Thursday, July 17, 2014

Salted Caramel Cupcakes (GF!)

It's been a crazy summer thus far, but moving day is almost upon us! Tomorrow I will move out of the Cambridge apartment in which I've lived for the majority of my time at MIT and into a new apartment in Somerville. I'm most excited for my spacious bedroom and the lack of central AC. Seriously! I'm chronically cold and it's such a bummer to have to sleep in thermal long-sleeved flannel pajamas under 4 blankets in the middle of July. Hurrah for short-sleeves and one quilt! I have also really enjoyed the space in my 8' by 9' prison cell room that has happened by trading in my queen bed for a twin air mattress. I'm excited to set up my full bed in a 10' x 13" space. I may even have some space to do core and work in my bedroom now.

One thing that I definitely wanted to do before moving, was celebrate my roommate/ best friend's birthday that was on July 1st. While I'm looking forward to the warmth of the new apartment, using the oven in a non-air conditioned home in July is just crazy. So I've been on the lookout for a good gluten free cake recipe to make before we move. The first year she found out she was gluten intolerant, I used a gluten free box mix and then in subsequent years I've used store-bought gluten free flour. This year though, I wasn't really feeling the $10 for a 1lb box of flour. So when I saw this recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes on Hungry Curious, I got really excited and knew I had to make my own version, since I hate bananas and that's what is used as the binder. This recipe calls for only oat flour, which is by far my favorite gluten free flour: since it's made by simply food processing rolled oats, it's almost a cheap as wheat flour and it's nutrient dense to boot since it's a whole grain. The one problem that I've had with making cakes from oat flour though is that the center of the cake will fall once the cake is cooled, since the elasticity of gluten is what lets it keep that shape. This has happened without fail, no matter how much binder or leavening agent I add! This recipe cleverly disguises and makes use of the central divot in the cupcake by filling it with salted caramel. Genius! 

The other critical part of the birthday celebration is the trip. Last year, we took an amazing trip up to Cape Ann and saw 4 lighthouse, visited a beach, and also had lunch and salt water taffy in our favorite town (Rockport). This year though, we opted for a lower key adventure with a sunrise trip to Revere Beach. If you haven't been, this is a great weekend to check Revere Beach out because it's hosting it's annual Sand Castle Competition! This morning though, The sandcastles weren't very far along due to a rain storm last night. Instead, we took the opportunity to revel in the calm before the storm and enjoyed the waves crashing on a pristine, empty beach. Although it was overcast, we still enjoyed the beautiful views.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes (GF!)


1c rolled oats, food processed to oat flour
1/3c almond meal
2/3c cocoa powder
1tsp baking soda
2tsp baking powder
3T brown or raw sugar (optional)
pinch sea salt
1T flax seed + 3T warm water
1c almond milk (unsweeted vanilla)
1/4c maple syrup
2T coconut oil
1t vanilla
1T apple cider vinegar

Salted Caramel

1/2c salted almond butter
1/2c maple syrup
1T coconut oil
1t vanilla
sea salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. In a food processor, food process 1c rolled oats to a fine flour.
3. Add 1T flax seed to 3T warm water and set aside to soak.
4. Add oat flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar to a mixing bowl and stir to combine. The original doesn't call for sugar and I rarely use it but a birthday is a special occasion!
5. Add flax seed, almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine. (Note: you don't need to use an electric mixer like most cakes, just a spoon will do)
6. Stir in apple cider vinegar.
7. Fill 10 cupcake tins with the batter and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. While the cupcakes are done baking (or the next day), add all the ingredients for the salted caramel to a sauce pan. I chose to be conservative with the salt and add additional salt crystals on top once I tasted the caramel to make sure I didn't make it too salty.
9. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly.
10. Once the edges start to bubble, keep stirring an additional two minutes. (Or: stop when it first starts to bubble for a runny caramel, or boil up to  four minutes for a stiffer caramel. Just keep stirring!)
11. Drop a generous spoonful of the caramel on the top of each cupcake. Wait until the caramel is cool so that you don't burn your mouth! It's tough, I know, but it's only 10 minutes... Enjoy!

Nut-free version: Replace almond milk with soy milk, almond butter with sunflower butter, and the almond meal with an additional 2T cocoa powder and 2T oat flour.

