Naturally Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

I have come to the realization that I am a terribly inconsistent blogger.  I get too easily distracted by the rest of the world!  But, I have a crazy backlog of recipes to share with all of you and I am excited to share!

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First up is this PERFECT gluten free chocolate cake.  It’s spectacular!  AND!  Hold the phone.  It doesn’t have ANY flour!   So even if you’re not a regular gluten free baker (and even if you are), you don’t have to worry about concocting a particular gluten free flour blend.

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I made this cake for my birthday and it was so easy (it’s made almost entirely in a blender) and was a huge hit.  I found the recipe here and was immediately attracted to it because of the no flour situation and because it is made with a secret ingredient!  Any guesses??

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It’s quinoa!  And not quinoa flour or something that you have to grind to dust–just regular old cooked quinoa.  I make a lot of quinoa already so was excited to try making a cake with it!  It has almost a nutty flavor so I figured it would work well in a cake.  If the quinoa scares you, though, worry not!   You (pinky promise) cannot taste it.  I mean there is absolutely no way anyone would know there is quinoa in this cake unless you told them!

The cake turned out wonderfully, and, for the second year in a row, spent my birthday at Seattle’s Muddy Mutt Run!  This year it was at a new location complete with obstacles, mud pits, and a lake for the pups to swim in!

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If you’re in the Seattle area, they’re having another one in September that you should definitely consider going to!  Junior and Bear both had an absolute blast both times we’ve gone.  Dogs of all ages and sizes are welcome!

Anyway, back to the cake: I have a few notes about the recipe.  First off, I frosted it with the recommended chocolate whipped cream and it was a a perfect fluffy balance to the decadent chocolate cake.  But, I made this recipe into cupcakes a week or two later and frosted them with a vanilla buttercream and that was equally delicious, so pick your frosting of choice.  However, when I did make cupcakes out of this recipe, they sunk pretty dramatically in the middle!  It’s not a big deal to fix with some filling or frosting, but be warned that the cake might not translate to cupcakes without a few alterations.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
makes 2 8-inch rounds 

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (about a heaping 1/2 cup dry quinoa)
1/3 cup milk (I used whole)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

If you haven’t cooked quinoa before, first rinse the dry quinoa in a few rounds of water.  Place the quinoa in water (a 1:2 quinoa: water ratio) and place over high heat to bring to a simmer.  Then, turn heat to low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two 8 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly spray them with cooking spray.

In a high powered blender or food processor, add the milk, eggs, and vanilla, and blend until combined.  Next, add the quinoa, butter, and espresso powder.  Blend well until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Pour the quinoa mixture into the sugar mixture (it’ll be pretty thick) and whisk until everything is combined.  Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 28-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  I recommend keeping the cakes upright on the parchment paper until ready to frost (the wire rack can sink into the cake otherwise).  Frost as desired (or with the whipped cream frosting below!)

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting 
makes enough to frost two layers 

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Pinch of salt

Add the chocolate chips to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Heat the whipping cream in a small pot gently over low heat until it simmers.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let it sit for about five minutes.  After five minutes, stir the chocolate and cream until combined.  Cover the bowl with plastic and chill until very cold (about 3 hours in the fridge, less if you use an ice bath).  You need the mixture to be very cold to whip properly!  Once chilled, add a pinch of salt and, using the whisk attachment, whip the chocolate cream to soft peaks.  Use the frosting immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

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No-Bake Granola Energy Bars (Vegan & Gluten Free!)

Dan and the pups and I got back yesterday from a spontaneous trip to Leavenworth!

If you’ve never been to Leavenworth, it’s an adorable Bavarian town about 2-ish hours outside of Seattle. And, it’s so dog-friendly!

We went on a few hikes along the Wenatchee river and near Stevens Pass, and took the puppies to a few outdoor lunch and dinner spots!

It was a great trip and we were all so tired when we got home yesterday. We’d been eating a really random selection of food (beer, sausage, burgers, etc) so this morning, I wanted to do something healthy and energizing to get my body feeling back to normal!

In an effort to do that, I went to yoga and made these delicious no-bake granola bars!

