[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.
I know I promised a final installment to the Dole Summit recaps (and I’ll be posting that one next), but I just had to share this amazing smoothie that I guzzledcreated this morning!
After spending the past three days with a miserable cold (damn you, recirculated airline air), I woke up today feeling marginally better and craving something substantial–but also comforting. This drink hit the mark perfectly, since it combines a few of my very favorite things: breakfast; chocolate; my VitaMix; quick; and easy. I mean, with a quintet like that, how can you go wrong?** For me, it’s just what the doctor naturopath ordered.
I adapted this recipe from one I came across in Ladies Home Journalmagazine (May 2012 issue). I loved the concept of a mocha/nutella mix, but wasn’t crazy about the 305 calories, 15 grams (!) of fat, 6 grams of fiber and only 7 grams of protein in each serving.
My version replaces banana with pear (and if you can do banana, please feel free); coffee with Dandy blend; and nutella with the base ingredients of hazelnuts and raw cacao. I also used some chocolate rice protein powder to increase the nutritional content.
This low glycemic, dairy-free and whole foods version clocks in at 275 calories per serving, with 11.5 grams of fat, 12 grams of fiber and 12.5 grams of protein. I’d say that’s an improvement. . . and it seems to have given the boot to my cold today, too. Way better than a musical serenade, any time.
This smoothie is a perfect combination of dessert-like flavors with nutritional value. Quick and easy, it provides a good balance of healthy fats, carbs and protein. I keep cored, quartered pears on hand in the freezer for just this type of recipe.
1/2 pear, frozen
2/3 cup (160 ml) rice milk, plain or chocolate
2/3 cup (160 ml) water (use ice if your pear isn’t frozen)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) whole hazelnuts, lightly toasted
1-1/2 Tbsp (22.5 ml) chia seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) Dandy blend or other instant coffee substitute
1 serving chocolate rice protein powder (I use Nutri-Biotic)
** Actually, there is one quintet I’d rather be greeted with in the morning (which we heard live a few years ago). But giventhat the HH was born without a “romance gene,” I’d say there’s no chance he’ll be arranging a private concert for me any time soon.
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*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.
[Just look at that icy, smooth surface. . . dig in!]
The Nutty Part:
Ever since I created that Walnut-Cacao Nib Butter a while back, I’ve gone all-out nutty. Seems a day cannot go by without my consuming some form of nut butter. I had already been enjoying nuts on this ACD (one of the few snack-like treats you can have), but now I’m totally over the top for nut butters. From the original, walnut-cacao nib:
to almond with coconut butter (a great way to ensure your almond butter is nice and firm for spreading):
to Walnut-Carob Chip:
to cashew-cinnamon and almond-hempseed–I’ve been enjoying them all. With my trusty food processor and about 10 minutes of time, I’m able to enjoy any number of creative, artisanal nut butters from any combination of nuts to produce a plethora of different flavors and textures.
Oh, and don’t forget seed butters, either, like this crunchy sunflower seed butter I used in my sunbutter chocolate cups:
When I first went on the ACD some ten years ago, I cut out certain foods from my life because they were just too, too bad for me. As much as I wanted to devour a Wunderbar (one of my all-time favorites) on a daily basis, I knew it would be disastrous if I did. So, too, with milk chocolate, Caramilk, Icy Squares, and any number of other “chocolate” bars (not to mention that they contain milk products, something I no longer consume).
When I had my sweets relapse in December 2008, it didn’t take long for me to fall back into old habits–scarfing down entire (family-sized) chocolate bars in one sitting, eating sugar and wheat-laden baked goods, or (I would be embarrassed to admit this if I hadn’t already confessed to the school-painting thing), scooping canned frosting straight from the can and into my waiting maw (and just look at that list of ingredients–no wonder I got sick!).
