Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ultimate Go-to Grain-Free Chocolate Brownies

Brownies were never my favourite treat. They were either a little too sweet, too cakey or too crumbly. Of course one bite brownies and those amazing batches of brownies that that one talented mom always used to bring to the bake sales were an exception. We all had one of those, am I right?

Needless to say, whenever I tried making brownies I didn't really care for them. I always had terrible results;  not enough chocolate flavour, too crumbly, you name it, I did it. Brownies just weren't my game. This gluten-free version however, is a game changer. The brownie itself is best right out of the fridge since it gives it a fudgy texture, but it keeps a little crumble just the way I like it. I love the addition of the chocolate chunks, which add a deep dark chocolate taste to the finished product.

The best part about this recipe is that it makes the perfect base to build on. Want to add nuts? Go for it. Add some fresh seasonal fruit? Why not. Switch up the icing or omit it altogether? You bet. Play around with this recipe and make it your own.

Ultimate Grain-Free Chocolate Brownies

Makes 14-18 brownies

7 tbs coconut flour
9 tbs grass-fed butter, melted
7 tbs cocoa (raw or roasted, but roasted gives deeper flavour)
5 tbs raw unpasteurized honey 
5 tbs coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp salt if using unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs

1/2 -2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (soy-free)

Optional add ins:

1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup cherries or other seasonal fruit
1 tsp instant espresso powder (to deepen chocolate flavour)

Decadent Chocolate Icing
4 tbs grass-fed butter, softened
2/3 cup chocolate chips, melted
5 - 6 tbs cocoa
3 tbs raw unpasteurized honey

1 tbs vanilla whey protein - optional


Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x9 in glass dish with coconut oil or butter. (I use a pie dish, which works just as well)  Mix together melted butter, sugar and honey in a medium bowl. Stir until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and stir until blended. Sift cocoa and coconut flour into bowl and mix until just combined. Add in chocolate chips and other optional items if using. Bake on middle rack for approximately 12-15 minutes or until middle is set. Let it cool.

To make the icing, combine room temperature butter with all other ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk together until you reach a glossy finish.

Frost brownies and place in fridge to set.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Salted Cashew Butter Cookies

Do you ever eat something so much that you need to stop and take a step back? You build up the courage to tell whatever food it is that you need some space, some time apart to see other delicious foods. Now don't get me wrong, it's not like you don't love it anymore, you just realize that the two of you are getting on a little too well and you just don't want to ruin it. You're simply being rational and want to keep your delectable relationship going for as long as possible. I feel ya. For me it was cashews. It started off in complete innocence, a handful of bulk nuts here and there. But I got carried away, as I tend to do when I obsess over certain foods. I had to pull back on the cashews for a while, see other nuts and such. I'm good now, I can have a cashew or two and be done with it. Pistachios however, those wonderful little things, are a different story.

My favourite thing to do with cashews is to make them into butter. Almond butter and sun butter have nothing on cashew butter, which tastes like the most incredible cookie dough you can imagine.  It's an easy butter to make since cashews are a softer nut. If you can make it past the butter phase without eating half the jar, you can transform said nut butter into a magical cookie. This cookie is a salty sweet chewy piece of heaven. The addition of sea salt makes you wonder if there's caramel in the cookie and the hazelnuts give it just enough crunch to balance the chewy texture. I do suggest making the butter from scratch, but store bought butter will work if you're in a pinch. 

Make sure to share these guys or you may find yourself as cashew crazed as I once was!

Cashew Butter

2 cups raw organic cashews
1 - 2 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs honey 
pinch of salt
vanilla (optional)

Set oven to 300 and lightly toast your cashews for 8-10 minutes. This eliminates any mold growing on your cashews ( a common thing for cashews) and gives them a delicious flavour.  Let cool. 

Process in a food processor or Vitamix until the nuts turn from chunks to crumbs to a paste. 8-12 minutes depending on your machine. Add remaining ingredients and process until thick and creamy. If you want a smoother, runny butter, add more coconut oil.  The thicker the butter the better for the cookies. 

