Banana Cake

Tired of dry, crumbly, somewhat flavorless allergy-friendly desserts which really aren’t that worth eating? Stop right there and make my Banana Cake. It’s soft, moist without being gooey, rich, and sweet. Definitely a cake, not a bread. The tender crumb and mouth-feel of this cake is on-par with a traditional cake made with wheat – hard to recreate without typical baking ingredients since alternatives always behave differently!

The green banana flour and cassava flour form the base of the cake. The two flours mixed together gives a better texture and taste than either one would on their own. Palm shortening replaces butter and helps give an airy lift to the cake. Flax-eggs replace chicken eggs. And coconut milk plus a little lemon juice replaces buttermilk. Typically I shy away from using coconut milk in baked goods, since coconut can be such a dominating flavor. Here, however, it is well hidden, and what hint of coconut you may detect goes well with banana anyway.

I took a shortcut with frosting and used Simple Mills Vanilla Frosting, topped with a handful of chopped walnuts as garnish. Feel free to use your own homemade frosting recipe if you prefer. Or even leave it plain. To make this cake nut-free, you could easily omit the walnuts and instead garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, sliced bananas, crushed banana chips, or just leave it plain and call it good.

Follow the steps exactly as written. It does make a difference if you alternate adding dry ingredients and wet ingredients in multiple small additions rather than adding each all at once. Also, don’t bypass the step of popping the cake into the freezer as soon as it is removed from the oven. It helps the cake set and cool, making frosting the cake easier. Baking this cake is easy, and you’ll have the best results if you make sure to do these couple of steps. Your patience will be rewarded! Last important step: keep a knife handy. We can’t help but cut off a little piece each time we walk by – so yummy! Happy baking!

Banana Cake

Rich, moist, decadent and scrumptious frosted banana cake. Great make-ahead recipe for serving at a party or brunch, or enjoy it all yourself! (Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nightshade-free, nut-free option, paleo option)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Freezing Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 slices

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup green banana flour
  • 1 cup cassava flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup palm shortening
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 can Simple Mills Vanilla Frosting - OR frosting of your choice
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (no, this is not a typo). Thoroughly mash bananas and 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice in a bowl and set aside. In a small cup or bowl, mix the flaxseed and water. Allow to sit for several minutes until thickened. In a liquid measuring cup, combine coconut milk and 1 tsp lemon juice. Give it a quick stir, then let sit for several minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, cream palm shortening and sugar. Then add the "flax eggs" and vanilla, then combine. Mix green banana flour, cassava flour, salt, and baking soda in another bowl. Alternate flour mixture and coconut milk, adding 1/3 at a time, mixing into the palm shortening-sugar mixture. Stir in bananas. 
  • Pour cake batter into a 9x9 baking pan (my glass pan didn't need to be oiled/floured to avoid sticking). Bake at 275 degrees for 1hr and 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Then remove from oven and place into the freezer for 1 hour or until cool enough to frost.
  • Remove from freezer, frost with frosting. Top with chopped walnuts.

Notes

May make 1 day in advance. Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for a few days. Leftovers also freeze well.
Nut-free option: omit walnuts
Paleo option: sub suitable solid, granulated sugar, such as maple sugar (flavor/texture may change depending on which sugar used)

several varieties of citrus fruits on a plate and platter, each stopped with pomegranate and mint

Winter Citrus Salad

This celebration of seasonal fruit is the antidote to dreary, overcast winter days on a plate. Unlike the brown and gray of short December days, my Winter Citrus Salad is a feast for the eyes. Containing four different types of citrus fruits – naval oranges, pink grapefruits, pomelos, and mandarin oranges – this salad is beautiful, refreshing, and uplifting.

Oranges are a classic, staple fruit in many households, but why stop there when there’s so much variety to enjoy? Citrus fruits of all kinds have a few things in common: they’re vividly colored, bursting with bright acidity and sweetness, juicy, and oh-so fresh smelling! Take advantage of the winter growing season and try some of the others this year; I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Slices of pomelo, grapefruit, naval orange, mandarin orange, and clementine with pomegranate and mint leave sprinkled on top.

Fruit salad, while always tasty, typically makes its appearance during the summer months at picnics and graduation parties. It’s much less often that we think of fruit salad as an option during the winter. But why? With all this delicious fruit in season right now, we’ve been missing out! Bring a little pizzaz to your table this winter. Grab a sharp knife, cutting board, some fruit and try my Winter Citrus Salad!

Vibrant slices of pink, orange, red, and yellow citrus are eye-catching on a platter, especially when accented with slivers of deep green mint leaves and pops of dark red pomegranate. Not only that, but these fruits are a much needed contrast to the warm, cooked foods we often eat as winter-fare.

Close up of slices of citrus fruit with pomegranate and mint on top.

