Saturday, November 22, 2014

Porridge (Made Super!)

It's that time of the month again, the Recipe Redux Challenge! This month's theme was Food Memories made healthier. At first I was planning on making some shortbread cookies from my childhood. My Oma (grandma) used to bake them with me at this time of year, but I've been feeling a little too weepy about family lately having had a few deaths in the family in the past year or two. So instead I wanted to celebrate a childhood memory that involves a living relative, my Dad.

Growing up my Dad cooked most of the daily family meals. He loves to cook. Technically my mom likes it too but Holiday celebrations are her domain while day to day was all my Dad. I loved to cook since I was very little so as soon as I was allowed, I would give him a hand whenever he would accept. He made wonderful stews, pastas, pizzas, salads, nachos (!) and so much more. For breakfast he was a bit of a creature of habit. Being Scottish, he grew up eating oats often. He still warmly recalls eating a bowl of hot oats each morning topped with the fresh cream from the cows his family raised. He says its one of his fondest childhood memories. My memory today is not that organic I guess, but it involves oats and a daily breakfast routine!

Growing up my Dad and I ate breakfast together almost every day. It invariably involved fruit, yogurt and oats, though often just a big bowl or two of hot oatmeal. With modern times he started to microwave his oats to a much denser cake like breakfast he then topped with either brown sugar or maple syrup and a little milk. I followed suit, if my Dad liked it, it was good enough for me! So oats became a familiar breakfast I ate almost daily into highschool. 

By University I stopped eating oats because in residence I was given eggs instead. When I struck out on my own I stuck to faster breakfasts like Shreddies cereal and yogurt. But when the weather gets cold like it has here lately I still dream of hot oats once in  awhile.

A few years ago I was living in a very drafty apartment. I was doing a lot of night activities (playing the drums mainly) and I would come home starving and cold. I would eat a big salad sometimes with cheese or some other protein like chickpeas, devour it and then grab a pot and lovingly prepare some oats on the stove and top them with maple syrup and milk. It was my favourite part of my day by far.

When I developed gluten intolerance oats turned on me a little. They started to sap my energy and really upset my stomach. These days I'll occasionally eat some wheat-free oats but I still wind up with the same issue so lately I just avoid them. Thankfully you can make porridge without them! Today's recipe is for my favourite porridge. I think its a much healthier take on the oats of my childhood. I use quinoa flakes for protein and a gluten free base, stevia and maple syrup sweeten it, and virgin coconut oil and a little vanilla make it rich and flavorful. If you're trying to lose some weight, quinoa and coconut oil and great dietary staples to include. Both help you burn fat and build lean muscle. I eat this delicious porridge a lot on weekends and sometimes on cold nights when I've had a long day. Its one of my favourite things ever.

If you have tried quinoa flakes and don't like the taste, try them this way, the add ins in my recipe make this porridge taste much better than if you added nothing and cooked them straight up. The sweet and rich flavours mask the natural bitterness of the quinoa perfectly.

Quinoa Porridge (with maple, vanilla and coconut oil)
  • 1.25-1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup or more quinoa flakes
  • 2 tsp apple butter or apple sauce (the pectin in this ingredient helps the porridge thicken)
  • pinch baking soda or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or more)
  • liquid stevia (to taste)
  • 2.5 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (plus 1-2 tsps as a topping)

Heat the water and quinoa flakes over high heat, stirring until they get thicker and absorb half the liquid. Reduce heat to medium low, add the apple butter and stir in well, this will thicken it up more. Add the spices, baking soda or salt, 1 tsp maple and the coconut oil and stir in well until the oil melts in. 

Keep stirring until you achieve your desired thickness. Then stir in the vanilla and as much stevia as you would like, tasting after each addition of a small amount (you don't need a lot since you will top this porridge with maple syrup). I add enough stevia to mask the bitterness of the quinoa but not overpower it. 

Transfer finished mixture to a bowl and top with the extra maple syrup. Enjoy!

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Zucchini Noodles with Vegan Lentil Bolognese Sauce

I have a confession:

When I create a new recipe that I like, I tend to eat it constantly until I'm sick of it. 

Maybe its my way of convincing myself that it's awesome. Maybe it really is awesome! I think so either way, I hope you will agree.

My obsession of the moment is this amazing dish: 

Zucchini Noodles with Vegan Lentil Bolognese Sauce. 

It all starts with a rich and "meaty" sauce...

This sauce is so good. Its thick, creamy, hearty, meaty and totally reminiscent of real meat sauce with no meat in sight! Canned brown lentils are the star and help pull the sauce together in no time. Instead of slaving over a the stove for hours until your sauce is perfect (and you're a hot mess), this meal comes together in a few minutes. 

