Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe

The thing I hate most about gluten-free baking is that every recipe seems to call for way too many ingredients.  In my baking, as with my cooking, I prefer to keep it simple.  I like recipes that I can prepare with things I have laying around my house, or at the very least, things I will use again.  Gluten free baking seems to depend on a number of different starches and flours, and if I had a bag full of every kind of flour I’ve read about in recipes…well, I’d have a pantry full of bags.

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The amazing baker, with her cakes, at Life Grocery-Cafe. Whether you are gluten-free, vegan, or just looking for a healthy alternative, I highly recommend you check this place out!!

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the amazing quinoa-based cakes at Life Grocery in Marietta, GA.  Their cakes are incredibly moist (not easy to do in gluten-free baking), sweet but not too sweet, and best of all, are made with quinoa, which is a complete protein.   Unfortunately, these cakes are about 20 minutes away from my house, and it’s a rainy-lazy day…so I decided to give it a whirl and make my own.  I didn’t have big hopes of creating a cake that begins to match the awesomeness of Life’s carrot cake, and to be honest I really wanted to see what I could do with just the ingredients I have at the house.  It would be blasphemy to suggest that (cough) my cake was better than Life Grocery’s (IMPOSSIBLE!), but…it was good in a different way.  A little more moist.  Just saying.

I’m sure there are scientific reasons why gluten-free recipes usually require a blend of multiple flours, but I don’t think baking or cooking should be that complicated.   I will say, however, that in my own baking I have discovered that brown rice flour used by itself yields a product that basically just tastes like brown rice—same with oat flour, quinoa flour, almond meal, etc.   So, I made flour out of equal parts of three grains—oat, brown rice, and quinoa—and added a little xantham gum for good luck.  And it totally worked.

carrotcake

So here it is, the recipe!  As you read down the ingredients list, imagine me scouring my fridge for potential ingredients—because that’s exactly what I did.  For instance, pineapple.  Um…you see, I had an extra little fruit cup leftover from my daughter’s snack stash—she decided she hated pineapple after she’d eaten five of them.  So I figured I’d use it now or end up throwing it away one day…and I’m glad I did!  My advice is to not go out and buy a bunch of apples or pineapple just because I used them—look around your kitchen to see what you can throw in!  Zucchini, banana, pumpkin, and squash would all be good choices.

  • ½ cup dry oats (be careful to use gluten-free oats, or omit and use coconut instead)
  • ½ cup dry brown rice
  • ½ cup dry quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon xantham gum
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • cinnamon
  • pumpkin pie spice (I was out of nutmeg….)
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 small green apple, grated
  • ½ cup crushed pineapple
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine oil and brown sugar and mix until smooth; whisk in eggs.  Add fruits to sugar mixture, and then stir into dry mixture.  Bake in greased cake pan at 350 for 45 minutes, or until fork inserted into the middle comes out clean.  I covered with tinfoil for the second half of the baking time. Top with cream cheese frosting.

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Embracing In-Betweenness

As many have noticed (and have gracefully pointed out), I have been slowing down on my blog in these past couple of months.  I have been in the process of finishing up my Master’s thesis, which I successfully defended at the beginning of this month.  If you would have asked me a few months ago what I thought of my thesis, I’d have told you that it was the worst thing I have ever written and I just wanted it to be over with.  In fact, on the day I defended I knew I hadn’t said all of the things I really wanted to say; luckily, my amazing committee knew this and gave me a chance to get it all out there. To date, my thesis defense was the BEST experience of my academic career, and I could not be more proud of the finished product that is taking shape as a result.

What I do when I'm not blogging or in the gym...

What I do when I’m not blogging or in the gym…

And what is this thesis about?  Short answer: bodybuilding.  My stuffy elevator pitch involves such keywords as gender, transgression, subversion, normativity, categories, femininity, masculinity, and opposing binaries.  But really, my thesis is about in-betweenness.  Stuckness.  That feeling of never quite fitting, despite pressure to fit.  Sound familiar? You don’t have to be a fitness competitor to understand this theme.