One last thing. This salad is highly forgiving. Can’t find pomelo? Tangerines or clementines look better than the mandarins? Dying to try some blood oranges? Swap out whatever citrus fruits are available or sound good. For best results, I would include a minimum of three different citrus varieties, though four or even five is definitely preferred. (I actually thought I had grabbed some clementines, but instead ended up two different types of  mandarins – oops!! Those things happen sometimes when shopping while distracted!) Also, I don’t recommend subbing in lemon or lime as these are much more sour than sweet, unlike the other fruits. Have fun with this no-cook beauty!

Winter Citrus Salad

A celebration of seasonal fruit, this salad contains slices of pink grapefruit, naval oranges, pomelo, clementines, and mandarin oranges topped with pomegranate arils and sliced mint leaves. (AIP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pomelo
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • 2 naval oranges
  • 6 mandarin oranges
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves

Instructions

  • Peel fruit with soft, thin, easily removable skin, like mandarins, by hand. Using a sharp knife, chop off end with stem and opposite end to create two flat surfaces. Stand up fruit on one flat end. Using knife, cut off peel in strips, rotating the fruit around in a circle until all peel has been removed.
  • Cut each citrus fruit into cross-sectional slices of even thickness. Arrange citrus slices randomly on platter or plate. Sprinkle pomegranate arils on top.
  • Chiffonade a few mint leaves (stack and fold mint leaves together, then cut with sharp paring knife into thin strips). Sprinkle over plated fruit. Garnish with remaining mint leaves.

Notes

May make in advance. If doing so, recommend waiting to cut and add mint leaves until time of serving, for freshness. Cut mint leaves can discolor on the edges.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator.

Rustic banana muffin on marble slab

Rustic Banana Muffins

Some banana muffins are so tender, delicate and fluffy that 10 minutes after you eat it, your tummy feels just as hungry as before you snacked. This isn’t that kind of banana muffin. This muffin is a rustic, sturdier kind of muffin. The kind that you can grab on your way out the door and eat one-handed without making 1000 crumbs. The kind which are low enough in sugar, they aren’t dessert in disguise. You can enjoy these banana muffins at breakfast, yet they’re sweet enough to enjoy as a lower sugar treat. My favorite way to eat these banana muffins is topped with a smear of nut or seed butter and a mug of chai tea.

These gluten-free Rustic Banana Muffins are made with cassava flour. Cassava flour is one of my favorite gluten-free flours, because it bakes very similarly to wheat flour. Often it can be substituted 1:1 for wheat in recipes. It’s a little bit heavier than wheat, contributing to the overall weightiness of your baked goods – and its ability to satisfy your appetite. Cassava flour is mild and relatively neutral in flavor. Interestingly, this flour isn’t a grain. It’s a dried, ground South American root vegetable, yuca. It’s not yet quite as mainstream as some other gluten-free options, but popularity of cassava flour is rising. It’s now available at Whole Foods and on Amazon, making it more accessible than ever before.

Have time to make muffins, but not looking to eat them right away? Freeze a batch to have on hand. Individual muffins can easily be added to a lunchbox for adults or kids. Or stash them all away for when overnight guests come; defrost the night before for a head start on making breakfast. A breakfast casserole and some fresh fruit would be low-maintenance, crowd-pleasing accompaniments.

3 rustic banana muffins in a row on a marble slab

Rustic Banana Muffins

Rustic, satisfying banana muffins made with cassava flour. Perfect for adding to a lunchbox for school or work, breakfast, or dessert. (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and nightshade-free)
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 9 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cup cassava flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 7.5 + 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp palm shortening, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small cup, prepare "flax egg" by adding ground flaxseed and 7.5 Tbsp water. Stir and allow to sit for several minutes, until water is absorbed and consistency changes to look more like a gel. 
  • In a mixing bowl, add cassava, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk to combine. In a second mixing bowl, add mashed bananas, 2 Tbsp water, maple syrup, honey, melted palm shortening, vanilla extract, and "flax egg". Whisk vigorously until smooth.
  • Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Using a spatula, mix until combined. Spoon batter into muffin pan. 
  • Bake for 55 minutes. If checked with a toothpick, it should come out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Notes

Makes 8-9 standard size muffins depending on size of bananas used. 
Muffins are easy to remove from a silicone muffin pan. If using a metal pan, may benefit from using paper/parchment muffin liners.
May make in advance. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator for longest "shelf-life". Muffins freeze well.
While many muffin recipes also turn out similarly well if baked in a loaf pan instead of a muffin pan, I don't recommend making banana bread with this recipe. The bread remains a little doughy, especially towards the center and bottom of the loaf.

