Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gluten-free grain-free vegan birthday cake!



Last Thursday was my birthday. I didn't celebrate for many reasons. The main reason being that I was, and still am, sick. My husband did the best he could to keep me smiling when he got home from work. Gave me lots of hugs and some rad bowls I'd been admiring at a local shop. He offered endlessly to take me out for dinner, buy me a cake (baking is not his thing), but I just wasn't, and am still not, up to it. It was a nice night in, watching movies and sneezing so much I think I drained all the water from my body...


By Friday I was still quite sick, worse in fact. I was also quite sick of being sick. It had already been more than a week of next to no appetite, sore throat, coughing and now endless sneezing. You may have noticed I haven't baked much for the blog lately. I just haven't been into it. But for whatever bizarre reason I decided to bake myself a cake that morning. Determined to acknowledge the occasion in some way.


Cake is not something I recommend sick people eat but I'm glad I made this cake. It not only cheered me up, it turned out to be the best damn gluten-free vegan cake I've ever made!



This cake features: 
  • two layers of dense chocolate cake
  • incredible texture and flavour
  • spongy
  • moist
  • rich
  • chocolatey
  • fudgy but not mushy
  • firm but springy texture
But there's way more to this cake than just good physical performance. It is actually pretty good for you! This cake offers the following health benefits:
  • vegan protein from quinoa and buckwheat
  • essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids
  • good monounsaturated fats
  • antioxidants
  • beta carotene from sweet potato
  • high fibre content
 This cake is also suitable for health-conscious people and those on special diets. It is:
  • reduced fat
  • reduced sugar
  • vegan
  • gluten free
  • grain free
  • nut free
  • allergy friendly
Did I mention that this cake is the best cake I've ever made?! Make this cake!


Healthy Chocolate Birthday Cake
  • 1/2 medium sweet potato, steamed till tender and pureed with a hand blender
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 tiny can of low fat coconut milk
  • 1.5 cups water or coconut water
  • 2-4 tbsp evoo (the more you add the more moist the cake will be)
  • 4 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1.5 tbsp apple butter
  • 4-5 tbsp maple syrup 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Liquid stevia to taste
Preheat oven to 375F.

In a bowl with a flat bottom using a hand blender (or you can use a smoothie blender) puree all ingredients together until very smooth. Taste for sweetness and add as much liquid stevia as you need (blending in little by little) to achieve a sweet chocolate cake batter flavour. Add a little extra salt if the flavour seems flat. 

Grab a 9" round or square cake pan and line it with parchment paper so paper covers the bottom and sides. Pour batter into center of pan and spread to the edges with a spoon. Top with vegan chocolate chips if desired and bake in the center of the oven until risen slightly and a fork inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool on stove top. Make frosting while cake cools.


New Age Chocolate Frosting (sounds weird, tastes great)
  • 2-3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 cup of new potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 3-4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1-2 tsp vegan mayo
  • 2-4 tbsp light coconut milk
  • Stevia to taste
  • 2 tbsp chocolate or chocolate chips
Peel, chop and steam 1 cup of potatoes until very tender and mashable (use a creamy variety, not mealy). Puree with remaining ingredients (EXCEPT CHOCOLATE) until very smooth. Add stevia, little by little while blending until you achieve your desired sweetness. Transfer to a pot over medium low heat, add chocolate, whisking until melted. 

Cake Assembly

Slice cake down the middle and transfer half to a big plate. Trim both halves to have straight edges. Top with 1/3 of the frosting mixture, coating the top evenly with it using a butter knife. Place other half of cake carefully on top. Pour remaining frosting on top and spread to the edges gently with your knife letting some spill down the sides. Spread the drippings over the sides evenly to coat. Transfer the plate to a flat place in your freezer for 1 hour to set the frosting. Leave out for 10 minutes before serving or if serving later in the day or week, transfer to your refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vegan taco salad my way

I LOVE Mexican food. I LOVE tex-mex food. I love easy to make food. I love this salad.