But the one thing I never ate again was Nutella. I’m not sure if it’s because with its hydrogenated palm oil, powdered milk, and sugar, sugar, sugar, I somehow felt that was a step too far; or maybe it was the incredibly inflated price tag; or, could be, it was merely my own lassitude (brought on by excess sugar consumption, no doubt), as they don’t carry it at my local health-food store. Whatever the reason, I ended up getting back on the ACD wagon last March and hadn’t experienced Nutella again. But I never forgot about that dreamy, creamy, satiny smooth and brilliantly chocolately spread.
[Look at how spreadable!]
I’ve attempted a few versions of my own homemade nutella in the past, but they always turned out gritty, or chalky, or too thick for what I remembered: a perfectly silky, pillowy, melty spread with a hint of chocolate and mostly hazelnut aroma. Nothing I made seemed to approximate that enchanting spread of my memory.
Yes, dear readers, it took being on the ACD for 15 months for me to create a chocolate-hazelnut spread worthy of anyone’s taste buds. And today, I am going to share it with you!
Be warned: you do not want to make too much of this at one time. You will taste it, and you will fall in love. It will call to you from the refrigerator while you fiddle with your stir-fry for dinner; it will entice you while you recline on the couch to watch your soap opera; it will torment you as you slog through another session on the treadmill; it will whisper to you while you lie in bed and think about what to write in tomorrow’s blog post. In short, you will be addicted, in short order.
I don’t know why I never thought of this before, but with homemade nutella, simpler is definitely better. Last week, spying a jar of pure hazelnut butter on sale at 50% off, I imagined I’d throw together yet another nut-butter concoction. On the heels of my previous nut-butter extravaganzas, I assumed it would turn out as a simple chocolate-scented hazelnut butter, not a reproduction of Nutella. But the results were revelatory!
Now, I’m addicted to this hazelnut-chocolate butter as well. I can’t get enough of it. I suppose it’s better than canned frosting, but even too much of a good thing can be too much. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Professor Part:
As the only full-time faculty member in my department who teaches through the entire summer, I end up with a fairly heavy course load each May through August. While other professors teach what are called “compressed” courses (6 hours per week for 7 weeks), my students have me for an entire 14-week semester (no doubt they’re thrilled).
What this means is that crunch time for me is now. Rather than continue to do too many things inefficiently, I’ve decided to ease off the blog a little bit until I catch up on my mega-marking. So if you see less frequent posting from me over the next 2-3 weeks, please be patient! I’ll be back soon.
In the meantime, you can still find me at the DDD Fan Page or on twitter. I’m also still seeking recipe testers for my two upcoming ebooks. All recipes are ACD-friendly (Phases I and II). If you’re on a restricted diet or are willing to try out gluten free, stevia (and/or yacon and/or vegetable glycerin)-sweetened recipes, let me know. I’ll take names up until Monday, June 28th and will send out an email to the participants then. Just email me at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.
Today’s (totally optional, please-don’t-feel-you-have-to-answer, but please-DO- still-leave-a-comment-even-if-you-don’t-answer) question:
Do you have a favorite nut butter? If so, what is it? (And I’d love to hear about any of your own homemade creations as well!).
Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (“Notella”)
Suitable for ACD Stage 3 and Beyond
The trick to the extra-smooth texture here is using prepared hazelnut butter, which I found on sale. Howver, you can make your own: after mixing up smooth hazelnut butter in a food processor, transfer the mixture to a blender and (in very small batches), blend until perfectly smooth and almost liquid.
