Monday, March 21, 2011

BBB - Rewena paraoa (Maori bread)

Boy am I glad the BBB loaf turned out for this month, because I ended up having to finish it at a friend's house.  But then we got to munch on the tasty results before dinner!  Check out Notitie van Lien for the original post and challenge.  I think the most difficult part of the recipe was cutting out that darned stencil.  ☺  Then I couldn't get it to lay flat, so didn't end up with a nice sharp image.  Oh well.  The bread tastes yummy.  I was a little apprehensive about doing the fermented potato starter after reading some of the Babes' accounts of little black spots in the rewena.  I cooked my spuds (I used a small yellow potato) until quite tender and then pureed them with my immersion blender before adding in the flour.  Then I anxiously watched that thing all day, waiting for the spots to appear.  Fortunately, they did not.  Yay!  And imagine that, a watched starter does indeed ferment.  Look at the bubbles on that baby.  Who knew potatoes were so active.

When I brought my dough together, there was so little starter left over, I just threw the extra couple tbsp into the dough.  Figured it couldn't hurt.  It came together very quickly into a firm dough.  I decided to add a couple extra tbsp of water and go more toward a slack dough.  I like soft doughs anyway.  Of course I got all through the kneading and found I'd forgotten the yeast.  *sigh*  Then found out we'd been invited over to friends for a kid (and Daddy) playdate.  The kids got to enjoy that strange yellow orb hanging in the sky for an afternoon, while the Dads sequestered themselves in a dark theatre and killed aliens.  So I quickly kneaded in the yeast, let it sit for half an hour while we got ready, stuck the dough in an oiled bowl and gave it a few folds on itself.  Then the dough got to go for a ride with us.  (When all was said and done, it was pretty soft, I was almost worried I'd gone too far on the water.)

It liked being folded though and behaved very well.  It's one of those nice silky doughs that is just a pleasure to handle.  I gave it until it doubled, then gently turned it out on a floured board, flipped it over and folded under a few times to get the rectangle shape, and stuck it on parchment to proof.  Then I spent the next hour cutting out the stencil.  Did I mention I'm not very good at planning ahead?  After all, I did have two days while the starter was fermenting...  At any rate, I didn't want to over proof, so I gave it about an hour and it looked pretty good.  (Our friends have one of those awesome ovens that you can set for ºF or ºC, so I didn't have to convert. Woohoo!)  Stencil on, slash around the edges, oven ready, slide the dough off the peel... slide the dough off the peel... doggone it, the parchment is sticking to my peel!  Shake... no, don't want to deflate.  Pull the parchment with fingers, trying not to fry myself on the oven or the stone.  Finally managed to get the dough on the stone.  I was afraid I had jiggled it too much.  No worries there, look at the oven spring on that, wow!  Forget my top slashing, it wasn't sufficient and the loaf ripped on the bottom edges to compensate.

It occurred to me about two thirds of the way through baking that I should probably have taken the steam out after the first 10 minutes.  Oh well.  It got 20.  The loaf felt very heavy coming out of the oven, but  I needn't have worried.  After it cooled a bit the bread was beautiful and ended up with a remarkably light texture.  Chewy moist interior very like a sourdough, light crispy crust and the scent of the rosemary was very complementary to the potato base.  If you like sourdough, you'll probably like this, and while it takes some planning ahead to make it, you don't have to maintain a starter to get it.  Bonus!

So here is the recipe if you want to try it out.  I think it's worth the wait.  (Hubby took a bite and said, "Wow," if that's any indication of what to expect.)  It seems to be fairly forgiving too since I didn't follow the recipe exactly due to interruptions, oops omissions and traveling.  Still turned out great.  ☺

Rewena paraoa (Maori bread)
makes one large loaf
100 g potato, peeled and thinly sliced
165 ml water
extra water
165 g strong bread flour (I used all purpose)
1 tsp liquid honey

400 g strong bread flour (I used all purpose plus a tsp of vital wheat gluten)
1 tsp salt
20 g liquid honey (I ran out and used coconut sugar instead, might cut back next time)
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped (I used a few pinches of dried cracked rosemary)
150 ml water
330 g rewena, as above
additional flour, for dusting
4— 5 ice cubes, for creating steam in the oven