I’ve been making these for a while now, and love them because they’re customizable, easy, healthy, no-bake, and pack a hunger-killing energy punch!

The bars have a base of dates, oats, peanut butter, and a bit of maple syrup. On top of that, it’s up to you what you put in them! I used almonds, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, raisins, and just a bit of dark chocolate (like the 75% chocolate stuff–real dark chocolate!).

Other great variations are almond chocolate chip (swapping the peanut butter for almond butter), or bars stuffed with all sorts of seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) for a higher protein content.

The bars remind me a little bit of a cross between a Kind bar and a Larabar. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Energy Bars 

Ingredients:
1 cup pitted, chopped Medjool dates
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, etc)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup unsalted peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dark chocolate, for sprinkling

Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a food processor, purée the dates until a paste forms. In a large bowl, add the dates, oats, nuts, dried fruit, and salt. In a small bowl, microwave the peanut butter and maple syrup for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the date mixture, and stir well to combine, making sure the dates and peanut butter are evenly distributed.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Sprinkle with chocolate, if desired. Refridgerate the bars for 1 hour, then cut into pieces. Store the bars in the refrigerator.

Good-for-you Triple Berry Muffins (Gluten Free!)

Other than my mandatory daily task of exercising my dogs, I have done nothing on my to-do list today.  I have, however, done lots of things not on my to-do list: taught the pups a new trick, went for a run, and made these guys:

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I present to you these Triple Berry Muffins!  I was tempted to call them just “triple berry muffins” because they are so good they don’t need any other adjectives.  No one will know they’re gluten free nor will they know they’re decently good for you.  I upped the protein level, swapping out some flour for almond meal, and swapping out some milk for fat free Greek yogurt.  The muffins also only have 1/4 cup of sugar in the whole batch!  Plus, they’re bursting with bright berry flavor with just a hint of cinnamon.

And another plus: the whole recipe only makes 12 muffins, which is great if there are only two of you around.  Not including dogs.  If the pups could get their hands on these, I doubt 12 would be enough.  Bear seems to agree.

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He supervised my muffin photography very closely.  I know he could definitely eat twelve muffins in one sitting–he ate an entire pan of cornbread the night before Thanksgiving when I left him unsupervised for approximately 17 minutes.

Junior gets too hot in the kitchen when the oven is on, so he observed the muffin business from further away.  He did manage to leave a drool spot on the floor, though.

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I hope you all are having a wonderful Tuesday, and crossing more off your to-do list than I am!

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Triple Berry Muffins (Gluten Free) 
makes 12 muffins 

Ingredients:
1 cup almond meal (or almond flour)*
1 1/3 cup gluten free flour blend (recommended: ATK gluten-free flour blend)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum**
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil (if using coconut oil, melt it first)
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups berries (fresh or frozen; I used raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, flour, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum, and cinnamon.  In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, honey, sugar, yogurt and eggs.  Once well combined, add the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until everything is mixed and no lumps remain.  The batter should be very thick.  Don’t worry about over-mixing the batter; the gluten free flours need a really good stir.  If using frozen berries, pat off any excess ice/water with a paper towel before adding.  Fold the berries into the batter and set the bowl aside to rest for 30 minutes***.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.  Evenly divide the batter in the muffin tin and bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.  Cool the muffins in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store muffins in an airtight container, or freeze them for later consumption.  Enjoy!

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Notes:
* Don’t try to replace more of the gluten free flour blend with almond meal.  The muffins need the flour for structure.
** Xanthan gum is an essential ingredient.  If you leave it out, muffins may be too crumbly.
*** Resting the batter is also essential!  It allows the gluten free flours to properly absorb the liquid in the batter, and results in a smooth (not gritty!) muffin.

Bear’s Birthday: Pumpkin Pupcakes

My big brown dog is 2 today!  Happy birthday, Bear!

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Of course, that means I had to make him something delicious.  I settled on pumpkin pupcakes for my Bear because he loves pumpkin!  I also decided to make little mini cupcakes instead of a cake so that I could easily divvy them up between Junior and Bear and control how much they ate.  They were adorable, and I frosted some of them with plain Greek yogurt and topped them with a blueberry.

