Super Chocolate Brownies

My cousin Kelly  is 6 months pregnant. She’s ecstatic and glowing and oh-so cute in her little dresses that show off a growing belly (and for once, the long-time  “Kelly belly” nickname actually makes some sense).

Anyways, I made these brownies a few days ago for her birthday. I thought about what I would want if I were pregnant. From what I hear, the closest I’ve ever come to that experience is the whole “that time of the month” situation. The bloating. The mood swings. The chocolate cravings. Oh — chocolate! (Sorry to my male readers — all 3 of you? — for having to endure the “girl talk” in this post).

Yes, I believe that if I were six months pregnant, I would most certainly want something very chocolaty. Pretty much all the time.  So of course I thought I had hit the jackpot of birthday treat ideas, until about halfway through the recipe when I realized that chocolate contains caffeine and pregnant women are supposed to limit caffeine intake. Pregnancy gift faux-pas? My research says no; chocolate in moderation is perfectly O.K. and perhaps even beneficial. Phew. But I suppose a whole pan of brownies to keep for myself wouldn’t be the worst thing ever…

Of course, I did test a few of the brownies on my fellow housemates before pawning them off to unsuspecting pregnant people. For those not keeping track, my “housemates” currently include my parents, husband and three dogs. Though not to worry, I didn’t test the brownies on the dogs (much to their dismay).

The brownies got a universal thumbs-up and were deemed “very chocolaty.” Perhaps I  really was channeling my inner pregnant woman. I did add a tablespoon of coffee substitute to the batter, as I’ve learned from my days as an Ina geek that coffee brings the chocolate out of chocolate dishes, adding intensity to the flavor. Again, keeping my audience in mind, I steered clear of real coffee and went with the fake stuff (which is surprising good in its own right, I must say).

And thus completes yet another gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free brownie adventure in my kitchen. With this recipe, I think my brownie count on this site is at six. I don’t know what it is with me and brownies. Truth be told, I think it’s the fact that every time I set out to make an old recipe, I’m out an ingredient and with that, a whole new recipe is born. Apparently, I can get very creative when I’m craving chocolate.

For a twist, I sprinkled these with chopped walnuts and gluten-free chocolate chips . It makes for a pretty presentation and adds a nice nutty flavor and crunch. Of course, these would also be good with more coarsely chopped nuts mixed into the batter.

Makes: 1 8×8″ pan (about 9 medium-large or 12 small squares)

Gluten-Free Very Chocolate Brownies:

¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon dry Ener-G egg replacer

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon instant coffee or gluten-free grain coffee substitute*

¾ cup applesauce

¾ cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup coconut oil (liquefied), plus more for greasing

1/4 cup crushed walnuts and 2 tbsp. gluten-free chocolate chips (optional) for topping

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Lightly grease an 8×8″ glass pan with coconut oil and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee/coffee substitute and egg replacer. Add in applesauce, agave, coconut oil and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
4. Pour batter into pre-greased dish. Sprinkle with walnuts and chocolate chips and very lightly press into top of batter. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brownies bounce back when pressed. Cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

* I used Dandy Blend instant herbal coffee substitute.


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Chewy, Gooey Pumpkin Bars

Lately, I’ve been involved in a head-on battle with what I’ve now dubbed my Achilles heel of baking: muffins. Truth be told, I’ve always considered myself more of a “cook” than a baker, but I’ve had my fair share of successes, of which I’ve posted on this site. But muffins have always brought me some difficulty. Issues with texture, dryness, sweetness and flavor plague my muffin endeavors more often than not. Occasionally I get it right. Usually I don’t. For some reason, though, I decided that this week would be the week I mastered muffins. Judging from this post, I think you can guess that muffins, it turns out, “mastered” me. Well, let’s just say we’re currently at an impasse, and I’m contemplating my next move. Just to give you an idea of how many muffins I’ve made in the past week, take a look at the collage of muffin photos I’ve taken:

…and that’s just a sampling.

In the meantime, I decided to go a different route. With fall permeating the air (the cool breezes, the shorter days, the Cicadas chirping in the evening…) my muffin-weary mind naturally turned to pumpkin. My intention was to create a cake-like bar, and was thus disappointed upon realizing these bars turned out far from cakey. I was not in the mood for another baking failure. But upon reconsideration, I opened my mind to the notion of a chewier bar. My mind was even more open to this idea when I tasted one bite. Then another. Then another…until I realized I was slightly addicted to these enigmatically chewy little bars.

