Sanely Delicious Chocolate Cake (DF)

The season of birthdays has begun here in Mid-Maryland. For whatever reason a good portion of my family was born in the spring and summer and once the parade of birthdays begins, it doesn’t slow down until September.  Friends, that’s a lot cake.

I do love to celebrate and Mr. Little Sis LOVES cake, so despite my lack of enthusiasm for it (more of a pie gal honestly) I decided to honor his birthday with his favorite variety, a serious chocolate cake. While I’ve baked a lot, I don’t consider myself an authority on dairy free baking, particularly when it’s not for bite sized bits for lunch boxes. I decided to turn to a friend with more experience, and as usual the search for assistance bore delicious fruit.

Big Sis introduced you to our friend Somer (if you didn’t already know her, that is) with her Cheddar Cheesy Cashew Spread and I turned back to that same fabulous vegan cook for a little cake help. Somer delivered with her Insane Chocolate Layer Cake, a low fat, whole grain decidedly chocolate cake.

IMG_0351I made just a couple of changes to make it work better for my family and it was a lovely and actually quite sane chocolate treat. I swapped maple syrup for Somer’s agave and cut it to 3/4 c. Readers who are not accustomed to less sweet treats or who are new to healthier baking should use the full cup.  I also cut the apple cider vinegar to 2 T. because I cut the sweet I thought it was important to cut the sour zip to maintain balance. I also used only a little raw cacao and mostly used regular cocoa powder. I find that if I use too much raw cacao, nobody around here sleeps, and I’ll just admit it that one of the reasons I am the sane Mom that I am is that at the end of the day, people go to sleep. The cake baked up just as Somer indicated that it would, although when I make it again, I will use 8 inch pans rather than 9 inch. It rose, but the layers were not as lofty as I wanted them to be visually.

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For layering and topping our cake I used a cashew cream and a chocolate ganache. Concensus at the table, particularly amongst the younger crowd, was that I should have used less nut cream and more chocolate. It is important to note that my crew would pretty much always call for more chocolate.

Cashew Cream

  • 1 very full cup of cashews, soaked in clean water for at least an hour
  • 1/2 c coconut (or other alt milk)
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1 T plus 1 t maple syrup
  • 1/4 t salt

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until creamy. Yes, that’s it.

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Dark Chocolate GanacheIMG_0353

  • 1 1/2 c dark chocolate chips
  • cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (the cream will solidify at the top of the can and can then be scooped out, and yes, it’s awesome)

Place chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler (or stacked pots) with water in the bottom heat on medium high. Keep an eye on the chips as they melt, stirring occasionally. They hold their shape even when they are essentially melted. When the chips are melty enough to stir, remove from heat and stir in the coconut cream. What you do at this point depends on how you want to use the gananche/frosting. If you want to frost the cake in a more conventional way, you should chill it for at least 20 minutes. If you wish to drizzle, as I have, drizzle away immediately and then place the cake in the refrigerator so the chocolate can set up a bit. Wow that’s chocolate-y. And oh so very delish. Happy Birthday Mr. Little Sis.

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Fruit Glorious Fruit!

Was that the name of the musical or just one of the songs?  I don’t remember ;-)

At any rate we are coming up on yet another wonderful holiday which has been transformed from a celebration of renewal, life and goodness into yet another opportunity to stuff candy in all colors of the rainbow and all textures imaginable into our gullets.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, we will stuff other things into our gullets as well…. personally I’m hoping for some asparagus.

But can our children truly appreciate the deeper meanings of the day and the time with friends and family while glazed over with sugar inside and out?  Well maybe they can, but I certainly can’t and it makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it!  Whew.  Caught my breath, clearly it’s time to stop ranting and share something meaningful here.

Like fruit!  Fruit is meaningful and wonderful and full of life and juice (usually).  It grows on trees, bushes, canes, vines… and in baskets!  You’ve seen fruit baskets right?  Incredible how the different varieties can grow from the same basket.  And baskets fit in perfectly with Easter!  So am I suggesting that you give your children fruit baskets for Easter?  Ha!  Even I am not that much of a nave fool.  I am however going to suggest that you make a fruit dessert.  Why not?  And if you really wanted to, you could substitute some of the candy for interesting or exotic fruits in the basket and I wouldn’t tell a soul.