To prepare the rewena, place the potato and water into a saucepan and then boil until the potato is soft, leave the lid off. Mash the cooked potato in the water and add extra water until you have 250 g in total. Put into a bowl and cool until lukewarm. If the mashed potatoes are too hot, it will cook the starch in the flour. Mix in the flour and honey to make a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until the dough ferments. After one day you'll see a few bubbles on the surface, after two days a lot. You can use it after two days or up to three, if you leave it longer it'll be over its strongest point.

To make the dough, put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon, combine to form a soft dough mass. (You may need to adjust with a little more flour or water.) Knead the dough in the spiral mixer for 8 -10 minutes (starting on speed 1 or 2, halfway on speed 3) until the dough (almost) clears the sides and the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place. Once the dough has almost doubled in size (this will take approximately 1 hour), tip the dough onto the bench dusted with flour and gently knock it back by folding it onto itself three to four times. Return the dough to the lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for a further 30 minutes in a warm place.

Fold the dough to form a large rectangle. This doesn't need to be exact, just as long as it's tight and compact. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to prove for approximately 60-120 minutes, depending on room temperature.

(optional) Cut a silver fern-leaf or Maori moko design stencil out of stiff paper. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough and place the stencil on the dough's surface (Spray the stencil with pan coating, otherwise it could get stuck on the dough), then with a fine sieve filled with a little (white rye) flour, lightly dust flour over the stencil so you are left with a pattern on the loaf. Carefully remove the stencil. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut around the edge of stenciled pattern.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC with a baking tray or baking stone inside (the stone should really be hot!) and a small ovenproof dish on the bottom shelf. Place the loaf in the oven and quickly throw 4-5 ice cubes into the small ovenproof dish and close the oven door.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the tray around, reduce the oven temperature to 200°C.  Bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is a dark golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

(adapted from: “Global Baker” – Dean Brettschneider)
This post will go up for yeastspotting!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

Like you need another Irish soda bread recipe on St. Patrick's day, but I had buttermilk that needed using up...  This is a good solid recipe though - the first soda bread I ever made, way back, long ago in college.  I brought it in to a notoriously persnickety professor to share with the class.  No, I wasn't trying to butter her up, she was usually only hard on the guys.  Although she did make noises about my currying favor with baked goods.  (I did end up with an A in the class...)  ☺  The house smells delicious right now!  Soda bread is basically a big scone or glorified biscuit.  It comes together in minutes, you can probably get the dough made before the oven finishes preheating, and it bakes up fairly quickly too.  So it's a good breakfast option.  Or when you need a bread accompaniment for a meal and don't have time for rolls or regular bread.  It's simply good.  (Like any good scone or biscuit, don't over handle the dough or it will be tough instead of tender.)

Irish Soda Bread
Serves 6-8

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
3 tbsp butter
1 large egg
¾ cup buttermilk
1/3 cup currents
2 tbsp heavy cream or another egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt in a mixing bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.  Combine the egg and buttermilk and beat together; stir into flour until just moistened.  Fold in the currents.  Knead on a lightly floured board for a minute, just enough to bring the dough together in a rough ball.  Don't overwork it.  Shape into a round loaf and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cut the traditional cross in the top, about ¼" deep.  Brush the loaf with either heavy cream or a beaten egg.  (This one was brushed with cream, the egg wash will give a more golden, shiny finish to the loaf.)  Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a rack or serve straightaway with butter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dealing with food allergies and child behavior

