The Best Brownies Ever (with Cherries!)

Paleo Brownies (with Cherries!)

(gluten free/grain free/ dairy free/ paleo)

I did not title these Paleo, or Gluten -Free or even Grain-Free, because that might give you the impression that I believe these are the best PALEO (or GF ) brownies ever, when what I really mean is what the title says  - they are THE BEST brownies EVER.

I should have posted these for Valentine’s Day, but of course I didn’t make it. I did actually make them ON Valentine’s Day, so that should count right? But really these brownies are not for a special occasion, they are for every day. They are so good that they are considered one of the staples at our house and I am not even really a fan of chocolate desserts. They take only a few minutes to put together and they are packed with protein and have very little sugar. So they are actually quite good for you! Roberto even tries to get me to let him have them for breakfast and of course they are healthy enough for that, I just prefer them as an evening indulgence.

I have tried a ton of different paleo and gluten free brownie recipes because Roberto loves chocolate and I do enjoy brownies, if I am going to have something chocolate. Through this process of trying various recipes I came up with my own recipe. These brownies are pretty dense, so although they don’t rise much when baking, they are satisfying. If you like them really moist and fudgy cook them a little less.

The main ingredient is almond butter, so make sure to use one of good quality. My favorite is Barney Butter . Barney Butter is smooth and rich and doesn’t separate like so many almond butters on the market. It also doesn’t rip whatever you are trying to spread it on. Barney Butter is also certified GMO free, which no one can complain about. I lived on this stuff when I was pregnant with my daughter – stirring it into yogurt, mixing it into smoothies, putting it on top of ice cream, eating it with bananas or just right off the spoon if I needed an extra little boost. So if you know someone who is pregnant, get her a jar of Barney Butter, she will love it!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup almond butter, I use Barney Butter
½ cup full fat coconut milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup cacao powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 TBS. raw honey
1/3 cup chocolate chips, I use Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – they are Gluten, Dairy, nut & Soy Free,
Optional: 1 tsp of Dandy Blend or espresso powder
1 cup of cherries (frozen or fresh)

METHOD: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8×8 pan. Mix all the ingredients together, except the chocolate chips and the cherries and then fold in the chocolate chips and cherries. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes (20-22 minutes if using the cherries).

Paleo Chocolate Cream Tart with Fresh Figs

 

Doesn’t that sound just dreamy? It is hard to believe that something so sexy as a chocolate tart with fresh figs can be grain, dairy and refined sugar free. You also wouldn’t guess that it is extremely easy to make, not very time consuming and requires no baking! This is such a no-brainer it could be a weeknight dessert, but you might want to leave it for the weekend so it feels more like an indulgence.

I based this tart on a recipe from a new cookbook called Paleo Indulgences. Like I said the Paleo Gods have been shining down on me and put me in the good graces of the folks over at Victory Belt Publishing who send me the latest and greatest in Paleo cookbooks for review. I have really been so fortunate to receive these books free of charge. The books may be free, but the opinions I have are all my own. The good thing is that I have not been disappointed yet. These books have all helped me to eat Paleo for the past three months and given me such a variety of wonderful recipes to use in my kitchen, I don’t feel like I am missing a thing!

For the first month and a half of going Paleo I hadn’t eaten any sugar outside of fresh delicious summer fruits. But my mom came to visit in mid-September and I wanted to make some treats while she was here. So we looked through Paleo Indulgences and decided on the chocolate tart, mainly because Roberto is such a fan of chocolate. After the sweetness of my palette had changed it was nice to have a dessert that serves 8, yet only has 2 TBSP of sweetener, and maple syrup at that! But I am sure it will satisfy any sweet tooth, especially if you are a chocolate lover.

Paleo Chocolate Cream Tart with Fresh Figs (adapted from Paleo Indulgences)

INGREDIENTS:

Tart Shell:
1 ½ cups almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 TBS pure maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt

Filling:
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TBS pure maple syrup
1 can of coconut milk
1 TBS of Frangelico

Garnish:
Pint of fresh figs, sliced
Cinnamon for dusting

METHOD: Chill the can of coconut milk overnight or at least a few hours, this separates the fat from the water.

