I love apples. I love apples in the morning. I love apples at night. I love apples all the time. For our Thanksgiving feast, one of my mothers very kindly provided a sweet potato pie. I decided that it is just weird to limit yourself to one dessert on Thanksgiving (yes, I said that), and so I used my favorite fall fruit to create a perfect partner for the dessert plate. Continue reading
I’ve been a baking slacker lately. This only poses a real problem for my kids’ expectation for a “treat” in their lunches. Mind you my lunchbox treats tend to be less sweet than anybody else’s, but it seems that it’s more important that there be something treat-like in there than that the treat in question be of any particular kind. So up to now, I’ve been pretty good about doing just enough baking to keep them supplied with a steady stream of reasonably healthy “treats.”
A few weeks ago I started slipping ‘em low sugar graham crackers – really pretty harmless and something they enjoy. No problem. After a while of that they requested something else – anything else (and who can blame them). I found myself wandering through the prepared treats aisle reading packages of corn syrup laden white flour options as though I had never once baked in my own kitchen. I practically forgot that I used to spend a few minutes just about every weekend assembling a treat that would satisfy both the kids and me. I would bake for our customary Sunday dessert and then serve the rest throughout the week in small lunch sized portions. When I brought home cookies previously deemed pretty wholesome without even reading the label, ate one and felt a film in my mouth and had to stop because it was too sweet to enjoy, I knew I’d hit the proverbial bottom. Which is great, because it led me to spending a little time today making my new favorite dessert, Almond Joy Brownies.
Almond Joy Brownies
The Brownie – adapted from Sarah at Gazing In’s Sweet Potato Fudgy Brownies
- 1/4 c coconut oil
- 2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao if you’re feeling spendy
- 1 c gluten free rolled oats blitzed in food processor until flour like
- 1/4 t baking powder
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 c coconut sugar
- 2/3 c sweet potato puree (baked sweet potato in food processor with enough water to create baby foodish consistency – add water SLOWLY so as not to overshoot)
- 1 T ground flax meal + 3 T water (AKA flax egg)
- 1 1/2 t vanilla
Preheat Oven to 350. Melt coconut oil and add cocoa, stirring to create smooth, silky chocolate that you should not eat. Combine oat flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Combine coconut sugar, sweet potato puree, flax egg and vanilla in medium or larger bowl and whisk until smooth. Add chocolate. Stir to combine. Add dry ingredients (if you’re still holding a whisk, now is the time to switch to a spoon, unless you’re trying to create an “Oh no, I have so much brownie batter stuck in my whisk, however will I get it off…. slurp” kind of scenario. Not that I’ve ever done that. Add a handful or so of your favorite chocolate chips.
Scoop into oiled square baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Look for typical brownie crackling on top and a slightly firm feel in the middle of the pan (that second test is only for those of us in the asbestos fingers crowd). You can try the toothpick test, but these are fudgy, and will not likely come out totally clean. So just look for not wet, mostly clean. Remove and allow to cool in the pan.
- 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- 16 whole raw almonds
Place coconut in food processor. Turn on and let it run, run, run. You’re going to let it go so long that the coconut is going to turn into a liquid. You’ll want to stop it occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl so all of the coconut gets transformed into superific coconut butter. When the contents of the bowl are shiny, let it run a couple more minutes and then place in a container you can put a lid on so you can save the leftover and put it on your toast, in your oatmeal…. yes, the options are mind-boggling..
The You Got Your Coconut On My Brownies Moment
So when the brownies have cooled a little (you don’t have to let them cool completely), spread the coconut butter on top in whatever amount makes sense to you. I tried to show a little restraint because I wanted to chocolate flavor to prevail. If your coconut butter has hardened, gently warm it a little to soften. Place almonds on top – I did a one whole almond per brownie ratio, to get that crunch that I used to love in the Almond Joy, but I think chopped almonds would make for a nice effect as well.
I don’t think I even need to tell you that these were great – what’s not to love? Super dark chocolate flavor, coconut creaminess and that wholesome crunchy almond. Delish. And now I’m ready for those lunch boxes for real.