After hearing about what other parents I know are going through with their own kids, I thought I'd post a little about where we are in our food allergy journey.  We've come a long way in the past three years, but it's been slow going and learning all the way.  I shudder to think what we might be going through if a wonderful preschool teacher hadn't pointed us in the direction of food allergies.  And that's where the journey really started.  Our daughter is a fairly normal kid, with "quirks" as one parent put it.  But there were some little red flags in the back of my mommy mind early on, like the fact that she didn't point  until she was practically 2½.  She was so well spoken though and used some sign language that communication wasn't an issue.  I do remember the day though that she was trying to get me to notice something and I didn't see it and she said "Right there!  Right where I'm pointing!"  (Something I'm sure she had heard more than a few times.)  I think I almost let out a Hallelujah! right then and there.  But that was a little thing at the time.  Along with other little things like clumsiness, spacial difficulties and 3rd person perspective.  I could point at something right there on the floor and she would look in any direction other than where I was pointing her.  It was frustrating for both of us.  (And yet she is astonishingly good at 3 dimensional computer marble mazes and find-it books like Where's Waldo.)  But she was so quick to memorize songs and books verbatim, I wasn't worried about her intelligence.  She started preschool 2 days a week when she was three - just a 2 hour class.  Her little sister was born a couple months before school started.  And that, I think is where the downhill spiral started. 

I hate to admit it, but our processed and fast food intake at least tripled after having #2.  I just didn't have the energy to cook from scratch as much anymore.  I started getting reports that R was having trouble sitting still in circle time and trouble paying attention.  "Easily distracted" was something that would become an ongoing issue.  We had great communication and tried so many different things, together with the teacher and they would work for a week or so and then stop.  By the time the end of 4 year preschool rolled around, it was "Did we have a good day today, or just okay..."  Then it was, did we manage to have an okay day even!  Then that wonderful teacher pulled me in after school and gave me a book.  She thought I should read it and thought maybe we might be dealing with food allergies.  I read it.  There was so much there that clicked.  The dark under eye circles, the double red ring around the lips, the red scaly skin behind the ears, the eczema that was continually spreading and eventually covered her arms, legs and chest; the extreme differences in artwork and writing from day to day - some days total scribbles and some days meticulous detail.  I learned early on that chemicals like fabric softener and dryer sheets created nasty rashes and welts, as well as unwashed new clothing.  The sensitive skin I think the kids inherit from me.  She was extremely sensitive to fabric textures and lived in yoga pants that entire year.  The day she wore a scratchy Halloween costume to school was a horrible day for her, she melted down and had to have a time out and I felt responsible because she had complained about the scratchiness before school and I should have known.  Then there was just the unpredictability of her behavior.  So many ups and downs and different things going on.  I was worried about autism spectrum disorders as she sometimes was just in a little fantasy world of her own and it made it hard for others to relate to her.  She took things very seriously and personally and would take offense at an offhand remark not even directed at her; then she would carry a grudge about it for months.  I remember her teacher remarking about her bringing up something that had happened at least three weeks prior.  A little thing... to us.  And sometimes things just came out of her mouth out of the blue that were either totally unrelated to what was going on, or completely socially innapropriate.  So we went to an environmental allergist and had a consultation and then food testing.

You can see the worst of the dark circles under the heavy lidded eyes and the horrible cracked lips and red skin surrounding them.  I had been fighting those lips for four months and thought it was just bad winter chapping.  While she is more prone to chapped lips in winter, a heavy dose of soy will make her lips peel off in two days.  And this was AFTER we started getting it under control.

The allergist asked me about history and brought up things like the fact that she had been very active and "pushy" before she was born.  I called her my little rib stretcher.  (And it scared me when he observed little sis running rampant and found out that she walked at 9 months and said that early mobility and her horrible early sleeping habits were a possible indicator of food sensitivities.  I really do not want to go through this with two kids, although R was a fantastic sleeper - that was before the processed onslaught.)  So we discussed the constant fidgetiness, the distractibility, the dilated eyes, all sorts of things.  The fact that she complained after almost every meal that her tummy hurt.  We ran an intestinal profile that indicated inflammation so we did a candida detox regimen.  That was over a month of a natural anti yeast medicine derived from a mycobacterium.  After we finished that, she didn't complain of tummy trouble for over a year.  After all the testing was done we determined that she was sensitive to a whole bunch of things, but the biggest three were corn, soy and rice.  (Thank God that wheat was not on the list as well!)  Rice during testing made her extremely lethargic but we found out later that the delayed reaction was extreme emotional sensitivity the next day or so.  Food allergies can have up to a 36 hour delay.  The corn made her completely goofy, you could have made her drunk or high and gotten a similar reaction.  She was going boneless, melting in a heap and hiding under chairs, looked practically stoned.  And the soy.  Oh, the soy.  It was like giving her a triple espresso and putting bouncy shoes on her.  You could see in her eyes that she was almost desperate for something to hold her attention as her eyes flew around the room and she bounced off the walls.  We also later found that soy made her extremely irritable and grouchy on the second day.  Then there were the ones that just increased her slapped cheek look and red ears or made her eyes dilated or glassy.  You can imagine with 7 different triggers and the delays in symptoms, that my food journaling had not been helpful up to then because I could never narrow down her behavioral issues to what was actually causing them.  So we did an elimination of all of them for a month and started adding back in to find out what affected her the worst.  We also started her on sublingual allergy drops to help her desensitize.  Then it was time for Kindergarten.