1 cup ( 240 ml) natural hazelnut butter, very smooth (the only ingredient should be toasted hazelnuts)
1/4 cup (60 ml) unflavored coconut oil, preferably organic (I use Omega Nutrition refined coconut oil)
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp (40 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
30-50 drops vanilla or plain stevia liquid, to your taste (see IMPORTANT NOTE, below)
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until well combined and very smooth (it will be almost liquid and very pourable), scraping down sides a few times as you go. Pour the mixture into a clean jar and refrigerate at least 3 hours, until firm. Scoop and spread on whatever strikes your fancy. This would make a great truffle filling or tart filling as well. Will keep, refrigerated (I’m only guessing here, mine is always gone in a fraction of that time) up to 3 weeks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: the combination of chocolate + stevia can seem far too bitter for some palates. I’ve found that trying to sweeten cocoa or unsweetened chocolate to the degree that it tastes like “regular” chocolate is often the problem; too much stevia along with chocolate creates a weird, bitter, aftertaste. Because of this fact and since hazelnuts are slightly sweet on their own, I prefer to use a little less stevia and aim for a bittersweet flavor (sort of like 70% chocolate bars). It’s still sweet enough to really enjoy it, and it doesn’t have that strange aftertaste. Pure chocolate goodness at its best!
Since it’s healthy AND great for snacking, I’m submitting this recipe to Amy over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free for her Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays event. Check out the other healthy dishes, too!
Whew! Well, it took me a little longer to get to this post than anticipated. But I’m happy to report that my stack of exams has all been marked, the final grades submitted, and all that remains of this semester are a few meetings next week. And then: par-tay!
Come to think of it, I already hosted my first party this season (except that makes it sound as if there will be more than one, doesn’t it?), a pot luck dinner a for some friends from nutrition school. Though only two of us are vegan, everyone brought along a vegan dish. Aren’t they an amazing, open-minded crowd? This year, in fact, almost everyone managed an ACD-friendly dish as well, so I was able to partake of almost everything. Here’s what we feasted upon:
These Hazelnut Melting Moments (one of my contributions, and one of the foods I couldn’t eat, ironically) are my remake of a confection I used to serve all the time at dinner parties. They speak of the holidays to me, so I figured I’d whip up a batch (well, if you heard cookies talking, could you say “no” to them? Lucky for me I don’t hear dead people).
Way back in my 30s, I lived in a basement apartment. Of all the places I’ve lived as an adult (with the exception of the wee postwar bungalow I owned when I first met the HH), that apartment was my favorite. Why, you ask? Well, you know what they say: ”location, location, location.”
You see, the place was situated on the venerable Heath Street in Toronto, just a hop, skip and condominium or two from the St. Clair subway and in the tony Forest Hill area of town. The building itself was a renovated Victorian mansion; our landlady had gone to some trouble to furnish the upper three flats with marble bathroom tiles, hardwood floors, stylish light fixtures and even reverse-osmosis water filtration systems in the kitchens.
My place, on the other hand, hadn’t been upgraded a whit; it was, simply, a basement apartment, much like any other (except in the basement of a lovely old mansion in a wealthy area of town, of course). Perhaps my landlady assumed people in that part of the city wouldn’t lower themselves–no pun intended–to live in subterranean digs; whatever the reason, I couldn’t believe how affordable the place was, and leapt at the chance to move in.
It may have been a basement, with peephole-sized windows that framed pedestrians’ footwear as they trod by above; it may have been a haven for a constant procession of bugs, spiders and even the errant mouse on occasion (I’m sure you must have heard me shriek when I first spied that little rodent taking a stroll through my living room); it may have housed the furnace for the entire building in my coat closet (the other tenants regularly knocked on my door at all hours of the day or night to ask me to turn up the heat); but I loved it. It was clean, it was roomy, and it was warm (courtesy of aforementioned furnace).
And it was the setting for many a dinner party.
These days, one event a year seems like plenty; but back then–what I now consider “The Year of Living Sociably”–I’d use any excuse to entertain. Your birthday? Let me throw you a party! Got a promotion? I’ll cook dinner for you and four friends! Just adopted a daughter from China? Let’s have the entire group who flew over from Canada to my place!
It was my first apartment on my own after I got divorced from the Starter Husband, and I took every opportunity to socialize. I even held my divorce ceremony and subsequent “I’m Free!” reception there. And I hosted a “I think I’m in love” bash when the HH and I finally got together.