Serendipity is an appropriate first word for this post. Our contest involved suggesting seemingly odd pairings of food. Sometimes those pairings re a matter of serendipity…. what is on hand,….. what accidentally was added or left out…. or a moment of inspiration. The updated version of chocolate almond butter was also a result of serendipity. That is being kind to myself. It was actually a moment of doing way too many things at one time and therefore not paying attention. So, let’s get organized, I will tell you the winner of 2 heavy, colored Food Network silicone spatulas at the end – and update our chocolate almond butter recipe at the beginning. Continue reading
Prune and cardamom? Spaghetti squash and pesto? Nectarines and Walnut crust? Peas and Kale? Where does it all end? Where does this crazy pairing of things end? Shouldn’t there be some maintenance of categorical boundaries? Doesn’t the world run more smoothly when everything and everyone is in their rightful place? Shouldn’t we stick with peanut butter and jelly?
My answer. No and sometimes. A spatula and a baseball. Variety is the spice of life. Start with 6 things and you have 6 things. Combine the 6 things in varying groups of 2, 3, 4, and 5 and you have many more things than the number of minutes it would take me to do that particular math. And there is always common ground…. even between a spatula and a baseball.
What’s the point? Politically speaking we are not handling diversity of viewpoints or approaches very well here in the US these days… and while politics may make for strange bedfellows, creative cooking can make for strange table-fellows. Continue reading
I’ve been a bit of a slouch all summer where dessert is concerned. Truth to tell much of the time I’d prefer fresh fruit and since it’s so abundant in the summer, I say let them eat fruit. But this past weekend we had special guests. Fruit is still great, but I wanted to put in a little extra effort to give our guests the best of our pantry. I’d been thinking about my sister’s apple pie, but I have to tell you, I don’t do apple pie in the summer. Just don’t. No excuses. So I focused on the part of her pie that I was really interested in playing with. What could be better with a nutty crust than creamy goodness? What to do, where to start? Continue reading
We’ve had quite a week here at Lake HolyCrap. The twins started first grade on Monday and our search for a new furry friend reached its final, and extremely happy conclusion. While the kids were at their second day of school, Mr. Little Sis and I responded to the call from a lovely woman who runs an animal rescue about a half an hour from us. She thought we might be just the people for Baxter, an adult labradoodle mix. We jumped in the car immediately and it’s been love ever since.
Baxter rode home with me yesterday and I had my first experience using a mobile groomer (for the dog, mind you). I didn’t want to traumatize him by taking him somewhere else or leaving him for a couple of hours, so I found the nicest groomer who pulled into our driveway with a trailer that had everything she needed to get rid of our new friend’s matted dreadlocks and leave him much more comfortable and very, very handsome. What’s a nervous new dog Mommy to do while a stranger is tending to her new charge in the driveway? Bake, of course. Continue reading
We were lucky last week and had a visit from Bigg Sis and her crew. They were headed north, so we crammed as much fun and visiting as we could into 36 hours and it was absolutely splendid! So fun to be together, to cook together, and to celebrate our mother’s birthday together. We all met at a lake nearby for a day of fun in the mostly sun.
The question of celebrating a birthday in a state park presents a quandary for the cook. Mom is not a huge dessert fan, truth be told, and the tippiness of a cake while carting around beach gear and picnic lunches, towels and goggles for two developing swimmers was a little more than I could imagine carrying off well. So I turned to the natural picnic choice for dessert (at least for my family), brownies.
I remembered a recipe from my pal Sarah, a brownie recipe that delighted my crew and made my tummy happy, happy, happy. I knew it wouldn’t do for the gluten free members of our extended family, though, so it came time to tweak and do the usual “what I’ve actually got in my pantry” tango with the recipe. And here’s the final fabulous results. We liked them so well we’ve made a second batch today.
Super Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies (GF,V) adapted from Sarah’s awesome Sweet Potato Fudgy Brownies
- 1/4 c coconut oil, melted
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 c rolled oats, blitzed in food processor or blender until flour-like
- 1/4 t baking powder
- 1/4 t salt
- 3/4 c coconut sugar (or more if you are used to sweeter treats)
- 2/3 c canned pumpkin (Sarah used sweet potato puree and it’s stellar – I just wanted to try with what I had)
- 1 flax egg (1 Tbs flax meal with 3 T water) or whatever kind of egg works for your tribe
- 1 1/2 t vanilla
- a couple of handfuls of pecans and chocolate chips (because really, shouldn’t you?)
Set oven to 350. Oil a square pan. Combine coconut oil and cocoa in large bowl. If you live where I live, you needn’t melt the coconut oil. Northerly climes or those in winter, melt first. Stir until smooth. Combine dry ingredients (except sugar) in small bowl. In yet another bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin, flax egg, and vanilla and whisk until the sugar is not so granular. Add chocolate/oil combo. Stir to combine. Add dry ingredients. Stir to combine. Add nuts/chips/whatever floats your brownie boat. Give one last stir and transfer (you will not be pouring) into waiting pan.