I found all manner of suggestions – all of which are fast and easy – with presenting fruit in a fancy dessert-like way.  I decided to find a way to make a dairy free fruit dip / cream that could be used with any fruit to make it fancier.  That recipe follows and then the list.  In addition, Little Sis has some creamy, dairy free fruit zipper-upper in her nectarine pie.  Check that one out as well!

Mine is sweet orange sunflower dip

1 cup raw sunflower seeds soaked for at least 6 hours in 2 cups of water
zest from 1/2 – 1 orange.  Zest is a little tart, so if you are wary, start with 1/2 and add more if you want
juice from 1 orange (was a bit less than 1/4 cup if you have juice in the frig)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Place all ingredients in food processor and run it for a few minutes until well combined.  Scrape down the sides a few times to catch the errant seeds.

Serve with fruit.  My 13 year old enjoyed this and didn’t do his usual, can I have some dessert after eating it, so it did the trick!

 

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So here is a list of fancy sounding, delicious looking and easy fruit desserts that you might serve up on Easter, or on any day!  I am intrigued by the idea of just broiling some fruit (like pineapple or mango) and it’s ready to go.  You might put a little ice cream with it, but you might not, and if you did, at least there would be more fruit and less dessert on the plate, right?

Saucy & Sweet Grilled Pineapple:

Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

Easy Glazed Banana

Tropical Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Sauce

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint

Citrus Infused Strawberries

Cocoa-Nut Bananas

Broiled Mango

Chocolate & Banana

Carmelized Bananas

Almond Cream with Strawberries

Enjoy and have a rejuvenating and wonderful celebration of the return of spring and the power of goodness and love.

 

Almost Spring Dried Fruit Cake (GF)

Soon you will have lots more fruit to choose from and you will not be interested in dried fruit (although mixed with nuts, seeds and low sugar cereal it is always a good snack)….. but perhaps you have quite a bit in your pantry and are hankering for a fruity baked  good while you wait for the new fruit to come in.  Well you can hanker less now.  You know, like a little less hankering a lot more baking?

My family LOVES this recipe which I shamelessly lifted and only slightly adapted from our good friend at Wuppenif….. She lives in a much colder clime and has a longer wait for summer fruit than we do.  It might cheer her up to know that we are all enjoying her delicious cake ;-)  You will enjoy her blog which includes GF cooking and baking with a woodstove and enjoying the great outdoors in Canada.

Wuppenif made this cake for Christmas, so you know it is special – and both of us make it GF.  I’m sure you could substitute whole wheat flour though if you are not so inclined….. or declined!

icing?  Who needs icing - moist and sweet with fruit, you don't need icing on this one.

icing? Who needs icing – moist and sweet with fruit, you don’t need icing on this one.

Dried Fruit Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins, cherries, and cranberries – use whatever you have / works for your tribe!)
75 ml brandy (I used red wine)
Juice from one orange
Zest from one orange
25 ml lemon juice
Splash hot water (use your own judgement; the idea is to provide enough liquid for the fruit to swell nicely)
1 cup Bob’s red mill GF baking mix
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal (mine is from making almond milk – may be a little different, could also use coconut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp guar or xanthan gum
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp salt
7/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup nuts (she used slivered almonds, I used pecans in small bits)
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil (she used butter), melted
3 Tbsp molasses
1/4 cup water (I used almond)

Method

Preliminaries – preheat oven to 350 F
Assemble and soak the dried fruit in a bowl with the wine, zest, juice and water; allow to soak for a minimum of an hour, but the longer the better (I only managed about 45 minutes and it was fine)
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
Melt coconut oil / butter, mix with molasses and water or milk
Combine wet and dry mixtures and add in fruit and nuts for a final stir
Pour into greased cake tin (I prefer a bundt pan)

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Bake for approx. 40 – 50 min

 

Let cool for a bit and then enjoy!

