Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins, Gluten and Dairy-Free

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My life has been full-throttle, pedal-to-the-medal crazy-town these past few months, thus the lull in posting to my little cooking blog.  This happens every year after school starts.  Clients come trickling back into town and my work schedule becomes loaded. Then, as most moms can relate, there’s the time commitment that school entails, like homework, meetings with the teacher and functions and parties galore. When every day is bursting at the seams,  little pockets of free time become golden and precious.  What better way to savor a quiet chilly Sunday afternoon, for instance, than creating a delicious snack with your loved ones?  Baking is such an easy covert way to reinforce math skills for kids, too!  Quality time, squared, so to speak.

We have made these muffins many times and they are a cinch to throw together and store well in the freezer for lunchbox treats or breakfast on the run.  These little bundles of tastiness are lightly sweetened with banana and honey.  I added chocolate chips to add to the excitement factor for the little guy.  I think he would eat pretty much anything containing chocolate!   If you prefer no refined sugar at all, you could just leave out the chocolate chips and add the same amount of chopped walnuts (or not!).   And, as always, if you are not gluten-free, just replace the gluten-free flour blend with regular all-purpose wheat flour.

Recipe for Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins:

(yields:  12 muffins)

1 1/2 c. gluten free flour blend

1 1/4 t. baking powder

1/4 t. baking soda

1 t.  cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. xanthan gum

1 large egg, room temp.

1 c. grated zucchini

2 bananas mashed (1/2 c.)

1/2 c. coconut oil, melted

1/2 c. honey

1/3 c. Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a muffin pan with muffin liners or spray with your choice of oil.  Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and cinnamon in a bowl.  Whisk well.  In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix coconut oil and honey on high speed for about a minute.  Add the egg, returning to high speed for another minute.  Beat in the banana and zucchini.  Lower the speed and spoon in the flour mixture until completely incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until springy to the touch.

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Plum Cake–Gluten and Dairy Free

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This week I’ve been preparing for an epic road trip through the western U.S., involving a grand total of almost thirty hours of driving (split up over the course of about a week) with my seven year old son. Daddy will join us for the last leg and by then, I’m sure I’ll be more than ready for his help. Heck, I’m always ready for his help!

I haven’t been on a journey like this since my free-spirited early twenties, when I thought nothing of driving from Vermont, all the way down the east coast, over to Texas, through Arizona and California and on up to Seattle where I semi-settled down for three years. Armed with a AAA map, my ornery cat and her four nursing kittens nestled in a box and everything I owned crammed into my tiny Jetta, I fearlessly zipped down the highway jamming out to my favorite tunes on the cassette player (yep, I’m dating myself here). I was exhilaratingly free and life was so full of possibilities.

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Zucchini Spice Cupcakes (Gluten and Dairy Free) with Goat Cheese, Lemon and Honey Frosting

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Today was my first official “lazy day” of summer.  For me, that means no client on the schedule and no school or camp for the little one. No long list of errands to run, either!  I suppose there’s people out there that are truly maximizing their “lazy days of summer” and sleeping until noon, lounging by the pool with a good book and/or escaping to a long movie in an over-air-conditioned cinema.  I’ve been there once upon a time and wish I had appreciated and savored those days more!

So, what sort of fun did I manage to whip up for my dear boy today? After feeling guilty for parking him in front of PBS kids while I caught up on laundry, I decided that we would bake together.  I’ve been wanting to refine this recipe for zucchini cupcakes I threw together for a friend’s birthday many months ago.  Those cupcakes were topped with avocado frosting and were delicious. The birthday girl swooned and insisted we call them “spa” cupcakes.  The sugar content in the frosting prohibited any “spa” designation, though. And while I could have done avocado frosting today, I was fresh out of avocados and really didn’t feel like running to the store.

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Orange Rhubarb Cake, Gluten and Dairy Free

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Nothing puts me in a better mood and energizes me more than springtime in Dallas.  Its’ brevity requires that I enjoy every morsel it has to offer.  The brisk mornings that morph into breezy just-warm-enough days, jewel-toned petunias thriving on my patio, and new produce appearing in the markets all make for one happy lady!  April’s display of perk asparagus, plump artichokes, and the arrestingly sleek and beautiful rhubarb make me giddy–a fresh palette from which to concoct healthy deliciousness!!