Place all tart shell ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well incorporated and starting to stick together. Place mixture into a tart pan (or you can use 4 mini tart pans). Press firmly along the bottom of the pan(s) and part of the way up the sides of the pan(s). Place on a baking sheet and chill for about an hour, or until firm.

Meanwhile, place the filling ingredients, except the coconut milk fat into the food processor and pulse until well mixed and smooth. In a separate bowl, whip the coconut milk fat and Frangelico together – scoop out the fat on the top of the can, leaving the watery part in the can and whip the fat and Frangelico just like you would whipped cream. Then fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Pour filling into the tart shell(s) and refrigerate for another hour. Serve with sliced figs on top.

Will store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for 3 months.

Entered into the Fig Love Blog Hop.

Versatile Smoothie Recipe

This recipe is kitty approved!

I have been posting a lot recently on my Facebook Page about my post workout Pumpkin Smoothies and those posts have created quite a buzz! I am a huge pumpkin freak and I enjoy it all year long – seems like a lot of you are too! I don’t know what I enjoy better, my workouts or these smoothies afterwards- the best of both worlds! This smoothie is great way to get in some extra grain-free carbohydrates, fat and protein post workout.

That said, many times when I post a specific recipe, I get a lot of great comments like: “can I substitute Y ingredient for X ingredient?” or “I wish I could make that, but I don’t consume X ingredient” or “I wish I could make this but I don’t know where to get X ingredient” or simply “I don’t like X ingredient”. You get the gist…so although I will post my awesome pumpkin smoothie with options and add ins, I will also give you ideas for entirely different smoothie recipes. This is mix and match folks! :)

This is your smoothie recipe – easy to tailor to your tastes and needs. I give some suggestions, but feel free to improvise. Like chocolate? Add a TBS or two of fair trade cocoa powder (no sugar added). Don’t do sugar? Try stevia, or fruit sweetened smoothies – dried dates are great for this. Want to make it a greenie? Add a handful of spinach or kale. The possibilities are endless!

Here are some of my recent combinations:

raw milk, pumpkin, 1/2 banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a little stevia
raw milk, egg, pumpkin puree, almond butter, cinnamon and molasses
coconut milk, avocado, cocoa powder, cinnamon, maple
kefir, soaked almonds, dried dates/figs, frozen berries, vanilla extract

This smoothie recipe is so versatile you can enjoy it for breakfast, a snack, dessert or part of any meal when you need an extra boost.

INGREDIENTS: per smoothie (@ 16 oz)

Base liquid: 1 cup liquid – Kefir, Raw Milk, Coconut Milk are good choices
Thickener: 1 banana – I also like using instead 1/2 avocado
Nuts: 3 TBS almond butter – you can use any other nut butter or a handful of soaked nuts – I usually use almonds – click here to understand about the benefits of soaking nuts
Sweetener: 1 TBS 100% pure maple syrup, honey or molasses or 1/8 – ¼ tsp or one or two dried dates (optional)
Optional add ins: ¼ cup of pumpkin puree, 1/4 yogurt, 1/4 berries, 2 TBS cocoa powder, kale or spinach, dash of cinnamon, 1 shot of espresso or ¼ cup of coffee, 1 TBS coconut oil, raw pastured raised chicken egg (do not use conventional eggs from the grocery store), vanilla extract, powdered ginger, nutmeg, etc.
Ice

METHOD:
Place all the liquids in your blender first. Then add the fruit, butters, oils and nuts and then the cinnamon. Process on medium speed until well mixed, then start adding ice, a handful at a time, gradually, until the smoothie is at your desired consistency. I usually turn up the speed to high during the ice process. Pour and enjoy!

Black Bean Brownies (gluten, grain and dairy free!)

After my rant last week, I decided to start off this week with something sweeter and right in time for Valentine’s Day! Black Bean Brownies. If you have been following blogs for any amount of time, it is likely that you have stumbled across these guys at some point. Maybe if you are like me, you have been intrigued to try them, but haven’t quite gotten around to making them yet.

Well I am here to tell you that if you think beans have no place in baked goods; you are seriously missing out on some deliciously protein packed healthy treats. Don’t think these are for you? How about if I say you can have brownies for breakfast? Do I have you attention now?

