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

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.

Thai Inspired Noodle Stir Fry

 

I don’t normally cook Asian cuisine at home, but have been known to put on a sushi party every now and then! With allergies to both gluten and soy it is hard finding recipes that don’t include these common ingredients and I can never go out to eat since most places use these ingredients. But recently I have re-discovered Thai and Vietnamese, cuisines that don’t rely on those ingredients but instead fresh flavors like lime, cilantro, mint, fish sauce and rice noodles. I am also a sucker for the crushed peanut garnishes…

(My first homemade Pad Thai)

We have a few decent Thai and Vietnamese places in Vermont, but they are at least an hour away from us. So I started making it at home. We had friends over for dinner a few weeks ago and I tried my hand at making the classic dishes, Pad Thai and Chicken Satay  (based on the recipes that are highlighted). It was a lot of fun to make and both dishes turned out delicious. After working with traditional recipes and wrapping my head around the flavor profile, I have started using these flavors often in my cooking, lately. I think this type of food lends itself well to the summer anyway; couple that with our garden and CSA bursting at the seams with fresh produce and immediately a delicious stir fry seemed like just the thing for dinner one night recently. It has literally been years since I made a stir fry and after this experience making it, I realized why it is such a popular go-to meal!

I had some leftover Pad Thai sauce and peanut sauce from the satay and so I used those in combination as my sauce. Then I scrounged around in my vegetable bin and took out everything that needed using. I knew I had some baby shrimp in the freezer and a plan started coming together. I also made a recent discovery of Miracle Noodle , a Shirataki noodle. Shirataki noodles are made from a white yam and are basically made up of water and fiber. They don’t have much of a taste on their own, but they are a great substitute for white rice noodles or glass noodles and are very light, as they contain no net carbohydrates. I used them for my Pad Thai and they worked great, so I knew they would be lovely with this stir fry.

This was a simple and quick meal to put together. If you don’t have all the vegetables I put in my stir fry, try using what you have on hand. This is what makes preparing a stir fry so fast and easy.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 1 whole kohlrabi, cut in thin circles, cut in half
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • ½ leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 TBS minced/grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/grated
  • ¾ cup peanut sauce http://www.shesimmers.com/2009/03/how-to-make-thai-peanut-sauce-my-moms.html
  • 2 16 oz packages of Miracle Noodle
  • A couple hand fulls of spinach
  • 1 cup of pre-cooked baby shrimp
  • Juice of one lime
  • ½ English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • sliced leek
  • crushed peanuts
  • cilantro and/or mint

METHOD: Heat coconut oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the kohlrabi and cook until nice and browned. Then add the carrots, leeks, ginger and garlic. Sautee until the carrot softens a bit (you want the end result to still be somewhat crunchy). Add the peanut sauce, add more coconut oil if it is too dry. Then add 2 packages of the noodles, stir constantly. Add the spinach and shrimp and cook until the spinach is wilted. Then remove the skillet from the heat and squeeze the lime juice over everything. Divide evenly between two bowls and garnish with the cucumber, leek, peanuts and cilantro/mint. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

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!