Like a regular guest, these Hazelnut Melting Moments made an appearance at almost every gathering (though they never stuck around to the end of the soirée). Partway between a shortbread and a chocolate chip cookie, they are slightly sandy, buttery, with a hint of citrus. Topped with a melty pool of chocolate that oozes and dribbles on your chin if you eat them while still warm (not that I’d have any experience with such things), they’re an indulgent treat for the season. My newfangled version, either gluten-free or not, as you like, was every bit as delicious as the original (luckily, my guests ate them all, so I wasn’t tempted).
The cookies keep well, and would make a wonderful holiday gift. Something, say, to bring along to a party.
Hazelnut Melting Moments Times Two
Because these beauties are similar to shortbread and not cakelike, they are easily adaptable to gluten free cooking. I’ve made both versions (the GF at my pot luck, and in these photos), and they were a huge hit with everyone.
1/3 cup (60 g) Sucanat or any unrefined evaporated cane juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) water
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic, soft at room temperature (but not melted)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) nutritional yeast, optional (adds a richness to the flavor)
2 tsp (10 ml) lemon or orange zest
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) finely ground chia seeds
1 cup (240 ml) finely ground hazelnuts (filberts), either raw or lightly toasted before grinding*
1-1/4 cups (175 g) light spelt flour or 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (270 ml) all purpose GF flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill AP flour)*–or use your own favorite combination of gluten free flours
3 oz (85 g) semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325F (165C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the Sucanat, water and vanilla until the Sucanat begins to dissolve. Add the coconut oil, nutritional yeast, vanilla, lemon zest and chia seeds and mix well.
Remove 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the ground hazelnuts and set aside in a small bowl. Add the remaining hazelnuts and flour to the bowl and mix well until the dry ingredients are incorporated and you have a stiff dough. Work it with your hands if necessary until the dough holds together (if it is really dry, add up to one more Tbsp or 15 ml of water). The dough should NOT be sticky or too soft.
Using a small scoop or teaspoon, scoop out portions of dough and work them in your hands to create balls. (The GF dough may be too dry to roll it in your palms; I squeezed it in my fist, moving it back and forth from one hand to the other and squeezing it together each time I passed it back and forth, until it held together.) Place the balls about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) apart on the cookie sheet.
Using your thumb or index finger, press an indentation on the top of each cookie (this may cause the outer edges of the GF cookies to crack or separate; just push them back together with your fingers).
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden around the edges. While the cookies bake, melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler of over extremely low heat, stirring constantly. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) melted chocolate, then sprinkle with a bit of the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of reserved ground hazelnuts. Cool and devour. Makes 12-15 cookies. May be frozen.
* If you’re using metric measures, I apologize for using volume measurements instead of weight for the nuts and flours; my kitchen scale has broken, and I couldn’t wait to post the recipe! Will buy a new scale this weekend.
[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fifth edition, I'm focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the fourth entry on cilantro.]
My mom was many things: a sweet person, a sentimental person, a docile person, a loyal person; but one thing she most definitely was not, was a morning person. Because of my dad’s unique hours (he didn’t drive a car for the first 38 years of his life, so he would take the bus to his butcher shop** each day, a ride of about an hour–necessitating a 5:30 AM wakeup six days a week), this meant my Mom, too, was required to arise at the same ungodly hour each day. Her responsibility was to grill Dad’s breakfast toast, pour his tea, and pack his lunch.
The second he was out the door, my mother would retreat to the bedroom and fall back on the bed, unconscious within seconds, only to emerge about three hours later looking–well, as if she needed some sleep. My sisters and I learned at a tender age that we were on our own when it came to breakfast.