Snowball Cookies

Snowball cookies are quite possibly the most underrated Christmas cookie. If you’ve not had the privilege of eating one before, they are tender, flaky, light little balls of shortbread which actually look like a miniature snowball! And they almost melt in your mouth the way a real snowball would, too. Elegant, yet simple and playful in appearance, a tray of snowball cookies would be welcomed at any holiday gathering!

Growing up, snowball cookies were some of my absolute favorites! It was tradition for my grandma to make them each year for Christmas, making this allergy-friendly recipe remake extra special. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have!

A few comments on the ingredients: Palm shortening is a replacement for butter in this recipe. Palm shortening is solid at room temperature, like butter, and has a very neutral flavor which makes it a good choice for this type of baking. The gelatin powder is included to help bind the cookie dough together. Often gluten-free baking flour mixes contain different gums (often xanthan gum), which have been linked with various health concerns. To avoid the inclusion of these processed and questionable ingredients, gelatin is used here to accomplish the same goal. An additional tip for ensuring the dough will stick together is to chop the walnuts very finely. Larger bits will make it more challenging for the dough to come together. I chopped mine with a chefs knife, but the food processor may do a nice job in a fraction of the time.

Happy holiday baking!

Snowball Cookies

Also known as Russian Teacakes and Mexican Wedding Cookies, these light, airy shortbread Christmas cookies actually look like little snowballs! (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Chill Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp white rice flour
  • 2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup palm shortening
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Reserving 1/2 cup powdered sugar on the side for later, mix all other ingredients together with clean hands and form dough into a ball. If dough is too crumbly still, add additional water in tiny increments - 1 tsp or so at a time until dough will stick together. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
  • Remove from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Form cookie dough into 1" balls. Dough may be a little more crumbly than traditional snowball cookie dough; may require a little extra effort to shape. 
  • Form 24 cookies and place on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 10 minutes; cookies should be "set" but NOT browned. Remove from oven. 
  • Allow cookies to cook for 3 minutes, then while the cookies are still warm, roll them in the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar to coat them. Rolling cookies while warm ensures the powdered sugar will stick to the outside. 
  • Consider a second roll in powdered sugar just before serving to freshen up the powdered sugar coating.

Notes

May be made in advance. Cookies freeze well.

Chewy Brownies

If you’re looking for a chewy, rich and sweet dessert, try my Chewy Brownies. One bite and you’ll instantly feel like you’re celebrating the holidays! The deeply satisfying chocolate flavor comes from cocoa powder plus chocolate chips/chunks mixed into the batter. The coconut oil and egg yolk bring a rich, creamy texture along with healthy fats. This recipe makes one smaller, 8″ x 8″ pan of brownies or two 6″ round mini cakes. The smaller batch size is OK, because you probably won’t want these lying around the house too long; you may eat them all up yourself! If you’re feeling generous and want to share some with a larger group (lucky them!), the recipe easily doubles.

If you’re feeling extra fancy, instead of traditional brownies, this recipe can also make mini brownie cakes, which are perfect for sharing. This brownie variation starts out with the same brownie batter, and is made extra decadent and rich with the addition of some vanilla or chocolate frosting. Both are delicious! Often brownies in a pan aren’t anything all that pretty, but these brownie cakes can also be elevated by garnishing with some extra chocolate chips in the center and some shaved or grated chocolate on top. So pretty! One of these brownie cakes would be a special hand-made gift. Pick up a bakery style box from the store to transport one in style!

By all means, make your own homemade frosting if you prefer. I prefer to take advantage of the help offered by using a prepackaged option which works for us in terms of ingredients, taste, and availability. Some beginners tips for ensuring an even, smooth frosting layer: 1) start with completely cooled brownies 2) stir frosting with a spoon before applying 3) use an icing spreader rather than a knife 4) run icing spreader under hot water periodically to remove any clumps of frosting which may stick and also to smooth the surface 5) using clean hands, wipe stray frosting from the sides to clean up the edges.

Chewy Brownies

Brownies which are chewy, rich, and just the perfect amount of fudgey (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 16 brownies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted plus slightly more for coating pan(s)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup green banana flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips/chunks (ensure dairy and soy-free)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 jar Simple Mills Frosting (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat inside of baking pan(s) with coconut oil to prevent sticking. One 8" x 8" pan OR two 6" round pans works well.

  • Mix wet ingredients together in a bowl (maple syrup, coconut oil, egg yolks). Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl (green banana flour, cocoa powder, and salt). Combine wet and dry ingredients in a single bowl.
  • Add chocolate chips and stir to incorporate. Pour brownie batter into baking pan(s) and smooth out batter evenly.

  • Bake for 20 minutes (25 minutes if making a double-batch). Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting or optional frosting.
  • If frosting (optional), do so when brownies are completely cooled. May garnish with additional chocolate chips or grated chocolate, if desired.

Notes

May be made in advance. Freezes well.