My trusty taste testers (who had mixed reviews on many of my muffin attempts) were all unanimously fans of these as well. Phew. I couldn’t take another recipe “failure.” Though shouldn’t say the word “fail”… In my state of muffin frustration, my dad shared with me Thomas Edison’s view on the concept of failure: “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I appreciate Mr. Edison’s sentiment, but there’s a fundamental flaw in applying his logic to baking: testing light bulbs, as far as I know, won’t make you fat.

Gluten-Free Chewy, Gooey Pumpkin Bars:

2 cups brown rice flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups canned (unsweetened) pumpkin

1 cup coconut nectar

1 cup hot water

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

Frosting:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour

1/4 cup coconut nectar

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

water as needed

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, xanthan gum, salt and spices. Add wet ingredients (in no particular order) and whisk until everything is incorporated. Pour batter into a greased, 9×13″ and bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until center bounces back when pressed. Let cool on a wire rack.

3. To make frosting, blend all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth, adding water as needed until frosting reaches desired consistency. Spread frosting over pumpkin bars as they cool. Let cool completely before slicing. I actually like chilling these in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, as the flavor tends to intensify and texture improves, though this is optional.

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Chewy, No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

My aunt gave me the idea for these chewy, almost-raw gluten free cookies from a recipe she uses. Hers incorporated melted chocolate chips, for a decadent yet easy vegan treat. I decided to use the extra coconut nibs that I had on hand instead of the chocolate chips (for some reason, I keep buying cocoa nibs yet fail to find viable everyday uses for them. Looks like I found a solution in these cookies).

These cookies can double as an after-school or midday snack. They’re sweetened with date and coconut nectar, which makes for a healthier, lower-glycemic treat. What I didn’t account for was the fact that both of these ingredients lend an ultra-chewy texture, evoking a decadence that belies the super healthy ingredient list.

I’ve also struggled as of late to come up with some dessert ideas that are simple enough to satisfy any dessert craving at a moment’s notice. When I was living in New York City, I had the luxury of a sugar-free, vegan ice cream shop in my neighborhood that also sold sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan baked goods. Therefore, on the off-chance that I wasn’t in the mood for any more baking — or cleaning the kitchen, for that matter — I could send my husband walk a few blocks and purchase something perfectly-suited to my diet nearly whenever a craving stuck (alas, there were some 2 a.m. cravings that could not be satisfied).

Living in the midwest again has fostered a new sort of creativity in the quick-fix dessert department. Although these should chill in the refrigerator for maximum firmness, I’ve never been one to not lick the spoon and bowl, which is just enough sweetness to get me through the hour, before the rest of the batch is ready to eat.

Yield: approximately 15 cookies

No Bake, Chewy Chocolate Cookies:

1 cup gluten-free quick-cooking rolled oats*

10 medjool dates, pitted

½ cup cocoa nibs

¼ cup coconut nectar**

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tablespoons almond butter

Directions:

Place everything in food processor and process until clumps form and “batter” holds together. Form heaping tablespoons into a smooth sphere, then press into parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat for remaining cookies and chill in refrigerator for approximately an hour.

* As I always mention when I include oats in my recipes, even the purest of gluten-free oats cannot be tolerated by some people with Celiac Disease. Be sure you’re one of those people who can tolerate them before using. Alternately, if you are not gluten-intolerant, feel free to use regular quick-cooking rolled oats, as they tend to be cheaper.

** I’m sure brown rice syrup would work fine. Less sure about agave nectar but I would imagine it would yield a slightly sweeter, less chewy result.

 

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

It’s here! It’s here! Rhubarb season is here!

I couldn’t contain my excitement when I spotted my first bunch of the season at Detroit’s Eastern Market this morning. I was too excited, in fact, that I did that thing where I grabbed the first bunch I could see and immediately bought it, as if this one vendor were the only vendor selling rhubarb at the market (not the case) and as if everyone else had been looking forward to rhubarb season with the same amount of intensity and fervor as I had (which also seemed to be highly unlikely, based on my later observations). I bought two bunches before realizing that rhubarb was, in fact, abundantly in season and available almost everywhere, as my mom had correctly predicted (while warning me not to buy the first bunch I saw). As I strolled (or should I say “pushed my way through the unprecedented, dense crowds”?) from one end of the market to the other, it seemed as if everyone was selling rhubarb and as if every bunch were somehow even more enticing than the last. In the end, I managed to leave with only three bunches. I now have one bunch left to experiment with after making this crisp (anyone have suggestions??).

