[Seems to be "dessert week" on DDD! Here's another healthy recipe for you today, the second in a trio of "good for you" desserts that can all be served up to those you love for Valentine's Day: the first was Butterscotch Pudding that can improve heart health; and the final installment is coming up on Thursday with a beautiful, decdadent, traditional V-Day treat revamped to be super-quick and healthier. Be sure to come back and check that one out, too!]
I’ve never really understood the expression, “easy as pie.” In the home of my childhood, it was more like “almost-unheard-of-plus-totally frustrating-and-usually-botched-results” as pie. Although my mom was a superlative baker, the one thing she almost never made (and when she did, it wasn’t very good) was pie. Give her a cookie dough, and she could nail it; a chiffon cake was her speciality; and cheesecake–no problem. But pie crust somehow eluded her.
As a result, neither one of my sisters nor I excel at pie or pie crust. In fact, the only pie my mother ever baked was called “Chocolate Dream Pie,” and as I recall, and it consisted of one ready-made storebought crust filled with chocolate cake batter and baked. In other words, the only pie in her repertoire was actually a cake.
My mom’s sister, Auntie M, on the other hand, a former caterer who excelled in the kitchen well into until her final years-well, she could bake anything.
Like so many pairs of sisters, my mother and aunt were more dissimilar than alike. Mom was softspoken, with a quiet, murmuring voice and (despite her hefty weight) a delicate frame, with tiny ankles and wrists. Her thin, fine hair was the color of wax beans. Auntie M, in contrast, was taller and broad, with sturdy legs thick as telephone poles. Her height was enhanced by the towering beehive of coarse, mahogany hair; her gravelly voice was both commanding and insistent, paired with an easy laugh and an equally easy tendency to criticize. My mother, the younger, was also “the pretty one,” while Auntie M was more what used to be described as a “Handsome” woman (think Mrs. Doubtfire with dark hair). Tough on the outside, she rarely revealed an inner softness, like a cautious turtle peeking out of its shell only when every possible threat is removed.
At once assertive and strong, Auntie M embodied the concept of pure domesticity, yet without even a whiff of the usual sense in which women are considered domestic. She was an archetypal feminist, one who encouraged independence, intelligence, strength and self-sufficiency all within the realm of marriage–and I believed she could accomplish anything. I idolized her, and in many ways wanted to be her (well, minus the shapeless legs).
When I was about 16, I spent a couple of weeks living at my aunt's house after she had broken her arm. While ostensibly there to help her keep up with housework, my role as her personal assistant quickly morphed into culinary protégé as well. It was under her tutelage that I first learned aboutmis en place (though of course she didn't call it that), which I had never encountered before; she also taught me about professional wash-up technique, filling one sink with soapy water, the other with clear and washing the least-dirtied dishes and utensils (such as glasses or cutlery) first, reusing the water for the more grimy pots and pans at the end. I discovered how rotating your baking pans halfway through the cooking time helps to compensate for uneven oven heat, allowing for a smooth, even top to cakes and breads; how sifting flours helps to aerate and separate out impurities like pebbles or bran; and how using an ice cream scoop creates perfectly measured, uniformly sized cookies.
The one thing that Auntie M never got round to teaching me, unfortunately, was how to bake a pie (though I have no doubt that, if she had, it would have been stellar). After years of promising myself that I'd tackle the skill on my own, I suddenly switched to gluten-free baking a few years back, which means that most of my crusts are now "pat-in" versus "roll-out." (Though if you're looking for a good rollable GF pie crust, you must try the one I used in this tortière, which I found on Maggie's blog). As a result, I still have a bit of an irrational aversion to making pie crust (though I did manage to create two fabulous crusts for the upcoming cookbook).
So you can see why I was elated to come across this recipe for Granola Topped Blueberry Pie Bars in Hallie's latest cookbook, Super Healthy Cookies: They're just like pie--without the pie! If you haven't checked out the book yet, I'd highly recommend it: with 50 recipes for healthy cookies from fruity to chocolate to bars to special occasion and more, it also provides a great glossary of ingredients, a resource guide, tips and tricks throughout, and a fantastic appendix of all the recipes listed by different diet type (eg, vegan and egg-free, grain-free, nut-free) plus a list according to taste prefernces (eg, sweet and salty, chocolatey, warm and toasty spices, etc.). All in all, it's full of the healthy, delicious recipes and useful information I've come to expect from Hallie's work!