Makes about 2 cups

Salted Cashew Butter Cookies

Makes 12 cookies

1 cup cashew butter
3/4 cup palm sugar 
1 tsp honey
1 tsp soda
1 egg, room temp
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (soy free)
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
Sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325. Blend all ingredients except chocolate and hazelnuts in a medium size bowl until well combined. Fold in chocolate and hazelnuts.  Mixture may be slightly oily. Roll into 1 inch balls and lay on a tray covered in parchment paper. Sprinkle each cookie with a little salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are flat and slightly brown on the bottom. Remove from oven and let cool on tray.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Fudgy Nutella Cookies

My boyfriend and I got into a heated debate a couple weeks ago. The topic? Nutella. He likes his on its own, straight out of the jar. (I seriously can't leave him alone with a jar of my homemade Nutella) To him, anything else is downright blasphemous. For me on the other hand, although I do love a spoonful straight from the source, I just don't think it's fair to limit such a magical spread to being the solitary star of a sandwich, or spoon for that matter. I spread mine over rice cakes with strawberry or raspberry jam, alternate icing layers of cake with it and even make room on the spoon for jam or ice cream. While I can admit it's amazing on its own, Nutella deserves a friend or two.

So let the blasphemy begin.  I made a batch of homemade Nutella the other day (See my chocolate cake recipe for the how-to), only to find that I had added the fixins in too early.  I ended up with a separated but thick paste, which tasted delicious but wasn't quite what I was looking for, so I abandoned that ship only to accidentally find myself in cookie heaven. These cookies are crisp on the outside, chewy and fudgy on the inside and the sliced almonds and homemade shredded coconut lend just the right amount of crunch to the whole ordeal.

Whether you are a Nutella purist or a sacrilegious strawberry jam and Nutella lover like myself, enjoy these cookies on their own, with jam or even as an epic strawberry ice cream sandwich!

Nutella Cookies

Makes 12

1 1/4 cup Nutella Paste (preferably homemade, see Nutella Paste recipe) 
1 egg 
3 tbs  organic coconut flour
1 - 2 tbs whey protein powder
1 tsp soda
1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar (more if you like it sweeter)
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
Sea Salt

Shredded Coconut or dark chocolate chips on top for decoration. 

If using homemade Nutella, make sure it's cold, or add a little chocolate and arrowroot powder to it so it sets better. (The firmer the Nutella the better)

1. Combine Nutella, sugar and egg in a medium sized bowl 
2. Sift in coconut flour, whey and soda
3. Add in almonds until just combined
4. Let sit in fridge until hardened, approx. 30 min - 1 hour. (I like to leave mine overnight sometimes)
5. Preheat oven to 350
6. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on baking tray lined with parchment
7. Press down balls slightly, then add salt if using.
8. Top with small piece of dark chocolate and coconut if using
9. Bake for 10 minutes, or until tops are cracked and cookies have spread. 
10. Cool on wire rack

 (ice cream sandwich made with local strawberries and coconut milk)

Friday, 30 May 2014

Tahini Ginger Molasses Cookies

If you're as into "alternate" baking as I am (although this is how people should bake, let's be honest!), you may have noticed a rise in popularity of the truly flourless cookie swirling around the internet. The formula is a simple one, basically it's one cup of nut butter for 1 egg, some sugar and baking soda and voila, you have truly flourless cookies. Sure the flourless peanut butter (or almond butter!!) cookie is a magical thing for some,  but is that really enough? Not for me. Baking without conventional ingredients is more than just refusing to follow the abomination that is the mainstream american diet. I will admit that it's a major factor, but why settle for boring plain jane almond flour cookies or cakes stuffed with heavy tapioca flour and gritty rice flour when you can make things taste even better than their american diet counterparts? It's like comparing Clark Kent and Superman here. Well maybe not, but I'm sure you all get the point I'm trying to make.

I have a couple of these nut butter cookie recipes up my sleeve, but this one is to die for. Yes, sesame is technically a seed, but tahini paste should not be overlooked in the baker's kitchen! The texture is chewy, yet the cookie holds its shape and chewy texture quite nicely even after a day or two. It's sweet enough to be dessert yet yields a flavour deep enough to be dipped in tea and happily consumed as a breakfast treat. The ginger pieces are optional, but if you know what's good for you, you'll ignore their sugar content and continue to eat in ignorant bliss. Sometimes you have to live a little!

