Lemon Chia Seed Blueberry Bread {dairy-free}

I made this delicious quick bread last Sunday during nap time, and it was gobbled up before work on Monday.  The chia seeds are a nice swap for butter and the typical poppy seeds.  The almond yogurt replaces the need for milk or sour cream, and the blueberries and lemon complement each other perfectly.  

Be sure to mix the 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 1/2 cup of water in advance – at least 2 hours.  This gives the seeds time to do their magic and gel.  If you prefer to mix them in advance, just cover and store in the fridge.

The fresh blueberries and lemon flavor create a nice balance of sweet and tart.  I like to keep dried lemon peel around – I never know when I’ll need it and I am not always great about keeping fresh lemons in the house, as much as I adore lemons.

The batter is a lovely golden color.

This bread shapes nicely and looks no different than bread made with dairy.  You will, however, noticed that the bread is slightly denser and moister than quick bread made with dairy.  Do not under bake this bread – be sure to check with a knife or toothpick, even if your timer has run out.  Enjoy!

Lemon Chia Seed Blueberry Bread – makes 1 loaf

1. At least 2 hours prior to baking, combine 1/2 cup water with 1 tablespoon chia seeds.  Allow to stand at room temperature.  If preparing the day before, cover and place in refrigerator.

2. Grease with margarine, and lightly flour a loaf pan.  Preheat oven to 325º.  In a medium bowl combine: 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl or with mixing stand, beat together 1 cup sugar, prepared chia seed mixture, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon OR 2 teaspoons dried lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Add in 3 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape bowl frequently.  Alternately add flour mixture and 6 oz of almond yogurt to the chia mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just till combined.  Scrape sides frequently.  Fold in 1 cup of fresh blueberries.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake in a 325º oven for 60 to 75 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie

I made one of these bad boys on Saturday morning – it was the perfect addition to my usual toast and peanut butter for breakfast.  The berry and banana flavors mixed with oats made it taste like a blueberry muffin in a cup.  

I’ve been using the single serving cups that came with our Ninja – they are too easy.  You just throw your ingredients into the cup, attach the blade, stick on the blender, blend for a perfect single serving, then remove and add the drinking lid.  When done, throw it in the dishwasher!
The three of us headed over to the Des Moines Art Center on Saturday morning for a 2-4 year olds art class.  It was snowing and we needed to get out of the house.  Greta loved the different methods of painting – brushes attached to long sticks, cars rolled in paint, tempera sticks, and stamping methods.  Of course, mommy was collecting ideas for her classroom as well.  

After the art center, we made a quick stop at La Mie Bakery for pastries, bread, and coffee.  Eric let me run in and pick out pastries…can you tell?  So much for the healthy smoothie and toast I had for breakfast earlier in the day.  

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie – makes 1 serving 
1. In a blender combine: 1 banana, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, 2-3 ice cubes, and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk.  
2.  Blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.  

Gluten Free Buckwheat Apple Pancakes

I whipped up a batch of these pancakes this morning for our breakfast.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and have applesauce instead of added sugar.  Served with my almond strawberry syrup, they were the perfect lazy weekend morning breakfast.  

They are easy to make up quickly from scratch, especially since they only require 6 simple ingredients – buckwheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, eggs, applesauce, and water.

I have learned from countless messy first flips to allow the griddle to heat thoroughly and look carefully at the edges of my pancakes before flipping.  The edges should look slightly dried and the centers should be bubbling.  

These are nice and fluffy pancakes.  If you like your short stack on the thinner side, omit the baking powder.

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Apple Pancakes – makes about 12 – 13 3-inch pancakes

1. In a medium bowl combine: 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

2. In a small bowl combine: 2 eggs, 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, and 1/2 cup water.

3. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add liquid ingredients, and combine with a few swift strokes.  Batter will be lumpy.  Allow batter to rest for 10 minutes while pan or griddle heats up.

4.  Pour 1/4 cup of batter per cake onto hot and greased griddle or pan.  Cook about 2 minutes per side, or until edges are dry and centers are bubbling.

