Lime and Coconut Cupcakes (Gluten Free)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This recipe was one of many firsts for me. This was my first time working with coconut flour. It was also my second, third, and fourth. It was also my first time baking gluten free.


Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat. As a result, it is very fragrant and flavorful. It is also very absorbent. It generally cannot be substituted one for one of wheat-based flour. The package I used recommends replacing only 20% of the amount of flour called for in the recipe with coconut flour plus using an equivalent amount of additional liquid.


In my first attempt, I started out with good intentions. I used honey as a sweetener instead of sugar, and I used coconut oil with some coconut milk to complement the coconut flavor. Even following the package instructions, I had to increase the amount of liquid in the recipe for the texture of the batter to be what it should (it was resembling that of dough rather than batter before I added more liquid).

That batch went in the trash. The baked cupcake tops looked like those of muffins and they tasted like coconut scones. For the second batch, I was scrambling around for more liquid ingredients and settled on orange juice (I was out of everything else). Instead of coconut cupcakes, they were orange-flavored cupcakes that were too dense. And my frosting had melted into goop at the same time. It was time to call it a day.


It was after the first two batches when I threw up my hands and made my Shrimp Fra Diavolo (because I was feeling rather devilish, and this was going to be our dinner anyway so I figured why not photograph it). But I couldn't let the cupcakes rest. So I made them again. On the second day, I decided if I was going to experiment anyway (I had let go of any expectations at that point), I would only use coconut flour and make these cupcakes gluten free.

I've heard that as a beginning gluten free baker, I should be prepared to throw out a few batches. It took two more tweaks to get the recipe I was completely satisfied with. The third time, I added more eggs, I used canola oil instead of coconut oil and I used about half a cup of coconut milk. The result was really tasty coconut muffins. They were still a bit dry and didn't rise as much as I expected, but they made a fantastic breakfast. For my fourth batch, I doubled the amounts of coconut milk as well as the baking powder, and the final result was perfect. The cakes were springy, fluffy, moist, delicious and full of coconut flavor. And complemented perfectly by the lime and cream cheese frosting.


Lessons: If you are replacing wheat flour with coconut flour, use about half the amount of coconut flour as the amount of wheat flour the recipe calls for. Use plenty of eggs (2 eggs per every 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut flour, depending on the remaining ingredients) for the cakes to rise properly and have a nice, cakey texture. In addition, use plenty of other liquids. In this recipe for 1/2 cup of coconut flour, the amount of liquid ingredients (consisting of canola oil, coconut milk, and honey, excluding the eggs) was 1 1/2 cups. With the eggs (assuming 1 large beaten egg = 1/4 cup), the total amount of liquid ingredients measured 2 1/2 cups.

Here is the final recipe.

Coconut Cupcakes (Gluten Free)
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

1/2 cup (70 g) coconut flour
1 tsp double-acting gluten free baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1 cup (237 ml) coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF/177ºC. Line a 12-muffin pan with fluted liners.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla, and honey, until well-blended, about 1 minute. Add oil and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add flour and coconut milk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until the mixture is even and there are no lumps.
3. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake 25-30 minutes, until cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in a center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in pan slightly then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Lime and Cream Cheese Frosting
(Frosts 12 cupcakes)

8 oz (227 g) cream cheese
1 1/2 cup (180 g) confectioner's sugar
1 tsp lime zest
2 tsp lime juice

In a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until softened slightly. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well-blended, about 2 minutes. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes or cover and refrigerate until needed.


Pasta with Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I usually make a version of this dish during weeknights. It always involves sautéed garlic, shrimp, and hot peppers. Sometimes it gains a Mexican flair and I add cilantro and lime juice and serve it over rice with some salsa, and sometimes it gets an Italian flair and I serve it in tomato sauce over pasta. It takes a very short time and it is very tasty.


For this recipe I used fresh tomatoes to create a very quick sauce. I blanched the tomatoes to remove the skins and then briefly cooked them before adding them to the shrimp. To save time, you can use a can of diced tomatoes instead.