Like most of my friends at the time, I fancied cold cereal and milk above all else in the morning. Cap’n Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, _______ [insert your own sugar-filled, wheat-based choice here], but on Saturdays, the CFO and I allowed ourselves a supreme treat: saltine crackers slathered with peanut butter, and a tall glass of chocolate milk, which we made ourselves while my mother slept. We’d tiptoe down to the basement (where my parents had installed a second TV) and sit on the olive green vinyl hide-a-bed watching Saturday morning cartoons for hours (well, about three hours, that is, until Mom woke up) while we munched happily, leaving a trail of crumbs in our wake like the famous Grimm siblings.
When I got older and eventually had my own kitchen to run, I lost interest in saltines, and any other crackers. Crackers were one of those foods I never really thought about in the “SAD [ie, Standard American Diet] old days,” when I still consumed wheat, meat, sugar and aspartame. I can recall serving appetizers of smoked oysters, cream cheese and a wedge of lemon on Triscuits when I threw dinner parties in my 20s, or setting out a tray of Ritz, Stoned Wheat Thins and Water Crackers next to a hunk of cheese. But otherwise, crackers were off my radar. I mean, why would you choose dry, flavorless crackers when you could be scarfing muffins, scones or biscuits? You see my point.
So I surprised even myself by how much I enjoyed these thin, crispy wafers. Perhaps it’s the fact that I haven’t had a “true” baked good (ie, something made with flour, sweetener and, ideally, some form of chocolate) in 5 months, since I started the ACD. Or maybe my tastes are just evolving.
In any case, these were even a hit with the HH , who pronounced them “really tasty” (not a man of many words, that HH). The texture, while crispy and slightly crumbly, is nevertheless rich, like a butter cracker or shortbread; yet they stand up well to toppings and spreads.
I enjoyed them with a slather of raw almond-veggie pâté, but because the cilantro isn’t very pronounced (great for you cilantro-phobes out there), they’d even work with nut butter for breakfast. You could easily eat some while watching cartoons–but I wouldn’t recommend pairing them with chocolate milk.
** Yes, the irony is palpable. I talk about his occupation vis-à-vis my dietary choices here.
[For those of you who prefer sweets to crackers, here's the latest review of Sweet Freedom--check out the "Muffin Wars" between SF and JOVB versions!]
Grain Free Hazelnut-Cilantro* Crackers
These work equally well for appetizers or as a snack on their own. You can use any herb you like if you’re not a fan of cilantro.
3/4 cup (115 g) hazelnuts (filberts)
1/4 cup (30 g) finely ground flax seeds
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup (40 g) whole bean or chickpea flour
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/2-2/3 cup (120-160 ml) fresh cilantro, parsley or basil leaves, or a combination
2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic coconut oil, melted, or extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) water
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (this recipe requires the parchment; greasing won’t do). Lightly flour the parchment with more bean flour.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the nuts and flax seeds to a fine meal; it should have the appearance of coarse cornmeal, with no visible pieces of nuts. Add the flour, salt and soda and process again until mixture is combined.
Add the cilantro, oil, and water to the processor and blend until the cilantro is well chopped and the mixture comes together in a moist dough.
Place the dough directly on the parchment, and roll it out to a rectangle about 7 x 10 inches (17.5 x 25 cm) big . You can make it smaller or slightly larger, depending on how thick you want your crackers. (I rolled mine out to a thickness of about 1/8″ or 2 mm).
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut the large rectangle into smaller crackers (I cut about 25 crackers). Turn each cracker over by hand (be careful–these are hot!). Return the crackers to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes, until they are golden brown throughout. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes about 25 crackers. These will keep, covered at room temperature, for up to a week.
As someone who considers herself an unabashed fan (and follower) of popular culture, I love trend-watching (and also soap opera-watching, and celebrity-watching, and style-watching. . . plus reading trashy magazines at the supermarket checkout line. . . I could go on, but really, haven’t I embarassed myself enough for one day?)
