This gluten-free cake is high in fiber, but you'd never know it when eating it.  It just tastes like a moist coconut cake.  It also has a delicious cream cheese frosting that you can sweeten using agave or honey, and a lemon-cream cheese filling between the layers.  This makes a small cake, 6" round if two layers, or a single 8" layer:  a much better size for most people!

Coconut Cake:

4 large eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/2 c. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda (this is too much, I can taste it and the cake overbrowned)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 c. shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened
Cream Cheese Agave Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides and line bottom of a 6" round pan* with a circle of parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs until light in color and a little foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and coconut extract; mix well.  Add coconut flour, then put the baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum on top of the coconut flour, and mix all together.  The batter will be very thin at first, but will thicken within minutes as the coconut flour begins absorbing liquid.  Stir in the 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake until center no longer jiggles and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it.  Cool cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan/s and cool completely.

When cool, split the 6" cake into two layers.  Frost the first half with lemon-cream cheese filling.  Place the other layer on top of the filling, then frost the entire cake.   Pat coconut onto the sides of the cake, then sprinkle it all over the top.
  
*If you don't have a 6" round, you may use either one 8" round (reduce baking time to about  30- 35 minutes), a 9x5 loaf pan (about the same baking time), 12-15 cupcakes (about 30-35 min. of baking), or four 4" round pans (reduce baking time to  18-20 minutes each).

Cream Cheese Agave Frosting:  use the recipe for Fluffy Honey-Cheesecake Frosting, except substitute agave for the honey.

To make the lemon-cream cheese filling (or orange-cream cheese filling), take  3/4 cup of the Cream Cheese Agave Frosting and put it in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. marmalade and stir.  
 
 
A friend recently shared this delicious recipe with me.  Since I wanted to make cupcakes for a friend who can only handle sweeteners like honey and agave, it was time to tweak the recipe.  You can find the original, sugar-sweetened, recipe here, if you want to compare it to my version. As cupcakes, they needed more moisture than the original, plus a couple things needed adjusted to allow for honey.  And I discovered that the amount of water your quinoa was cooked in makes a huge difference in whether they're dry, moist, or collapse when baking.   (Not to worry, the problem should be solved now!)   Quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain.

I tried really hard to find a way to use just the blender to make the batter, and not need both it and a bowl, but the batter puffs up so much once the leavening is added, that it just didn't work out that way .  Oh well.

Everyone who has tried these loves them.

Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

1/2 c. uncooked quinoa*
1 1/4 c. water 
1/3 c. any kind of milk (dairy, almond or coconut are fine)
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. melted coconut oil or other liquid vegetable oil
2/3 c. honey
a few drops of orange essential oil, or the washed peel of one clementine, optional
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cook the quinoa, covered, in the 1 1/4 cups water:  either combine in the microwave or stovetop.  To microwave,  put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, then cook for 5 minutes at full power, then 5 minutes at 50% power.  For stovetop:  combine in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid.  (If the lid isn't, use 1 1/2 cups water to compensate for what will evaporate.)  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until water is all absorbed.
*or use 2 cups cooked quinoa and omit the water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put liners in 18-24 cupcake tins, depending on how high you want the cupcakes.

Combine in a blender the cooked quinoa, milk, eggs, vanilla, oil, honey, and orange oil/peel if using it.  Blend until smooth.   Mix the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.   Pour the quinoa mixture over the top, and stir until well-combined.  Spoon into cupcake liners, or use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop instead to portion out the batter.

For an easy, sweet topping, sprinkle each cupcake before baking with a few semisweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans or other nut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top of a cupcake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Frost with your favorite frosting if you like, or  try any of these.   The cupcakes above are frosted with whipped coconut cream with melted chocolate beaten in:  use 1 cup of chilled coconut cream and 1 cup melted semisweet chocolate.  Whip the cream until it starts to hold soft peaks, then add in the chocolate plus a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.





 
 
Are you trying to eat healthier but really, really crave fudge?  This one uses healthy fats and honey.   It's also dairy-free and gluten-free for those who need to avoid those.  