Craveable Chocolatey Banana Walnut Cupcakes

This weekend, we’re celebrating a very special little guy’s birthday with these delicious treats – chocolatey banana walnut cupcakes. They are craveable, light, cakey, full of rich flavor, and moist (ordinarily this word sends chills down my spine. I chose to use it here, because another accurate descriptor just wasn’t coming to mind)! Locking in moisture while still achieving a light texture, in baked goods which are not only gluten-free but also grain-free, poses a real challenge. The struggle is real people!  But look no further, I’ve done the recipe testing for you – these cupcakes have it all!

Often allergy-friendly treats may have a more dense texture or may have other sensory indicators of being “different” in some way. Not this indulgent dessert! These craveable chocolatey banana walnut cupcakes have been given the ultimate stamp of approval. They have “passed” as a traditional baked good by unsuspecting taste-testers who eat a standard American diet without any dietary restrictions (and are sometimes suspicious of foods made differently) – I was even asked to bring these to a future event! Nothing short of miraculous really 🙂

The batter can be mixed by hand in a single bowl, which means no need to drag out the big mixer or spend extra time washing dishes. This recipe makes 12 standard sized cupcakes. Cooking time may be adjusted for other cupcake sizes or to make a cake – though I haven’t experimented with this yet, so I cannot make a recommendation.

Frost these for your next special occasion calling for a celebration or leave them plain for a tasty muffin which you can feel good about enjoying more often. Right now these are my favorite special occasion treat – so delicious! Make a batch for your next celebration!

Craveable Chocolately Banana Walnut Cupcakes

Perfect for a special celebration, these decadent chocolate banana walnut cupcakes are topped with a generous swirl of rich chocolate frosting. Your guests will not suspect these are allergy-friendly! (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free option, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups green banana flour
  • 1-½ cups mashed ripe banana
  • 2/3 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips I used Enjoy Life Dark Morsels
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2 jars dairy-free chocolate frosting (optional) I used Simple Mills Organic Chocolate Frosting

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the optional walnuts, chocolate chips, and frosting. Stir to fully combine.
  • Add the chocolate chips and (optional) chopped walnuts. Fold in.
  • Transfer to muffin pan lined with muffin papers or lightly coated with coconut oil (makes 12 standard sized cupcakes).
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Check with a toothpick to determine when done. Remove from oven when toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  • Optional step: Use piping bag to frost cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

Notes

Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. However, frosting consistency hardens considerably when cold, so remove from fridge to allow to soften before eating.

Creamy Pumpkin Custard with Spiced Apples

It’s officially pumpkin-everything season!

One of my favorite fall ingredients is pumpkin. I value it’s versatility in that it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. One of my favorite recipes utilizing pumpkin is this pumpkin custard with spiced apples. The combination of pumpkin and apple is classic for this time of year. This custard is flavorful, festive, creamy and comforting. Yum. At my house, we eat it at any meal of the day, because well… it’s just one of those dishes. Each time I make this, I can’t wait to grab a spoon and dig in!

This recipe also earns versatility points. The sweetness of this recipe can be adjusted to your preference. So with just a single little tweak, you can enjoy this pumpkin custard as a side dish with sausage at breakfast or enjoy as dessert with a cup of tea. Whatever time of day you choose to indulge in this nutrient-dense, pumpkin custard with spiced apples, you can’t go wrong!

This recipe can easily be doubled in quantity, with minimal additional effort and time, if you’re hosting brunch or batch-cooking for a hungry family.

While I made my custard in a pie plate, I also recommend individual ramekins. Mini custard cups are too cute and work well if you’re contributing to a pot-luck or packing lunches.

If you’re short on time, you can omit the apple topping and reduce your hands-on preparation and cook time down to about 15 minutes. Though, the apple topping certainly adds a little “extra something,” the custard is plenty tasty on its own.

On to the recipe!

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Creamy Pumpkin Custard with Spiced Apples

Comforting, creamy pumpkin custard with warmly spiced apples. Adjust the sweetness to serve as breakfast, dessert, or anything in between. (AIP, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time5 mins
Resting Time3 hrs
Total Time15 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cans pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup consider 1/4-3/4 cup depending on your taste buds
  • 1/4 cup lard or refined coconut oil
  • 1-1/4 Tbsp gelatin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
  • Splash or two of spiced apple cider

Instructions

  • Combine pumpkin, maple syrup, lard or coconut oil, gelatin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a pot on the stove. Turn heat on medium low and cook. Stir continuously for 5-8 minutes. The mixture should change in consistency, becoming more of a smooth liquid and the gelatin should dissolve fully.
  • Pour into custard cups or a pie plate.
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to allow custard to set.
  • Cook apple slices in spiced cider in a pan on medium low heat until soft, but still retaining their shape. Arrange on fully set custard.
  • Refrigerate until ready to enjoy.

Notes

May make in advance.