5. Serve with topping of choice.

{butter-free} Chewy Chia Brownies

I made these delectable treats yesterday afternoon – I had been reading about using chia seeds as a replacement in baking for butter due to their ability to gel.  I had never baked with chia seeds before and was, admittedly, a little nervous.  However, the results were pleasantly chewy and most of a 9×13″ pan of brownies are gone.


In order to use chia seeds as a butter or gluten replacement, they must be mixed with water.  It is only then that these little super seeds begin their gelling magic.

These lovely little seeds are from South America and were part of ancient Aztecs and Mayans diets.  They can be eaten as they are, sprinkled on oatmeal or in yogurt, added to smoothies, and used in baking.  They have are high in Omega-3 and fiber.  They are best kept in the refrigerator or freezer, once opened.  1 tablespoon of these little guys has 60 calories, 40 from fat, 5g of fiber, 2, 282 mg of Omega-3, 6% daily recommended calcium, and 4% daily recommended iron.  (Source: Bob’s Red Mill, chia seed label)

Now, let’s compare the 1/2 cup of butter needed to make brownies, which has 814 calories, 92.06 g of fat, 244 mg cholesterol, and 3% daily recommended calcium. (Source: Fatsecret, USDA calorie counter)

Not bad, not bad, little seed.

I simply soaked my chia seeds in water for an hour before using, and then combined them with the liquid ingredients.  My next steps are to try grinding the seeds before soaking to make a more even texture.  There is a little crunch to these brownies, which did not bother me one bit, I likened it to small nut pieces.

I opted for whole wheat pastry flour.  I have been using this as a swap for white all-purpose flour quite a bit lately and have been liking the results.  Next time I make these brownies they will be gluten-free.  I am sure the chia seeds will work wonders in gluten-free flour.
Note: I made a large batch, but the recipe below can easily be reduced by half to make a smaller batch, just simply use an 8×8″ or 9×9″ pan instead.
Butter-Free Chewy Chia Browniesadapted Better Homes & Gardens
1. In a small bowl combine: 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons chia seeds.  Allow to soak for 1-2 hours before using.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×12″ glass pan with margarine.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl combine: 1-1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 2 cups sugar, and 4 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder.
3.  In a medium mixing bowl combine: 4 eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and the chia seed and water mixture.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients.  Pour in liquid ingredients, combine just till moistened.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or till knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Amaranth & Squash Casserole

This was sooooooo good.  I took a classic chicken and wild rice casserole recipe of my grandmother’s and tweaked it just a tad to get this new winter classic.  Best part?  It is gluten-free, vegetarian, and dairy-free.  This is what I needed this week – I have the annual crud.  Moving to a new school, in a new state, with new germs finally took its toll on me.  I am hoping for a speedy recovery, until then, enjoy this recipe.

I used 1 cup of amaranth – it is like a finer version of quinoa – in place of the wild rice.  It is so tiny that I was skeptical at first that it would even add anything of substance to this recipe.

One sliced and peeled golden acorn squash was substituted for the chicken.

Then, I threw in some broccoli and onion for good measure.  See what I mean about the amaranth being tiny?

I made a white sauce, in essence, to pour over my veggies.  This makes one very full casserole of food, I promise.  Eric and I both found ourselves going for for seconds and looking forward to leftovers.  It is substantial comfort food without any discomfort from meat, dairy, or wheat the next day.

Amaranth & Squash Casserole

1. Saute 1/2 yellow onion, diced in 2 tablespoons margarine until soft.  Add 2 more tablespoons margarine to onions, cook until melted.  Stir in 1/3 cup rice flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring until bubbly – remove from heat.  Stir in 2 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup almond or coconut milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for one minute.

2.  Pour liquid into a 2 quart casserole dish.  Add to liquid: 1 cut and peeled golden acorn squash, 16 oz of frozen broccoli, and 1 cup dry amaranth.  Stir well.

3. Bake uncovered, 350 degree oven, until bubbly for 40 to 45 minutes.  Serve warm.

Vanilla Pear Muffins

These muffins came about due to the abundance of pears coming in from my parents’ trees.  They are easy, chock full of spices and fruit, and I used a couple of alternative baking swaps like coconut oil and coconut sugar.