Avocados are high in three amazing fats: both phytosterols and PFAs (polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols) are documented to be anti-inflammatory, and oleic acid, which helps our digestive tract absorb fat-soluble nutrients.  Coconut oil is healthy for many reasons, including being anti-inflammatory and having a high lauric acid  and medium-chain fatty acids content.  
But enough about that.

The big question is, doesn't avocado totally mess up the flavor here?

No.  I have a pretty discriminating set of tastebuds, and the only way I can detect the avocado is by a faint fruity flavor.  Because of that, some of my favorite variations of this fudge include fruit:  orange zest or oil, chopped dried cherries (and toasted almonds!), and the like.  This fudge is really only a slightly thicker version of my ChocolateTruffle Pie.

The recipe below includes both orange and pecans; if you don't want them, just omit the pecans and orange zest or orange oil.

You can also use this recipe to make truffles; cut into squares, then quickly roll each square into a ball; roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts to coat.

Orange-Pecan Fudge            makes about 3/4 of a pound 

1 ripe avocado, peel and pit removed
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. water
zest from half of an orange (about 1/2 Tbsp.), or 2 drops orange essential oil
3/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt (1/16 tsp.)
1/4 c. toasted chopped pecans

Line a 5 1/2 x 3 loaf pan (or 2-cup rectangular or square container) with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.   Set aside.
Put the water, zest (should be about 1 Tbsp), honey, coconut oil, cocoa, avocado, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor.  Run on high for 1-2 minutes, until smooth.  Pour into prepared pan.  Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours until set.   

Store in the refrigerator or freezer.  If freezing this, let pieces thaw about 10 minutes before serving.  I don't know how long it will keep in the fridge because it gets eaten so quickly.   But the one piece that survived us for a week and a half was still good.  Any longer than a week, though, it'd be better preserved in the freezer.  Wrap tightly.

 
 
Most salads like this use so much dressing that there's a pool of it at the bottom of the bowl.  And the dressing is about all you taste.  
Not this one.  There's enough oil in the salad to help you unlock those fat-soluble vitamins; both cabbage and cashews are very high in Vitamin K.  And you can actually taste the cabbage, in a way that accents only its best features.  

If you have any left over, even though the noodles will not stay crunchy by the next day, the cabbage does.

Cabbage Ramen Salad        Serves 4-6.  Or two who really, really like it.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 package Ramen noodles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey or sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ginger OR 1 1/2 tsp. chopped crystallized ginger OR 1 drop ginger essential oil
1 small cabbage, shredded, OR a 14-16 oz package coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
2 green onions, chopped
1 c. cooked turkey or chicken, diced
1/2 c. cashews, optional

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet on high heat.  Break the Ramen noodles into small pieces and add to the hot oil.  (You won't need the flavor packet for this recipe.)  Stir dry noodles constantly for about 2 minutes, until some of the noodles start turning a toasty brown.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil, vinegar, honey/sugar, salt, pepper, and ginger. Stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage or coleslaw mix, green onions, turkey/chicken, and cashews.  Stir thoroughly, until no puddle of dressing remains on the bowl's bottom.  Serve right away for the crunchiest noodles.  

 
 
How about this for a new side dish?  I love rosemary and olive oil. Or butter.  Or both.  :)

This recipe showed up at my house this week in a save-the-farmlands newsletter, of all things.  (I'm all for saving farmlands, but how about nixing the property tax instead of government paying them subsidies?!)  And since my live rosemary died over last winter and there's a bottle of rosemary essential oil in my cupboard, I adapted it to use that.

You can substitute about any squash you have on hand that is a similar size.  Or use something large, like half a banana squash or pumpkin, or kabocha squash, etc, but if you do, then double the amount of other ingredients except rosemary oil.

Caramelized Butternut Squash with Rosemary 

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 sprigs rosemary or one drop of rosemary essential oil (better if you have a 1 ml bottle, then use  two of those tiny drops) on top of the butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds.   (You can wash, roast, and salt these, just like pumpkin seeds.)  Put the squash cut-side up on a baking tray.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt.  In each natural 'bowl' where the seeds used to be, add 1 Tbsp. butter and a rosemary sprig.  EXCEPT:  if using rosemary oil, melt 2 Tbsp. butter and add the drop to it.  Pour half into the cavity of each squash half.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork.