Seven months after the previous picture and you can see that the dark eye circles are quite diminished.  The lips are healed.  They are still a good indicator of allergy overload at this point though.  Even the kindergarten teacher was amazed at the rapidity of the reaction when R got hold of a not okay treat.  Her skin problems are 70% better at this point as well.  In addition to removing the offending foods, I switched to completely natural shampoo and conditioner and usually use just water to wash the kids.  At this age, it's all they need.  Even I react to sodium lauryl sulfate with rashes.  I have removed all the chemicals from the house that I can and try to use natural cleaning methods whenever possible.  Calendula cream was helpful in reducing the eczema as well, prior to allergy testing.

At times I feel bad that her preschool teacher didn't get the benefit of the road on which she got us started.  But it wasn't over.  We were once again blessed with a fabulous and understanding teacher and she worked with us all year.  There were ups and downs.  R is fiercely loyal to a few close friends and can be jealous when they spend time with others.  It was harder for her to share relationships and build new friendships even though she wanted to be friendly with everyone.  We finally had a communication breakthrough with  her and the teacher and I one day after school.  It was a relief for all of us and helpful in knowing how to help her deal with her emotions and relate to her classmates.  Some time during the year I also found out that artificial food colors affect her almost as strongly as corn.  That's a whole 'nother book.  I read enough to confirm what I was already seeing.  I made special foods and treats for R so she wouldn't feel left out.  I found acceptable treats for emergencies like those days there is a birthday I didn't know about and everybody else gets those storebought cupcakes full of soy and corn derivatives and food dyes.  To her credit, my precious daughter really seems to get it.  She went to a birthday party and I didn't provide her a special treat, thinking I would just let her indulge and deal with the aftermath with her drops and buffered vitamin C (which can help alleviate allergy reactions.)  But since it was a drop off party and I hadn't told her specifically she could have the treats, she limited herself to the fruit plate and did not eat any cake or candy.  At FIVE years old.  It hurts my mommy heart sometimes when she makes the observation that she can't have the things all the other kids can have.  And yes, she rails against the unfairness of it, but she also follows the rules.  And I try my best to soften the blow.  I even made candy corn from scratch - corn free of course.  It's been a long hard road, we keep learning and keep finding new things that help.  The kindy teacher recommended reading the sensory book, The Out-Of-Sync Child, and there were a lot of things in there that were relevant.  The fact that she still had not chosen a dominant hand.  That food sensitivities often go hand in hand with sensory kids.  The need for sensory stimulation.  R requires loads of sensory input.  It's one of the reasons she is so distractable, her eyes and ears search out things to stimulate her senses and take her off task.  We got her evaluated and started on occupation therapy to teach her better body awareness and strengthen her core and fine motor muscles.  She is weaker and has less endurance than the typical girl her age.  We also got her an orthotic pressure shirt specifically designed for constant, deep pressure proprioceptive stimulation for sensory kids.  It helps calm and provide better body awareness.  She also needed therapy to help train her eyes to work better together.  We spent the whole summer after kindergarten in OT twice a week.