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Wuppenif has prettier pictures as well….. so you might want to check them out.  Personally, I’m going to go make the real thing and gaze only briefly at it before eating :-)

May thoughts of spring and summer warm your thoughts while tasty leftovers of the winter season warm your belly.

 

Veggie-licious Snacks

It all comes to down to space right?  Although some stomachs are bigger than othesr, and I’m talking on the inside, not the outside… there is a limited amount of space in a stomach for food.   The more of that space you fill with vegetables, the less space there is for more objectionable, less nutritious items.  This is not to say that only vegetables are healthy, but you pretty much can’t do better.  And you KNOW it is much easier to fill in the holes for carbohydrates and protein, I doubt you’ll go too low in either category if you eat more vegetables.

Although the eat more veggies philosophy will serve anyone who wants to be healthier well, it becomes problematic in relation to ‘snacks’.  My son will come home from school inquiring about snack food and my list of fruits and vegetables / dips / bread with a healthy topping is followed by his question, “after that can I have a ‘snack?”  Snack has become synonymous with treat… which in his mind is something he’s not supposed to have often.  Ah – that old beast – Forbidden non-fruit, right?

Again, and we have discussed this previously in our Baby Steps series, I rely on Pre-Emptive Produce, i.e. – fill up on veggies first!  Requiring a healthy snack prior to a smaller helping of whatever you allow as a less than healthiest snack choice in your home still means more veggies and less crap.  It works for me as well.  An orange, an apple, a carrot dipped in almond butter, some leftover roasted sweet potato, all make me able to remember that I don’t need to eat some of the more tempting items in my pantry.  So with the seasons of more plentiful produce upon us…. I promise they really are upon us, if a little delayed this year… here are some suggestions for veggie-licious snacks beyond the carrot and celery stick.

Sweet & Spicy carrots:
Cut 2 large carrots into chunks, microwave for 60 – 90 second or to desired tenderness

Mix together 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ginger and a pinch of salt P1010627 Mix with carrots.
Make a double or triple batch and store in  the frig in little containers that can be grabbed – like a ‘snack’! P1010630 Pickly- cucumbers:
Slice 1 large or 2 med – small cucumbers into a glass container.
Add 1 Tbsp sugar & 1 Tbsp white vinegar
Cover with water
Add pepper if desired
Let sit for 4-5 hours – taste and add more vinegar / sugar / pepper if you like
Little Sis has some more complicated but delicious pickley cucumber goodness here.

Coleslaw cups
:
Coleslaw is very adaptable. Folks who don’t like (or don’t eat) mayo, can use alternate recipes and you can make it a little sweet without going crazy on the sugar!   Little Sis has a great cole slaw recipe here.

Roasted or baked potatoes
– this is a great alternative to chips. And if you can afford small, colored potatoes, then even better!  A mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes is very nice and can be achieved in a 375 – 425 oven for 20 – 40 minutes depending on how small you cut the pieces.  But if you are making them for a snack it can go on while you are eating or doing something else right?  I just make extra when we have them for dinner – toss them in the frig and they are there to be easily heated up and scarfed down as a delicious snack!

Cauliflower crunch
:
Coat florets in olive oil then sprinkle paprika and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (turning once).  I usually roast things at 375.

Frozen Grapes & Kiwi:
As simple as it sounds.  Place grapes and bite-sized chunks of peeled kiwi on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer.  When hard, place in smaller containers and keep in the freezer.  Healthy, tasty frozen snack!

Crispy Asparagus:
dip asparagus in egg white and bread with either whole wheat panko, or Italian breadcrumbs and bake til crispy.  I would think this would work with green beans as well – and again 375 would be a good place to start – but watch them closely the first time!

Unusual fruits and veggies:
Novelty can be good or bad – depending on the person, but it is at least special or different.  Try serving fresh pineapple for dessert one night.  It goes on sale and can be a lot cheaper than ice cream (if you buy good or non-dairy ice cream in particular).  Sugar snap peas make a great snack that many kids like because they are sweet and crunchy.  Offer something different!