This recipe is actually not even listed in the "vegan" section, but it was a snap to adapt to my ACD diet. I used The Vegg (vegan yolk) instead of the egg yolk listed, and subbed coconut nectar for maple syrup (obviously, you could make the recipe exactly as written if it jibes with your own diet). I also loved the "sweetness scale" next to each recipe (this was a "two spoon" treat, right in the middle of the scale).
These bars came together incredibly easily. In less than 45 minutes, the HH and I had a fruity, crumbly, warm and inviting pie-like dessert. To make the bars a bit more indulgent for the HH (he does love his creamy desserts), I topped his with a dollop of coconut whipped cream. These do, indeed, taste very pie-like and indulgent--and the HH consumed nearly half the pan in only 2 days! You should have no qualms at all serving these bars as Valentine's Day treats; they live up to a special occasion with the bursting-with-berries filling and yet are made with whole, healthy ingredients. They also fall into my very favorite dessert category: those that can be eaten as breakfast!
Despite the ease of preparation, I'd never call them "easy as pie," though. Unless, of course, we're talking about eating them.
Hallie says: "I took one bite of these bars and my taste buds shouted, 'Hello, Blueberry Pie!' The moist crust and crunchy topping of these bars paired with the juicy blueberry filling is just sublime. Don't let the rather long list of ingredients scare you. They're very easy to make." I agree! And equally easy to adapt to my diet. I've included my changes in square brackets, below.
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Grease an 8 x 8 inch (20 cm) baking dish with coconut oil.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the oats, brown rice flour, coconut sugar, psyllium husks, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt for 20 seconds. Add the coconut oil, applesauce, and egg yolk. Process to combine. Using moist hands, pat half of the dough firmly and evenly into the greased baking dish. Crumble the remaining dough into a bowl and mix in the the pecans and raisins. Set aside.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix together the blueberries, honey, lemon juice, and arrowroot starch. Spoon the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the blueberry layer nd press gently to adhere.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely at room temperture, then refrigerate fro 1-2 hours before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 16 bars.
*Just in case there’s any doubt, I meant that in the sense of, ”These brownies will make him/her/you declare, ”Marry Me!” and not in the sense of, “You will want to marry these brownies”–though weirder things have happened.
[What's that I see beside these squares of bliss? Could it be--?!!]
Now, I know it may seem a little odd for me to name this recipe “Marry Me Brownies” when I myself am not married (was that a collective gasp from the balcony? Sorry if you hadn’t realized that The HH and I are not technically living in wedded bliss–we just feel as if we are. Though I suppose that after almost 15 years, he may as well be my legal spouse. And besides, “Cohabitate with Me Brownies” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).
As you may recall, The HH and I met when we were both, shall I say, “mature” (I was almost 40 and he was 41), both having exited a first marriage on not-so-friendly terms. Neither one of us felt the need to revisit that same state of incarcerationball and chainacrimony matrimony any time soon.
Besides, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that when it comes to love and courtship, my sweetheart is an incurable pragmatist. Left to his own devices, he would never experience a desire to buy flowers, call for a date (I was the one who asked him out), celebrate an anniversary or even buy his beloved a birthday gift each year (in fact, when my 40th birthday fell less than a month after we moved in together, he neglected to buy me a present. Suffice it to say that, had he not already unpacked all his boxes from the move, we might not have stayed together).
Luckily, though, my honey is a quick learner: these days, he never forgets to ask, ”Is this an occasion that requires a card?” before major events like anniversaries or statutory holidays, in addition to buying actual gifts.
So, back to the brownies. I figured that if a roasted chicken could prompt a proposal, then these brownies would, no doubt, achieve at least the same result–if not incite a full-fledged elopement or extemporaneous wedding ceremony. Yes, they are that good.
[Extreme Fudge Factor]
In fact, I’d say these brownies have been three years in the making. Actually, after 14–fourteen!!–batches made before I got them just right, it sort of feels like I’ve been baking them for three years. But that’s not what I meant; I meant that it’s taken me three years to create ACD-compliant brownie that is totally, entirely, completely, absolutely indistinguishable from a “real” brownie. Yes–these are real brownies!
Just like the excessively butter and egg-filled ones, you’ll find these little bars of bliss to be incredibly dense and fudgy, and–be warned–totally irresistible. With a slightly nutella-esque, intensely chocolate flavor and the perfect combination of dry, crackly top and moist, almost candy-like interior, you may just christen these the perfect chocolate confection.