The recipe also calls for two chili peppers. You can reduce the spiciness here by either de-seeding the chili peppers of your choice (or using very mild chili peppers like poblano), or using a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to taste. Or if you're adventurous, you can use more chili peppers and leave seeds in


The origins of this dish are not entirely clear. And there isn't an accompanying story as interesting as that of the puttanesca sauce. In culinary terms, fra diavolo (which is Italian for the devil friar or brother) refers to a spicy tomato-based dish incorporating shellfish. There was also a somewhat unruly man named Michele Pezza whose nickname was Fra Diavolo. He inspired, inter alia, a French opera of the same name and several works by Alexandre Dumas, and perhaps also this dish.

Pasta with Shrimp Fra Diavolo
(Serves 4)

1/2 lb (227 g) whole wheat spaghetti
4 plum tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 small chili peppers (or to taste, seeds optional), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb (227 g) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp basil
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta to slightly before al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the water. Mix the pasta with a bit of oil to keep it from drying out.
2. Bring another pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes, and blanch for 2-3 minutes. Remove with tongs and let cool slightly. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin with a pairing knife, discard the skins and dice the tomatoes. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan, add the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. In the meantime, in a separate large tall-sided pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and the chili peppers, sauté until softened slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add the shrimp and sauté quickly until the shrimp is fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, and cook until the juice is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the cooked diced tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Once the sauce starts to simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium, add the pasta along with the reserved water to the pan. Mix well. Bring back to a simmer, and cook until the liquid has thickened slightly, about 2-3 minutes more. Serve.


Creamy Kale Slaw

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Almost invariably whenever I start doing anything in the kitchen, this happens:


This is one of our three cats, Hannes. Aside from his regular diet of cat food, he enjoys snacking on Swedish meatballs, shrimp, fish and Norwegian brown goat cheese (this is one of the reasons we gave him a Scandinavian name). He also loves keeping me company in the kitchen.

This has no relation to today's recipe, aside from the fact that throughout me making it, Hannes would do his usual jumps on and off the counter, sniffing and touching things with his paw (he's very curious), then rubbing against my leg and asking to taste Greek yogurt, which after a few licks he thought was way too sour.


A good slaw doesn't need much. I like mine well-seasoned, not too sweet and not too salty, slightly tangy, creamy, and a bit crunchy. So I've set out to make one with kale. In this recipe, kale together with julienned carrots and daikon radish supply a crunchy texture similar to the crunchiness of cabbage in regular coleslaw. And even though Hannes thought Greek yogurt was too sour for his palate, it supplies a nice tang for this slaw.


It is perhaps easier to shred cabbage than kale. Flat-leaf kale works better (although the recipe here calls for both, flat-leaf and curly, you can use whichever you prefer). Whenever working with raw kale, the tough middle stem should be removed since it is very fibrous. To shred the kale for the slaw, I've sliced off half the leaf on either side of the stem. I discarded the stem, and cut the leaves into thirds, cross-wise. I then simply stacked the slices together and cut them thinly lengthwise into shreds.


Whenever I use kale in salads, I usually give it a good rub with salt to soften it. Raw kale is very chewy and can be bitter. In this recipe I used a mixture of salt and sugar to massage the leaves to make them more tender and to cut out the bitterness. I basically just crunched the shredded kale with my hands, similar to what I did in this recipe for kale slaw and cherry tomatoes (with pictures). Afterwards, I added a bit of vinegar and let it stand for about 15 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.


This salad has everything, some crunch, some saltiness, some sweetness, some tanginess and it is also creamy, but not too much. Since kale is so fibrous, this is quite filling after just a small portion, making it a great lunch.

Creamy Kale Slaw
(Serves 6)

3 cups (75 g) shredded lacinato (dinosaur) kale
3 cups (75 g) shredded red (or other curly leaf) kale
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar
1 cup (70 g) carrots, peeled and julienned (about 2 medium)
1 cup (70 g) daikon radish, peeled and julienned (about 1/2 of large)
1/4 red onion, julienned
1 1/2 tbsp flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise
ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine lacinato and curly leaf kale in a large bowl. Add salt and sugar and crunch the leaves with your hands until the leaves become very moist and the salt and sugar crystals are absorbed. Add vinegar, toss, and let stand 15 minutes for the kale to soften.
2. Add carrots, daikon radish, onion and parsley to the kale and toss. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine Greek yogurt, mayonnaise and pepper. Add to the vegetables and mix well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.