Remove from oven and pull off the foil; let cool until you can handle it.  Scoop out the flesh.  

Heat the last 1 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over med-hi heat.  Once melted and hot, add the cooked squash.  Gently toss until some parts become caramel-y brown.  Serve hot.

NOTE:  the photo shows the squash as it comes out of the oven, not after being scooped out and browned.  If you want it browned from the oven, do this instead:
When tender, pull off foil and brush the last tablespoon of butter over the cut edges.  Return to the oven and turn on the broiling element.   Broil, checking every minute.  (I am not kidding.  Seriously check every minute!)  If your baking tray is on the middle rack in the oven, this will probably take about 3-4 minutes.  If the tray is up high, close to the element, it might only take 1 minute, maybe 2.

 
 
Elderberry syrup is known as a wonderful immunity booster and antiviral- which means it'll help knock down the flu or any other virus-caused illness.  It's also really, really delicious on pancakes.  Or a splash added to desserts or fruit salads.  Or brushed on a spice cake.  Or mixed with chilled sparkling water.  Or... you get the idea.
 Now that there's a jar in my fridge, I may have to watch to be sure my children don't sneak in and use up all my 'medicine'.   Just for that reason, I wax-sealed the lids on the jars I plan to share with others.  

I've already used it.  My family has had a nasty cold or flu this week; we've had missed school days and work days from it.  Yesterday it hit me hard, and felt like it was on the verge of turning into bronchitis or pneumonia.  I've been taking either elderberry infusion (tea) or the syrup at least three times a day since feeling it come on a couple days ago, and today I feel much better.  I suppose that may or may not have anything to do with the elderberries... but I'm keeping the routine up until I'm better!  Yum.

I started with 2 pounds of berries, used a steam juicer, and the first 2-3 cups of juice were nice and dark; strong enough to use without boiling to condense it.  The longer the berries steamed, though, the lighter the juice got, so I boiled down the last three cups to yield about 1 1/2 cups.

You'll notice in the photos below that some of those berries don't look exactly the same as the others... I have a young hawthorn tree.  It produces berries, but not yet enough to make a batch of anything yet.  The haw berries are said to be good for reducing inflammation (as well as normalizing blood pressure and helping strengthen and regulate the heart)- so I threw them in with my elderberries.  Honey is used in this instead of sugar because of its soothing, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties.

If you want to make a wax seal, paraffin works great.  I had a small ball of red cheese wax I'd saved, and used that.

Elderberry Syrup
Start with 2-3 cups elderberry juice (depending on strength)- if not strong, boil to reduce to 2 cups.  To the warm, NOT hot juice (if you want to preserve the enzymes if using raw honey), stir in these ingredients:
2 cups honey
5 drops ginger essential oil
3 drops cinnamon essential oil
2 drops clove essential oil


Store in the refrigerator.  Probably best used within a couple months- though I've had syrups stay nice for a year, refrigerated.  You could store them longer if you seal them in sterilized jars. 

To use medicinally, take a tablespoon straight or mixed in 6-8 oz warm water, every 3 hours if you're sick and an adult, or take once a day as a general immunity booster.  See the label below for more details.  

If you want to start with berries but don't have a steam juicer, and want to use the spices themselves instead of essential oils, combine 4 oz (2/3 c.) berries in 3 ½ c. water, a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and ½ tsp. cloves; Simmer until water is reduced by almost half; strain, pressing on the berries.  Cool until just warm, stir in honey.

On a related note, you can use jelly to make gourmet pancake syrup:  see here.
 
 
Can you tell it's zucchini and tomato season?  I've wondered before why so many recipes combine those two vegetables.  I now suspect that it's partly because the plain zucchini excels at tasting like whatever you cook it with, and very few things can top a fresh garden tomato in the flavor department.  This recipe also uses any mellow white fish, probably for the same reason.  The other ingredients both perk up and round out the flavor.  This one's a keeper.