I am actually no stranger to baking with beans, if you have the The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts cookbook (and if you don’t I would seriously consider getting it!), Kelly bakes a lot with beans, and this cookbook has literally changed my life. Instead of feeling full and tired after eating baked goods, I feel energized! Her recipes are amazing, easy to make and so tasty, they are also “fool proof” if you are new to gluten or grain free baking and trying to learn how in the world you can bake without either of these ingredients, this is a great book!

I did a search through some cookbooks and several blogs looking for the perfect recipe for Black Bean Brownies, but as usual, I didn’t find the perfect one, so of course, I kind of went out on my own and created a recipe inspired by the many that are already out there.

See, in the great debate about brownies, I fall in the cakey vs. fudgy side of things. If you don’t like cakey brownies, I think you will still love these, and it will become a go-to recipe for making healthy and delicious chocolate cake. In fact I plan to make them in the very near future as a cake, and use some kind of wonderful real food icing on top.

I brought these to a social gathering and everyone absolutely loved them! They couldn’t believe there were beans in them for one, but were equally surprised to find out there are no gluten or grains either! Personally, I love the super dark, rich look of these brownies. Plus, they are so good for you; you can absolutely have them for breakfast with no guilt. So make a batch for your valentine’s this year.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups black beans cooked
1/3 cup coconut oil
½ cup honey, warmed
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp Dandy Blend – Instant Dandelion Beverage Single Servings – 25 Packet(s) (an instant caffeine free coffee substitute or you could use instant espresso)
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking soda (if you like your brownies “fudgy” you could experiment by leaving this out)
¾ cup dutch processed cocoa powder

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a prepared 9×9 inch baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Your knife may not come out clean, but the top will look crackly like brownies usually do.

Your Favorite Posts of 2011

 

I really want to take a moment to thank all of my readers and blogging friends for your support this year, both on this blog, as well as through Facebook and Twitter! As social media grows, it seems more of our interactions together take place on other websites, for example my Facebook page and Twitter account has amassed so many followers, I am just astounded and overwhelmed. I have really enjoyed getting to know many of you this way! Thank you!

It is hard to believe another year of blogging has gone by! Getting these posts together every year is always a great look back on all the wonderful food we have enjoyed. I hope all of you reading this also had a great 2011 and are all looking forward to 2012! Here are the top 10 posts from this year. If you enjoy something that I post, please click the “like” button at the top, to “like” it on facebook, also feel free to tweet about it or leave me a comment. This is very helpful to me to know what kinds of posts you all want to see!

Please leave a comment and let me know what kinds of posts you would like to see on this blog in 2012! Happy New Year!

 

NUMBER 10: Breakfast of Champions and my First YouTube!


 

Number 9: The BEST Gluten-Free Pancakes EVER

 

Number 8: Drying Apples For Winter Storage

 

Number 7: Raw Avocado Chocolate Pudding

 

Number 6: Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits

 

Number 5: Musings on Homesteading

 

Number 4: How to Make Kefir at Home…and Why You Should!

 

Number 3: DIY Holiday Gift Series: Dairy-Free Decadent Chocolate Truffles

 

Number 2: Making Yogurt at Home: Filmjölk

 

And your favorite post of 2011: Number 1: Got Raw Milk? Food Freedom Fighters!


DIY Holiday Gift Series: Decadent Chocolate Truffles

 

WARNING: the next few weeks will be possible SPOILERS for family and friends

Scandinavian Snowball Truffles

Truffles are so good, so decadent, and so seductive. For someone like me who doesn’t usually get all the fuss about chocolate, I can easily get behind truffles. Deliciously creamy bites of dark chocolate bliss are a sure winner for everyone and this is certainly the time of year to indulge.

But what if truffles were made with good, wholesome ingredients, so even as an indulgence you are getting a lot of good things your body needs along with it – like healthy and beneficial fat such as coconut milk, coconut oil, fair trade dark cocoa powder and allergen friendly chocolate?

Years ago, when I had a Trader Joe’s near me, I would get boxes of their truffles to give as gifts to people. So I knew one DIY holiday gift I wanted to make this year was truffles. I was inspired by Nourished Kitchen’s recipe (the post is worth a read – it tells her sweet and lovely wedding story) and in fact my Solstice Spice truffles are almost exactly like Jenny’s Mayan Chocolate Truffles. But I wanted to branch out a bit from her recipe and make a flavor with all the spices that remind me of Yuletide kitchens in Norway – cardamom and anise with coconut, and this is how Scandinavian Snowball truffles were born.

