink, full of scraps and things to compost for the garden.  Hubby and I planted a garden the weekend before Mother's Day, and I thought of her as we tucked the little plants into their new home.

My Grandma was a great cook.  She would whistle as she chopped and stirred, and soon there would be a table full of deliciousness waiting for us all to dig into.  Today I'm going to share one of her recipes with you.

Every Christmas, Grandma would make spanish food for the family dinner.  She would spend hours in the kitchen and the house would smell amazing!  I can still smell the chicken poaching for enchiladas and the aroma of roasted chiles wafting from the kitchen.  This recipe for baked chile rellenos is one of the stars of Grandma's Christmas dinner.  As I assembled this dish and the house started to smell like chiles, I couldn't help but feel her in the kitchen with me.  There were definitely tears falling as I stuffed the chiles, beat the eggs and shredded cheese, and still now as I write this.  I hope that when you make this dish you can reflect back on your favorite memories with your family, and smile.
Who knows, maybe it will become a favorite in your family, too.

Green Chile Rellenos
|Serves: 6-8| Prep: 10 mins| Bake: 40 mins|
10 green chiles, roasted and peeled*
cheese (jack/cheddar) cut into 10 strips
1/4 c cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1/4 c milk
2-3 tbsp flour
salt & pepper
hot sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick spray, or lightly butter. Set aside.

Stuff the chiles with the strips of cheese and arrange in baking dish.  Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Lightly beat the eggs and add the milk, flour, salt, pepper and dashes of hot sauce, if using.  Pour the egg mixture over the chiles.  Bake approx. 35 minutes, or until eggs are set.

*Green chiles can be purchased roasted in jars or cans.  Rinse them thoroughly to remove the added sodium.  To roast your own chiles, place them over open flame, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides.  Place roasted chiles in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10-15 mins.  To peel, wipe the chiles with a paper towel until the charred skins are removed.