Now, The HH enjoys his desserts in moderation, and he even likes brownies. However, he’s not a sweets addict like me, nor does he share my overweaning adoration of All Things Chocolate. But with these brownies, his reaction was entirely different from the way he’s reacted to any dessert before. He appeared smitten, even from his very first bite. In short order, he ooh’d and aaah’d and mmmm’d his way through the dark, decadent, delectable square.
And then, my non-romantic sweetheart surprised me with something I would never have anticipated he would do. He turned to me, his cheeks a little flushed and his eyes sparkling. His expression was very serious as he leaned over and touched me tenderly on the cheek.
He moved his face very close to mine, smiling softly, and uttered the question he has never asked before, not in the almost-15 years we’ve been together:
“So, can I have another one?”
That’s right–my honey asked for seconds! On dessert!!
Well, what else could a gal say–except, “Yes”?
“So, Mum, what’s the big deal on that question? We ask for seconds of everything, all the time!”
Suitable for the Anti-Candida Diet (ACD) Stage 3 and beyond
It’s been a while since I ate a brownie as rich, fudgy and decadent-tasting as this one. These little packets of deliciousness will be devoured in fairly short order.
NOTE: For this recipe to work, it is IMPERATIVE that you follow directions and mix ingredients in the exact order described here. Otherwise you may end up with a grainy, non-cohesive brownie (it will still taste divine, but the texture won’t be quite right and it won’t hold together well).
2 cups (10 oz or 280 g) natural hazelnuts, with skins, lightly toasted (OR use 1 cup/240 ml natural smooth hazelnut butter)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) macadamia oil (or other nut- or vegetable-based, light tasting) oil
4 prunes (dried plums), cut in quarters**–make sure they are very soft!
6 Tbsp (90 ml/60 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (get the dark one if you can find it)
about 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure stevia powder (such as NuNaturals), or 80 drops (2 tsp/10 ml) plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2. 5 ml) fine sea salt
6 Tbsp (90 ml) light agave nectar
5 Tbsp (75 ml) plain or vanilla rice milk
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325F (170C). Line a regular loaf pan or 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray. (The loaf pan will yield high, thick brownies, like those in the photos; the square pan will yield flatter squares. They will both taste divine).
If using toasted nuts: In a high-speed blender, blend the hazelnuts and oil until it forms a very smooth nut butter. Continue blending until you have a pourable liquid with absolutely no signs of any pieces of nuts. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, cleaning out the blender container as much as possible. Set aside.
If using nut butter: Place nut butter and oil in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
To the blender container, add, in order, the prunes, cocoa, stevia powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, agave nectar, rice milk and vanilla. Blend until very smooth. It will resemble chocolate sauce for ice cream (and, in fact, feel free to use it that way). Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl with the nut butter, taking care to clean out the blender container very well (try not to leave anything behind!).
Using a wooden spoon (a whisk is no longer strong enough at this point), stir the batter until well combined, but do not overmix. (If the oil begins to separate, don’t worry; you can blot off any excess later on, after the brownies have cooled). Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake 45-55 minutes (for the loaf pan) or 30-35 minutes (for the square pan), just until a knife or tester comes out barely clean when inserted in the center of the pan (it may have some moist crumbs clinging to it; that’s okay). If you prefer more cake-like brownies, continue baking until the knife comes out perfectly clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting (they will be very fragile when warm). Ideally, allow these to sit in the fridge, covered, overnight for best texture (yeah, like that’s going to happen).
May be frozen. Makes 12 large or 16 more reasonably sized brownies.
**Note: Most ACD diets do not allow prunes/dried plums. However, at this stage (over 3 years on the diet), I am beginning to re-introduce some dried fruit to my recipes. Prunes are fairly low sugar, there are only 4 in the entire recipe, and, since the recipe aleady contains agave nectar, I am okay with the prunes. If you’re not, please don’t use them! You could try 1/3 cup (80 ml) pear puree–though I haven’t tried it that way yet, I’m almost certain the texture would be different in that case.
FIRST THINGS FIRST–A BIG “THANK YOU”: Before I get to all the “hemp in brownies” jokes (and you know that I will), I wanted to post a quick update about my absence this past week and express my thanks to all of you.
A huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every one of you who commented, who emailed, who tweeted or who sent your good wishes for my dad (and me) on Facebook. I was incredibly touched by the outpouring of sympathy and all the positive energy and virtual hugs that were sent my way. I appreciate all of your support more than I can say.