First grade started well, and I was relieved since I did not know how R would handle full day school.  Fortunately she thrives on routine.  She got a good laid back teacher with a background in special education.  She seems to take R just as she is.  Which is wonderful.  I asked how R had been doing one week after she'd had a known allergen exposure and the teacher just chuckled and said, "Oh, she's just R..."  It has been a good match I think.  The kind of teacher we grew up with.  I've only had one call from school this year about behavior and that was due to a known exposure to soy.  My greatest hope is that R will outgrow these sensitivities as her Nana did.  (Never knew my mom had food allergies until this all came up.)  I added in probiotic supplements on a regular basis to help promote a healthy intestinal flora since she is still prone to candida overgrowth.  Fermented cod liver oil has helped too, though it tastes nasty and she prefers to take it only when sick or feeling a cold coming on.  Both of those on a regular basis have cut down on our illnesses significantly compared to last year.  She has only missed two days of 1st grade as opposed to somewhere between 9 and 14 for kindy.  And it seems to me that she is more even tempered as well.

Of course she cannot ever have school lunch.  Full of corn, soy and artificial colors and flavors: frankenfoods really.  To their credit, they do have a salad bar.  But she couldn't have the dressing - soybean oil.  She can't have 90-95% of processed foods because they contain usually both corn and soy in blatant or hidden forms.  Regular corn syrup affects R in about an hour with dark circles and glassy eyes.  High fructose corn syrup affects her in 20 minutes to an extreme.  You might as well give her speed and a joint.  So much for HFCS being "just like sugar."   We went out to lunch once and she had something quite plain like cottage cheese and a fruit or vegetable I think, plus a diet soda.  By the end of the meal, she was bouncing off the bench and her Grandmother wanted to know what she had eaten because she had black eyes.  We couldn't figure it out until it occurred to me to take a sip of her soda.  It was regular HFCS laiden soda.  Personally, I would like to get the soda out of the house completely, but hubby is addicted to diet soda.  He's really cut back recently though.  One step at a time.  I started reading about the Weston A. Price foundation and their stand on traditional food preparation and it really resonated with me.  When we do well with the traditional and non processed foods, we have the best results.  I've been trying to steer my food prep more toward that ideal, but we still do too much fast food, even if it's stripped down to the bones.  The way an animal is fed seems to make a difference too.  I found that too much chicken, even free range, from a processor that I found out fed mostly corn and soy feed to their chicken, would cause an moderate allergy overload.  I was extremely dissapointed to discover their feeding practices and it restricts my options while R is still so sensitive to those specific triggers.  Similarly, while she was originally sensitive to eggs, I discovered that there was no reaction to farm raised pastured eggs as compared to typical intensively farmed grocery store eggs.  Probably just as related to feed.  But a dozen pastured eggs are more than twice as expensive as regular store eggs.  Not to mention that almost all grassfed and organic food is really expensive.  Really puts a strain on the food budget.  I have never been a good meal planner and I'm sure that would help.  And I will certainly need to learn meal planning if I have any chance of doing GAPS successfully.

I can't remember when I first read about GAPS, Gut And Psychology Syndrome, but it made a lot of sense to me as well.   The premise being that your intestinal health and immune system are very strongly connected.  And when there is an overgrowth of yeast, bad bacteria, fungi, parasites and anything else that stems from gut dysbiosis (an unhealthy, improperly functioning intestinal tract), myriads of dangerous toxins are produced. These toxins are able to alter brain chemistry, cause auto-immune reactions, severely hamper immunity against infections and more.  It's also known as "leaky gut" syndrome.  The trouble has been that it is what seems to me a labor intensive diet and healing program in the beginning.  Of course with all the scratch baking and cooking I have to do for R, I don't suppose much would change other than having to plan more.  But it is a scary prospect to embark on something that is initially so limited in choices.  That's the whole point though, to heal the gut by avoiding all foods that irritate it, and by consuming only foods that will nourish and heal it.  Then, or at the same time, repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria.  This is done by avoiding all foods that feed opportunistic (bad) bacteria/gut flora.  As well, high quality probiotic supplements and traditionally fermented probiotic foods (sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, etc.) are used to actively repopulate the gut while all this cleansing/starving of the bad bacteria is taking place.