Tahini Ginger Mollasses Cookies

1 cup tahini
1/3 cup organic coconut palm sugar
4 tbs organic blackstrap molasses 
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg 

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped organic candied ginger

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit 

1. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together minus ginger, until combined. 
2. Fold in chopped ginger until just combined.  The mixture will look oily. 
3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes 
4. Roll into 1 inch balls on a tray lined with parchment paper, make sure to leave plenty of space as they melt!
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on your oven, or until flat and dark golden brown. 
6. Cool on cooling rack

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Chocolate Cake with Orange Nutella Frosting

I should never be left alone in the kitchen.  I leave a mess, I play my music too loud and I have to taste everything in sight. Leaving me unsupervised in the kitchen has it perks too; it usually ends with a cake or a batch of cookies on the counter that I may or may not pretend to know nothing about.

Since it was a long weekend and everyone was home I had to share my kitchen, but I woke up early enough yesterday to get some baking out of the way before anyone else got up. The result? A truly wonderful, delicious and easy chocolate cake.  Long weekends call for cake. It's in the unofficial rules of Canadian holidays, I swear! I have been dreaming about this chocolate cake for months on end.  Back in February I thought I had created the best chocolate cake recipe ever.  I had tested it multiple times in cake and cupcake form and it was a real winner. Unfortunately my computer crashed and I lost the recipe.  I finally came back to it, only to improve on the original using a tip I learned from a small town Saskatchewan cookbook; a little apple cider vinegar goes a long way when making a good chocolate cake.  Those prairie women sure were right.  I won't claim that this is the BEST CAKE EVER, but I sure will stand behind it being an awesome, super-fantastic, serve to anyone, even gluten-free haters, amazing and mouth-wateringly delicious kind of cake! 

The cake is so moist and fluffy you could eat it plain, but I paired it with a creamy frosting, since we're sticking to those rules about official cake-making weekends.  The cake is just chocolatey enough to satisfy a craving, without leaving you in serious need of a glass of milk or a cup of tea.  The orange zest lightens up the heaviness of the nuts and chocolate too!  This classic chocolate cake would be great with any kind of icing, but something about that pop of orange against the dark chocolate seemed fitting for mix of rain and shine we had all weekend here. 


THE Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake. (I used two to make this cake)

1/4 cup salted Kerrygold butter, melted
3 eggs
1/4 cup coco sugar 
2 tbs honey 
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, divided
2 tbs coconut milk
2tbs coffee
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Homemade Nutella Paste

Makes about 2 cups

2 cups hazelnuts
4 tbs coffee
2/3 cup milk of choice (I used coconut)
3 tbs Kerrygold salted butter
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (at least %70 cocoa)
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla 
1/2 tsp salt (only if using unsalted butter)

Orange Nutella Icing

Enought to ice 1 9-inch two layer cake

1/3 cup kerrygold butter
1 cup homemade nutella
1-2 tbs coffee
1-2 tbs coconut cream from the top of the can
2 tbs cocoa - for deeper flavour (optional)
1/3 cup homemade icing sugar +  3 tbs arrowroot powder **
2 tsp orange zest

For the Nutella Paste,  

Toast nuts @ 300 for 5-6 minutes or until skins become shiny and detached from nut.

Using a tea towel, rub the nuts to remove skins. Not to worry if they don't all come off.

Once cool, grind in a blender or food processor until it begins to form a paste that looks similar to almond butter or peanut butter. Remove from machine.

Heat milk of choice in a saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering point - do not let it simmer - turn off heat. Add the coffee grounds and let steep until desired coffee taste is achieved.  Strain coffee milk mixture into a medium bowl filled with the chocolate and butter. Let melt.  Add vanilla and hazelnut paste.  Chill until the mixture hardens. (Troubleshooting: if the mixture is not thick enough, melt slowly over low heat and add more chocolate)

For the cake,

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit (I did 10 min @ 325 and 7 @ 300 since my oven is freakishly hot)

In a medium bowl mix melted butter with sugar and honey.

Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined and somewhat frothy, 2 minutes.

Place a sifter over the bowl and put cocoa powder, coconut flour and 1 tsp of baking powder inside. Sift ingredients into bowl and mix until combined.

Place remaining baking powder into milk and coffee mixture and place in bowl. Sprinkle apple cider vinegar over milk and coffee mixture and blend batter until smooth.