Being a rhubarb enthusiast, it has always been against my inclination to give it the classic treatment by pairing it with strawberries. Rhubarb can be so great on its own (well, not totally on its own…like, I wouldn’t eat it raw). It also goes great with cardamom. Or peaches. Or lemon zest. I’ve experimented with plenty of such recipes (rhubarb-lemon compote, rhubarb-cardamom ice cream, rhubarb cobbler…). It therefore just occurred to me that, rhubarb not exactly being a staple in my childhood, I have never actually tried rhubarb-strawberry anything. Go figure. Now, after all these years, I finally know why it’s the most popular. Thank you,  rhubarb-strawberry crisp, for enlightening me.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp:

Filling:

4 cups fresh strawberries, quartered

4 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped

2 tablespoons brown rice flour

1/4 cup coconut crystals

Topping:

3/4 cup brown rice flour

3/4 cup coconut crystals

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, toss ingredients for filling so that strawberries and rhubarb are evenly coated with flour/sweetener. Turn out into a deep-dish 9″ pie dish or 8-8″ square baking dish. Prepare topping by combining first three ingredients. Add buttery spread and break up evenly into topping using fingers. Sprinkle evenly over filling.

3. Bake crisp in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until sides are bubbly and top is golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20-30 minutes before serving.

 

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Sugar-Free Berry Cobbler

Forgive me, as this is far from the most refined photo I’ve taken. It seems to have slipped my mind lately that I have a blog that might benefit from an updated post every now and then. When my mom asked me if I could make a dessert with the frozen blueberries she was looking to get rid of, my mind didn’t immediately go to blog recipe. I baked what I thought would be an adequate, but not memorable, cobbler. But halfway through eating it, I had an idea. Hey, Beth, why don’t you post this recipe to your blog? You know, that website you used to update on a somewhat regular basis with new recipes? And so, I ran to get my camera (which has been gathering dust in my bedroom as of late) and snapped a few shots of this half-eaten cobbler as if it would be gone if I waited any longer (which it almost was).

In the spirit of my upcoming trip to L.A. for my nephew’s baptism (!!!), I made this cobbler entirely with stevia (a zero calorie sweetener), used only 2 tablespoons of oil, and made this with whole grain brown rice flour. Not to mention this dessert is, by definition, comprised mostly of fruit. I know it’s a little early for fresh berries (not to mention STILL too cold around here to begin even dreaming of such a thing), but I love the fact that frozen berries mean never having to wait until July to make a good cobbler.

Berry Cobbler:

I’ll remind those looking to make this dessert that NuNaturals stevia is sort of one of those non-negotiables. If substitutions with the stevia are made, it’s highly likely the end product will taste much different than it should. This recipe was inspired by Susan O’Brien’s Blackberry Cobbler recipe in Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking.

Berry Filling:

4 cups frozen blueberries

3 cups frozen raspberries

1/4 teaspoon NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia

zest of one lemon

2 1/2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

Topping:

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon Ener-G egg replacer

1/2 cup Wholesoy & Co. plain, unsweetened soy yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia

2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a 9×13″ baking dish, toss ingredients for berry filling and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, egg replacer and baking soda. Add remaining ingredients and stir until incorporated. Add dollops of batter evenly over top of berries.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until very bubbly and top is golden brown. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving, so berry filling can set. Serve with your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream for an especially delicious treat!

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Gluten-Free Quinoa Cookies

I realize that in the world of Celiacs and those who are gluten intolerant, “oats” can often be a controversial subject. Between the cross-contamination issues and gluten-like properties, oats have a reputation for bringing on many of the symptoms that we in the allergy-free world try to avoid. Still, there are very few things I can think of that are quite so comforting as a warm, chewy oatmeal cookie. And I’ve been craving them recently. My craving for oats brought on some experimentation with what I thought might be a passable substitute: quinoa flakes. But when I made my first batch of quinoa cookies, I realized that I had thought wrong. Quinoa flakes were more than just passable; they might even be better.

Rich and chewy, with the slightest amount of crispness around the edges, these cookies have the unmistakable nuttiness of quinoa. My dad — ever the Top Chef judge at heart, even if he doesn’t know it —  referred to their flavor as “subtle yet complex.” I, for one, love the flavor, but also don’t mind the fact that quinoa packs a punch of protein in a way oats never could. It’s a great excuse to sneak these as a mid-afternoon snack.