Baked Fish and Vegetables

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest or 2-3 drops lemon essential oil
1 lb. zucchini or summer squash,sliced 1/4" thick
1 lb. tomatoes (3 medium), sliced thin, OR cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. minced fresh basil or 1 drop basil oil
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs. mild white fish 
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar*

Preheat oven to 450 F and move an oven rack to the lowest position.  Mix together the butter, minced garlic, lemon juice, and zest.  If using basil oil, add it to this mixture.  Rub a little of the butter mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Put the zucchini slices in the bottom of the 9x13 pan; add the tomatoes in a second layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and with half of the basil (unless you used basil oil).  Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then place the fish on top of the tomatoes.  Dot the butter over the top, add the rest of the basil, and drizzle with the vinegar*.  Cover tightly with foil; bake about 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when you twist a fork in it.  Serve immediately.

Serve over rice to pasta to soak up the delicious sauce!

*The original recipe, from America's Test Kitchen, calls for 1/4 cup dry white wine.  I don't cook with wine, so the white balsamic is what I found in my pantry to add the savory flavor.  Since it's strong, I used only half as much (2 Tbsp. instead of 1/4 c.).  If you have neither, chicken broth and a splash of soy sauce would give a similar depth.
 
 
Homemade Turmeric ointment!

About a year ago my right ankle swelled up and became tender to the touch.  There was no recent injury that I knew of.  After a few days, I wrapped it with an Ace bandage.  The swelling went down under the bandage, only to pop up on the top of my foot.  After wrapping the top of my foot, the swelling moved to the other side of my ankle.  Weird.  At that point, I got online to look for how to pull down swelling.  What I found was an ancient Ayurvedic medicine: turmeric and salt.  Well, those were two ingredients I had on hand, and easy to mix.  
I tried it: applied it to a folded damp paper towel, slapped it on the ankle, and wrapped it to make it stay in place.

Lo and behold-- after a day, the ankle was less painful.  After two days, the swelling was gone.  GONE!  And it didn’t come back. My ankle was stained bright yellow for a week, but, hey, it felt great.

Turns out that turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory.  There is lots of evidence that this kitchen spice is also effective against cancer, arthritis, preventing and reversing Alzheimer's, and more.

What about the salt?  You know how it kills snails: it pulls water through cell walls, essentially dehydrating them.  This is an example of osmosis.  It works on the same principle to pull extra water out of your skin or underlying tissues.  I used RealSalt because it includes trace minerals.  The salt and turmeric reinforce aspects of each other.

The basic mixture is 2 parts turmeric to one part salt, then mix with just enough water or oil to make a paste.  If you use water, it's considered an actual paste; if you use oil, it's technically an ointment.  Water might help it penetrate your skin better, but curcumin is fat-soluble, so it might be more potent as an ointment.  I don't know for sure; it just seemed logical to use the oil, which has healing properties itself if you use either coconut oil or olive oil.  Curcumin's bioavailability is said to increase if you add something with quercetin.  Dock (sorrel) has large amounts; so does apple, broccoli, cranberries, and more.  Since I didn’t find anything in my house and yard while I was mixing that was easy to use that wouldn’t spoil in it, I skipped that part.  Maybe next time I’ll dry some dock and heat it for a couple hours with the coconut oil base.  Or add a little green drink powder.  It still works fine without it; there was no quercetin in what I used on my ankle.  

This new batch also contains a couple essential oils this time around (didn't with my ankle), to hopefully enhance the healing properties; this will go on a leg injured by falling down the stairs, made worse by a lack of circulation and movement, now suffering- months later- with fluid in the joints and pain. Rosemary is relaxing, a good tonic for nervous and circulatory systems, and helps increase vigor and energy.  Ginger relaxes blood vessels is a strong circulatory stimulant, and is often used in massage oils and to relieve aches and pains.   A standard amount of essential oils for topical use is 1 drop essential oil per 25 mL of carrier oil, or about 5 drops per ¼ cup oil.

Please remember that anyone can be allergic to foods; don't use ingredients you've had reactions to, and watch for new reactions.  When you apply this to your skin, wrap it with something that doesn't matter if it gets stained- because it will!  (Turmeric is also a great fabric dye.)

