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).

Stone Fruit Tart (grain and dairy free)

 

IMG_8159

I made this delicious and seasonal stone fruit tart a couple of weeks ago and I have been meaning to share it with you all!

My forays into the kitchen have slowed down a bit due to my protruding belly which has me bumping into things and being generally less graceful than usual, however when it comes to baking, I seem to be a bit more motivated it seems another thing that has come along with this pregnancy is a bit of a sweet tooth.

I have never been into really sweet desserts and I am still not, but I do find myself craving something sweet after dinner. Sometimes it is yogurt with fruit and honey or cajeta (goat’s milk caramel), sometimes-delicious organic whole fat ice cream or some other concoction I make in the kitchen, like this tart.

I found the tart crust and pastry cream filling on Pinterest. It is from DeliciouslyOrganic.net . Carrie made a strawberry tart, but with all the beautiful stone fruits in season, I decided to change it up a little. The result was wonderful. Using coconut sugar as the sweetener gave the pastry cream a bit of a caramelized flavor, which added some depth, and the crust was perfect – flaky and delicious. It held up to the cream nicely and it seemed like the flavors of the tart got better each day that it rested in the fridge in between servings!

Have fun with this recipe – use what fruits are in season and what you have on hand and you won’t be disappointed!

Stone Fruit Tart (adapted from Deliciously Organic)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups almond flour
2 TBS coconut flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 tsp arrowroot
3/4 tsp sea salt
8 TBS unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

1 1/2 cups coconut milk
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup coconut sugar
3 TBS arrowroot powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 large plums, sliced thin
2 apricots, sliced thin
Handful of currants as garnish (optional)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350ºF and adjust rack to middle position. Butter a 9-inch tart pan. Place almond flour, coconut flour, sugar, gelatin, arrowroot and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times to combine. Add butter and pulse 10 times to combine and then process until mixture forms dough. Press dough on bottom and up sides of tart pan.

Place tart pan on top of a baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until just turning golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes, then place tart crust in the refrigerator.

Pour the coconut milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, place the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using a whisk attachment, whisk mixture on medium-high for 3 minutes until very thick. Reduce speed to low and add arrowroot. Whisk until incorporated. With mixer on low, slowly (very slowly) add the hot coconut milk to the egg mixture.

When all of the coconut milk has been added, pour the coconut milk/egg mixture into the saucepan and heat over low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture forms a thick pudding. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, butter, and almond extract. Pour pastry cream into a large bowl. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on the pastry cream (this will prevent it from forming a skin). Chill for about 45 minutes.

Pour cooled pastry cream over the crust in the tart pan and spread evenly. Chill for about 3 hours. Place sliced stone fruits on top of pastry cream and serve. Serves 8

Holiday Baking Series: Gluten Free Æbleskiver (also called Förtchen, Futtjens, Ferdons or Fritters)

I like talking about ancestral food. I have found through personal experience that by preparing ancestral foods you can connect to the cultures of your birth in a fun and enjoyable way. It is like living history, but with food. My spiritual practice focuses a lot on ancestor veneration, i.e. honoring your ancestors. I have found the most profound way for me to do that is to expand my culinary repertoire and skills to include foods that had significance to those ancestors.

One of the most important days of the year to celebrate the ancestors is December 20th, also known as Mōdraniht or Mother’s Night when the female ancestors of one’s family linse are celebrated and thanked for, well, nothing short of making our lives possible. This is one of my favorite days of the year and I am doubly lucky as I have so many ancestors to celebrate, both from my adoptive and birth families! I celebrate this night by creating a holiday treat, usually a cookie, reflecting a particular branch of ancestry. In years past I have made :

Cuccidata, Sicilian Fig Cookies

Polenta & Sesame Biscotti

Pfeffernusse Shortbread

Last year we made these. I have always known them by their Danish name, æbleskiver, but I came across this recipe for a gluten-free version last year in Pinterest  and when I read the blog post, I knew I had to make these for Mother’s Night as the blogger who created the recipe and I share heritage from Holstein (which has switched around between being part of Denmark and Germany).

Here is what Heidi, the creator of this treat has to say about its origins:

“Förtchen are a traditional Christmas pastry in parts of northern Germany, especially in Schleswig-Holstein and in Denmark. My family’s original fritter recipe is much like a very dense cake-style donut hole.”

And some more tidbits from her Aunt:

“Our German ancestors were from the most northern part of Germany, in an area called Schleswig-Holstein. That part of the country was once a part of Denmark and I suspect that this recipe is somewhat Danish in origin.”

Heidi has a wonderful step by step guide to making these on her blog  she also has a link to the original non gluten free version.

We flavored our æbleskiver by filling them with some chestnut cream we had bought when visiting Quebec City. It was a wonderful holiday treat! My hope is to make them sometime during the season this year, although not for Mother’s night as I like to do something different each year.

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.

My Favorite Treat of the Season

 

I have really been into smoothies and chia or avocado puddings this summer. Since going Paleo 6 weeks ago, my sugar intake has gone way down, and I have found myself being drawn more towards fresh fruit this season. Some of my favorite smoothies have been papaya with cardamom and cinnamon and this one, which is actually more of a pudding than a smoothie.