I simply swapped the 1/2 of cooking oil for 1/2 cup of coconut oil.  Coconut oil is great – it can be a solid or a liquid and easily replaces other nut and vegetable oils.  Even with all the recent health claims about coconut oil curing diseases, warding off bacteria, and being more heart healthy than other oils, remember it is still an oil, and limiting oil intake is still a smart idea.

I also swapped out the 1/2 cup white refined sugar for 1/2 cup coconut sugar.  Again, this coconut sugar is still a sugar, and while it does retain more of the nutrients from coconut such as zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium, you’d still receive more benefits from eating just the pears shown below.  Also, if you use Truvia Stevia, check out this article.

Bottom line: baking sweets with alternatives is still baking sweets.

I used 5 very ripe pears – the bruising is not a problem at all.  Just cut away the parts not needed, peel, dice, and use.

The batter of this muffin mix is very thick.  The addition of the pears will create some extra juices.  Whenever I add fruit to my baking, I always add a little more time on to the baking time to avoid those pockets of uncooked dough.

In other news, we moved Greta’s vintage school table from the upstairs playroom down to the dining room.  This created a perfect arts space for her, and she is perfectly happy to sit down and work on a painting or drawing on her own terms.  Often now, while I am making dinner, she will tell me, “Getta draw!”

Low-Sugar Vanilla Pear Muffins – makes 14 standard size muffins.  Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Muffins.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or line 14 standard size muffin cups; fill unused cups 1/3 of the way with water to prevent warping.

2. In a bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. In another bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup (warmed, if you house is cold) coconut oil, 3/4 cup buttermilk (made of almond milk), and 2 teaspoons vanilla.  Make a well in the dry ingredients, add liquid ingredients in a few swift strokes.  Do not over mix, batter should be lumpy.

4. Peel, core, and chop 4 – 5 ripe pears.  Fold into batter gently.

5.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups until level with rim.  Mix topping: 2 tablespoons coconut sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, stir well.   Sprinkle topping over batter.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden, dry, and springy to the touch.  Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove.

Dairy Free Buttermilk

I love baking.  I try to keep it as dairy-free as possible for the lactose intolerant people in my life (including me to a small degree).  Milk is the number 1 pain-inducer for me, so we made the switch to soy milk years back.  Eventually we found our way to almond milk, which in my opinion has a far superior taste.  Did you know you can make your own buttermilk from any dairy-free milk replacement?  

 All you need is your dairy-free milk and either lemon juice or vinegar.

Put 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar into a glass measuring cup.  Pour enough dairy-free milk in to fill to 1 cup.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes before using in a recipe.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Corn Chowder

This soup is the perfect cure for the end of summer to beginning of fall blues.  Kind of miss the pool with the lingering hot days, but loving the cool sweatshirt nights?  Yeah, me too!

I used some leftover corn on the cob to make this corn and sweet potato chowder – it’s something I have been thinking about for a few days now.  The best part is it used up quite a few of the veggies I had sitting around, fearful of letting go to waste.

The other nice part?  Dairy & animal free.  Sometimes I just need something that is vegan.  I know, some of you are probably scratching your head.  However, sometimes I also just need something animal derived.  I do what my body tells me to do (within reason).  That paint palette cutting board was a gift from my new art teacher colleagues!

Trusty Ninja purees soup with ease.  Just be sure and let it cool a bit, and make sure the lid is on tight, and make sure a fragile toddler isn’t near by to watch it loudly explode in the kitchen.  True story.  I had some double clean-up that night – tears and spilled soup.

She is quite the kitchen helper these days though.  Flipping through the cookbook is a new favorite activity, all the while asking me, “What this?” at every photograph.

Sweet Potato Corn Chowder – makes 6 – 8 servings.  Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, Better Soups & Stews, 2003.

1. In a medium saucepan, in hot oil, over medium heat, cook 1 cup whole kernel corn, 1 small yellow onion, diced, and 2 cloves of garlic, minced.  Cook until the onion is tender.  Add 16 oz of broth.  Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Stir in 1 cup dairy-free (or real) cream and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Allow to cool slightly.