Peach and Blackberry Pie

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


When we collected about half a box of peaches on our farm visit my husband asked whether it was enough for a pie.


I made about seven.

Actually, one was a full-sized 9-inch pan pie, and the other six were tiny “personal” pies which I baked using 3 inch tartlet molds. We consumed the remaining peaches in gluttonous abandon with juices dribbling down our chins. It was heavenly.


It was also a good opportunity to experiment with the crust a bit. I’ve adapted the recipe here from an old issue of Eating Well for a peach and raspberry pie. The recipe uses half whole wheat flour, which I like baking with, and half regular flour; this improves the crust's texture while adding more fiber and flavor. And perhaps makes it more palatable for those not used to whole wheat flour taste in baked goods. The recipe also uses a bit of sour cream, which helps keep the crust tender. In my recipe I use coconut oil instead of butter, while increasing the sour cream amount (using equal amounts of each). I also use honey to sweeten it instead of sugar. Overall I found this improved the pliability of the dough, while honey and the sour cream helped make the crust more flavorful.


The recipe here is works for a full sized pie, or for about six 3-inch wide mini pies. I personally like miniaturized desserts even though they involve slightly more fuss, since it can offer an interesting variety from an ordinary pie. I’ve made both sizes using the amounts in the recipe, and for the minis I was left with a little too much filling since my tartlet molds were shallow. If you're making the minis, I would reduce the filling amount slightly.


The sweetness of berries and fruit used for filling can vary (my blackberries were very sour but my peaches were very sweet). The sugar amount in the recipe is approximate, and you can adjust the sugar amount given in the recipe based on the sweetness of your fruit.

Adapted from Eating Well's Peach-Raspberry Pie (Aug/Sept 05 Issue)

Peach Blackberry Pie
(Makes 1 pie or 6 miniature pies)

You will need:

For the crust:
1 1/4 cup (175 g) whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cup (165 g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup (79 ml) chilled coconut oil (it should be white and goopy)
1/3 cup (79 ml) sour cream
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsp ice-cold water

For the filling:
7-8 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced (about 5 cups or 670 g)
1 cup (135 g) blackberries
1/2 cup (80 g) brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
4 tbsp corn starch
1 1/2 tbsp torn mint leaves

9 inch (22,5 cm) pie pan or six 3 inch (7,5 cm) tartlet molds

1. Combine whole wheat and all purpose flours together with salt in a large bowl. Add coconut oil and quickly rub between your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Add sour cream and honey and mix; the mixture will begin to come together. Add the water and mix until the dough forms. Knead it a few times, then separate into two portions. Flatten each one into a five-inch disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC. In another bowl, combine peaches, blackberries, brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and corn starch and let stand 15 minutes. If the fruit is very juicy add more corn starch. Right before adding the filling to the shell, mix in the mint leaves.
3. Once the dough has rested, take it out of the refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes to soften slightly. Take one of the disks, give it a knead or two and then roll out with a rolling pin between two wax paper sheets into a 12 inch (30 cm) circle. Repeat with the remaining dough.
4. To assemble and bake:

For a full-sized pie, remove the top wax paper from a sheet of the rolled out dough and invert it into a 9 inch (22,5 cm) pie pan. Fold in the edges. Spoon the filling into the pie shell. You can either make a top crust or a lattice top with the second sheet of the dough. For the top crust, invert the second sheet of the dough over the filling, trim any extra dough and seal the edges together, fluting them with your fingers and make six symmetrical vent holes in the center. Alternatively, make a lattice top by slicing the second sheet of the dough into 1/2 inch (1,25 cm) strips. Place the strips in an interlacing fashion 3/4 inches (2 cm) apart over the filling, securing the edges to the pie shell. Bake the pie for 45 minutes to one hour, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool in the pie shell on a wire rack for at least one hour before serving.

If making mini-pies, use one of the sheets of dough to cut out six disks with a cookie cutter slightly larger than your tartlet molds. Invert them onto your molds, pressing gently to fit the molds' shape. Spoon the filling into the molds (you may have some left over). You can then either cut out six more disks from the remaining sheet of the dough to make a top crust, or make lattice tops for the pies. Place the pies on a cookie sheet and bake at 375ºF/190ºC for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool for 15-20 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired before serving.