Oddly enough, I never cooked with rhubarb until a few years ago.  None of my clients had ever requested it and so it wasn’t really on my radar.   Recently, a dear client mentioned that she loves rhubarb, so I’ve been experimenting with it lately.   Continue reading

Lemon Lavender Pound Cake–Gluten and Dairy-Free


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Have you seen that new Target commercial with the supermodel “Mom” strutting her stuff, whisk in hand?  She catwalks through a maze of exploding boxed baking mixes in her white designer frock and 5″ heels towards the camera.  She outstretches her arm revealing a delicate egg.  The voiceover declares, “Dominate that PTA bake sale” as she crushes it in her hand, egg exploding slo-mo style.  It’s brilliant!  The first time I saw it I stood there in my sweats, entranced, and thought:  A.  I want to look like that!, and B. Oh c’mon, boxed mixes, really?!

Now, for those of you who really do want to “dominate that PTA bake sale”, I have a suggestion.  So many people have food allergies these days, so why not bake something gluten and dairy-free?  It’s becoming pretty easy to find alternative baking ingredients like rice flour blends, rice and nut milks, and coconut oil…and even Target carries them now!  Here’s a bake-sale worthy recipe for you.  A sweet/tart lemony pound cake flecked with delicate bits of lavender flowers, infused with lemon syrup and topped with a sweet coconut butter glaze.   This cake is out-of-this-world delicious and no one would ever guess that it’s gluten and dairy-free!  Plus, it contains the added health benefits of coconut oil.

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Baked Mini Coconut Donuts–Gluten, Dairy and Yeast Free

The school’s annual “Dads and Donuts” breakfast was approaching (or so I thought) and this Mommy had big intentions.  I was going to create some amazing allergen-friendly donuts for my son to enjoy with his Daddy.  After occasionally daydreaming about making donuts for my little guy, I finally had the motivation I needed to “just do it”.

And what luck!  While perusing the Halloween aisles at Target, I happened upon this cute mini donut pan.  When I excitedly showed it to my husband and told him about my plan, he grimaced and informed me that the event had taken place that morning–(he hadn’t mentioned it, hoping I wouldn’t make him go, I presume).  In my perpetual state of haste, I had misread the date on the flyer and thought it was going to be the following month.  I felt like the most pathetic parent on the planet when I tried to explain all of this to my sweet boy.  I promised him I would make him whatever kind of donut he wanted over the weekend.  To my delight, he chose coconut. Continue reading

Cherry Chocolate Almond Coconut Oatmeal Bars

Running after-school errands the other day, I decided to dash into World Market to have a look around.  They usually have capers for a good price, so I moseyed over to the food aisles.  Capers were nowhere to be found, so I snagged the next best luxury–a lusty looking bar of dark chocolate studded with almonds and dried cherries, wrapped in bright red paper.  Slipping it into my cart, I told myself I’d save it for a special occasion to share with friends.  Or, if that didn’t transpire then I’d at least savor it bit by bit over the course of a week or so.

The following day, I was busy on the computer all morning and when I went to rifle around for something to eat for lunch, there it was–THE TEMPTER.   All it took was one bite… and rather than letting those little fat and calorie numbers on the wrapper ruin my indulgence, I concentrated on how seriously rich in antioxidants this “meal” was and how the almonds were protein and calcium, the cherries were fruit and a dose of vitamin C, and really, I should do this more often!!

Despite the horrible blood sugar drop later that day, creative inspiration ensued.  I wanted to recreate that same flavor combination, but in the form of a more wholesome treat and make it gluten and dairy-free, so that my son and anyone else with food allergies could enjoy.  There was even an insanely delicious jar of Central Market’s Organic Morello Cherry Jam sitting in my pantry just begging to be showcased in some divine concoction!  The following recipe is what I developed, loosely basing it on Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe for Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars in one of my favorite baking cookbooks, Baking, From My Home to Yours.  These bars are scrumptious!  Just sweet enough, the oat/nut base is the perfect toothsome platform for the tangy cherries and melted chocolate.  The coconut provides additional texture and adds another flavor dimension that is out of this world.  I highly suggest you go make these for someone you love…right now.  GO.

Recipe for Chocolate Cherry Coconut Almond Oatmeal Bars:

yields:  12 rectangular bars                       total cooking time:  40 min.

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