And guess what? It worked! After a hellish (or should that be “Heller-ish?”) week in the hospital, my dad is now stable and was flown home to Montreal yesterday. We are waiting to hear from the doctors about whether he’ll be sent to rehab (aka convalescent home) or something else. Given that he had a heart attack followed by emergency surgery to unblock an artery (and a stent inserted in said artery), he is doing amazingly well. I will still likely be travelling back and forth between Toronto and Montreal most weekends, though, so I may not be posting quite as regularly.
But for now–we can celebrate with brownies! This is a recipe I developed before I left but never had a chance to post. Apart from the obvious associations of hemp in brownies, I’m calling these “Happy Brownies” because they represent the happy outcome after my dad’s ordeal.
And for anyone who suspects that hemp brownies are truly a throwback to the 60s, let me say, first of all, that the hemp seeds in these are the edible kind, so you are not ingesting any mind-altering chemicals whatsoever here (unless you count the flood of serotonins in the brain due to their heavenly taste); and second of all, hemp is not the same thing as hash, and of course the classic hippie confection was a hash brownie; and third of all, how the heck would I even know, because I never did manage to consume any of the latter, even in my undergrad days, because I am such a nerd that nobody ever offered me any, and hash brownies never appealed to me, anyway–I mean, why sully your chocolate with psychedelic drugs?
These ethereal little bites came about a few weeks ago when I decided to recreate a packaged product I found in the health food store. I know there are lots of blogs and websites out there attempting to reproduce other foods; for example, this site recreates restaurant meals; this one tries to recreate convenience foods; this one converts elaborate omni meals into vegan ones; and so on. While I do, occasionally, find inspiration in restaurant meals, I am not one of those people who makes a point of creating a copycat version of something I’ve eaten.
Having said that, though, I nevertheless sometimes feel the need to develop my own take on a food because (a) I just love it so much that I want it again at home; (b) I may not be able to access it in stores where I live; or (c) I am so ticked off at the price of the original item (and I know I could probably reproduce something almost the same at home) that I feel I should do so.
These hemp brownies fall into that last category. You see, there exists a grain-free, sugar-free, vegan hemp brownie already right here in Toronto, and it’s available in single serving packs at most health food stores. The other day, I was shopping at Ambrosia (I swear, they should just put out a cot in one of the aisles for me) and saw these little squares. The ingredients were almonds, hemp, agave nectar, cocoa, palm oil, soda–and that’s about it.
The brownie was really good–surprisingly fudgy, in fact–and it contained ingredients I could (at least occasionally) eat. I bought it despite the $1.99 price for a teensy, tinesy, terribly wee piece (about 2″ x 1.5″, or 5 cm x 3.8 cm). Then I went home and started playing in the kitchen.
Well, I daresay I like my version better than the original. Mine possess a dryer, slightly crispy exterior and a dense, fudgy, moist interior. The flavor intensifies and blossoms as they cool–I tried one warm (the way I used to like “regular” brownies) but it was too soft in the middle and the chocolate flavor didn’t speak loudly enough. But upon cooling, those characteristics changed entirely. The HH (the arbiter of all things healthy and GF) decided that they were as good as any brownie he’d ever tasted.
Given that I first created the recipe a few weeks ago, there remains not one of these little gems left in my refrigerator. But with the happy, healthy vibes buzzing throughout the house today, I may just have to whip up another batch in celebration of my dad’s return home. Given his age and current condition, though, I’d better not tell him they contain hemp.
Happy Hemp Two-Bite Brownies (ACD Stage 3 and beyond)
These brownies are a perfect little treat for after school, with tea, or when you want a little pick-me-up. The combination of almonds and hemp seeds provides a good hit of protein, making these a healthy indulgence.
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut sugar
30-35 drops liquid vanilla stevia, to your taste
3 Tbsp (45 ml) water
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp (20 ml) olive or nut oil (I used macadamia nut; walnut oil would be great in these, too)
1 cup (160 g) raw natural almonds, with skin
1/4 heaping cup (30 g) hemp seeds
2 heaping Tbsp (15 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Ideally, line 9 mini muffin cups with mini paper liners. If you can’t find or don’t have the liners, spray nine compartments of a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray or grease with coconut oil, then dust with cocoa. Tap out any excess cocoa by inverting the pan and tapping on the bottom of each compartment; place upright and set aside.
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the coconut sugar, vanilla, water and oil and stir to begin dissolving the sugar. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, whir together the remaining ingredients until you have what looks like a powder (there should be no pieces of almond or hemp seed visible–this may take a few minutes). Add the wet ingredients and blend for a second or two, just until combined. Scrape the sides of the processor bowl if necessary.