I often crave decadent and hearty food. Fries, creamy pastas, tacos, nachos. That's why I put so much energy into trying to make my favourite meals healthy. If I ate the real deal all the time I'd make myself sick! No thanks. But a delightful high protein, good fat, gluten-free substantial salad like this I'll enjoy any day of the week. This week it was several days of the week, ha.

This salad has a lot of flavour and a lot of texture. I transformed canned brown lentils into spicy fat-free 'refried beans'. They hang out on top of crunchy kale in a creamy avocado dressing. I top it all off with some fiery salsa, more avocado and some soy-free vegenaise instead of sour cream. Oh my lanta. 

This salad is seriously comforting, surprisingly healthy and ridiculously easy to make. Its also vegan, grain-free, gluten-free, soy-free, high in protein, and most of all suitable for countless special diets. If you like bar style tex mex or Mexican food, you will enjoy this salad. Go make it already!

VEGAN TACO SALAD

LENTILS
  • 1 can organic brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder
  • hot sauce
  • cayenne or chili powder
  • 1/2 cup sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped small
  • pinch sea salt or pink salt, optional
  • OPTIONAL: 1 tsp evoo or coconut oil 
 
If using oil, add to  pan over medium high heat and melt. Add onions and saute until soft. Add tomatoes and saute until soft. Add the spices and stir to coat. Add the lentils and saute for a minute, reduce heat to medium low, stirring ocassionally until the mixture is mushy and soft and flavourful. If not using oil simply add all ingredients to a pan over medium high heat and cook until soft and mushy. Adjust seasonings to your taste. 


KALE SALAD
  • 2 leaves green or purple kale, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1/3 english cucumber, chopped skin on
  • 1 zuchini chopped or grated
AVOCADO DRESSING
  • 1/2-1 small avocado, mashed until smooth
  • 2-3 tbsps water
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch pink salt
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • chili powder
  • hot sauce
  • pinch cinnamon
  • a little mayo or vegenaise (optional, improves flavour and texture)

Mash all ingredients together until smooth with a fork.  Adjust seasonings to your taste. Set aside

EXTRAS
  • 2-4 tbsp salsa
  • lime wedge
  • 1-2 tsp vegenaise
  • extra avocado

ASSEMBLY
Prepare lentils as described above. Meanwhile prepare salad and dressing. Dress the salad with the dressing and toss to coat. Top with the warm lentils. Add a few spoonfuls of salsa on top, then extra avocado slices, then vegenaise. Squeeze lime over everything. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grain-free JK Gourmet Product Review


I was recently sent a few samples of Grain-free JK Gourmet and asked to do a product review of their gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo friendly products. I happily obliged but quickly realized that everything they sent me was nut-based (I have a sensitivity to tree nuts and stay far away these days) so, committed to carrying out my review I used my husband as my taste tester. He is the official Baking Backwards recipe tester and nothing makes it onto this blog without passing his inspection. His taste buds are wholeheartedly endorsed by me, ha. I should start by saying that I received a call one afternoon from a very hangry husband announcing that I'd received the product package, he'd opened it and was waiting for my permission to eat it all..."But I need to take a photo..." *Expletive*. "When will you be home dear?" "30 minutes." *grumble* "Looking forward to it..."


I came home to find the package I had left on our counter ripped open, the delicately wrapped package from within it displayed on the countertop. "I'll get my camera". I took a few pics and my happy husband tucked in. He headed straight for the pretty round of vegan dark chocolate with almonds and currants. "This is nice, very nice", he said, with a wave of calm washing over him gently. "I'm glad dear". 


 
My husband has a very hard week. His job can be very physically demanding and he often doesn't get enough spare time to eat a proper lunch. He often comes home absolutely starving and all I can say is these Grain-free JK Gourmet items were a godsend that day. He ate all the chocolate in one sitting and then grabbed a bowl and enjoyed their fruit and nut filled grain-free granola. "It's really good, I approve."

