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).

Orange Olive Oil Bread (paleo, gluten-free, dairy free)

 

Orange Olive Oil Bread

This is my first post in a very long time, but recently I have been inspired to start blogging a bit as I have made some very delicious recipes from some cookbooks I have received over the last month that I wanted to share with my readers, if you are still out there J

As I prepare to give birth to my first child in about a month, I have been looking for recipes that are easy to make and can be frozen. I plan to stock my freezer with these kinds of foods for the first few weeks after the baby is born – and this delicious recipe is definitely in the mix! If you have some great ideas, please come on over to my facebook page and add links to the thread for your favorite freezable items – casseroles, breads, muffins, etc.

I love this bread and I can’t wait to make it again. It smelled so good while I was mixing and baking it. It is moist, soft and extremely fragrant with the oranges and the olive oil – a classic Mediterranean flavor combination. I have been enjoying it all week for breakfast slathered in butter and served with a bowl of homemade goat yogurt and fruit. It is very filling and perfect for these hot summer days. In the winter I can see this bread going well topped with a rosemary compound butter.

This recipe comes from the book Paleo Indulgences: Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes to Satisfy Your Primal Cravings. I have modified the recipe somewhat. First, I doubled the recipe so that it would fit in a normal loaf pan (the original recipe is for 2 mini loaf pans). I also used almond flour instead of hazelnut flour, because I didn’t have any hazelnut flour and finally, I used honey instead of maple, and I didn’t increase the amount when I doubled the recipe, in fact I lessened it. For one, I think honey pairs better with the Mediterranean flavors of olive oil and orange and secondly, 2/3 cup of honey would be too sweet for this recipe, by my taste buds. Go ahead and taste the batter before you decide for yourself the level of sweetness that you need.

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup coconut flour
2/3 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
10 eggs
1/4 cup honey
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest and juice from 2 medium oranges

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350F. Place dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients and blend well with a hand-mixer (I used  my Kitchenaid for this recipe and it worked great – so I mixed the wet ingredients first and then added the dry).  Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil or butter. Bake 35-40 minutes or until the center of the loaf springs back when lightly pressed. Cool 10 minutes in the pan and turn onto a wire rack to cool. Store in fridge, but can be frozen for up to 2 months.

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.

Two Simple Chia Pudding Recipes (dairy free, grain free)

 

(Simple Chia Seed Pudding)

Pudding is one of my favorite desserts – I love the creamy texture and the multitude of ways that you change it up once you have a good base. Normally during the week we have homemade yogurt with fruit for dessert and in the summertime we also enjoy coconut milk ice creams and kefir or yogurt “ice cream” . My husband, Roberto is lactose intolerant but does fine with cultured milk products, so I tend to use these bases when making desserts. Personally I love them and don’t miss the traditional ice creams very much at all!

When I make desserts for us at home during the week, I am looking for something healthy and quick that I can make with ingredients I have on hand. I don’t want to have to wash a lot of pans, or spend a lot of time at the stove, tempering eggs and what not. So if I can get out of cooking the dessert, all the better.

I want to share with you two simple versions of chia seed pudding. It took me a while to get on the chia bandwagon. For a long time, all I could think about when I heard the name is those ugly chia pets. I am still not actually sure if they are related. I started finding people posting all these delicious and simple dessert recipes with chia seeds and I decided to try them, for convenience.

Chia seeds really are amazing. If you are egg free (which I am NOT thank the Gods) they can be a real life-saving ingredient, since they are a great “glue” and binder, not only in baked goods, but also in puddings. Chia has been around for a long time, used in pre-Columbian times by the Aztec. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and ALA. They are also high in protein as well as phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium.

Chia seeds are used often in the raw food community, which is where I found the first recipe that I want to share. I found lots of delicious raw desserts on Sweetly Raw, including “Ways with Chia”. I used the recipe for Basic Chia Pudding. Sometimes I use yogurt as the base and other times I use coconut milk. I find it is really good with a fruit compote. The one pictured is a simple strawberry compote I made using fresh strawberries and cooking them down with a little honey over a low heat until it was the right consistency. So simple!

The other night I wanted something warm for dessert. So I decided to cook a quick pudding. This time I used chia seeds, arrowroot powder, coconut milk, and some spices. I served it with sliced bananas and warmed almond butter drizzled over the whole thing. It was delicious and thinking about it right now makes me want to have it for dessert tonight! These also make good breakfasts.

Each of these puddings takes just a few minutes to put together. They both require very few ingredients and they both allow you to get creative with toppings, spices and flavorings. If you haven’t tried chia seeds yet, I definitely suggest it!

Basic Chia Pudding (cold) (from SweetlyRaw)

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup coconut or almond milk or yogurt
1-2 tablespoons chia seed
Vanilla bean and a pinch of salt (optional)

METHOD:
Shake 1 cup coconut milk with chia seed in a jar with a tight lid.
Allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes for the chia to swell completely.
Add toppings of your choice!

Basic Chia Pudding (warm or cold)

INGREDIENTS:
2 cans coconut milk
2 TBS chia seeds, ground
2 TBS arrowroot powder
¼ cup honey, maple, palm sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon

METHOD:
Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the sweetener, chia seeds and the arrowroot powder and whisk almost constantly until it begins to boil. Lower heat to simmer and continue to whisk for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon. At this point it will be a bit thinner than traditional pudding, but will firm up nicely in the fridge if you’d rather serve it cold.

Dutch, Finnish or German? (My Pancake Has an Identity Crisis)

 

(…or maybe it is just a cultural mutt, like so many of us?)