As I indicated last holiday season, when I “came out” on the blog as a Pagan, I talked about the Winter Solstice and how we celebrate this time of year. I follow the spiritual pathways of my Northern European ancestors who call this celebration time Yule. For Pagans of various denominations, this time of year is also about a birth, the birth of the Sun. Just like other religious celebrations during this time of year, we celebrate a festival of lights and honor the warming sun which on the Winter Solstice ends the darkest time of the year, giving birth to longer days. So this time of year I like to honor the sun and remember with fondness the time I spent in Norway, by incorporating the flavors and food culture into my celebrations. This celebration was the inspiration for the flavor of these truffles – warming and spicy.

To make it easy for my recipients, I made each flavor in a different shape. One I cut into “rustic” (to borrow Jenny’s language) triangular shapes, and the other, I used my hands to roll into a traditional ball shape. Each truffle is about a rough teaspoon in size. Each recipe makes about 100 truffles. As always, I included a card with the package that contains the ingredients. I made the package from a square of natural, unbleached parchment paper and tied with raffia.

INGREDIENTS: Solstice Spice:

20 ounces chocolate with high cocoa content, chopped coarsely (or chips) – I used Enjoy Life: Dairy, Soy and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chips
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 vanilla beans, opened and scraped
pinch unrefined sea salt
4 cups full-fat coconut milk
4 TBS coconut oil
cocoa powder ( @¼ cup) and a few dashes cinnamon mixed, for dredging truffles

INGREDIENTS: Scandinavian Snowballs:

20 ounces chocolate with high cocoa content, chopped coarsely (or chips) – I used Enjoy Life: Dairy, Soy and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chips
1 tsp cardamom, ground
½ tsp star anise, ground
1 vanilla bean, opened and scraped
pinch unrefined sea salt
4 cups full-fat coconut milk
4 TBS coconut oil
cocoa powder and desiccated coconut mixed (@ ¼ cup each), for dredging truffles

METHOD:

1. Toss chopped chocolate into a mixing bowl with the spices, scraped vanilla bean and a dash unrefined sea salt.
2. Bring coconut milk and coconut oil to a slow simmer in a saucepan over a moderate flame.
3. Pour coconut milk and oil over the chopped chocolate and seasonings then stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and the mixture, or ganache, becomes thick, uniform and glossy.
4. Transfer the mixture into a loaf pan or glass baking dish with sides lined with parchment paper, and allow it to harden in the refrigerator for eight to twelve hours, or overnight.
5. After the chocolate has hardened in the refrigerator for eight to twelve hours, remove it, unmold it from the parchment paper and carve it into irregular bite-sized chunks or for balls, use a one tsp measuring spoon
6. Toss the chunks with cocoa powder mixture and serve. Makes about 100 tsp sized balls and/or rustic chunks per recipe.
NOTES: Unless you live in a very hot climate, these truffles should keep at room temperature indefinitely.

* Be sure to click on the DIY Holiday Gift Series tag to see all the posts in this series!

Homemade Nutella for Norway

 

I really wish I had a Norwegian recipe to post today. I have been really saddened by the tragic events in Oslo on Friday. As many of my readers know, I spent a year in Norway as an exchange student, in between high school and college, and I have very fond and vivid memories of my life there. The people, culture and independent spirit of Norway all have a very special place in my heart. I formed many long lasting friendships that year and still have many good friends and loved ones that live there, and a lot of them currently reside in Oslo. So  Friday and Saturday were scary days waiting to hear from everyone.

Photo Courtesy

JEG ELSKER NORGE!

I have been comforted these past few days by these words by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg:

“You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy, or our commitment to a better world. We are a small country nation, but a proud nation. No one shall bomb us to silence, no one shall shoot us to silence, no one shall scare us out of being Norway. We must never stop standing up for our values. We must show that the Norwegian society can stand up to these testing times. We must show humanity, but not naivety.”