Oh, and my apologies to anyone who has a coconut allergy. I realize I’ve been on a bit of a coconut streak lately — I’m admittedly craving it in pretty much everything I make. I will concentrate next week’s baking efforts on something that is coconut free.

Yield: 20-24 cookies per batch

Quinoa Cookies:

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

1 cup quinoa flakes*

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/3 cup coconut oil, liquified

1/2 cup coconut nectar**

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries or raisins

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, quinoa flakes, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, xanthan gum and coconut. Add coconut oil, coconut nectar, applesauce and vanilla and stir gently to incorporate, then use hands to form ingredients into a cookie dough. Dough should be slightly sticky but workable. Add cranberries/raisins and fold in with hands.

3. Taking large tablespoonfuls of dough at a time, work dough with hands to form evenly-sized balls. Place on parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheet a few inches apart and slightly flatten with palm of your hand, creating evenly-shaped round cookies. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes (longer for a crispier edge), or until bottom of cookies are golden brown.

4. Gently remove cookies immediately to a wire rack to cool. Cookies will harden more as they cool, but should still remain soft and chewy. Enjoy!

* For those who can tolerate oats, 1 cup instant oats can be substituted for the quinoa flakes

** If you can’t find coconut nectar, you can TRY experimenting with other sweeteners. In my experience, substituting agave, at least, yields a drastically different texture. So experiment at your own risk! Lately, I have been finding coconut nectar at just about all of my local health food stores. I know it’s quite pricey, but it’s definitely the best choice for these cookies.

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Gluten-Free German Chocolate Cake

When I started this site, I set out to make dishes that were not just “good….for being gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free,” but also good in their own right. However clear this mission was, it was never so imperative as it was on Friday night, when I set out to bake a cake that was to be auctioned off for charity among a group of church members I would have to face again. The perfectionist in me (or should I say the perfectionist that I am) could never live with someone having purchased a mediocre cake. Which meant I spent a little bit longer than usual conceptualizing, writing, and ultimately executing this recipe, my show-offiest of cake recipes to date.

By the time the final layer was set — the coconut-pecan mixture lightly pressed on top — I had spent a good portion of my night and the next morning baking. I baked off a small cupcake-sized amount to taste-test, which confirmed that it was worth the extra effort. I decided it was.

That said, the lucky winner of this oh-so painstakingly created cake ended up being none other than my mom. Something about the “gluten-free,” “vegan,” “sugar-free” description just didn’t get the crowd too eager with their bids. Which is just as well, because really, nothing excites me more than shaking people of their notions that this type of eating is synonymous with deprivation. So when I started doling out slices to the diabetic at one table, the newfound celiac at another, I was delighted to watch their expressions shift from aprehension to pleasant surprise. I began to imagine this cake as not just a cake, but as a glimpse into a delicious world of possibilities, even  without the gluten, sugar, dairy or eggs.

Of course, this is a special occassion type of production, as it is a bit of an ordeal to make. This is the kind of dessert you look to when you want to be a show-off (and show your friends that you’re not missing out in the dessert world). But that doesn’t mean a modified version can’t be tackled on a smaller scale. German chocolate cupcakes, anyone?

The cake itself is quite moist; the frosting light and fluffly. It doesn’t have the exact makeup of a traditional German chocolate cake (not like you haven’t probably figured that out already), but the spirit is most definitely there.

Serves: 10-15

Chocolate Cake:

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour

6 tablespoons coconut flour

1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (non-alkalized)

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer

2 1/4 cups light agave nectar

3/4 cup coconut oil (liquified)

1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups light coconut milk

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Agave-Sweetened, Vegan “Buttercream”

1/2 cup soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread

5 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening

6 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons liquified coconut oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 tablespoons coconut flour

5 tablespoons cocoa powder

Toasted Pecan-Coconut Mixture:

1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

4 tablespoons agave nectar, divided

2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted

Directions:

1. For Cake: Lightly grease three 8-inch, round cake pans with some melted coconut oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and egg replacer until combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together coconut oil, agave and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly, on low speed, add in dry ingredients until incorporated. Beat in coconut milk and applesauce until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Pour equal amount of batter into each pre-greased pan, using a spatula to spread evenly and smooth out the top. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for about 1/2 hour. Gently flip to remove from pan and allow to cool completely on rack.

2. For frosting: Beat together first 5 ingredients with electric mixer fitted with a wire beater on high speed until smooth. Add in remaining ingredients and beat until incorporated. Refrigerate to set for about an hour, or until a bit more firm but still spreadable.