And of course there is the option of dipping various crispy fruits and veggies into:
hummus
salad dressing
nut butter
yogurt (yogurt mixed with a little cinnamon and sweetener, or onion soup mix – read the label!!!)
Nutty Lunch Dip

So change the snack paradigm in your house.  A snack is sustenance to carry you through to the next meal, or through a workout / physical trial.  It can also be a treat…. surely some of these will fill both bills for the snackers in your house.  And if they still have to have a little somethin’ somethin’ that is not at the top of your list of acceptable, they can have less of it on top of their healthy snack.

GF Blender Banana Bread

My husband is a banana bread fiend.  I used to roll out 2 loaves every 10 days or so.

Eat one, freeze one.  Thaw one, eat one.  Empty bag, eat none.

It went kinda like that.  In addition, having a loaf of banana bread in the freezer is a marvelous thing for unexpected gatherings, gifts or condolences.  At any rate – I had about the easiest recipe in the world straight from the Vita Mix recipe book.  Mix up the wet and banana in the blender – mix the dry in a bowl and about an hour later your house is filled with wonderful smells and folks hanging around in the kitchen.  Alas – those were our gluten-full days!  The banana bread went the way of so many things we used to eat.

I have been hesitant to just substitute GF baking mix for everything because it is very expensive and because it is mostly chickpea flour (which I don’t want to OD on), and has things like potato starch and tapioca starch in it which is basically sugar, so I’ve resisted.  However, the pile of browning bananas on my counter were begging me to turn them into something other than a smoothie, so I revisited the banana bread with the same method I used in my GF chocolate chip cookies: Mix about half the called for flour as GF baking mix, the other half as GF flours and still use the baking powder or soda in the original amount.  I’m liking this new approach, and my husband is LOVING his GF banana bread.

I promise I’ll get off the GF baking track soon, but it is so lovely to indulge in an old favorite that’s so much healthier than what I can buy at the store!  So I made this recipe gluten free and vegan.  Enjoy!

GF Blender Banana Bread
1 flax egg
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup milk – I used homemade almond milk
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (or sub 1/2 tsp lemon extract)
1 cup GF baking mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour (you could probably sub other GF flours for these 2)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix your flax egg if using (1 Tbsp freshly ground flax meal to 3 Tbsp cold water, stir and let sit)
While egg is setting…
Pre-heat oven to 350
Lightly grease a loaf pan (I used coconut oil)
Mix the last 6 ingredients in a bowl
Put the first 6 ingredients in the blender.
Blend the wet on low until chunks are gone

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Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated
Pour into loaf pan
Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for a bit before slicing or it will crumble and smush.

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Looking pretty good.  I was delighted with the texture – despite the cracks on top it was quite moist.

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Delicious and banana-y, banany?
Have you successfully adapted an old favorite to a new way of eating?
Has anyone come up with healthy french fries yet?
Just kidding – we consider roasted potatoes fit that bill, but I’m open to other ideas ;-).

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookie (and it’s GF!!)

Oh my oh my how I love cookies.  I have been drooling over the chocolate chip cookies that Little Sis kindly gave to her neighbor (who kindly plowed her drive)…. but they have wheat flour and I can’t see torturing one member of the family by making chocolate chip cookies that he can’t eat.  So I decided to give a GF choc chip another try.  I also decided to indulge by in part using Bob’s Red Mill GF flour / baking mix.  It makes up for the use of potato starch with garbanzo bean flour, so it has fiber and protein in it, but, as the name suggests – no gluten.

These cookies were chewy and since they are a little sweeter than my usual home baked goods, I could use these to thank neighbors and friends as well.  I was dubious enough of the outcome that I did not take any pictures of the process… but I quickly just snapped a picture of the last 2 cookies.  A few have been frozen away for lunches, but don’t tell, because they might not all make it into my son’s lunchbox!  I try to freeze some of whatever treat gets made so that A) it can easily be stuffed into a lunch box over the next several weeks, and B) there isn’t a big pile of it sitting around asking to be eaten!!

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Okay, so one is a little broken – but I don’t cry over broken cookies…. they are just a hint from the universe to remember to share!