Anyway I've been thinking it may be the spring board we really need to get over the last hurdles of food sensitivity and sensory dysfunction.  To that end, I have signed up for a GAPS based cooking class and hope to garner enough confidence and recipes to take the plunge.  My babies and family are worth it.  I have seen so many testimonials of dramatic autistic recoveries, behavioral improvements, healing of depression and reversals of chronic conditions, syndromes and allergies, it's not even funny.  If you want to learn more, just google GAPS diet and you'll get enough info to bury you for a month.

So there is where we stand right now in our fight against food allergies and the like.  And here again is what makes it all worth doing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pumpkin Pecan Dessert Squares

I know, it's kind of a fall recipe, but I had one pie pumpkin left over from the fall that needed to be roasted and turned into something.  So I roasted it, pureed it and turned it into pumpkin butter.  Then I needed to figure out what to do with the pumpkin butter.  (Admission: I have never tasted pumpkin butter before and cobbled together some recipes I found; sweetening more than the first and less than the second, until I liked the result.  My spices ended up simple - cinnamon and a tiny bit of fresh nutmeg with a good strong hit of ginger and a splash of orange juice.)  I have a couple pumpkin dessert recipes sitting in the file that call for a cake mix.  We don't do cake mixes anymore.  Convenient but not on the acceptable food list for DD's allergies.  Plus, I don't want my kids growing up in this generation that seems to think that the "boxed" taste is the norm.  Maybe slightly earlier than when I was a kid, making comments about someone using a boxed mix or bringing a storebought dessert to a gathering would have been considered practically derogatory.  But I also have recipes written in my great grandmother's and grandmothers' handwriting for "World Concern Cake" and other shortcut shortcake type desserts.  They call for cake mixes - as an ingredient.  They were new and innovative at the time I suppose.  A novelty item and a "time saver".  Well now I guess the trick is to be able to get the same or better results without using the chemical laden box mixes.  I had bookmarked a homemade cake mix to try just for such a recipe as this.  While the bar recipe is based on a Williams Sonoma dessert, you are not constrained to buy their specialty pumpkin butter or use a mix.  But you are certainly welcome to.  The homemade version however, came through with flying colors.  These are REALLY good.  Be aware that my results are from a larger portion of pumpkin butter, at least half again as much if not almost twice, than the original calls for.  I like them that way.  They are creamy filled, cakey/chewy on the bottom and crunchy on top.  I suspect they taste like Paula's pumpkin gooey butter cake.  Bonus - the homemade cake mix yields two boxes worth, so I stuck one in the freezer for future use.  The bars are very rich, not overly sweet with the homemade pumpkin butter, and very satisfying.  But you will still want to "even up" those edges...  ☺

Pumpkin Pecan Dessert Squares
(adapted from Williams Sonoma)

1 box yellow cake mix (Recipe for homemade follows!)
½ cup butter, melted
3 large eggs
13.5 oz jar pecan pumpkin butter (I had a good 3 cups homemade at least and used it all.)
¾ cup toasted chopped pecans (added for flavor, interest, crunch and to approximate the specialty storebought pumpkin butter.)
2 Tbsp milk
¼ cup light brown muscovado sugar
1 tbsp flour
¼ cup butter, softened
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease and flour a 9x13" pan.  Reserve one cup of cake mix and place the rest in a bowl.  Stir the melted butter and ONE egg into the main portion of cake mix until it forms a cohesive dough.  Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.  (It isn't meant to be quite a short crust, more of a chewy, cakey crust.  So the dough won't be as firm or crumbly as a short crust.)

In the same bowl, mix together the pumpkin butter, nuts, milk and the last two eggs until well combined.  Pour and spread pumpkin mixture over the base.

Combine the reserved cup of cake mix with the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Mix in the softened butter with your fingers or a pastry cutter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over the pumpkin layer.  (Try not to get to the pasty stage or it is difficult to sprinkle the topping on the bars.)

Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown on top.  If you use as much filling as I did there may be a slight jiggle in the middle, but it should still be fairly set.  Cool and cut into squares.  (If you can wait, this is really good warm too!)