Here are the quantities I used for this batch:

4 Tbsp. turmeric (1/4 c.)
2 Tbsp. RealSalt
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil (I used coconut oil)
2 drops rosemary oil, optional
2 drops ginger oil, optional

Best stored in a small glass jar. Babyfood jars are great.
 
 
Everyone knows you can make bread with zucchini- but what if you have a giant yellow summer squash hiding in the garden?

Both zucchini and yellow squash-- either straightneck or crookneck-- are summer squash, with a similar flavor and texture, and CAN be interchanged in recipes.

My family's favorite quickbread is Lemon Zucchini Bread- so today we got Lemon-SummerSquash Bread.  I no longer shred zucchini -or this squash- for recipes, but puree it instead.  No more strings.  As a bonus, if I'm freezing some for later use, the texture does not change when thawed, unlike shredded squash.  

AND, if you're pureeing the squash, you can have the blender (or food processor) mix all the wet ingredients for you.

This bread is great for breakfast.

The recipe is found over here, though the blender method is below. 
 
 
Have you seen this before?  It's an example of molluscum contagiosum, and just like its name sounds, it is contagious.  

And yes, we got it.  Lame.

It's caused by a poxvirus and can stick around for quite a while.  Each bump lasts from about 6-12 weeks, but more pop up, so an infection tends to last from 8 months to two years. It can be much longer, especially in those with suppressed immune systems. 

The first time I noticed anything was when a pimple-like thing on my son's arm didn't clear up within the expected few days.  It didn't look quite right.  It reminded me a little of a chicken pox blister, but the symptoms weren't right for that either; there was no fever or anything.  Just about the time the blister finally disappeared, his younger sister had some unusual-looking bumps pop up under her arm.  Then they grew a little and spread to her torso, back, and under the other arm.  About that time I spent some time online trying to discover what this was and how to get rid of it.  If you want to get our solution without reading a bunch more, skip down to the bottom of this.  :)  

Each bump or blister is roughly shaped like a pearl, from 1/8" wide up to the size of a marble, and typically has a dimpled center.  If you pinch it off, a white waxy core often comes out with it, and the exposed spot will bleed more than you expect from such a tiny hole.  The core has the virus, which is just in the skin, so it can't stay dormant somewhere in your system. When it's gone, it's gone unless you pick up an infection somewhere else. It's most common in children under 10, but anyone can get it, and there's no permanent immunity.

It spreads through skin-to-skin contact, even things like shared clothing or towels, which is probably why three of my children got it. Things that make it worse include scratching, moisture (warm places on the body or long soaks in the tub),  a ruptured lesion touching another area, or not washing hands after touching or scratching these.

  I thought maybe they'd clear up on their own, but after 5 weeks had had enough of that, as they continued to spread.  I found all kinds of ideas online to get rid of them:
twice-daily applications of tea  tree oil or apple cider vinegar (both burn a little if undiluted),  salicylic acid, prescription-only chemicals that destroy the top layers of the bumps, liquid nitrogen followed with scraping.  Maybe different things work for different people.  
It turned out that at least 5 families in my neighborhood had children with molluscum, so us moms put our heads together to talk about what we'd each tried.  

One mom had the answer, and it wasn't any of the above.  She'd gone to the doctor (all the moms who did thought the cure was worse than the disease- if the cure even worked.  Which it didn't for most of them.)- paid $80 for a prescription cream, and the cream didn't clear it up, even after weeks.  She finally got on her knees and essentially said, "Lord, I know YOU know how to solve this; please let me know how to help my children."

The idea came to her to put olive oil on them.  So she pinched off all the blisters, being sure to remove the center with the virus.  Then she rubbed olive oil on all the spots at least twice a day, 3 or 4 times a day when she remembered.  They all cleared up.

I  tried it, keeping up the oil-rubbing regimen for about two weeks, getting rid of any new blisters that appeared. 

It worked for us!!!    Hopefully it'll work for you, too.

Picture
The pox up close and magnified. Image: Wikipedia Commons