At the Farm

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Last weekend we went picking at a farm for blackberries and peaches. The farm was huge, and there were many other things to pick (apples, other berries, and various vegetables), but after we were done with peaches and berries in 90ºF we were exhausted. I also ended up being distracted by the beautiful animals.


We ended up picking a pint of berries and several pounds of peaches, much more than we needed. We couldn't stop. They were just so beautiful and fragrant and juicy, some were so ripe they were falling right from the trees. When we came back I was thinking about canning them, but then I made a few pies and we finished the rest by themselves within a few days.


Portobello Burgers with Roasted Onions

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


A little while ago I promised you some roasted portobello burgers once it got cooler. It is only slightly cooler, but I couldn't resist because this is probably one of our favorite meatless burger alternatives.


Portobello is a very flavorful, meaty mushroom which makes it a good base for a burger. Its texture is firm, so it can withstand and be much improved by potent marinades that you would for instance use to marinade a steak, with ingredients like garlic, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, among others. In this recipe I used a balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixed with a few spices, but as always, feel free to experiment with your own seasonings.


The roasted onions go really well with the portobello burgers. I was going to top these off with some mozzarella cheese and a few toppings like tomato or pickles, but Tony - who had been patiently waiting while I was photographing these - finally came in the room seemingly hungry. So I quickly finished up before these got cold and we just gulped them down as they were, with a little ketchup. Nothing else was needed.


Portobello Burgers with Roasted Onions
(Serves 2)

You will need:
2 large portobello mushrooms
1/3 cup (79 ml) balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
A quarter of red onion, sliced into circles
Burger toppings and buns

1. Carefully trim off the stems at the base of the mushrooms. Discard the stems or use them elsewhere, leaving only the caps. Carefully rinse the caps under a trickle of water, gently rubbing off any dirt with your fingers so as not to rub off the skin.
2. In a measuring cup, combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and paprika. Pour a bit of the marinade over the gills of the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms gill side down together with the onion slices in a flat-bottomed dish and pour the rest of the marinade over them. Cover and refrigerate for 40 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 400ºF/205ºC. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease with a bit of olive oil. Place the mushrooms, gill side down, along with the onions on the baking sheet and cover with foil loosely. Bake, 30-40 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Serve on buns with the onions, along with your preferred burger toppings.


Easy Summer Potato Salad

Friday, August 3, 2012


This recipe is one of my favorite cold side dishes, and I always make some version of it during the summer. I use different vegetables depending on what I have lying around in the fridge. The ingredients that stay the same are waxy small potatoes like fingerling or baby potatoes (which tend not to fall apart as easily), onion, and a pickle. Putting pickles in potato salads is something I learned from making Russian potato-based salads like the ham and potato salad and also the beet and potato salad (which uses both pickles and pickled cabbage). I find that pickles always make things better.


I also use different dressings, ranging from a mayonnaise-based dressings either with vinegar or lemon juice to a simple olive oil dressing with some herbs. I've made versions of this salad with sour cream and with yogurt. Sour cream works well, while yogurt does not seem to do the job by itself, making the salad less creamy and slightly dry.

In this recipe, I've used a bit of mayonnaise mixed together with Greek yogurt and found the combination to work really well. The small amount of mayo makes a big difference in taste, helping to make the salad creamier, while the yogurt helps keep this salad lighter and adds a pleasant hint of sourness. I've also skipped the eggs because there are so many other interesting things in this salad (like pickles), making them unnecessary, but you can feel free to add one or two.


Easy Summer Potato Salad
(Serves 6-8)

You will need:
1 3/4 lb (794 g) baby potatoes, such as heirloom
3/4 cup (95 g) green beans, trimmed, chopped into thirds
2/3 cup (95 g) red radish, chopped
1 small pickle, chopped
1/3 cup (45 g) red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/3 cup (79 ml) Greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice baby potatoes into bite size pieces. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a pinch of salt and the potatoes. Bring back to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just done, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking.
2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and simmer 3-4 minutes, until slightly softened but still crunchy. Drain and rinse under cold water.
3. Place the boiled potatoes in a large bowl and add the green beans, radish, pickles, red onion, chives and parsley. In a measuring cup, combine lemon juice, mayonnaise, yogurt, salt and pepper and add to the vegetables. Toss. Serve chilled.

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