I think this would be fabulous warm or cool with whipped cream or ice cream.  We've been eating it plain and loving it.

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
Makes 2 boxes worth
Adapted from Chef Tess Bakeresse

4½ cups all purpose flour (I used up the last ~2 cups of my whole wheat pastry flour and sifted out as much bran as I could, then finished with ap flour)
½ cup tapioca starch (or cornstarch if corn is not an issue)
2½ cups sugar (I used organic evaporated cane sugar)
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt (I used a slightly scant tbsp sea salt)
1 cup shortening (or butter)  (I used half butter, half unhydrogenated shortening)
1 tbsp double strength vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients in a stand mixer on low.  Add the shortening/butter in bits and combine on low until a fine meal is achieved.  Drizzle in vanilla while mixer is running and combine well.  You could also use a food processor to make this or cut in the fat by hand and run it through a flour sifter to get a fine meal. 

Makes about 9 cups mix.  4½ cups is one box mix.  I divided mine by weight and got 24.5 oz each.  I believe the butter is heavier than the shortening as well as the less refined sugar than its white counterpart.  Since I used part butter, I am keeping the other mix in the freezer.  (Shortening for tenderness and butter for flavor in a cake.)  Using all shortening would be shelf stable for maybe a month or so.  According to the author, you can flavor this with oil flavorings as well as citrus zests and it mixes up exactly like a storebought mix with the 3 eggs, 1/3 cup oil and 1 1/3 cups water.

While I haven't tried it as an actual cake, I am extremely pleased with the results in a recipe calling for a box mix.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Low sugar Peanut Butter Mousse fruit dip

Fruit dips: great way to increase fruit and veggie consumption.  Fortunately, I have been blessed with kids who love their fruits and veggies much better than I did as a child.  I have never had to resort to dips and dressings to get the veggies in them, much less the fruits.  But with all the peanut butter posts lately, I was having a craving.  I wanted it pretty simple though.  Enter PB mousse, a.k.a. fruit dip.  Okay, the kids can use the apples.  I'll use a spoon.  Well, it's really good with these sweet, juicy honeycrisp apples.  Wow.  If you like peanut butter, this could be a dangerous thing.  To lessen the damage, I took out most of the sugar.  I say most because I prefer Jif peanut butter.  Now they have a Natural variety that has done away with the partially hydrogenated fats that banished the original from my house.  This one is made with good old palm oil (not bad for you by the way) and sweetened with sugar and molasses.  And let's admit it:  Jif tastes best because it is sweet.  Welcome back, Jif my friend!  You can just as easily make this with real sugar or honey and use a completely natural peanut butter though.

Almost Sugar Free Peanut Butter Mousse (Fruit Dip)

1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese
2/3 cup (generous) creamy peanut butter (I highly recommend natural Jif for good creamy texture)
3 tbsp erythritol, powdered (you might need a bit more if you use an unsweetened PB)
scant 1/8 tsp stevia extract
½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup heavy whipping cream 
3 tbsp splenda (Splenda kills your gut flora, use stevia or more powdered erythritol)

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and cream cheese.  Powder the erythritol in a coffee/spice grinder.  (To facilitate dissolving.)  Add powdered erythritol, stevia and vanilla to cream cheese mixture.  Mix for a few minutes.  It will be pretty stiff at first but will smooth out and fluff up as the sweetener dissolves into the mixture.  Set the mixture aside.  In another bowl combine splenda and cream.  (I like to use splenda in the cream to round out the flavor and because it dissolves easier, but use powdered erythritol or stevia if you don't like sucralose.)  Whip on low speed until slightly thickened, then high speed until fairly stiff peaks form.  Just don't make butter.  ☺  Fold and stir one large dollop of cream into the PB mixture to lighten it up, then fold in the rest in two or three batches.  Serve immediately with sliced fruit and celery, or chill for later consumption.  After school snack?  It will firm up slightly after chilling but will still be lusciously creamy. 

This is low sugar, but high calorie so don't go overboard.  Fortunately it's too rich to be able to do so easily.  ☺  Now go indulge that peanut butter craving.