My research points out that, no matter how hard we try, we will never fit neatly into a category.  But we already knew this, right?  The question we are left with, however, is what to do with all of the people who don’t fit.  As the sport of bodybuilding demonstrates, but which happens all the time, the tendency is to simply create new categories.  But what do we get when we make new categories?  New spaces between categories.  The more categories we come up with, the more gutter space we create.  My research zooms in on these gutter spaces, examining how they can be useful to the people who inhabit them.

My daughter defines a rainbow as being a perfect mix of sun and rain.  In-betweenness at its best!

My daughter defines a rainbow as “a perfect mix of sun and rain.” In-betweenness at its best!

In the sport of bodybuilding, we navigate these in-between spaces constantly—it can mean being too big for Figure but too small for Women’s Bodybuilding, or having a perfect physique but not having the right hairstyle (really!).  For my non-bodybuilding friends out there, however, we can look at much more practical examples.  How many of you find that jeans never fit your waist and your butt at the same time?  Or that you are healthy and fit but still not thin?  Or very thin but not fit?  Has anyone noticed the pressure to be thin and fit, but also a social drinker/eater?  Or that to be successful in sports, women must un-learn how to be ladylike?  We are surrounded by labels, categories, classifications, and contradicting expectations—and we can never fit perfectly.

The way I see it, we have two choices: we can live in the pursuit of molding ourselves to fit a category, or we stand firmly in the gutter.  Which you choose depends on how hard you want to fight, and what you consider “winning.”  Some people go to unhealthy extremes to be thin, just to look good in a picture.  Bikini competitors often get breast implants because it will help them win a trophy.  They can have that.  Personally, I suggest we willfully inhabit the gutter!  Embrace not fitting.  By doing so—by remaining in the gutter space ON PURPOSE—we face frustrations, but we don’t sell ourselves out for a trophy, or a compliment, or some other meaningless recognition.  We stick it to the man.  We own that gutter.

I am learning to love being muscular and feminine at the same time.  I love embodying multiple dualisms (translation: being two opposites at once): feminine and strong, physical and intellectual,  small and big.  It makes me feel sneaky…

Embrace your in-betweenness!

Speaking of things that are in-between, this recipe for pumpkin pie is perfectly situated between “sweet” and “healthy.”  That is, it satisfies the sweet tooth and is a healthier alternative to traditional recipes.  I am especially happy about the quinoa flour, which was an excellent way to increase the protein content.   And, best of all, it passes the kid-test!

Filling:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup splenda
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cinnamon

Crust:

  • ½ c oat flour
  • ½ c quinoa flour
  • ½ c oats
  • ¼  cup honey
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • pinch of salt

For crust:

Mix dry ingredients in bowl; stir in honey, oil, and milk.  Mix well with a fork or your fingers, until the mixture begins to stick together.  Press into a greased pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350.

To make the pie:

Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Add to pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cover with foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Unwrapped is Now Accidentally Gluten-Free!

Treatment for my thyroid is still going remarkably well!  Today marks one week since I started my treatment, and I have seen a full turnaround so far.  In fact, the very next day I was fully of energy and my body temperature was up!  Since that first day, I have lost about six of the alarming ten pounds I gained in the last month of thyroid hell.  My body temperature hasn’t gone below 98.0, though it hovers at 98.8 (up by about 1.5 degrees!), and the swelling in my face is completely gone.  Whew.  On my way to normal and so quickly!   Never question what a naturopath can do—these improvements are entirely without lifelong medications like Cytomel and Thyroxin.