Over the years, I’ve noticed that trends in food, much like trends in fashion or architecture or music, tend to be cyclical. Something new makes a splash on the scene, there’s a frenzied public reaction, and everyone rushes to snap up the boots or to hang the accent mirrors or to buy the CDs from the stores. Eventually, the trend fades like a tan in winter and is forgotten. . . just long enough for everyone to discard any traces of trend-related goods they may own (though I could never bring myself to part with those hand-embroidered Lee overalls from my highschool days, even though they’d barely cover my kneecaps today).
About 20 years after it first appeared, said craze resurfaces as if it’s now been discovered for the first time (to wit, iceberg lettuce. I mean, was it even good the first time? And then there are bell bottoms–which have seen more than one resurrection, in fact. And Supertramp. Oh, and Rachel’s hair on Friends. Is it just me, or isn’t that simply a revamped 1970s shag haircut?). Only problem is, this new iteration, bearing enough resemblance to the original so you know it’s basically the same concept, also exhibits just enough variation from the prototype so you’re forced to purchase it anew if you wish to hop back on the bandwagon (so those original bell bottoms you lovingly preserved in tissue paper? Sorry, now they’re just slightly too wide at the base, and slightly too low at the hip to be “fashionable” today).
So it goes with gastronomy, as well. I am (barely) old enough to remember the first wave of hippie food that gained popularity. The trend, I believe, started in the 1970s and continued through the 1980s. It was the era of Jane Fonda touting wheat germ in hamburgers (and lots of aerobic exercise), and the inception of the Moosewood restaurant and (then) curly-haired Mollie Katzen as its main proprietor and artist-in-residence. And the Seventies was when Frances Moore Lappe first publshed Diet for a Small Planet, of course. In those days, an overabundance of grey-hued, homemade tofu and crunchy granola gave “health food” and veganism a bad rap. Today, thankfully, the new wave of “healthy” foods can be both good for you and good-tasting.
Luckily for me, I’ve always loved the taste of healthy foods, whether in vogue or not. (Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t also love the taste of incredibly UNhealthy foods, which, if you’ve ever read this blog before, you already know). Still, I hold fond memories of living in my first bachelor apartment (basically, a glorified closet with a bathroom on one end) as a grad student. A step up from most bachelor pads, it boasted a ”kitchen” (the wall that had the sink and counter affixed to it) as well as a ”bedroom” (the wall that had the window cut into it), separated by a waist-high partition that jutted halfway across the room. Remember Mary’s original pad in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and how she had a semblance of space from the kitchen counter off to the side, with that lovely, bright central area flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling window, the area that featured a hide-a-bed sofa? Well, my place was nothing like that.
One of the first things I did living on my own was attempt to expand my culinary repertoire by branching into “health” foods. My main motivation at the time was purely pecuniary, but I now realize that my choices introduced me to vegan foods as well. In those days, single and sans wheels, I was happy to tote along a “granny cart” (basically a steel basket on wheels), haul it onto the city bus, and travel an hour each way for my weekly pilgrimmage to the one bulk store in the city.
Once there, I faced dozens of plastic bins, brimming with dried beans in varied shades of grey, white, brown, and green; nubby grains ranging in size from pinpoint to pencil eraser (with strange names like quinoa, teff, or amaranth); exotic flours from carob or fava beans, which I’d only just encountered; and assorted candies, soup mixes, dog biscuits, nuts and seeds–well, I could easily browse for a couple more hours before picking and choosing my purchases (not to imply that I ate dog biscuits in those days, or anything–just that they were there, laying the mental foundation for my current forays to the local bulk store, in which The Girls and their appetites always figure prominently).
This salad is from one of the first cookbooks I bought, called Horn of the Moon. As you can probably tell from the title, it was a ”health foodie” book. Most of the recipes reflect its early origins: falafel, lentil burgers, tofu stuffed mushrooms. Maybe it was nostalgia for those first heady days living entirely on my own; maybe it was a need for something simple, hearty, and evocative of fall; maybe it was my way to reintroduce an earlier trend; in any case, I had a craving for this salad last week and promptly pulled out my worn copy and prepped a batch.