Using a small scoop or tablespoon, divide the batter (it will be thick and sticky) evenly among the the muffin cups; they should be very full. Bake in preheated oven 15-18 minutes, until a tester comes out just clean (it’s okay if it still has a few moist crumbs clinging to it). Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool completely before consuming (if you can stand it). Makes nine two-bite brownies. May be frozen.
With all of my 175 students’ assignments, exams and final marks finally submitted–I am now officially on holidays until 2011–whoo hoo! That makes me one very celebratory gal. Par-tay, I say!
And how about having everything all ready to start cooking my big holiday meal?
Um, no. (Insert sheepish expression here).
“Mum, did you say, ‘sheep?’ I’m half border collie, you know. And just being off-leash at the trail is enough of a party for me!”
In an ideal world, I would not only know exactly which dishes I’m cooking, but would have prepared an entire rehearsal Christmas dinner already, expressly for the purpose of photographing and writing about it for this blog (excuse me while I guffaw).
For the past two years, the HH and I have shared an Indian feast at Christmastime with the CFO, who’s made the trek from Montreal. The CFO isn’t able to join us this year, and I have a feeling that the multi-course Indian buffet will also make itself scarce, at least for this year.
I do have a couple of great ideas for potential dishes I’ve been wanting to try (and about which I’ll post, post-holidays.) But what with the HH’s accident; frenzied shopping for a new car; a fire at the campus where I teach resulting in only TWO days to mark all my students’ exams and submit them; a last-minute invitation to appear on a local daytime TV show (which happened this very morning)–I haven’t yet decided exactly what we’ll be eating at the festive table. Throw in a couple of doctor’s appointments, a visit to the vet, a haircut and typical holiday-time social activities, and there has been precious little time to cook.
If you’re like me and still thinking about what to prepare, I thought I’d share this list of some of my favorite holiday-worthy recipes (many of these are not yet listed in the Recipe Index–updating it is one of my new year’s projects!).
All are ACD-friendly recipes (ie, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, egg free, low glycemic) unless otherwise specified.
And to everyone who’s celebrating this time of year: have a wonderful holiday season!
[And don't forget--if you're looking for other low glycemic, ACD-friendly desserts, I've got 19 of them in my new ebook, Desserts without Compromise!To see what's in the book or to order, click here.]
I do love my HH, but he is so often a conundrum to me. I mean, how is it that the guy (and most guys, really) can tell the difference between, say, a Corvette from 1974 and one from 1976 when I can’t even discriminate between a Corvette and a Porsche–from different decades? (And believe me, I’ve tried. Since the HH is such an autophile*, he’s often pointing out sports cars as they pass us on the roads, and eternally surprised that I can’t differentiate one from the other). It’s all in the details, he tells me.
In the kitchen, that same ability to differentiate between two similar but ultimately unique ingredients is a key requirement for a discerning palate. While I may suck at vehicular identification, I’ve always excelled at culinary classification.
Back in high school, for instance, I took a course called “Home Economics” (for all you young’uns, that’s what “Domestic Science” was before political correctness was invented). Our cooking teacher, Mrs. Jennings, could have been plucked from the pages of a Dickens novel. Almost six feet tall with clay-brown hair cropped tight to her head, she tended to wear stiff cotton or linen shirtdresses in varying shades of brown, black, or beige, tightly belted at the waist (well, to be honest, she didn’t actually have a waist; but the belt was sort of midway between her knees and her shoulders). With buttons just a bit too tight and the hem clinging to her knees, she’d stride through the classroom like a union leader marching at a pep rally, barking orders.
One day, she set up an impromptu quiz in the classroom: six miniature plastic cups–the type you get samples in at supermarkets–were lined up at the front of the room, each containing an opaque white liquid. ”There are many types of milk,” she told us, “and you should know the different kinds and their uses. Who would like to sample them and try to tell us what is in each cup?”
Nobody raised a hand. I was conflicted: I’d been baking since I was six, drinking milk for many years before that, and I was absolutely confident that I’d be able to identify them all. At the same time, Mrs. Jennings was, shall we say, about as approachable as an angry porcupine. Add to that the fact that we had just completed the “sewing” section of the course, and she had been none too pleased with my crooked stitching, uneven hem, and brown thread on a turquoise blouse. My mark already in jeopardy, I knew I was taking a risk.