3. For coconut-pecan mixture: toss coconut and pecan with melted buttery spread and 2 tablespoons of agave. Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake in preheated, 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden. Let cool to crisp, then toss with remaining agave.

4. To assemble: Place bottom layer of cake on a large plate or tray. Spread about 1/3 of frosting (doens’t need to be a very thick layer) evenly over top. Sprinkle with coconut-pecan mixture, leaving some frosting showing so that the next layer will stick. Repeat with the second layer. To top: spread with remaining frosting just enought coconut and pecan so that the top is evenly covered, pressing down lightly into the top. If frosting seems a little loose, return cake to refrigerator so that the frosting can reset, about 30 minutes (it shouldn’t melt after this).

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Raspberry Brownie Bites

I’m one of those people who likes Valentine’s Day more than I should admit. While feigning apathy and even disdain for this so-called Hallmark Holiday, I secretly love the idea that there is one random night every year where you are justified in splurging on a date night dinner, even when the remaning 364(ish) days of the year are spent with dinner plates on your lap while watching T.V. on the couch (not that I’m thinking of any particular couple here…)

Gennaro has always had a knack for the sweet but not gushy or sentimental. He has also, at times (ok, only once), had a knack for shooting himself in the foot when it comes to V-day plans. A fews years ago — my first Valentine’s Day living out in New York — he made reservations at a new “it” spot in the West Village. It was overpriced and underportioned, and we both left hungry and one of us left a few hundred dollars poorer. All in the name of love!

The following year was more successful, to say the least, and illustrated what has always been quite clear about the man I married: he gets me. Around 11 p.m. on February 13th, I was presented with a “menu” for the following day, complete with breakfast, lunch and dinner plans at my favorite spots around NYC. Curly’s Vegetarian vegan pancakes for breakfast, Caracas for lunch, and a new Mexican spot I’d been dying to try for dinner. Gennaro also threw in “snack” plans for a trip to Babycakes for some gluten-free cupcakes and brownies, but needless to say we were so stuffed after lunch (which was a stretch after our hearty breakfast as it was) that we nixed those plans in favor of a nice stroll around the East Village on that unusually warm February day. Did I land an awesome guy or what?

As you may have guessed, I made these brownie bites as a nod to Valentine’s Day — a day that it not entirely complete without a little chocolate. Ironically, these were inspired by those served at Babycakes, the one spot we never made it to on our February 14th NYC eating tour a few years ago.

Photo Courtesy of Linda Wan Photography

Raspberry Brownie Bites:

Yield: 24

Brownies are a contentious subject among many. I like mine super chocolately and not super sweet, kind of like a morsel of good, dark chocolate. If you refrigerate these they get even more fudgy, so feel free to do so. Note: for best results, use silicone muffin cups, which allow you to pop the brownie bites easily out of each cup after baking. 

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup liquified coconut oil

1/3 cup coconut nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 hot water

1/4 cup brewed coffee

a few tablespoons raspberry fruit spread

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add remaining ingredients except for fruit spread and whisk until just incorporated.

3. Spoon tablespoon-sized scoops of batter into mini muffin cups (I used silicone cups, as the brownies pop out really easily this way). Using a 1/4 teaspoon rounded measure, scoop out raspberry fruit spread and place on top of each brownie, pressing in gently.

4. Bake in preheated oven until tops begin to crack and bounce back slightly when pressed, about 10-15 minutes (brownies, I find, can vary greatly depending on preference and oven). Set on a wire rack to cool, about 10 minutes, before removing from cups.

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Toasted Coconut Macaroons

Hey, everyone. I feel like it’s been forever, though in reality it’s not even been a week since my last post. There have been so many developments and changes in my life, I don’t know where to start! As far as news goes, I did manage to get a job that I really love. The bad news is that it might take us out of New York… But, more on that later; we’re still working out some of the details. Although I should clarify that I’m not necessarily looking at it as “bad” news — it’s more of a bittersweet feeling. A bright future; a bright city to leave behind.