Zucchini noodles make this meal light as a feather, not to mention save even more time in the kitchen. If you like the idea of zucchini noodles but find yourself too hungry after eating them with tomato sauce, this sauce will be the answer to your prayers. The heartiness of the lentils give this dish the substance that the noodles lack.

Lentils are really good for you. They're full of protein, vitamins and minerals. In fact they are the most alkaline of all protein sources. They are also very inexpensive and make an excellent meat alternative in a variety of recipes. I chose brown lentils (I use BioItalia canned brown lentils) to recreate the ground meat look and texture of real Bolognese sauce. Other lentils will work but I recommend brown or black for this recipe. This sauce is a great way to show a meat lover that meat-free cooking can be just as comforting, familiar and satisfying. 

You may be familiar with super tomatoey meat sauces from the grocery store. This sauce however is inspired by authentic Italian Bolognese sauce and is mostly meaty and rich with a hint of tomato. Don't be surprised that the sauce is almost dry compared to meat sauces you may have had before. The lentils really are the main player. 

The fat in this sauce comes from two sources I believe make this sauce so good -- extra virgin olive oil and soy-free vegenaise. The olive oil provides the Italian flavour that is integral to this dish while the vegenaise changes the flavour of the the lentils to something more meat like. I can assure you adding it makes a big difference because I have made it with and without the vegenaise and it is always better with! Vegenaise even alters the colour of this sauce, creating a slight orange hue which makes the sauce look more like meat was added to it. I imagine any type of vegenaise or mayo will work in this sauce but I am allergic to soy so this is the version I use.

I love this recipe, I hope you do too!

Zucchini Noodles with Lentil Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce:
  • 2 cans organic brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tbsp tomato passata OR 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup arabiata tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp soy free vegenaise
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1.5 tsp evoo
  • Pepper and Parmesan (vegan or otherwise) to serve

    Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil and then onions. Saute till translucent. Add the tomatoes and saute for a minute. Add the lentils and mix well. Then add the spices and passata. Let most of the liquid cook off then add the vegenaise and mix well until the lentils are orange and creamy. Add the arabiata sauce and mix well. I like my sauce creamy so don't be shy to add a little more vegenaise if its too red and tomatoey. Stir through well, reduce  heat to low and stir occasionally while you prepare your zoodles.  Spiralize 1 zucchini per person or make zucchini ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Place in a bowl. Top with sauce and serve. Would be great with Parmesan or vegan Parmesan and freshly cracked pepper.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

NEWS: Baking Backwards won an award! and more...

It is with great pride that I report to you all that Baking Backwards won an award! The blog has been ranked #13 on a list of the Top 50 Gluten Free Bloggers ! This was a total surprise and I could not be happier about it. 


I am so humbled by this award, especially after I took a gander at the other AMAZING blogs that were captured on the list... Green Kitchen Stories, My New Roots, La Tartine Gourmande and more blogging legends are on it and not even high on the list in many cases! That alone made my jaw drop a little since I have been following and looking up to those bloggers for YEARS. They are kind of my heroes so yes, wow, humbled.

I wanted to bake something to celebrate the award but I have had a crazy couple of weeks including a death in the family so I just have not had the chance to get myself in gear.

Sad news aside, I have a little more good news to share. I am in the concept phase of a new business venture!  All I can say for now is that I soon hope to be selling some gluten free vegan food products in the Toronto area of Canada and online via Etsy. Watch out for previews of my new products coming soon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cardamom Apple Cookie Crumble

For as long as I can recall, apple crumble (also known as apple brown betty and apple crisp) has been one of my favorite desserts. For years as a child (when I still followed cookbook recipes) I would make the New York Times Cookbook's apple brown betty recipe. That cookbook is still kicking around in my childhood home, hanging together by a few threads and some duck tape. That book opened me to up the world of baking and pastry. I learned to make everything from pie crust to meringue, amazingly with no illustrations or images (which is almost unheard of today)! It is a classic book I recommend to anyone.

I created this unusually delicious crumble recipe as part of my involvement with the Recipe Redux challenge. Each month, member bloggers are challenged with a theme. They are asked to create new recipes that are in line with that theme that also happen to be nutritious and healthier than the average dessert. This month the challenge involved cooking or baking with unusual spices found in your spice cabinet. You know, the spices you have but don't necessarily use...So for me, the obvious spice to choose to feature was cardamom.

