The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Nanaimo Bars | healthy green kitchen

Let me first start by saying that while I don’t know Lauren in person, I’ve gotten to know her through her blog over the last few months. Lauren was one of the first people to start commenting regularly on my blog, in fact, and I think she’s a gem for that. But she’s also a gem for the great gluten-free food she shares at Celiac Teen, and I was extremely happy to see she was the DB host this month.

I’ve been to Vancouver Island (the location of the town Nanaimo) and I have heard of Nanaimo bars, but I have never tasted them before. I knew I’d love them the moment I saw the ingredients list and pulled up some pictures on the Web, though. A layered creation of crushed graham crackers, chocolate, coconut, almonds and then more chocolate with a custardy frosting-like middle? Hello? Clearly these are not waistline-friendly. But with Lauren at the helm of this challenge, I knew they’d be gluten-free and damn good.

I followed Lauren’s recipes with just a couple of substitutions (either because I couldn’t find something at the store or because I didn’t have the necessary ingredients at home) which you’ll see below. I kept everything gluten-free and found these to be incredibly delicious. Not an every day treat by any means; these definitely go into the decadent recipe category!

And now for the recipe.

First, you’ll need to make the graham crackers.

Gluten-Free Graham Crackers/Wafers

Ingredients
:

1 cup sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup honey, preferably a mild-flavored variety such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350F.

Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and roll again. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.

Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. It might take less time for them to cook, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones on the bottom will brown faster.

Cooled completely and place enough wafers in a blender or food processor to make 1 ¼ cups of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziploc bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Note: I had some trouble finding the gluten-free flours for the graham crackers at my local natural foods store. So I took a gamble and tried the recipe using 2 1/4 cup (the total amount of sweet rice, tapioca, and sorghum flour combined) of Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix. The dough was a little crumbly when I rolled it out but I figured it didn’t matter since I’d be making graham cracker crumbs with it anyway. They’re not going to win a beauty contest, but the graham crackers actually ended up tasting great.

Nanaimo Bars | healthy green kitchen
Next, you proceed with the Nanaimo bars recipe. Any leftover graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used organic coconut oil because I was low on butter)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups gluten-free graham wafer crumbs (see above)
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 cup coconut (I used 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded organic coconut; my kids don’t love it so I halved the amount)

Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream (I ran out of butter and used sour cream)
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder such as Bird’s; vanilla pudding mix may be substituted
2 cups icing (powdered sugar)

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) semi-sweet chocolate (I used organic, gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips by Sunspire)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (again, I used sour cream because I was out of butter)

Directions:

For Bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.

For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool and pour over middle layer. Chill before slicing.

These bars freeze very well.

Nanaimo Bars | healthy green kitchen

This broccoli salad was inspired by another contest at Food52. I submitted this recipe to the contest, but have since tweaked it a bit to come up with the version you see here.

broccolisalad

Though I will certainly eat steamed broccoli, I much prefer it when broccoli has been blanched. Yes, I know “blanched” is just a fancy way to say “boiled” and yes, I know you lose some of the nutrients in the cooking water.

But I simply don’t care. I don’t blanch/boil it for very long and it just tastes better to me.

My favorite way to eat blanched broccoli is with a simple dip made from equal parts good quality mayo and organic brown mustard. So I took the basic elements, embellished them a bit, and came up with a lightly dressed sweet and crunchy broccoli salad. If you can’t find the Meyer lemon for the dressing, use regular lemon juice and add a bit of honey.

Blanched Broccoli Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Dried Cherries
Serves 2-4

Ingredients for the salad:

* 1 head of organic broccoli, cut into florets
* 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted in a hot pan for 1-2 minutes, until they pop (be careful they don’t burn)
* 1/4 cup dried cherries

For the dressing:

* juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
* 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (or a little more to taste), preferably made with olive oil (or use grape seed oil Vegenaise, which also happens to be vegan)
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 tablespoon organic brown mustard

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a large pinch of salt and the broccoli florets. Cook for 2-3 minutes (not more: you don’t want the broccoli to be too soft). Drain the broccoli and allow to cool.

Mix the broccoli, pumpkin seeds and dried cherries in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, the mayonnaise, the olive oil and the mustard. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well to combine.

Sadly I didn’t make it into the Food52 “broccoli finals” with this recipe…to see those that did, (they are both roasted broccoli recipes) and to vote for the winning recipe check out Roasted Broccoli with Paprika Vinaigrette and Marcona Almonds and Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli.

Simple beans are just the thing for those days when life is anything but…

Simple Adzuki Beans from Healthy Green Kitchen

This easy aduki beans recipe is adapted from Ree Drummond’s first cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. Ree’s recipe features pinto beans. Those would certainly be the more standard sort to use in this dish, but I’m not a standard sort of person (plus I had no pinto beans on hand), so I used what I did have: aduki beans.

Adzuki Beans from Healthy Green Kitchen

Aduki beans (aka adzuki beans) are small red beans that are most typically used in Japanese cooking. They are often featured in sweet recipes such as red bean paste. Aduki beans also make an appearance in macrobiotic cooking.

I like aduki beans because they do not require soaking and because they don’t take all that long to cook compared to other bean varieties. If you can’t find them, though, feel free to use pinto or another type of beans instead.

If you’ve never cooked dried beans before and you are accustomed to just opening up a can when you want beans, here are some facts that might make you want to rethink that strategy:

-Canned beans are very high in salt
-Canned beans are pressure cooked, which may cause excessive gas in some individuals
-Cans can be a source of heavy metals, which can leach into the beans and then get into your body
-Cans are a form of packaging that can be avoided if you buy in bulk

Plus, I mean it when I say this recipe is simple…

Recipe for Simple Seasoned Aduki Beans

Yield: Serves 8-10

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 95 minutes

Total Time: 100 minutes

Ingredients:

*4 cups dried aduki beans (you can buy them here, or use pinto or another type of beans)
*4 slices organic uncured bacon, sliced into 1 inch pieces- optional; bacon lends a nice smoky saltiness but you can leave out for vegetarian beans
*filtered water
*1 teaspoon course sea salt or to taste
*1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
*1 teaspoon garlic powder or to taste
*1 teaspoon chili powder or to taste

Directions:

1. If not using aduki beans, it's best to soak your beans overnight in a large pot covered with water. After they have soaked, drain them and rinse several times. If you are using the aduki beans, just go ahead and rinse them.

2. Place rinsed beans and bacon in a large pot on the stove. Pour water over the beans to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.

3. Skim any foam that might rise to the top while cooking, and add additional water (or stock), if there does not seem to be enough liquid.

4. Cook until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours (or as long as 3 hours for pinto and other beans).

5. Add the sea salt (don't add too much if you've used stock) and pepper, plus the seasonings I mentioned (or others that you like) to taste. You can serve these in whole wheat or corn tortillas with the toppings of your choice: think grated raw cheese, fresh salsa, guacamole, organic sour cream, etc. Or have some in a bowl with a side of cornbread (I made a pretty good gluten-free one that you can see in the top picture). Fresh chopped tomato, cucumber, red pepper, and sliced avocado are also wonderful additions.

6. My favorite healthy way to eat these, though, is this: chop some collard greens very fine, add some olive oil and fresh lime juice, and mix with the beans, veggies, and salsa. Top with some green onions and minced cilantro- yum yum yum!

Simple Seasoned Aduki Beans from Healthy Green Kitchen

This bean recipe is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging.

WHB was founded by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and it is currently managed by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything.
Anna from Anna’s Cool Finds is the host this week!