This blog is now—unexpectedly—a gluten-free blog.  Just in case you missed it, I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, and the only known treatment is to avoid gluten for the rest of my life.  Every now and then I think of something I really love that I will never eat again, but for the most part the future looks pretty darn bright.  I mean, pretty much everything I cook is gluten-free, so mostly the change will be to my baked goods.  My goal is to be completely sustained by local organic produce anyway, so it’s not as though this diagnosis came in the middle of a fast-food addiction.  And bodybuilding taught me how to carry meals with me and adapt recipes to meet my nutritional needs—this is nothing compared to a bodybuilding diet!  In fact, as I think back on it, it pretty much was a gluten-free diet.  Chicken, brown rice or sweet potato, and veggies, no condiments…maybe I was onto something.

If you are gluten-free, then I suspect you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have.  So please bear with my rookie attempts at baking.  Try not to giggle as I get excited about some new product you’ve known about for years.  But also keep in mind that I did not bake from mixes before, and I have no intention of using them now, so we might just learn something together as I try to figure this out.  If you’re not gluten-free, don’t go away just yet!  I consider a recipe successful only when it passes my six-year-old daughter’s taste test, so odds are pretty good that you can still enjoy my recipes.

As an amusing side-note, I want to point out a recent observation I had while at the grocery store yesterday.  Despite the fact that I’m not terribly limited by this change to gluten-free living, suddenly I’m fascinated by any product that is gluten-free certified, even if it’s not something I would have normally eaten.  Such as crackers.  I purchased a box of gluten-free crackers just because I was so excited to see them.  What the hell, I don’t even EAT crackers!  I don’t even buy things in boxes!  But they are now sitting on my pantry shelf like a trophy.  And that’s not all.  Gigi’s cupcakes are gluten-free on Wednesday, and you’d have thought I was waiting on the arrival of Christmas, the way I was counting down the days until I could buy a cupcake!  What’s wrong with me?!  And then I realized that perhaps this is why junk food packaged in small portions, such as 100-calorie snack packs, are so popular: the very notion that one may be deprived in any way seems to jumpstart our inner need to hoard for the impending winter.  But gosh how embarrassing to now be one of the hoarders!  

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Tonight’s dinner was something we would have eaten anyway.  In fact, I had planned to make it before I found out I couldn’t eat gluten!  And while dinner was cooking I made my first attempt at gluten-free blueberry muffins that even passed the kid taste-test!  (I’ll post that recipe in the next one).

Dinner:  vegetable frittata with white cheddar grits

A frittata is probably the simplest quick fix there is!  It’s basically a quiche without a crust.  If you don’t like or can’t eat eggs, this is not for you.  For everyone else, you’ve GOT to add this to your go-to meal list.  It’s high in protein and the fat content can be adjusted to suit your needs.  For instance, someone on a low-carb diet might take full advantage of the egg yolks to keep the calories up, while someone trying to keep the fat down can easily reduce the yolks and add a few extra whites.  You can put anything in it, and it’s a one-dish meal that you can even make ahead and bake when needed.  Some people even eat it cold!  And, as I say about all of my recipes, you can’t mess this up!  I’ll tell you how I made mine tonight, but keep in mind that this recipe is easily adaptable and you should enjoy experimenting on your own. 

Frittata:

8 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 red bell pepper  (chopped)
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp onion powder  (Mike hates onions, or I’d have used a fresh one instead!)
1/2 (ish) tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the eggs and milk together until it becomes a smooth mixture; add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour into a greased glass baking dish.  Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned and a fork inserted into the middle comes out clean.

White Cheddar Grits:

2 ½ cup water
½ cup uncooked grits (not instant! And if you’re GF, use grits that you’re confident              are GF, as not all are)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 tbsp butter (trust me, I find it necessary here.  Nothing worse than grits stuck to your pan)
½ tsp cayenne pepper
salt/pepper

Bring water to a boil; add butter and grits.  Turn heat to “low” and cover for 12 minutes.  Add cheese, salt, pepper, and cayenne and stir.  Remove from heat and cover until you’re ready to serve.