Over the next few days he happily polished off the artisan granola and tested out the gourmet sesame and seed snaps (called GG Bites) for snacks. He even shared the snaps with his boss. They both LOVED them. 



This product blew all the others he tried out of the water. He was really sad to see them finished. He would definitely eat the snaps again, would love a gift of the granola and would happily chase his occasional post work starvation with the chocolate disks. Thumbs up.

Ingredient wise I have to say I really dig this brand. They use high quality ingredients suitable for many restricted diets. Their chocolate is raw, as well as free of soy and dairy which is rare and great to see. It's sweetened with honey and fruit-juice sweetened fruit pieces. I make my own chocolate and use honey as well, I love the combination. Their granola is very traditional in flavour but unconventional in ingredients making it a great gift for anyone you know who is following a grain-free diet. It is also oat-free which to me is great because my gluten-sensitivity means oats often rub me the wrong way, even wheat-free oats! All products are gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo friendly so put them on your list if you or your loved ones are wishing for healthy but delicious treats this Christmas.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Beet N' Bean Burger Wraps


These vegan burgers accomplish a lot. They're comforting, nutritious, affordable, delicious and awesome. They may or may not have super powers.

I thoroughly enjoy so many things about these bright red burgers. They're a good source of vegan protein, they're relatively innocent (low fat), and super cheap to throw together ($). They're filling,  comforting, light, fresh and healthy. Oh and they're gluten free, vegan, soy free and nut free! Winners.

Soy (in it's many forms) finds its way into most vegan processed foods, particularly burgers. Most vegan and vegetarian burgers are made mostly of soy! For someone with a soy allergy (ahem, me!) that puts them off limits. The rest of the vegan packaged burgers on the market invariably involve wheat so if you are gluten intolerant (like me), they're off limits too! Luckily for me, my love for burgers outweighs my love for microwave meals and I don't mind taking a few minutes to whip up these healthy alternatives from scratch. If you love vegan burgers and are looking to limit your soy intake, give these a try!

Beets, chickpeas, black beans, and quinoa are the main ingredients of these fabulous and protein packed vegan burgers.


As if those ingredients weren't healthy enough I decided to wrap these burgers up in collard leaves with some cucumber, tomatoes, onions, a little ketchup and soy-free vegenaise for good measure.


So good. I served them with a small batch of oil-free garlicky baked butternut squash fries. I love meals like this. Fast, nourishing and satisfying -- on a physical and psychological level.

I think people steer clear of veganism and vegetarianism because they believe they will have to give up their favourite comfort foods. This is so far from the case. You can be vegan and enjoy all the foods you love, cake, pasta, pancakes...even burgers and fries on a Tuesday night. 


Beet N' Bean Burgers  
Makes 6 vegan burger patties
  • 1 small red beet, grated like cheese
  • 1 large can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsps garlic powder
  • 2 tsps tomato paste
  • 1.5 tsps cumin
  • 2-3 tsps vegenaise
  • Dash or two hot sauce
  • 1/3-1/2 cup quinoa flakes
Mash the beans and chickpeas together until chunky. Stir in the grated beet then the vegan mayo, tomato paste, spices, hot sauce. Add the quinoa last and stir in evenly. Form into small flat or round burger patties. Bake in a 430F oven until slightly crisp outside. 

For the Wraps:
  • Collard leaves, 1/2 of a large one per serving.
  • Vegenaise
  • Ketchup
  • Red onion
  • Grated cucumber
  • Grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Hot sauce
Carefully slice off the stiff stem of the collard greens without separating the leaf. Spread the middle with some mayo. Top with one or two burgers. Add a little hot sauce, grated cucumber, tomato and onion. Cover with a little ketchup or BBQ sauce. Roll like a wrap or make a parcel. Enjoy!

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!


Like my recipes? Check out my Ebook! Over 100 pages of mostly vegan and all gluten-free recipes featuring affordable superfoods!


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. 

Top-50-Gluten-Free-Blogs

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!