Using a spatula fill a 9-inch greased round baking pan and cook until fork comes out clean. For me, it took 17 minutes as I mentioned that my oven is insanely hot. (Feel free to let me know how long it takes you!)

For the icing, 

Whip butter in a stand mixer or electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add your solid Nutella paste to the bowl and whip until combined. Add remaining ingredients and whip until nice and fluffy. If too thin, add a little more Nutella paste or arrowroot powder. If too thick, add more coffee or milk.  Store in fridge if not using right away. This icing stays stable at room temperature so feel free to ice your cake in advance!

 *Note that I've made this Nutella extra thick so it can be used to make thicker icing. If you want to make the Nutella for spreading purposes, add at least an extra 1/4 cup of milk to the mixture.

** Note that homemade icing sugar is simply a 1:1 ration of coconut palm sugar and arrowroot powder, blended in a Vita-mix or food processor to make a fine powder

Monday, 12 May 2014

Easy Grain Free Apple Crisp

I took a little bit of a hiatus to visit my aunt and uncle down in Phoenix, Arizona.  They spend the spring and winter down there now that their kids are grown up.  My cousin, who happens to be my age and the sister I never had, met me down there. A week with family can be a lot of fun, but after seven days with my extended family under one roof I think I can say I've had my fill for a while.  They have an amazing place out in Scottsdale, so I took full advantage of biking the flat roads, running the trails and of course, their back yard swimming pool!

My aunt is the queen of planning outings and events.  She took us floating down the salt river on tubes, complete with a tube for our coolers.  Note, if you ever want to torture your adult children, promise them sun, food and water, then take to them a river, throw them on tubes,  attach them to their parents and send them down a river for three hours.  Okay, so it wasn't that bad.  I love my family so we had a great time, but you can picture some terrible sit-com where the dysfunctional family takes a river trip and it ends up being a complete disaster.

The next surprise she had lined up for us was an hour long drive, without telling us where we were headed.  We arrived at a canyon, where there was an amazing old train station.  We me out guide, Fermin, who was half butler half tour guide on our train adventure. Sitting in an original caboose from the 1930's, our family got to sit back in our own personal car at the back of the train while we made our way through the Verde Canyon.  Did I mention it was fully catered, complete with a stocked liquor cabinet? My aunt outdid herself. 

As way of thanks, Mother's Day morning I decided to do a little baking.  They were trying to clean our their pantry as they were heading back to Calgary the next day, so it was a use what we've got type of baking session.  Lucky for me, I love a challenge!  I found the last of the apples, the rest of the butter from my bulletproof coffee breakfast routine (Kerrygold for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about) and some almonds.  I found some instant oatmeal, but I couldn't bring myself to use it. You have to draw the line somewhere right?

I basically just winged it and threw everything together. The crisp turned out lovely, even without oats.  In fact, it turned out so well I didn't have a chance to take a picture of the final product! My uncle loved it and my aunt, who doesn't bake or care for baked goods, enjoyed it throughly.  They ate it so quickly it hadn't even crossed my mind to take a picture. All in all, I had a great week full of amazing home-cooked meals and some stellar sun.  

Easy Gran-Free Apple Crisp

(This recipe is just a ballpark, so feel free to play around)

6 Honeycrisp apples, sliced (these were small little organic ones, so 4 regular size will do)
2-3 handfuls of almonds, toasted until slightly crunchy
5 tbs cinnamon, divided (use as much or as little as you like)
4 tbs honey, divided
5 tbs grass-fed butter, divided

Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Arrange apples in baking tray of choice.  I found a glass 9x9 baking dish. Arrange first layer, then sprinkle cinnamon freely over apples, along with 2 tbs honey and 1 tbs butter (chopped into tiny pieces)

Place second layer of apple overtop, adding more cinnamon and honey if desired.

In a blender or food processor, grind nuts until they are in small chunks.  I made mine quite fine, so that half of the almonds had turned to flour, while the other half were teeny tiny pieces.

Place nuts meal in medium bowl and add remaining honey, butter and as much cinnamon as you want. If you have coconut palm sugar or a sugar of choice, add it in as well.  Using your hands, blend ingredients together so you have a sticky, buttery paste. You can add more cinnamon if it's looking too light or more almonds if you don't think you'll have enough to cover your apples.

Spread the crumble mixture over your apples as evenly as possible.