I stretched my arm toward the ceiling. “I’ll do it,” I said. Her eyes widenened, but she motioned me over to the table.
One by one, I sipped from the samples. “This is evaporated milk,” I pronounced, swishing the thick, slightly gray liquid in my mouth. I took up the next cup. It contained a thinner, blue-tinged liquid. ”And this one skim milk.” A third: “This one is homogenized.”
One by one, I sipped from the containers, and with each sip, Mrs. Jennings’ face turned a deeper shade of crimson. By the time I had finished, she looked like she’d been hit with two overripe tomatoes, one on each cheek.
“That’s. . . very. . . good, Ricki,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “You got them all. .. correct.” She pronounced it “CO-rrrrect,” like two words, as if she were contemplating her next move between syllables. After that, she never called on me again. But she did put me in charge of Christmas cookies for our end-of-term party.
You’d think that someone with such a sensitivity to minute variations in taste and texture would likely possess a discerning palate as well, wouldn’t you? Um, nope. In the house of my childhood, we didn’t discriminate. If it was sweet, we liked it. I was equally happy with a Hershey bar, a Godiva Hazelnut Praline Chocolate Truffle, or a handful of Chipits chocolate chips. I mean, they’re all chocolate, right?
Ironically, it’s only since I changed my diet to embark on the ACD (having to eliminate pretty much all conventional treats of any kind) that I’ve truly begun to consider the quality of the ingredients I use (and even then, I still sometimes ignore that, too). When dessert is a rarity instead of a twice-a-day indulgence, you want to be sure you really, really enjoy it. And when you know that the crappy desserts you used to binge upon are the main reason you’ve been sick for 18 months (who am I kidding? I’ve been on the diet for 18 months, but the illness began long before that), you want to be sure that they are the finest quality you can get.
When I came across the inspiration for this recipe a while back, I immediately thought, “there’s no way I could make these healthy!” The original contained all the horrific sweets from my childhood: hydrogenated, sweetened peanut butter, sugar-laden chocolate chips, white flour, eggs, butter, and various other artery-hardening ingredients. Then I got to thinking: my palate may not be so discriminating, but it sure can be creative. So I decided to go for it and turn the recipe into an ACD-friendly delicacy.
This is actually a reworking of two other recipes on this site, my Bean Brownies (from way back in 2008) and the Cookie Dough filling from earlier this year. I’ve revamped each of them just enough that together, they really do constitute a new recipe. All the ingredients in these babies are, on balance, good for you–and they taste good, too. Really good.
Almost like a nanaimo bar in its tri-level structure, the brownie combines a fudgy, densely chocolate base with a slightly lighter raw chocolate chip cookie dough topping. Poured over all is a thick, bittersweet chocolate coating that’s midway between a crunchy topping and a ganache, glossy and firm yet soft enough to slice without cracking.
When I served one of these to the HH, he announced (after relishing it bite by bite and even licking the melted chocolate off his fingertips), ”These are a triumph.” Seriously, that was the word he used! He went on, ”They’re like something you’d buy in a fine European pastry shop, that dark imported chocolate you get. And you think, “oh, well, these are supposed to be like this,’ and you gobble them up.’”
Could I have asked for a better compliment? I think not.
So next time you have friends over for dinner, serve them a platter of these brownies for dessert. No matter how discering their palates (and even if they drive a 1976 Corvette), you can proffer these with pride, knowing people will never guess that they’re “healthy.”
. . . And now it’s time for a “Back-to-School Swag” Giveaway–Number Two!
I’ve just recently started experimenting with a couple more conventional low-glycemic sweeteners, and these squares make use of agave. If you’d like to read about the brand I used or win some for yourself in a giveaway, click here.
[Side note: as a member of the BlogHer ad network, I am required to place my review and giveaway on a separate page--apologies that you have to click through before you can enter the giveaway! I figured I'd offer you this awesome recipe to help mitigate the pain. ]
*no, it’s not some perverted onanistic activity, though it sounds like it. All I meant was “car-lover.”
Don’t let the long ingredient list deter you here–the brownies come together quickly since almost everything goes into the blender and blends up in just a few minutes. While they bake, you can mix up the cookie dough and chocolate topping.