Bake for 25 minutes (or so), until the top is dry, maybe even has a crack or two and it feels firm to the touch. If you like em drier, leave em in longer. Let cool in the pan for a bit, sneak some crispy edges while nobody’s looking. Delish. Super chocolate. Super yum.
It’s been a while. I haven’t shared a pancake recipe in ages and we’ve been happily munching along, eating all the varieties I’ve already shared, but it occurred to me that we had a challenge that I really wanted to face where pancakes are concerned. It’s the syrup thing and the non-filling thing. I love pancakes, but I can’t say that I love them for the nutrition that they provide me or that I love them without syrup or jam. I’ve also found that we all get hungry again a couple of hours later, and this happens whether you have two (me) or four (my monsters). So, I decided that the topping was the place to try to take on these problems.
Part of the problem with syrup is its liquid nature – it runs everywhere or simply sinks in on the spot and even the most reasonable children (or health conscious adults) might be convinced that more syrup is required. So, I wanted to thicken it up. To find a way to get that syrup to stay put. It occurred to me that adding nuts would also address problem number two, the fleeting satisfaction of pancakes for breakfast. And so the notion of maple cashew butter began stirring about in the noggin. I started putting together what I thought would be a good maple cashew topping and let the food processor churn on that for a while. I whipped up some pancake batter, with the help of an always willing pancake assistant, and while it was resting, checked back in on the sweet spread, added a bit more water and let it churn, baby, churn. I’ll give you the details in the order that I did things, just in case you’re not the type who reads through the whole recipe twice before starting… If you’ve not heated pans ahead of time, do it now. Here’s a primer on pancake perfection in a cast iron pan.
- 1 1/2 c raw cashews
- 1/4 c maple syrup
- 1 t vanilla
- 4 T water
I threw all this in my food processor
and just turned that baby on. Checked back periodically and scraped down the sides.
Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes (V)
- 3 c white whole wheat flour
- 1 c rolled oats
- 3 t baking powder
- 1 t baking soda
- 1/2 t salt
- 2 T coconut sugar (or whatever dry kind you use)
- fresh ground nutmeg (love my Microplane) to taste
- 6 T coconut oil
- 1/2 c applesauce
- 1 banana, mashed
- 3.5 c coconut milk (or whatever kind you like)
Mix dry ingredients (through sugar). Add wet ingredients except for the milk, use a fork or a pastry cutter to blend in. Add milk and stir to combine. Let rest for 10 minutes. While it rests, check back on your spread – consistency is entirely your call on this one. Mine was a little on the thick side. If you want it thinner, add a little more water. Next time I may squeeze in a little lemon and add just a pinch of salt.
When your resting time (10 minutes) is up, pour batter into warm-hot pans. Add fresh blueberries by plopping them onto the pancakes in whatever ratio works for you. Wait for bubbles and flip. Serve. Shmear with maple cashew butter awesomeness. Less sweet, more filling, stays put. Delish.
So what I didn’t tell you when we discussed Bigg Sis’ birthday bash is that summer is high holla time for birthdays for this family. While my kids are winter babies, a huge portion of my extended family has summer birthdays. Between May and June we have a whole lotta celebrating going on – and it picks up again late in July and stretches all the way through August. Heck, we’re just celebrating all the time. Truth is, as I’ve revealed before, sometimes I get a little celebration overload. I am NOT super great at saying no to yummy stuff, so when celebrations start piling up, I usually start piling on. And more importantly I just feel weighed down and kind of oogie.
The last two months went a bit like this: a few weeks after my husband’s birthday, we had the start of summer vacation including Bigg Sis’ birthday celebration. The weekend after we got back we celebrated our 14th anniversary. This was followed in no time by about 15 end of school year events, celebrations, weird meals because of special events, the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL blowout, Father’s Day and then… my birthday. I was kind of done. Not done celebrating, just kind of done eating for a while. So instead of a traditional cake I decided I wanted something a little lighter, a little more just like a treat, and a little more no-bake on a hot summer day. I turned to my friend Dreena Burton and she had answers for me (she must really love me). Continue reading
I truly don’t know how she’s done it, but somehow Bigg Sis has managed to have our mutual vacation scheduled to include her birthday for the last few years. It’s genius really if you think about it. Lots of people who love you on hand to accommodate your birthday desires, and an adventurous sister on deck to make a birthday dessert that meets the dietary requirements of the whole crew. And, really, what could be better than being at the beach with your beloved little sister on your birthday? Continue reading