Bake @ 350 for 34-45 minutes, depending on your oven. The top should be a nice deep golden brown and the apples should be quite soft.

Allow to cool, or if you're impatient, enjoy right out of the pan!

Note: this would be awesome with coconut whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Here are a couple of cool shots from my trip.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Cashew-Almond Chocolate Easter Eggs

This time of the year is hard for me.  I struggle with the insane amount of chocolate everywhere.  It's like all of it is calling my name at the grocery store, in the checkout aisles and on the back counter at work.  I have a life-long love for chocolate, especially the extremely dark stuff, but like any long term relationship, sometimes things get a little out of control or over the top.  To me a good piece of chocolate is more than just a fine quality product, it just speaks to me and understands me in ways only a true love can.  To keep a flame like that going you need to take it easy sometimes and take a break from one another or just keep it casual, which is usually pretty hard for me. I rush into things, eating as much chocolate as I can, much like a sixteen year old girl falling head over heels in love.

Since I started eating the way I do (no refined sugars, no gluten, no legumes etc) I've been able to cut back my chocolate intake by quite a bit, that is until I figured out I could make amazing chocolate at home from scratch with only a few ingredients.  Making homemade chocolates is a lot of fun since you can play around with flavours and sweetness, but it means there are a lot of bowls to be licked clean once you're done!

This Easter I decided to make nut butter eggs after having a heated debate with someone about Reese's peanut butter cups.  I personally don't eat peanut butter anymore, but when I did, I still hated Reese's. Something about the filling was off to me so I would always try and pawn them off on my brother after we finished our Easter egg hunt or after trick or treating on Halloween.

If you're like me and agree that the Reese's egg isn't all that it's cracked up to be (sorry about the egg pun), then give these bad boys a try.  They're like Reese's older cousin who is just a little more sophisticated, slightly more accomplished and secretly the favourite in the family.

Happy Easter!

*Note: I was inspired to make a healthy version of The Brown Eyed Baker's recipe available here: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2012/04/03/homemade-peanut-butter-eggs/

Cashew-Almond Chocolate Easter Eggs

To make Cashew-Almond butter:

1/2 cup cashews, lightly toasted
1/4 cup almond meal
1-2 tbs honey, to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 vanilla
1 tbs coconut oil

To make filling:

1/2 cup homemade cashew-almond butter
4 tbs grass fed butter
5 tbs coconut palm sugar
4 tbs arrowroot powder

To make chocolate:

(You can also make from scratch using cacao powder, cacao butter and some sugar, but this works just as well)

75g 100% Organic Fair Trade Soy Free chocolate (I used Camino)
1-2 Tbs Raw Cacao Butter
1 tsp honey
1 tsp coconut palm sugar

In a food processor, combine almond flour and cashews until a paste forms. 3-5 min.  Add in oil.  You may need to add a bit more if your mix is crumbly and doesn't take on a smooth consistency.  Add honey salt and vanilla and blend 1 more minute. Store additional nut butter or eat immediately!

In a saucepan combine nut butter, butter and sugar.  Melt until a creamy mixture has formed.  Remove from heat and add in arrowroot powder.  Form into ball and place in fridge until set.

Once set, prepare your dipping chocolate by placing chocolate and cacao butter in a glass oven-proof bowl.

If you are using a mould to create your chocolates, skip to the next step. If you're like me and left this to the last minute only to find out that Michaels was sold out of chocolate egg moulds, simply roll the chilled filling into egg shapes and place on parchment. (Apparently I am no artist when it comes to rolling eggs so I don't have a photo of the end result.  Plus they somehow disappeared too quickly for me to take a good photo)

Set chocolate mixture over a pot of simmering water and melt.  Add in sugars until desired sweetness level is achieved (remember the filling is quite sweet).  Remove from heat and "temper" by stirring and letting the chocolate run off the spoon from a high height back into the bowl. This allows the mixture to cool down and creates a better "cracking" when you bite into your chocolate.

After a few minutes you can line the moulds with a small amount of chocolate and spread to cover the mould with a small pastry brush. Place in fridge for a minute or two then drop and spread a small amount of the filling in the egg and cover with chocolate to seal. Let set.  Or for us rogues who don't use moulds, dip your little eggs in the chocolate and place on a piece of parchment to dry.  Let rest until set and hard.  Store in the fridge.