More sandcastles to come at Revere this weekend!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Carrot Cake Cookies

Hmm... I'm sensing a theme for July here... first, naturally, carrot cake! The second, that I only have time to post once/ week. I'm sorry about that! Things have been very chaotic on the MIT front with two undergraduate researchers to supervise, as well as a paper to write and on the life front, since the moving process has started! Thus far, moving has been a combination of exhausting, stressful, and empowering. The biggest beast has yet to move (my queen sized box spring. Ugh! What was I thinking?! Actually, I know exactly what I was thinking: I bought it early in the courtship of my fiancé and I was trying to woo him with a super comfortable and spacious bed.) but we are getting there. Thus far I've moved a sofa and dresser from a 3rd floor walk up to a 3rd floor walk up with only the help of my roommates, and actually, I even got the dresser up all by myself! My atrophied cyclist's upper body has been very sore, but I am shocked and pleased to say that my shoulders and back aren't complaining at all. What a difference from 4 years ago when we moved into this place, when I had to recruit everyone I could to help me. In 2010, I couldn't even lift heavy boxes by myself since I had busted my right shoulder rowing, and my left in a cycling crash. They say time heals all wounds and I am happy to report that while it is a slow process, I am still on the mend and improving every day from the mental and physical wounds that I incurred in 2010. (For those who don't know me personally, a few weeks after the series of injuries including the shoulder injuries above, my best friend passed away.)

Anyways, back to the carrot cake! I made these gluten free, processed sugar free carrot cake cookies for my roommate to power her through a really tough week, and as a tide-me-over for her overdue birthday present. Sweetened by the carrots and applesauce, these cookies are a keeper! The would make really good ride snacks, especially if you replaced 1/2c of the oat flour with 1/2c protein powder. Give them a try! I hope you enjoy them.

Carrot Cake Cookies

1c oat flour (rolled oats, food processed)
1c shredded carrots
1c rolled oats
1T cornstarch
1/2t baking soda
2T cinnamon
1t ginger
1T flax seed + 3T water
1/2c unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whatever milk you like!)
1/4c apple sauce
1/2c raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Soak 1T flax seed in 3T water.
3. Food process 1c rolled oats to a fine powder. Transfer to mixing bowl.
4. Food process 1c shredded carrots. Add to mixing bowl.
5. Add additional oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger to the bowl. Stir to combine.
6. Add flax seed "egg", almond milk, and apple sauce. Finally, stir in the raisins.
7. Shape into balls and press onto a greased cookie sheet (unfortunately, they dough doesn't "drop" very well so you have to play with is).
8. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Carrot Cake Summer Oats

Lately, I've been pretty infatuated with the idea of carrot cake. Naturally, I love the idea of a cake that's centered around a vegetable and it's been done so well that everyone accepts it as delicious! I've been trying hard to come up with a carrot cake recipe for a few months now, starting with some gluten-free carrot cake muffins that I sweetened with raisins waaay back during lent. Nothing has come out particularly well. Last week, after a good run of about a month of smoothies for breakfast, I started craving oatmeal. However, I've been down this road before during the summer. It sounds good, but in reality, the last thing I want when I get back from my morning ride, dripping in sweat, is a hot breakfast! However, the desire for oats continued and I spent some time thinking about how I was going to use them. I found a recipe that put oats in a smoothie, but that seemed like a waste. It wasn't so hot this weekend, so I made some oatmeal on the stove with cocoa powder, nuts, and dried fruit. Delicious! However, I am not going to use a stove on a weekday morning so repeating that experience was out. I also tried making carrot cake oatmeal in the crockpot. The taste was there and the spices were right, but rolled oats definitely get too mushy in the crock pot overnight. Finally, I stumbled across a recipe on Finding Vegan that suggested mixing up the ingredients for your oatmeal the night before and just letting it sit in the fridge overnight. This sounded about my speed! I'd get my oats, they would be refreshingly cool and not too mushy, and there was minimal prep time. This carrot cake recipe finally turned out to be a success. Just a reminder to be open-minded when trying it: the carrots are still a bit crunchy, so if you don't like that it might be worth cooking them first. I decided that I loved the crunch that they added though. Vegetables for breakfast!

Carrot Cake Summer Oats

1/2c rolled oats
1/2c water
1/3c vanilla almond milk
1c shredded or baby carrots, food processed
1T flax seed
1t cinnamon
1/4t ginger

Food process carrots to a fine shred. It only takes a few pulses in a high speed blender. Add all ingredients to a tupperware container and let sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, grab your breakfast and go! If you like your cereals a little sweeter, add some raisins and/ or maple syrup.