My Best GF chocolate chip cookies  – vegan as well!!
– adapted from I.S. at Yahoo Voices

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix
½ c almond meal (or dried and pulverized leftover almond milk mash – that’s what I use)
½ c brown rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp guar gum
½ c unrefined sugar
½ tsp salt
½ c pure maple syrup
½ Tbsp blackstrap molasses
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup organic neutral flavored oil
½ – 2/3 c non-dairy chocolate chips
½ c roughly chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the dry except chips and nuts
In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chips & pecans, and stir until combined
Place ½ Tbsp scoops on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, rotating halfway through until browning just a tad on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack before removing from tray.
As Little Sis always says….. and she comes from a very bright family I hear – Eat that chocolate cookie while it is still warm!!

Looking for some other Gluten Free treats?
Chickpea/Chocolate Cookies
Almond Joy Brownies
2 Ingredient Yum (Fudge)
Cranberry Apple Pecan Crunch
Nut Butter Bliss Balls
Sweet Potato Crust Apple Pie / Cobbler

Sweet Potato Be-Crusted Quiche & Apple Pie – GF, DF

Why didn’t I think of this?  Do you ever say that?  I say it a lot, but I guess it means that at least I recognize genius when I see it.  In this case, Claire at Just Blither Blather thoughtfully shared her brilliance with the rest of us, and from her Collard Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust, I thought that what is good for the quiche is good for the pie, right?

Well, I hope so.  I’m typing this while sweet potato be-crusted quiche and apple pie are filling the house with wonderful aromas.  I did not follow Claire’s quiche recipe to the letter simply because I didn’t have all of the same ingredients, but hers looked and sounded so fabulous I didn’t want to wait.  I did however follow the crust instructions, and that is the beauty part of this whole experiment because I can think of lots of things to put in this crust!

So check out her recipe for the quiche as well as mine….

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix together ingredients and press into 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
4 apples, chopped into chunks
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Pour filling into crust
Cover loosely with aluminum foil
Bake at 375 for about 35 – 45 minutes.  Peek, smell and listen ;-)

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So I started with dessert – it’s a plan that some people swear by….. but don’t worry – there is a main dish as well.

Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato (I used the food processor)
A drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix sweet potato and a little olive oil and press into a 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
oil for saute
2 cups of vegetable of choice (I used shredded broccoli stem – yes I am that cheap- and some leeks)
salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
Splash of water
Saute the onions and garlic until translucent
Add the other veggies you are using and cook til a little tender
Add salt and pepper to taste
Claire used collards which sounds lovely, but I didn’t have any greens available, so I just went with the other veggies.  Use what you like or what yo know your family will eat!
Place veggies in crust after it comes out of the oven
Beat the eggs and splash of water together and pour over veggies
Bake at 375 for 35 – 45 minutes or until set.

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Now we have eaten both of these ‘pies’ and they were both delicious! The pie is (as seems to be the case with my gluten free pie attempts), more of an inverted cobbler, but it is a very tasty inverted cobbler!  The sweet potato gets a bit chewy and crispy along the edges but it can’t hold a wedge together.  We didn’t mind.  The quiche holds together nicely.  It was a delicious meal with extra veggies at the bottom!

For Your Good Neighbor… Cookies to Share

I know Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I should have something heart shaped for you, but right now I have to confess I’m thinking more about my neighbor than I am about my sweetie. Let me explain…

When we moved here 6 years ago, there were a variety of features of our property that didn’t register as they probably should have.  For example, I might have expected that a house on “Slate Hill Pl.” might not offer the most friable garden soil in the region. I might have investigated how difficult it would be to remove a urinal. I also really could have taken a moment to notice how VERY VERY long my driveway is.

Out of cheapness and a determination to prove my ruggedness, I forbade Mr. Little Sis to purchase some kind of machine to help us with the snow that might arrive on this driveway.  For years my stubbornness bore few consequences, with the exception of one very long weekend of 4 feet of snow assisted by very kind and forgiving friends.