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Junior, Bear, and I went on a beautiful run to celebrate the day and my sister came over for a little Bear birthday party, complete with pupcakes and presents!  He got four squeaky yule logs (his favorite toy!) and a bunch of mini tennis balls and was as happy as could be.

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You may be wondering to yourselves if I (or any humans) ate the puppy cupcakes too.  I’ll fess up–I tried them and I actually really liked them!  I based the recipe off of one for pumpkin bread, omitting the sugar and spices.  I sweetened them with a little honey and I thought they turned out well!  They taste like a bran-pumpkin muffin, and were excellent with a little raspberry jam.

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Pumpkin Pupcakes
makes about 20 mini cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a mini cupcake pan with non-stick spray.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, egg, vegetable oil, and honey.  Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and whisk until combined.  Scoop the mixture into the mini cupcake pan, filling each well almost full.  Bake the pupcakes for 8 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool, and if desired, decorate with Greek yogurt, peanut butter, or whatever your dog loves!

(Belated) Valentine’s Day Sausage Risotto

I haven’t posted a savory recipe since I started this blog, so I think it’s high time for me to start posting those sorts of things.  I do a lot of cooking (not just baking!) and I’d love to share some of my favorite meals!

I’m calling this “Valentine’s Day” Risotto because Dan and I were going to make it together for Valentine’s Day.  But that didn’t actually happen because I’ve been fighting off a terrible cold AND my family was in town because my sister’s birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day.

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I made my Gluten-Free Brownies for my sister’s birthday, and frosted them with an easy vanilla buttercream to make them extra special.

Because Dan and I missed out on Valentine’s Day plans, we decided to make risotto last night.  We love it because (a) it’s naturally gluten-free, (b) it’s delicious and easy to dress up/dress down depending on what you have, and (c) it’s a meal we can make together!  Risotto isn’t hard to make but just cooking the rice takes about 20 minutes of constant stirring, so it’s a good time to cook together and catch up on our days.

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The pups also like it when we make risotto because the house smells like sausage and beef broth!  Because I’ve been sick, they’ve been a little extra feisty with the lack of exercise.  I took them running and for a long walk in the park yesterday because I finally was feeling a little better and they very much appreciated it.  Also, Dan and I agreed not to get each other gifts for Valentine’s Day but he went above and beyond that to donate to the Seattle Humane Society AND get me the cutest Valentine’s Day cards from our puppies!  What a guy 🙂

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Anyways, this risotto is easy enough that Dan and I probably make it once a week, and we have leftovers to eat another night.  It can easily be made vegetarian (omit the sausage and use vegetable broth!) or modified to add in fancier ingredients.  It’s been one of our staples since Dan went gluten free!

Sausage Risotto
serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:
2 cups beef broth
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb mild Italian pork sausage (ground, or chopped links with casing removed)
1/4 cup white wine (whatever you’d drink)
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 – 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 – 2 cups steamed vegetables, if desired
salt and pepper

Begin by heating the beef broth and water until boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer.  You’ll need the simmering water to cook the rice.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan with at least 2 inch sides (to avoid spilling the rice as you stir it!) and add the sausage.  Cook the sausage until nicely browned on the outside.  After the sausage is browned, add the white wine, and cook until the liquid evaporates.  At that point, add the rice and stir until the grains are coated.  Begin adding liquid to rice/sausage mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.  Each time you add liquid, continuously stir and mix the rice until the liquid has been absorbed.  At that point, add more liquid.  You must keep stirring the rice throughout the cooking process or it will start sticking to the bottom of the pan!  Continue cooking the rice like this for 20 – 25 minutes, until the rice is firm and chewy but no longer crunchy.  The rice will increase dramatically in size throughout the process.

When the cooking is complete, stir in the parmesan cheese, steamed vegetables, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm with additional cheese!

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Chunky Nutty Granola

I bought 9 pounds of yogurt at Costco the other day. Just for me. (What can I say? It was a good deal!)

After buying 9 pounds of yogurt, I thought I should probably make some granola.

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Bonus: granola is naturally gluten free! As long as you buy certified GF oats, actually. Oats are often processed in gluten-processing facilities, so be careful.