For the brownie layer:
1.5 cups (360 ml) white, navy or white kidney beans, rinsed and well drained (canned beans work best for this recipe)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) unsweetened almond, soy or rice milk
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut oil, soft at room temperature (if it’s solid, melt before using in this recipe)
Make the brownie: Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line an 8 or 9 inch (20 or 22.5 cm) pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a powerful blender (a food processor is not suitable for this recipe), combine the beans, milk, tahini, coconut oil, chia, Bragg’s, Xagave, coconut sugar, stevia and vanilla until velvety smooth and absolutely no lumps remain. (If using a conventional blender, you can still make it this way: blend the beans, milk, Xagave, vanilla and stevia first until perfectly smooth, blending in smaller batches if necessary. Add the tahini, coconut oil, chia and coconut sugar and blend again until well combined. Proceed as below.)
In a large bowl, sift together the sorghum flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, sea salt and xanthan gum; whisk until everything is evenly distributed. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir just to combine well. Stir in the chopped chocolate or cacao nibs. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan once about halfway through, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then place in freezer to hasten the cooling process while you prepare the cookie dough topping.
Make the cookie dough: In the bowl of a food processor, blend the oats, cashews, salt and cinnamon until they are the texture of cornmeal. Add remaining ingredients except cacao or chocolate and blend until you have a smooth, soft cookie dough. It should be thin enough to spread (like a frosting), yet slightly too firm to pour (don’t worry: it will thicken up overnight in the fridge as it chills). Add the cacao or chocolate and stir it in by hand.
Once the brownie is very cold, spread the cookie dough mixture on top, spreading it as evenly as possible. Pop the pan back in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm up.
While it chills, make the chocolate topping: in a small, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the chocolate and coconut oil. Stir in the agave and stevia and blend well. Pour the mixture over the cookie dough topping. Place the pan (uncovered) in the refrigerator until the chocolate is firm; then cover with plastic and continue to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Slice into squares and serve. Smile as you receive grateful praise. Makes 16-20 small squares. May be frozen.
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After many gruelling trials (So many brownies! So much chocolate! All that taste-testing! Ah, the sacrifices I make in the name of food blogging), I’ve finally developed a recipe for fudgy, dense and delectable brownies that are grain-free, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, stevia-sweetened and ACD-friendly. Decadence never tasted so sweet!
For the recipe, a review of the NuNaturals stevia I used, and a giveaway, click here!
Update, April 28: The winners have been announced! Check this post.
First of all: Wow. I am truly bowled over by the enthusiastic response to the giveaway, and thrilled that so many of you would like my cookbook! Thanks, all, for your entries and your comments. I have been slow in responding to comments, but have read them all and will respond to any questions later today. (Oh, and the contest continues until May 15th, so if you haven’t entered yet, you still can!)
I did want to clarify one point about the recipes, though: while there ARE some gluten-free recipes in it (about 25%), the book does not include gluten free recipes exclusively. Spelt does contain some gluten–though about 30% less than wheat–and it is often suitable for people with gluten sensitivity such as myself. Most of my recipes employ spelt, barley, or oat flours (much like any of the desserts on this blog). I thought it important to mention this, in case some of you are expecting a gluten-free cookbook (that will have to be next time!)
[My typical dinner these days: raw collard rolls with bean spread; fresh tomato; green beans. No wonder there are no new recipes!]
I’m afraid I don’t have a new recipe for you all today, as much as I’d intended to post one a few days ago. After a whirlwind high school reunion last weekend in Niagara Falls, I came home to discover that the charming candida in my system was being its opportunistic self and took advantage of my slightly altered diet and shift in regular routine while away from home. Ever since I got back, I’ve been feeling sapped of energy and spending more hours in bed than Sleeping Beauty (no prince for me, though. . . unless you count Chaser licking my ear as a magical “kiss”).
(“But Mum, I have to keep licking your ear! All beauty aside, how else am I supposed to let you know it’s time for a walk?”)
My (conventional) doctor has now prescribed an oral anti-fungal medication for me, something about which I’m not at all pleased (even though it does confirm candida as a culprit), but which, it seems, is entirely necessary since virtually none of the other methods I’ve tried have worked. On the ACD site where I found my current diet, they do caution that a candida problem can never be entirely eradicated with diet alone; so I’m okay with the pills. I will see my naturopathic doctor next week, so perhaps he’ll have a new idea.
In the meantime, I am determined to continue with the regime, and have faith that it will take effect eventually, bringing about a healthy change–as it did the last time I followed this diet (for a duration of two years!! Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long this time round). The only bright spot so far is that the weight-loss lull has finally been shattered: as of this morning, I’ve lost 17 pounds (7.7 kilos) since I began the diet on March 9th (just about 8 weeks). My weight hasn’t been this low since 2003. Yowza!