And while the HH found this too “plain” (seems his 2008-era palate, now accustomed to cilantro, garam masala, mysterious fiery jalapenos and the like, has rejected such rudimentary gustatory pleasures), I still loved this dish. With its chewy buds of beige-hued barley and oats, and sweet, toasty crunch of hazelnuts or crunchy bits of carrot and celery, this salad offered up a welcome mouthful of memory, warm and tingly, and a perfect way to reminisce about the past.
from Horn of the Moon cookbook
An unpretentious, hearty salad that’s straightforward and unambiguous in its nutritional offering. It’s easy to eat a large serving of this as a meal on its own–which is a good thing, since this recipe yields a huge amount (it may be halved if you have fewer than four people in your house).
1 cup uncooked organic barley (preferably pot barley)
1/3 cup wheat berries, kamut berries, spelt berries or oat groats (I used oat)
2-2/3 cups water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 large lemons)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
4 large cloves garlic, minced (not a typo–it’s mellowed by the grains and dressing)
1/2 cup halved or chopped roasted hazelnuts (filberts) or almonds
In a large pot, combine the barley, wheat berries, and water. Bring to boil, then simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed. Allow to cool.
When the barley is cool, combine in a medium-sized bowl with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper to taste. Add the chopped veggies, parsley, garlic, and nuts. Stir and check seasoning. It’s best if it sits a few hours, refrigerated, before serving, to allow flavors to meld. Serve on a bed of salad greens, if desired. Makes 4 dinner servings or 8 side dish servings.
I seem to be running into hazelnuts and coffee a lot these days.
A couple of weeks ago, when we were visiting him and his family at their cottage up north, my friend Mark offered me Frangelico with coffee (he forgot I haven’t drunk coffee in 7 years). Then I bought the latest issue of Everyday Food, and there was a drool worthy photo of Hazelnut-Espresso cookies on display. And just this past Sunday morning, after dreaming of Holidailies, I woke to find that my HH had made himself some hazelnut flavored coffee for a change.
Well, I decided to take the hint. Since I am relatively fond of hazelnuts but don’t indulge in coffee, I came up with my own cookie combination of hazelnuts with coffee substitute (you know, that Sanka-like instant hot beverage usually made from roasted chicory, barley, beetroot, and carob, or some such). To tell you the truth, I think my combination actually works better than the original caffeinated one. I may have received the inspiration to blend these two flavors from Martha, but the resulting confection is all mine.
These cookies are crisp on the edges, chewy in the middle, and taste totally decadent. The combination of brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and the coffee substitute is divine.
Vegan or not, these are a fabulous holiday cookie, and everyone will love them.Just don’t tell people they’re made with healthier ingredients!
Hazelnut Mocha Cookies
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
4 Tbsp. (yep, four!) instant coffee substitute, such as Caf Lib or Krakus
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup organic coconut butter (oil), melted
1/2 cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped (purists will tell you to remove the skins, but I think I’d like them better on–and they provide fibre and more nutrients, too)
1-1/2 cups whole barley flour
1-1/2 tsp. alum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 375F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Pour the 1/2 cup brown rice syrup into a glass measuring cup. Add the maple syrup for a total of 3/4 cup liquid. Stir in the flax seeds, coffee substitute, vanilla and vinegar, and mix well. Pour the melted coconut butter over all and stir to incorporate evenly (the mixture will thicken up when you add the coconut butter). Gently stir in hazelnuts and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and mix to create a soft dough.
Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets (there’s no need to flatten these, as they spread quite a bit while baking).
Bake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, rotating sheets once about midway through, until cookies are just turning golden on the edges and have puff ed up a bit. Remove from oven and cool completely before removing from cookie sheets (they will firm up as they cool). Store airtight. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]