Roberto is the smoothie maker in the family, I just tell him what I want in mine and he whips it up in the vitamix. We usually have a smoothie after dinner on most nights.

Once papaya season was over, I started getting mangoes. For some crazy and fateful reason, the day Roberto made the first mango smoothie, he added an avocado to the mix. The result was amazing, the best treat of the season! As anyone who has made a smoothie with avocado knows, the consistency is more of a pudding that a smoothie. With the addition of lime juice, and the color of the avocado, this dessert is reminiscent of a key lime pie filling. As the season draws to a close, be sure to get in one of these delicious smoothie-puddings! You won’t regret it!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup coconut milk
1 mango
1 avocado
2 pitted dates
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp cinnamon
Ice

METHOD:
Place all ingredients in the blender in the order they appear (except the ice). Go from low speed to high slowly to make sure that all the ingredients blend well together in a smooth consistency. Once it has been blended add 1-2 ice cubes at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Serves 2.

Coconut Gelato with Caramelized Stone Fruit

 

(Pura Vida Coconut Gelato topped with fresh figs)

Summer is in full blast here in the Northern Hemisphere. Although we have been lucky in Vermont with many days this summer in the mid-70’s with very little humidity, there are some days like today for example where it is just miserable to be outside.
Summertime means ice cream! I can eat ice cream any time of year, but summer is its heyday. I have been making ice cream at home for the past 5 years. I find that it is so much cheaper than buying high quality ice cream at the grocery store (if you can even find it!) and by making it at home you are fully in charge of every ingredient that goes into it and you can be creative with the flavors!

My good blogging friend Mare from Just Making Noise: Sound Bites From a Deaf Mama put out an amazing ice cream e-book last year called Just Making Ice Cream: Over 70 Delicious Recipes Made With Nourishing Ingredients.  The most recent post on her blog actually features some of her recipes from the book.  You don’t want to miss that, so check it out! I like Mare and her blog because all of her recipes include wholesome, real food and she doesn’t stop when it comes to ice cream either. Her book is great because she walks you through the best ingredients to use, how to choose an ice cream maker that is best for you and also how to make ice cream if you don’t want to buy an ice cream maker. Her book includes recipes for ice cream, gelato, frozen cultured milk (like yogurt and kefir), sherbets, sorbets, toppings and extras. Her book features recipes using whole food and organic ingredients and it is also allergen friendly.

I have mentioned before on the blog that Roberto is lactose intolerant, so I often make ice cream using coconut milk. Recently we have found a local farm that sells raw goat milk (which will tide us over until our own goats are in milk, next spring) and so I have been making ice cream with that. Both are delicious alternatives to cow milk. I asked Mare which ice cream she thought would be the best using coconut milk, and her first response was Pura Vida Coconut Gelato. Mare and her family used to live in Costa Rica and they had a favorite Italian style ice cream shop there. The shop made an amazing coconut gelato using all fresh ingredients and this is Mare’s take on it.

This coconut flavored ice cream is absolutely creamy, rich and delicious. We loved it so much I made it twice in one week! This ice cream is perfect on its own, but this is also stone fruit season and there is nothing like topping some delicious caramelized stone fruits with some amazing homemade ice cream! For our stone fruit we used plums and apricots. It is easy to caramelize fruit and I will give you a recipe for it as well! We also topped the ice cream with fresh figs. The possibilities are just endless!

Pura Vida Coconut Gelato (from Just Making Ice Cream)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole milk or cream (I used coconut milk)
2 cups coconut milk
½ cup turbinado (I used coconut sugar)
¾ cup shredded coconut (more or less)
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla
pinch of sea salt

METHOD: Whisk together the egg yolk and coconut milk in a bowl and set aside. Mix together milk/cream, raw sugar, sea salt and coconut in a saucepan. Turn heat on low, stir until sugar dissolves and milk is comfortably hot to touch. Turn off heat, cover and let it infuse for an hour.

Pour infused milk into the coconut milk mixture, stir in vanilla and let it cool if still warm. Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for a few hours or (preferably) overnight.

Once chilled, pour mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions or use one of the no maker methods listed on page 26 (you’ll have to get the book!).

When the ice cream is done churning, quickly scoop ice cream into a container or bowl. Serve right away or let it firm up in the freezer for a couple hours before serving.

Fast Technique: You can skip the first step and just mix everything together & churn, but the coconut flavor won’t be as strong!
Pour into your ice cream maker or use one of the no-maker methods (make sure the base is cold!).

Tips: Stay close by while the ice cream is churning… it might be done churning sooner than what your instructions say. The coconut milk naturally becomes solid much quicker in colder temperatures.

You can make toasted coconut gelato easily by spreading the coconut flakes on a baking sheet and toasting it in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes or until the flakes become a light golden brown.

Extras: For a little kick, add ¼ cup of rum!