[Butterscotch blondies with chocolate chips and dried cherries]
I did bake some goodies from Sweet Freedomfor the gang at the reunion, though (still can’t resist baking something for any gathering!). There were about 60 of us. And while I’m still in regular contact with my own (female) friends from that era, such as Sterlin (who flew in from England to room with me!), the Geminis, Phil, Babe, and so on, I haven’t seen any of the guys since grade eleven (the highest year of high school in Montreal). And when I did finally see them–Quel Surprise!
[Miniature orange-cranberry scones]
There were a few blank stares as I first spied some of the men, but once they introduced themselves, it was easy to spot the sixteen year-old in the forty-something faces and there were hugs all around. Within minutes, we all assumed our old, familiar camaraderie and went on to enjoy a raucous weekend with tours of the Falls, karaoke (I didn’t sing, but Sterlin and I did hop on stage as backup “dancers” for a pair who sang “Addicted to Love”), and a goodbye brunch complete with awards for everything from “Guy you’re most surprised is a parent” to “Person who brought the most photos of family” (that was Sterlin).
[Easiest Almond Cookies--grain free and gluten free]
Am I glad I went? Absolutely. I reconnected with a couple of people with whom I’d been very close in high school, and with whom I’m sure I’ll be in touch once again. And it was terrific to hear, “You haven’t changed a bit! I’d recognize you anywhere!” repeatedly, despite my own sense that I’d changed dramatically in the past 30 or so years. There’s already chatter on Facebook about the next reunion!
[Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies]
For the next little while, my posts may be a bit less regular or more infrequent than usual, as I feel I need to concentrate a bit more diligently on regaining my physical health and equilibrium. I will still be cooking, though, and will post recipes whenever I have them! And I’ll continue to read all your blogs and comment whenever I can.
As always, I am deeply grateful for all of you out there who read this blog and continue to provide support and comments. Because of all of you, these health issues have been made to seem manageable. Now it’s time to really kick that candida’s butt once and for all!
I find it fascinating how certain ideas make the rounds in the world of food, blogging or otherwise. I’ve mentioned before about how it galls me that Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld has an over-hyped, over-acclaimed, skyrocketed-to-bestseller-status cookbook in print, all because she thought to add some vegetable purees to existing recipes (Oh. And because she’s Jerry. Seinfeld’s. Wife. Right.). No matter that others–writers, or, naturally, vegan chefs–have been doing this sort of thing for years (and even my little baking company has been selling carob muffins with hidden spinach in them since 2004–so there!).
[Note to readers: Please permit me this puerile rant. It's January 28th, it's been snowing and way below 0 degrees C for weeks over here, and there is no end to winter in sight. I am grumpy. I hate ice and snow. I have been consuming highly insalutary amounts of chocolate. But I assure you, this is just a rant. It will pass and I will be better tomorrow.]
Well, when I was asked a while ago by VegFamilymagazine to come up with a trio of chocolate desserts for Valentine’s Day, I decided to jump on this veggies-in-sweets bandwagon. Maybe MJS has dumped some veggies into regular recipes, all full of eggs, refined flours and white sugar. But has anyone seen vegan versions, and without wheat or refined sweeteners? Gotcha! And so I had my angle.
I had been working for some time on a brownie recipe made with pureed white (navy) beans, and decided to include this in the VegFamily piece by stretching the original concept somewhat. Then, the other morning, I took a peek at Celine’s fabulous blog and–voila!–there is a recipe for Black Bean Brownies, based on a still-earlier version from Activist Mommy. See what I mean? It’s that 100th monkey effect (or, in this case, 100th black bean effect. And that’s not just a lot of hot air, either. Unless you eat too many, of course.).
Next up, I wanted to do something really decadent, and also really romantic. One of the most romantic desserts of all time is the Molten Chocolate Cake, so I was determined to re-create a healthier, vegetable-rich, vegan version.
First of all, regular molten chocolate cakes rely on lots of eggs, and the batter is only partially baked to ensure a soft, oozing, chocolatey centre. I solved this problem by including two mixtures: one for the cake, and one for the centre, then combining before baking. The result was a rich, gooey, warm and definitely decadent treat. Oh, and just for fun, it has hidden zucchini and spinach in it! I’m happy to say that the result was enthusiastically “HH Approved.” He’s even asked for them again, on the real Valentine’s Day.
I’ll be posting all three recipes on this blog after the article is published. If you’d like to check out the recipes before then, head on over to VegFamily once their February edition is up on the site.