I love East Indian food, and East Indians love to cook and bake with cardamom. This incredibly healthy and fragrant spice can be quite overpowering if used in excess but quite subtle and delightful if used in moderation in the company of other warming spices like ginger and cinnamon. If you are unfamiliar with cardamom on its own, you may have tried it in Chai tea, another personal favorite. 

In addition to currently living in a multi-cultural city in Canada where Indian food is wholeheartedly embraced, I also lived abroad in the UK for some time where Indian cuisine is adored. There are many East Indian bakeries and restaurants in London where delicate aromas of cardamom and cinnamon waft through the surrounding streets all day long. I once followed the smell of freshly baked cardamon-laced Indian sweets for two blocks until I discovered one of London's most popular Indian bakeries. 

I love Chai spice combinations and I really love the versatility of cardamom which is used in both sweet and savory recipes in Indian cuisine. I have for a long time had a large amount of cardamom in my spice cupboard just waiting to be used. I RARELY use it at all because, well, it scares me a little! I have RUINED many dishes by adding far too much of it without other spices to balance it out properly. I have also created many dishes with it to brilliant success but it nevertheless remains in the back of my mind when it comes to baking. This is actually the first sweet recipe besides homemade chai tea that I have added cardamom to! I'm very glad I gave it a go though as this is a very unique and delicious apple crumble recipe. 

If you plan on making this recipe, I encourage you to make it exactly if possible. Ginger and cinnamon are essential to the balance of flavors of this crumble so don't leave them out! Without them the cardamom is way too strong. If you would rather use a traditional crumble topping of your own creation, the recipe will still taste delightful and unusually spiced for apple crumble so go ahead and play with it. I personally enjoy this cookie-like topping as the sweet crunchy chewiness of the topping balances the soft sweetness of the apples underneath perfectly. 

I hope you give this crumble a go! It's a refreshing take on a classic.

Cardamom Apple Cookie Crumble

Spiced Apples:
  • 3-4 average sized apples, ripe if possible (I used gala and ambrosia apples)
  • 1.5 tbsp unsweetened apple butter
  • 0.5 tsp cardamom powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.25 cup water
  • liquid stevia, to taste
  • pinch pink salt
Core and slice your apples very thin and then cut each slice evenly in three so you have lots of small thin pieces. I left the skins of the apples on. Add to a dish along with the lemon juice, spices and apple butter. Toss with a fork to coat the apples as evenly as possible. 

Heat the coconut oil in a medium sized pot or pan over medium high heat. Once melted, add the apple mixture and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed by the fruit. Add the maple syrup and the water and bring to a simmer, letting most but not all of the liquid absorb. Add the salt and stir. Taste you apples. Add stevia if you want them sweeter, stirring to incorporate it well. Once satisfied by the sweetness of the apples. transfer them to a small ovenproof baking dish. Preheat oven to 350F and set the dish aside.

Cookie Topping:
  • 5-7 pitted medjool dates
  • 0.25 cups buckwheat flour
  • 0.75-1 cup gluten free oats
  • 1 tsp or 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • a few dashes liquid stevia
  • 1 heaping tbsp unsweetened apple sauce (optional)
  • tiny pinch pink salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the buckwheat flour, apple sauce, salt, cinnamon, coconut oil and dates to a food processor. Pulse to mix them into a rough paste. Add the oats and vanilla and a few drops liquid stevia (not too much and pulse to make a rough crunchy dough. Using your hands, grab little balls of the dough and arrange over top of the apples in their baking dish. Arrange the dough evenly in blobs over the apples to cover them. Place the baking dish in the hot oven and bake until the topping is crisp but not overcooked (burnt). Allow to cool slightly. Enjoy by itself or a la mode (with vanilla ice cream on top).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Plant fuel: brownies

I like brownies. My husband LOVES brownies. There are about a million things I would rather make first but it must be love because I found myself baking brownies tonight. And he didn't even ask...

My philosophy on brownies goes something like this -- make them as healthy as possible. Why? Because I'm not a brownie die hard so if I am going to eat them I'd rather they not be 80% butter and 20% sugar.

Enter these gorgeous brownies. Just look at them, glimmering in the glow of my stove light. They look so...decadent. So inviting. And yet they're about 99% healthy plant food.

Sweet potatoes, avocado, buckwheat flour, raw cacao and virgin coconut oil. Who knew that those superstar ingredients could create these! No grains, no gluten, vegan and loaded with nutrients. Sweetened with stevia and a tiny bit of maple syrup. Oh and they're dead simple to make. Blitz, spread, bake, eat.

 If you don't try these you're crazy!