I keep reading this over and over and praying for the truth in those words. As an American, experiencing 9/11 and seeing the aftermath of such events and in many ways the loss of our many freedoms and our independent spirit, I can only hope that the Norwegians will keep that alive.

Although I know this does nothing, other than feebly lend support and love to my Norwegian friends and Norwegians all over the world, you can check out some of my Norwegian and Scandinavian inspired recipes from the past. Comfort food really is a comfort and can aid in feeding our spirit during trying times.

I spent all of Friday sweating over steamy vats of curds and whey and fluffing cheese curds at The Cellars at Jasper Hill – that is something for another post though…so when I got home that night, I hadn’t heard anything about what was going on in Norway. One of my best friends lives in Oslo, and so Roberto really was worried about telling me what had happened, but luckily she had posted on my facebook wall that everything was OK, and like a lot of other Norwegians, she and her husband were out of the country on holiday.

So in lieu of posting a Norwegian recipe, I am going to post about making homemade Nutella, because the first time I ever tasted Nutella it was in Norway. The first time I had it, I thought it was a Norwegian invention, and I was hooked! When I returned to the US, after my year in Norway, I was lucky to be able to find it in the grocery stores here, and so it has always been a staple in my house. Then I married an Italian (Italy is the actual birthplace of Nutella) and we just always had a jar in the pantry…until we noticed the ingredient profile had changed and it now included soy lecithin and vanillin – artificial vanilla …so we stopped buying it. We have found and tried several organic and more healthy versions, but they never really tasted that good, and were expensive.

In comes The Spunky Coconut blog. I am an avid fan of both the blog and the cookbook – The Spunky Coconut has really changed my life in a lot of ways, her baked goods are all gluten and grain free and don’t contain weird fillers and gums, like a lot of gluten-free baked goods do. I have tried several of her recipes, and they have all been fantastic – perfect taste and texture every time – and they don’t require any tweaking, which makes my life so easy!

So when she posted a recipe for homemade Nutella on her blog, I felt like our prayers had been answered – especially for Roberto.

The only thing I changed about the recipe was by adding a bit of maple syrup at the end to taste. Roberto, the official taste tester felt that it wasn’t sweet enough. I probably ended up adding a little shy of ¼ cup of it after all was said and done. The recipe makes 3-4 small mason jars full, and she says in the comments that she actually froze one jar of it – but I am not sure if it turned out OK.

Roberto’s tasting notes: Regular Nutella is now way too sweet for us (we have cut down on a lot of sugar and don’t use any refined sugar products), and it has more of a bitter dark chocolate taste than regular Nutella, however because it is less sweet, he says it is more versatile. He has been enjoying it spread on The Spunky Coconut’s Boulder Banana Bread (minus the walnuts, I usually add about 2 TBS of almond butter).

Raw Avocado Chocolate Pudding!

So I asked my facebook followers last night which recipe they wanted to see posted first, out of my list of back-logged posts. This chocolate pudding was the overwhelming winner! So by now, you know what the secret ingredient is – Avocado. Yep, I am serious. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Pudding, custards, crèmes are all among my favorite desserts. What makes them so great? For me it is the creamy and delicious texture. Since avocado is mostly fat (the good kind), it makes a great base for a thick and creamy pudding. The dark chocolate overpowers the taste of the avocado, so it really works, and no weird flavors that shouldn’t be there! Plus, the time it takes to make this pudding is less than 5 minutes! Can’t say that about many other made-from-scratch puddings!

We made this dessert when my stepdaughter, Gwen was visiting (isn’t she gorgeous?!). She has a very adventurous palette and we have the best time cooking up interesting and delicious creations in the kitchen when she is here!  I wish she was here more often (hope you are reading this Gwen!)! She was a bit skeptical about this dessert, but she will always try something before she decides if she likes it or not (gotta love that in a young adult)! Well, it got the “Gwen Stamp of Approval”! On her excellent suggestion, we served our pudding with a nice healthy dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top! Perfect!

This is rich, satisfying and extremely healthy dessert. Absolutely 100% guilt free.

INGREDIENTS:
3 ripe organic avocados
½ cup raw milk (coconut milk would work too)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup fair trade, dark cocoa powder/ or raw cocoa nibs
Pinch of cinnamon

METHOD:
Throw all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy and well mixed.