Well, as you might imagine, I’ve been a bit busier in the past week than I was when I was unemployed. Remember my whole rant about being a “night owl/morning person” a few weeks back? Well, I’m no longer either. I both go to bed early and hate waking up to an alarm clock in the mornings. Other than that, though, (and again, I will provide more details in the months ahead), I have the opportunity to do something I’ve only dreamed was possible: feeling wholly fulfilled in my career. The downside (aside from my alarm clock in the morning) is that all of my energy goes into doing well at work, and I have little left over when I get home to cook anything, let alone write posts.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still thinking about recipes all the time, though. I actually made these coocnut macaroons last week. My mom has implored me not to make them again because she liked them “too much” (oh, yeah, I’m living with my parents temporarily, too. But more on that later as well. Don’t worry; all is well with the hubs! …I told you there were a lot of changes going on!) I wanted to make a lower-carb, grain-free recipe for awhile and this one certainly fits that description (plus, they’re vegan, obviously). Although these are not low in fat, if you make them into small clusters as I did, you won’t have to feel too guilty about enjoying one or two (if you have the willpower to resist going for more).

Coconut Macaroons:

1 ½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder/flour

2 tablespoons coconut flour

¼ cup light coconut milk

½ cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until combined and sticky. Form into small mounds using a rounded tablespoon measure and lay flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet (if mixture is too dry and falls apart, add a bit more coconut milk. If it’s too wet add a bit more coconut).

2. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.

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Crispy Gingersnaps

To say that I’m a homebody is something of an understatement. I’ve said before that my favorite part of a night out is coming home to my pajamas — and I much prefer a night in at that. I spent most of the summer — against all advice to the contrary — studying for the bar exam in my apartment, watching the lectures online and taking practice exams in my sweats. With the exception of the occasional trip to my favorite coffee shop, I was content (as content as you can be studying for the bar) with this staying at home approach.  Maybe it’s just me, but spending half an hour (or more) to get ready and pack my books and snacks, then another 20 minutes to walk to the library where I would inevitably search for a good spot away from distraction, freeze in the air conditioning, and get hungry at some point and have to go out to buy some lunch just seems to add more stress than is necessary to the already stressful process of studying.

The same reasoning applies when I cook. If I can make something with what I have at home, I’d rather put off a hectic trip to the store, waiting in long lines and braving the cold. So even though I’ve had this recent obsession with making some sort of a chocolate-orange bread this week, I ran out of oranges this afternoon and decided against running out for more, which left little else but some pantry items and a few randomly purchased limes. I’ve been oggling Elana’s Ginger Cookie recipe for quite some time, and figured my recent purchase of ground ginger was a sign that I finally needed to tackle my own version of this classic treat…

I used yacon syrup in these cookies for the molasses-like color and taste, but without the high-glycemic index and with an added prebiotic boost. Yacon is one of those ingredients I’m hesitant to experiment with — at over $13 a (small) bottle, it’s a bit of a risk. It’s also hard to find around here, so I order mine online. So basically, if I screw up a recipe using yacon, not only am I out 13 bucks, but I need to go online and order some more. Not cool. Still, my (online) friend (sadly, I’ve never actually met her) and anti-candida diet baking pro Ricki Heller tells me that yacon is safe on a candida diet. Plus, its unparalleled unique flavor makes it hard to resist entirely.

Well, I guess I got lucky this time around. Not only were these cookies a success , but they might actually be my favorite thing I’ve baked to date. They’re not too sweet (yacon yields a sort of understated sweetness), quite gingery and spicy (beware gingerphobes, this one’s not for you!), and perfectly crisp. They’re also a great gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan holiday cookie option, both for parties and for gifts. I used lime zest here because, well, I had no other “zests” available. And while I actually thought the lime worked really nicely with the other flavors here, I’m pretty sure lemon or orange zest would be good as well.

Yield: about 14 cookies

Crispy Gingersnaps:

Note that almond flours can vary significantly among brands. So if you’re using another brand of almond flour, be aware that results may vary , and that you may need to increase the amount of shortening or liquid to compensate (in my experience, other almond flours tend to be less “wet” than Bob’s Red Mill).

½ cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour

1 cup + 2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour (not cornmeal)

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons ground ginger

5 tablespoons Spectrum organic shortening

½ cup yacon syrup

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

zest of 1 lime

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, run flours, baking soda, salt and ginger through for about 10 seconds, or until flours are fine and ingredients are combined. Add remaining ingredients and process until dough comes together into a ball. Dough should hold together loosely, and will seem slightly more “wet” than a typical cookie dough.

3. Roll tablespoon-sized pieces of dough with palms into even spheres. Lay on parchement-lined baking sheet, a couple inches apart, and slightly flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake in preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, or until cookies are browned around the edges and golden brown on top. Let cool for a few minutes on the parchment before removing to a wire rack to cool completely (note: cookies will harden as they cool).

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