I love big, chunky, not-too-sweet, crunchy granola, so that was exactly what I set out to make. It’s quick and easy to prepare, and way cheaper than store-bought! AND this makes like 9 cups or something of granola. Which is (maybe?) enough to go with my 9 pounds of yogurt. I suppose we’ll see about that though.

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Anyways, granola is delicious, and it you mix it with some yogurt and fruit, you have a breakfast of champions. Which happens to be my breakfast every day. Which must mean I’m a champion! (That’s how logic works, right??)

Also my pups are champions, if you weren’t aware: champions in the ADORABLE department! And, I got an instagram to shameless post pictures of their puppy perfection, so if you need a regular dose of puppy cuteness/silliness/nonsense, follow me: @kristin.and.pups (ahem ahem shameless self-promotion….)

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Chunky Nutty Granola
makes about 9 cups

Ingredients:
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar (increase to 1/2 cup if you like it sweeter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2.5 cups coarsely chopped raw, unsalted nuts (I used almonds and cashews)
2 cups coarsely chopped dried fruit (I used cranberries and apricots)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, a vanilla. Once everything is well combined, whisk in the oil. Add the oats and nuts and stir together gently until everything is coated.

Turn the mixture out onto the baking sheet, spread it to the edges, and press firmly on the top with a metal spatula. You want to compact the granola so it forms a thick sheet when you bake it–this is the key to the chunkiness! Bake the granola for 35-40 minutes, until the top is light golden brown and the nuts are toasted and fragrant. Let the granola cool to room temperature (about 1 hour) and break it into large chunks. Stir in the dried fruit, and store in an airtight container.

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Perfect Gluten-Free Brownies

Uhh, so, in case you’ve forgotten, I have a blog. I post recipes and photos of my dogs, remember? Maybe?? It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, but I’m back!

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And so are the pups: Bear and Junior! Bear is an almost 2 year old German Shepherd mix and Junior is an almost 3.5 year old husky/spaniel mix.

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Full disclosure–I felt like I was lacking balance in my life, and in the process to regain it, I had to take a break from the blog for a while. But, I’m back now and have a brand new category of recipes to share with you all: gluten-free! As of last year, Dan is gluten-free and I’ve been eating mostly gluten-free along with him (it makes grocery shopping much easier!). I’m not entirely gluten-free, and still make plenty of things with good ol’ AP flour, but I have been experimenting with gluten-free recipes.

This recipe is one that I found/slightly modified from America’s Test Kitchen’s “How can it be Gluten Free” Cookbook. So far, most of the recipes I’ve tried have been pretty good, unlike the myriad of boring, average recipes I’ve used (I highly recommend the cookbook for anyone with a gluten intolerance). But, I also recommend getting it just for this brownie recipe. It’s actually completely worth it. It doesn’t have a weird texture or aftertaste or any other of the gluten-free recipe plagues I’ve found. They just taste like perfect chocolatey brownies.

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Even without the cookbook, I strongly recommend the America’s Test Kitchen gluten-free flour blend. I’ve had more success baking with it than any other flour blends! And, you can find the ATK flour blend recipe on the web: check it out here!

Enjoy the brownies, and I hope to be seeing you all much more regularly!

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Perfect Gluten-Free Brownies
Makes 16 brownies

Ingredients:
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ATK gluten-free flour blend
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum*
7 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Line an 8×8 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour blend, salt, and xanthan gum. In a microwaveable bowl, combine the chocolate, butter, cocoa, and instant coffee. Microwave for 1 to 3 minutes, stirring each minute, until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk until the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk in the chocolate mixture until well combined and the sugar has dissolved. Finally, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the dry ingredients. Continue to stir until everything is well mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and set it aside for 30 minutes.**

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the brownies for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with fudgy crumbs. Let the brownies cool completely before cutting.

*Xanthan gum is essential to the structure of many gluten-free baked goods. If you omit it, things will have a weird texture.
**Gluten-free flours absorb liquid differently than standard flours do. The 30 minute rest allows the gluten-free flours to absorb the liquids AND makes the final product smooth and delicious. If you don’t rest the batter, the brownies will be gritty.