Savory Almond Flour Muffins

I’m not sure, but the discovery that I can bake delicious savory and sweet things with almond flour may not be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Oh, well – I suppose it could be worse.  In fact, I know it could be worse.

Over the last year, I’ve lamented that I could no longer have spoon bread, or even cornbread, with my Texas-style chili.  I made up for that somewhat with the Chipotle Butternut Squash Souffle I developed last winter, but it’s still not the same as good ol’ cornbread.  And to be perfectly honest, neither is this – but it’s tons better than a squash souffle.  These muffins are a bit more dense than a traditional cornbread muffin, but that makes just one perfectly filling.  It also means these stand up to dishes like soup, stew or chili really well; they won’t get soggy and turn to mush quickly.  Which is a good thing – the next time I roast a chicken, I believe I’ll try to make a version of my grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing with them – if it comes out as well as I anticipate, it will become part of the Thanksgiving menu this year.

The recipe calls for unblanched almond flour, but if you only have blanched that’s fine.  It will lack the rustic look of the muffins in the photo, but probably look more like traditional cornbread.  Also, these were a wee bit on the salty side; you might want to cut back the salt to 3/4 or 1/2 a teaspoon.

Savory Almond Flour Muffins

Savory Almond Flour Muffins

serves 9

1 1/2 cups unblanched almond flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon raw honey

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease 9 cups of a one-dozen muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt and baking soda. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs and honey. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture, beating lightly by hand with a wooden spoon, until thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter equally between the 9 greased muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition (per serving): 188 calories, 15.8g total fat, 62mg cholesterol, 2524mg sodium, 140.9mg potassium, 5.8g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, 2.6g sugar, 2.3g protein.

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Fried Okra

I’m on my way home from Charleston today, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a recipe for you.

But first:  I’d mentioned last week that I’m trying not to cook a whole lot with almond flour; I’ve been using it not to excess, really, but more than I probably should lately.  For one thing, it’s quite high in calories – far more so than any grain-based flour, simply because it’s much higher in fat.  And speaking of fat, most of the fat in almonds may be monounsaturated (the kind of fat found in olive oil), but nuts contain a fair amount of omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids; if you remember, I wrote a bit last summer about how the Standard American Diet provides us with far too many omega 6 PUFAs and far too few omega 3s.  If that isn’t bad enough, it’s generally not good to heat PUFAs – it oxidizes them, and oxidized fats are bad fats (read: trans fats).  And for my last reason:  nuts contain lectins which, like grains and legumes, bind to nutrients and prevent the body from absorbing them.  Soaking and drying nuts can neutralize those lectins, just like soaking/sprouting grains and legumes can, but most commercially available nut flours are not soaked, so unless you’re prepared to soak, dry and grind your own nut flours, it’s probably a good idea to limit the use of almond flour to the occasional treat.

Now, having said that, this is an excellent use of almond flour – it definitely qualifies as a “treat.”  In a BIG way.  I LOVE fried okra, and this is just about the best I’ve eaten in many, many years.  If you’ve never eaten okra, or for some odd reason don’t care for it, this is the kind of dish that will make you love it.  I know I did – enough to eat every last piece of it. *burp*

Note:  Again, if you don’t have any grass-fed tallow, may I suggest Spectrum’s Organic Palm Oil Shortening for frying.

Fried Okra

Fried Okra

serves 4, or me in a ravenous frenzy

2 cups sliced okra
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 cup tallow or other fat suitable for frying

Mix the almond flour with the salt, pepper and cayenne in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. In a small bowl, whisk the egg together with the water. Set aside.

Melt the tallow or cooking fat in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat to a temperature of 350 F.

Toss half the sliced okra in the egg wash and remove using a slotted spoon, allowing the excess to run off. Add the okra to the seasoned almond flour and lightly toss until well coated.

Fry the coated okra until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Remove the okra from the fat with a spatula or slotted spoon, transferring to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Repeat with the remaining okra. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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Grain-Free Pancakes

This post is a marvelous lesson in “never say never.”  When I changed our diet, a little over a year ago, I said something really silly:  “…I’m not the type of person to be happy with a fake, low carb (or low fat) version of something.  If I’m going to eat a pancake, I want a REAL damn pancake…not some pale imitation…”

Yeah.  Famous last words.

Of course, this was before I realized that a lot of my problems stemmed from the consumption of gluten and casein.  The World’s Best Pancakes are just chock-full of both, sadly, which has booted them right out of the “can be enjoyed as a special treat once in a blue moon” category.  Beloved, who does nothing half-assed, says he doesn’t miss grain-based foods at all (I think his exact words were “I don’t miss them and I don’t want them!”) so until recently the rare cravings I have for something even faux have gone unfulfilled.  However, with him out of town for so long this summer, when the idea that “Hey – pancakes and bacon sounds really good for dinner” hit me, I went right ahead and made those very things.

Almond and coconut flours are saviors for many people who no longer consume wheat flour, either out of necessity or by choice, and I have both in my kitchen.  However, coconut flour is hard to work with; it has a LOT of fiber and absorbs a lot more liquid than wheat flour.  It also (naturally) lacks gluten, so most baked goods made with it require a lot of eggs to give it some of the texture and elasticity of wheat flour.  This causes foods made with coconut flour to have a very “eggy” flavor.  And, of course, it tastes like coconut.

Almond flour has its own set of challenges, but I find it a great deal easier to work with.  Most nut flours are rather coarse – because of their fairly high fat content, if you over-process them you end up with nut butter – which makes them hard to coax into a product that resembles a yeast-raised bread (it can be done with coconut flour, but like I said – eggy), but it is fine for quick breads such as muffins or, in this case, pancakes.  Of course, you’ll never be able to get quite the light and fluffy texture that comes with conventional pancakes, but you can make a reasonable substitute.  Pulsing the almond flour in the food processor, giving it a finer and fluffier consistency, helps, as does beating the egg whites.

As written, this recipe will make 5 large-ish pancakes and one is plenty per serving – these are quite filling.  You can, of course, make them smaller and have more pancakes per serving, if you wish.

Note:  A lot of people who bake frequently with almond flour dislike the Bob’s Red Mill brand, although I’m not quite sure why.  It is, however, the easiest to find – most grocery stores carry it, and it’s what I use.

Grain-Free Pancakes

Grain-Free Pancakes

serves 5

3 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lard or other cooking fat

Place the almond flour in the bowl of a food processor; pulse it several times until the flour is fine and fluffy.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff but not dry.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla and maple syrup. Stir in the almond flour, salt and baking soda and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the water until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter (add a little more, a tablespoon at a time, if needed). Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water dances and sizzles on the surface before evaporating (if the water evaporates immediately, the pan is too hot; if it boils for a bit before disappearing, the pan is not hot enough). Add about half of the lard or cooking fat to the pan; spread it over the surface with a spatula to coat. Pour a scant ¼ cup of the batter onto the pan for each pancake and cook until the edges look dry and bubbles appear on the surface; carefully flip and cook for another minute, or until both sides are browned and the pancakes are cooked through.

Remove the pancakes to a warmed plate and cover. Add more fat to the pan, if necessary, and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with fresh fruit or warm maple syrup.

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