I like to make connections in food preparation. It is the anthropologist in me. I am not satisfied just eating a deliciously prepared recipe. If it is unique, even if it is a common staple, I want to understand its origins, how it evolved and what makes it shine and how to make it gluten free! Every food has its own history, its own story of conception and origin. That is why I love historic recipes. I like to think about the first person who paired certain available ingredients and created what today remains a staple classic.

Learning about where a food comes from, tells you a lot about that place – what resources were common and available, how people prepared meals and in what vessels, what kind of crops or foods were in their environment? This is the kind of thing that endlessly fascinates me and takes me on my own culinary journey. This is why I am always saying you can learn so much about your ancestry by the foods of that culture – they are just a window to the rest of it.

By now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know about my love for pancakes and how they are a Sunday morning tradition on the homestead. You know the whole history, how I never liked them growing up, fell in love with crepes and other thin pancakes, struggled with gluten free pancake making etc. So although I have many pancake recipes that I love to make every week, I am always looking for other pancake recipes. I just can’t help myself!

I have come across a wonderful type of pancake recently – like a cake that you make in a cast iron pan (imagine that! Pan Cake) yet I have heard them referred to in several different ways: Dutch, Finnish and German. But as far as I can see, they all have the same basic recipe, flour milk and lots of eggs. So which is it? How did they get these very specific place names?

Wikipedia says the Dutch Baby and German Pancake are one in the same, and similar to a Yorkshire Pudding. The recipe derived from the German Apfelpfannkuchen – a type of apple pancake. It then goes on to say that the moniker Dutch Baby comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch, German-American immigrants, where “Dutch” is a corruption of the German Deutsch.

The Finnish Pancake, called Pannukakku in Finnish, has considerably less information about its origin. One blog post claims that what makes it Finnish is “that they are pancaked in the oven rather than the stove top”. Yet, we know that the Dutch/German version is also baked in the oven. So not really accurate, nor enough of an origin story for me. So I searched and searched and could not find any clarifying information and there is not much history between the two countries before the Second World War that I can discover in a quick search – any Finnish readers of my blog know more?

Regardless, these pancakes are really delicious – I especially liked its almost custard-like texture. When I made one for us a few Sundays ago, I topped it with sautéed apples and dusted it with powdered maple sugar, as a nod to the Apfelpfannkuchen. In Finland they are typically topped with berries and whipped cream and served around the summer solstice. So you still have some time to play with recipes and toppings before then!

(puffy right out of the oven)

As a basic recipe, I recommend Kelly’s from The Spunky Coconut, it is the one I used and it works perfectly, even though it isn’t totally traditional, it is gluten, grain and dairy free and the result looks just like all the other ones out there. If you would rather use milk instead of coconut milk, it should work just as well. The only thing I changed from Kelly’s recipe is that I used honey instead of stevia (I think I used about 2 TBS). This pancake puffs up in the oven, and then falls. If this happens, don’t worry, it is supposed to! Enjoy some this weekend!

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!

Oladyi : Russian Yogurt Pancakes

 

(Oladyi topped with currants)

Yes, I realize that I missed International Pancake Day, but then again, I am not usually one to follow the herd. In fact, I have been meaning to post about these pancakes for a while because we have been enjoying them more times than not on Pancake Sunday- so I thought posting them on a Friday could get you thinking about making these for a wonderful weekend breakfast!

Pancake Sunday is a tradition in our house. It came from those dark days when I was both gluten and egg free for a time and ended up crying over pancakes. Yes, crying, and this folks is why I will never give up eggs again. But what I was so upset about was missing pancakes, the girl who grew up never liking pancakes, but went to live in Norway and fell in love with them. It is funny the things you miss the most when you can’t have them. This is when I realized pancakes needed to be celebrated on a weekly basis and not a Sunday has gone by without them since.

So in my journey to find amazing, delicious gluten free pancakes, we have tried many kinds and have found some favorites: Buckwheat Pancakes, Coconut Flour Pancakes, Norske Pannekakker  (grain free) and for those of you who are not gluten-free I suggest Sourdough Crepes and Aebelskiver.

Recently we have added Oladyi to our list and currently these are the reigning favorites! I got this recipe from my friend Sofya, who blogs over at The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter . I made a few changes to her recipe to make them gluten free, so you can feel free to do them either way, depending on your dietary needs. These pancakes are referred to in this house as “the pancakes that eat themselves” – they are light, airy and disappear quickly! They are also good if you make more than you will eat and put the extras in the freezer to have later in the week. This way they can also be a quick and easy mid-week breakfast.

Sofya says that these pancakes are great to make when your yogurt is starting to go bad. So if you are thinking it is time to use up some old yogurt, these are a perfect way to enjoy it!

Oladyi: The Russian Yogurt Pancakes (adapted from A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter )

INGREDIENTS:

2 C plain yogurt (going bad OK) – I usually use up my filmjölk before it is time to make another batch
enough flour to make a medium-thick batter (one that holds its shape but is still a liquid rather than a paste) – I usually use about 1 ½ cups of freshly ground buckwheat flour.
2 eggs
2 TBS honey, maple or even molasses
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
butter for frying

METHOD:
Mix flour and yogurt together and let rest overnight (I leave it out on the counter). Next morning preheat cast iron skillet or pancake grill. Mix in the rest of the ingredients (add more flour if needed). Heat butter in the skillet and spoon the batter in. I usually use 1/3 cup for each pancake. Cook until you see bubbles and flip. When I make pancakes, I usually preheat my oven to 200-250 F and place cooked pancakes on a cookie sheet in the oven to keep warm while the others cook. Serves 4 or 2 people with leftovers. Recipe is easily doubled!

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.