Healthy Brownies
  • 1 cup steamed, peeled sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1.5 cup ripe avocado
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5-2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Liquid stevia, (lots!) to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut water 
Preheat oven to 350F.

Blend all ingredients together till smooth in food processor. Adjust sweetness. Bake in parchment lined cake pan until semi firm on top. Enjoy warm or after cooling on the stovetop.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pleasantly surprised by pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

OK so I'm just going to say it...I'm not a huge pumpkin fan. I like it fine, it doesn't bother me, but its not my favourite. I imagine I've just lost all my followers. Sigh. For those of you who haven't slammed your laptop shut in rage, its growing on me. I bought a can last week and tried to bake with it but was...dissatisfied. But so many posts on Instagram and Pinterest  are celebrating pumpkin that I had to give it another go. Lucky I did because these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are not only light and healthy, but also totally delicious. You need to make these. Even you pumpkin skeptics need to.

Chickpeas, buckwheat flour, pumpkin puree... Sounds more like a vegan burger than cookies but trust me these are great! And did I mention easy to make? Blitz in a food processor and you're nearly in business.

These cookies are a lighter and softer version of my recently posted chocolate chip cookies. They are very different flavour and texture wise. The pumpkin in these make this recipe scream Fall, and the soft cake like texture screams cosy comfort. Healthy enough to enjoy for breakfast, these grain free, high fibre, protein rich cookies will hit the spot anytime. Use vegan chocolate chips to make this recipe totally vegan.

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup stoneground buckwheat flour
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4-5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3-4 tsps virgin coconut oil
  • Many drops of liquid stevia
  • 1/4-1/3 (or more) cup mini chocolate chips or chunks

In a food processor, blend all ingredients except chocolate chips until very smooth. Taste. Add as much stevia as you want, blending, until you achieve your desired sweetness (the batter should be as sweet as you want your cookies to be).

Once satisfied with the level of sweetness, add your chocolate and pulse to distribute the chocolate chips through the batter evenly. 

Using either a teaspoon or tablespoon, scoop the batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet in spoon sized blobs, well spaced out in rows on the tray. I used two trays. Bake in oven preheated to 350F until golden brown on the edges. Remove and cool slightly before eating.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Perfect afternoon baking: grain-free chocolate chip cookies (super healthy!)

Its getting very chilly -- Fall is definitely here and in full swing. Since today was my rest day and was too cold for crazy walking adventures, I decided to spend some time baking. Little did I know I would stumble onto the best gluten free chocolate chip cookies I've ever made!

You may have noticed that I bake cookies a lot, especially chocolate chip cookies. I started to think about why I do that so frequently since they actually aren't much of a childhood favorite for me. When I was a wee baker, I did bake chocolate chip cookies often...and often was nonplussed by the result. My Oma (grandma) was a fabulous baker so I used her recipe but it was never great-- way too sweet and almost undercooked. I ended up almost exclusively buying chocolate chip cookies out after that and developed a passion for the well made dense and buttery chocolate chip cookies I found in cafes. Sweet but not crazy sweet, salty, buttery, vanilla scented, dense and chewy. To me that's a perfect chocolate chip cookie! So, for the past year or so I became fascinated with the idea of creating a healthy variation that lived up to my cookie wish list.

Today's recipe is pretty damn good and pretty damn close to my favorite cafe-style sinful cookies. You would not believe how innocent these decadent tasting cookies are. Low in sugar, refined sugar free, high in protein, low in fat, grain free, gluten free, nut free, soy free, fructose free and vegan. Eat as many as you like whenever you like!


My Favourite Grain Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (I use BioItalia brand because they are delicious)
  • 2/3-3/4 cup stone ground buckwheat flour
  • big pinch pink salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • liquid stevia (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp (or more if desired) virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup mini vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Add the chickpeas to a food processor and blend well until crumbly. Add the buckwheat flour and blend until well combined. Add the oil, maple, baking soda and vanilla and blend until well combined. Taste the batter and add as much stevia as you think you need to achieve your desired sweetness. Blend in the stevia and taste again to ensure the dough is sweet enough. Once satisfied with the taste of your dough, add the chocolate chips and pulse to mix them through the dough evenly.
Using a teaspoon or a tablespoon, spoon blobs of the dough onto the parchment lined baking sheet, spacing them out evenly as you would for any cookie recipe. Shape the blobs into disks or flatten with the back of a fork for ridges. I sprinkled a tiny amount of pink salt over the whole batch for that salty sweet flavour profile.

Bake in the hot oven until semi firm to the touch. Enjoy warm or cold.