Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gluten-free Vegan Banana Bread

This day started out so beautiful. There had been some rain in the night and the air smelled sweet, clean and cool. I have to say that I like Summer just fine but Autumn is my season. And this morning there was that promise of cool fall mornings right around the corner. Got me feeling all motivated and domestic!

I had bought the ingredients for a vegan banana bread last week and this morning seemed like the perfect day for it. I had been looking for a good recipe that combined my desire to eat healthy and still have a little comfort food now and then. My friend Becca, who owns the Shed Bakery in Old Town Florence, loaned me a great vegan cookbook. Called Babycakes, it's loaded with a ton of vegan and gluten free baked goods. Couldn't wait to get in and try it out.

The banana bread recipe that I've used for years calls for white sugar, flour and buttermilk as well as eggs and this has none of that. In fact, there were a few ingredients that I had never heard of until now.

What you'll need:

2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free All Purpose Baking Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 cup Coconut Oil (plus a bit more to grease the pan)
2/3 Cup Agave Nectar
2/3 cup Rice Milk (I used Almond Milk since I had that on hand)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cup Mashed Bananas

On a side note: ever read a great blog and look at the photos and wonder what's just out of view? Are they normal like me and have a sink of dirty dishes waiting to be done and a pile of mail on the counter just out of view? Well, here's a peek at what's just out of view in the last photo... cat Shay glaring at me and letting me know in that cat way that she's STARVING and I need to drop everything I'm doing and open the door so she can get to the food. Worse than a demanding child. Of course I let her in right after I took the picture so I didn't have to suffer the withering cat stare. 

Back to the bread...

Preheat your oven to 325. Lightly grease a 7x4x3 inch loaf pan with a bit of your coconut oil. In a medium bowl, whisk all of your dry ingredients together.

 Add all of your wet ingredients (except for the banana) to your dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold in the bananas until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Fill the prepared pan with the batter.

Bake the banana bread on the center rack for 35 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 20 minutes. Ovens will vary so be sure to check your loaf with a toothpick to make sure it's done in the middle. Mine took some extra time.

The house smelled wonderful while it was baking. Let the bread stand in the pan for about 20 minutes after you take it out of the oven. Run a knife around the edge of the bread and turn it out onto a cutting board. I did let mine cool a bit before I cut into it...

I was amazed that it tasted as good as it did. Normally I would smother it in butter before eating, but since I'm working on the whole healthy thing, I ate it plain. Guess what? Still tasty. Nothing is ever going to beat the taste of home baking the way that my grandmother used to bake with eggs and butter and cream, but this will do just fine thank you.

Ken went out earlier today and picked a bucket of ripe juicy blackberries. Tomorrow's gluten-free vegan baking adventure? Blackberry scones. I can smell them already....

Friday, August 10, 2012

Eating Right

I am a meat and potatoes topped off with pie kind of gal. I love fresh baked bread with butter and a good rib-eye steak. But I'm also about 100 lbs overweight and a few months from turning 50. Not a good combination. I've actually gained and lost 80+ pounds three times now. It a frustrating cycle of being so strict to maintain the current fad diet that I'm on and feeling punished by denying myself those foods that I love and bring me comfort. Twice now I've done very limited diets and done them well. I've lost down to an acceptable weight for me and learned NOTHING about eating right. That is until now.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about a book called Eat to Live. It's one of the first books that has really made sense to me. And, of course, it goes against what many people feel is a 'healthy' diet. But I have to tell you, two weeks into it and I feel good. I had gotten out of the habit of cooking and into eating things out of a box or from a drive through. It's taken a bit for me to get back into cooking, but wow, what flavor when you cook real food.

It's actually easier than I thought it would be. My morning starts with a fruit smoothie....


8 oz. of Almond Milk, a handful of frozen fruit, half a banana and a teaspoon of ground flaxseed in my mini blender. And sooooo yummy.

Lunch and dinner are generally a veggie dish with a huge colorful salad...

I've found that I can do a quick stir-fry after work without a lot of fuss. As we go into fall, I plan on doing some nice vegan soups. I made a wonderful Carrot, Coconut, Ginger soup the other night that's going to be perfect for those blustery Autumn days.

I was sure that I would miss my chips and candy and Big Mac's, but the funny part is that all this eating right has pretty much done away with my cravings. Even eating out with my friends hasn't been the trial that I thought it would be. Many of our restaurants offer a selection of delicious vegan dishes.

I think the big shift in my mind this time is that I'm not on a 'diet'. I'm not in this to lose weight (though that would be great) but to get healthy and fit. I'm trying to get out of my quick-fix mentality and make a life change with the knowledge that if I keep it up eventually the weight will come off and I'll go into my 50's fit and ready to take on the world. At least that's the plan!

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