Caramelized Stone Fruit (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite)

INGREDIENTS:

1 plum
1 apricot
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3-4 TBS runny honey
generous splash of Frangelico

METHOD: Heat oven to 375 F. Cut fruits in half and remove pits. Slice fruits into wedges and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Add spices, and drizzle over the honey and Frangelico. Bake fruits for 10-20 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool, slightly. Serve with ice cream. Serves 2.

Deliciously Moist Bean Cake

 

As I type this I have 13 other recipes waiting in the queue, but I made this cake yesterday to take to a 4th of July dinner and we loved it so much, I wanted to post about it today. Plus we were having a lot of fun on my facebook page yesterday talking about homely looking cakes that taste better than expensive bakery cakes. So I just had to post another cake recipe today!

The crazy thing about this cake is that it is grain and dairy free, made mostly of beans, coconut flour and eggs. Sounds crazy I know, but baking sweets with beans is ingenious! I modified the recipe from The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts: Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Often Egg Free by using date sugar instead of coconut sugar and it gave the cake a bit of gingerbread flair. I also used pinto beans, instead of cannellini or navy, so the color of the cake was darker.

This cake is incredibly moist, packed with protein, fiber and folate. Even though there are a lot of beans in the recipe, the cake does not taste of beans. I asked everyone eating it what they thought the main ingredient was and no one guessed beans!

The trick with eating a large amount of beans and having no ill effects is in how they are prepared. I always use dried beans and cover them in a mixture of warm water and about a TBS of raw apple cider vinegar. I generally soak them for 2-3 days, changing the water daily (you don’t need to add more vinegar) and make big batches so I can freeze them for later use. Using this method, people who can’t tolerate beans very well have no problems eating them! So I strongly suggest doing it this way.

Since it was July 4th, I decided to top the cake with red, white and blue. I made an icing of raw soaked cashews, medjool dates, vanilla and some water and topped it all off with blueberries, raspberries and some crushed peanuts left over from last night’s dinner (another upcoming post).

It was delicious and totally hit the spot for our festive dinner, which was a combined effort : shrimp cocktail with prosecco, chips and dip, homemade buffalo wings, grilled chicken, potato salad and coleslaw all washed down with our friends’ home brewed hard cider.

Bean Cake (adapted from The Spunky Coconut’s Vanilla Bean Cake)

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:
2 cups room temperature beans (I used pinto, if you want a lighter colored cake try navy or cannellini)
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup date sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, liquefied
1/3 cup coconut flour
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder (aluminum free)

Raw Cashew Cream Icing (from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free: 180 Easy and Delicious Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less )
1 cup cashews
3 cups water, divided
3 large, pitted Medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

METHOD: Preheat oven to 325 F. Add beans, eggs, vanilla and sugar to a food processor and puree well. Then add to the bowl, coconut oil, coconut flour, salt, baking soda and powder and puree well. Pour into a springform pan, lined with parchment paper on the bottom and greased all around. Bake for about 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Cool completely.
In a small bowl cover the cashews with 2 cups of water and the dates in a separate bowl with one cup of water. Soak for about 20 minutes. Drain cashews and discard the soaking water. Add cashews to a blender. Add the dates along with their soaking water and the salt and vanilla. Start the blender on low and increase slowly to high. Blend for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Ice the cake and then put it in the freezer for about an hour before serving. Top with berries.
TIP: if using a regular blender soak cashews overnight to get the right consistency.

Grain Free Almond Raspberry Muffins

I am just going to ignore the fact that I haven’t updated this poor blog in over a month, as I would just bore you to tears with excuses and reasons why I haven’t been around. ‘Tis the season to be outside, working on gardens, doing homesteading chores… I mean how can you say no to this face?

(for more of my homesteading activities see my blog Got Goats?)

(and catching up with the rest of the world by reading The Hunger Games and watching the first season of Game of Thrones).
I’ll leave it at that.

I can’t even take credit for this recipe I am going to share with you, even though I did modify it a bit. But they were too good not to share with you. The recipe comes from one of my very favorite baking cookbooks – The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts: Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Often Egg Free – this book is terrific. In fact, this one cookbook has really changed my life since going gluten-free 3 years ago. I love it because I can make and eat every single recipe in it without tweaking. If that weren’t enough, all of the recipes I have made from it, which are constantly increasing in numbers, are perfect – they always work, always taste divine and even fool those who don’t have to worry about gluten or grains. Did I mention that the recipes are also very simple to make? I mean what more could you possibly want? What can I say, I am an enormous fan.

These muffins are light and flavorful. They are perfect for breakfast, as an afternoon snack with tea or a nice way to end dinner. Once you finish your first batch, I bet you’ll be whipping up another soon after! They go fast!

Grain Free Almond Raspberry Muffins (adapted from The Spunky Coconut’s Aspen Almond Muffins)

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup of applesauce
1/3 cup honey
3 eggs at room temperature
½ cup coconut oil, liquefied
2 cups almond meal
½ cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup fresh raspberries

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Then add to it the rest (except the berries), then mix with a hand mixer or food processor until incorporated. Then fold in the berries (The Spunky Coconut recommends strawberries). Spoon into muffin wrappers or a silicone muffin tray and bake for 25 minutes.