2.  Place cream mixture in blender container or food processor.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Return to pan and keep warm.

3.  In a medium saucepan, cook 1 cup whole kernel corn and 1 large peeled and diced sweet potato until sweet potato is softened.  Drain.  Stir into cream mixture.  Add 1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley.  Serve warm.

Margarita Mandarin Jell-o w/ Coconut Whipped Cream

This weekend went by so quickly!  We started off with outdoor movie night on Friday with a few friends.  I made a cake for a friend’s half birthday and decided to throw in another adult-only dessert for the evening.  We are into full-fledge use it up mode around here.  If we don’t use it in the next couple of weeks we will be dumping a great deal of food items in the trash or into the arms of friends.  Three different kinds of mustard, 5 different BBQ sauces, 2 jars of lime juice, and canned tomatoes anyone?

This was one of those items in the cupboard begging to be used – along with the triple sec I added to make this an adult dessert.  I am not a huge Jell-o fan.  So, if I do make it, there needs to be a large enough crowd to finish it off.  I only had one small helping of this – I think it’s the texture of Jell-o that gets me.

I added mandarin oranges for a little extra oomph and flavor.

I made a batch of coconut whipped cream as a topping.  This absolutely made this recipe delicious.

We spent most of the weekend hanging out on our deck, soaking up the sunshine and warmth, and trying to get Greta over her fever.  We’ve had an exciting past couple of weeks though – check back soon for house news on our front!

Margarita Mandarin Jell-o

1. Pour Jell-o mix into medium bowl.  Add 1 cup boiling water.  Stir until well combined.  Add up to 1 cup of cold triple sec (I used ¾ cup triple sec and ¼ cup water) and mix well.

2. Place in refrigerator and allow to set for 1 ½ hours.  Add in 1 small can of mandarin oranges, well-drained.  Mix well and return to refrigerator for 3 ½ more hours or until set.

3. Serve cold with a helping of coconut whipped cream.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1. Allow 1 can of coconut milk to sit overnight in the refrigerator.  Make sure the coconut milk is not the light variety, as it will not whip very well.

2.  Open can carefully and using a spatula, scrape off the top creamy layer into a mixing stand bowl.  Stop when you reach the coconut water on the bottom.  Save this for other uses.

3. Whip cream for a few minutes or until stiff peaks are formed.  Refrigerate any unused cream.

Cherry Hazelnut Muffins

These muffins are so tasty and low in sugar!  I have been on this baking with Stevia kick and am really liking the results.  The combination of hazelnut and cherries comes about as a search for a spring break muffin – in other words “What do I have that I can use up and it will still taste good?”

I decided to try out the Truvia Baking product.  This is a Stevia sugar mix – if you need 1 cup of sugar, you use ½ cup of this product.  My recipe needed ⅓ cup sugar, so I ended up using 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of the Truvia.  This does not make these muffins sugar-free, but very low in sugar, and yet they still have a sweet taste.

The dried cherries I had have sugar in them – drat!  It is amazing how many food items actually contain sugar once you start reading labels carefully.

Hazelnuts always remind me of chick peas.

Chop up the cherries and hazelnuts and add to the dry mixture.

I decided to try another new baking product – If You Care Unbleached Large Baking Cups.  They are unbleached and chlorine-free.  Normally, I just skip the baking cups altogether, but they are nice to have on hand, especially if you are planning on taking your muffins or cupcakes to a party or gathering.

Fill the cups ¾ full and bake at lower temperatures for larger muffins.

Eat warm – try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting.  I noticed that 1 hour after I made these babies FIVE were already gone!

Cherry Hazelnut Muffins – makes 12 muffins, adapted from Joy of Cooking

1.  Combine in a medium bowl: 1 ¾ flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Stevia, and ⅓ cup toasted wheat bran.

2. Whisk together in a small mixing bowl: 2 eggs, ¼ cup oil, ¾ cup almond milk.

3. Combine with the flour mixture: ¾ cup chopped dried cherries and ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add egg mixture and combine with a few swift strokes.

4. Fill prepared muffin cups ¾ full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.