Enter the winter of 2013-2014. I’m reasonably certain we’ve had more individual snowfalls this year than we had over the last 3 years combined. The good news is that last year my resolve diminished during a holiday sale and we obtained machinery to help deal with precipitation on our VERY VERY long driveway. Ironically, my neighbor (who has an EVEN LONGER driveway) obtained an even larger, and faster snow moving machine.

So where are we going with all this (and WHEN DO WE GET THE COOKIES)? My wonderful neighbor, if he begins his task first, comes and does our driveway with his super fast machine, “to get us started.” His boost amounts to a good 75% of the work, and so Mr. Little Sis is freed up to go help another neighbor, who is a tough old bird, but will for some reason, let Mr. Little Sis (and no other neighbor) clear her drive. What happened when Mr. Little Sis was away during a storm? My neighbor plowed my drive, and another neighbor snuck out pre-dawn and shoveled out Ms. Mary. And the kids and I made cookies for everyone. Sometimes a little snow brings out the best in all of us.

So make ‘em for your favorite neighbor, make ‘em for your sweetie, make ‘em for yourself. These are lower in sugar than the average cookie, although they are admittedly higher in chocolate than most chocolate chip cookies.  These are a true treat – one will do and will be a real thank you to whoever deserves it the most.

Good Neighbor Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF) – makes enough to share

  • 3/4 c coconut oilIMG_0146
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 2 c turbinado or coconut sugar
  • 4 flax eggs (4 Tbs flax meal + 12 Tbs water)
  • 4 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 c semi-sweet or dark chocolate chip cookies
  • 1/5 c hopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine baking soda, salt, and pastry flour. Set aside.  In stand mixer bowl or large bowl, mix together coconut oil, applesauce, and sugar.  Beat until thoroughly combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and continue to mix until it looks like cookie batter.  Add mix ins and combine.

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Drop in cookie sized gobs (I use a cookie batter scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 2 minutes ON the cookie sheet and then remove to wire racks.

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WOW. Okay, that’s not the healthiest thing I’ve ever made, but daggone they are good.  Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Snow Day. Happy Neighborhood.

12 Healthy Cookies, Treats and Giftables

It’s that time of year.  Lots of lists, lots of tasks, and hopefully a good dose of merriment to go with those lists and tasks.  I don’t know if it’s a sign of my age, but I’ve found that an increasing number of people on my gift giving list don’t really seem to want or need a present from me. They want my presence (which is flattering), and I’ve found over the last few years that if my presence is accompanied by something to eat, the greeting I receive is all the warmer.  In looking back through our posts, I see we have quite a collection of treats that are great to share with friends and family and that still provide some nutrition during this season of culinary madness (check out this post for some healthy holiday tips).

And so a bit of a roundup for those of you who are preparing to get baking, who need some ideas for gift giving, or who are invited to all manner of holiday celebrations at which you do NOT wish to arrive empty handed.  Healthier treats galore!

Perfectly Packable Gifty Treats

1. No Bake Brownie Balls (GF,DF)- dark chocolate taste, low sugar joy, great gift for a dark chocolate loving adult

2.  Healthy Pumpkin Cookies (GF,DF) – sweet enough to feel like a treat, healthy enough to do the bod some good

3. Sweet Potato Cookies with Walnuts and Dark Chocolate Chips  (GF,DF) – fantastically delish healthy cookies

4.Crancherry, Almond, & White Chocolate Cookies  (GF,DF) – slightly sweeter than many of our other cookies – a great starter cookie for a lifetime of healthier treats

5. Intensely Good Banana Bread Mini-Loaves (DF) – not your grandmother’s banana bread (which I’m sure is divine), this puppy packs some molasses for a spicy edge and an iron boost.  Lovely gifted in mini loaf pans (because WHO doesn’t want mini bakeware?!)

6. Healthier Holiday Fudge (GF,DF) – Oh yes, it’s that good. Nobody will call you a health whack for this one…

7. 2 Ingredient Caramel Fudge (GF,DF) - WHAT DID SHE SAY?!  Yes, 2 ingredients.

8. Roasted Chili Lime Nuts (GF,DF) – I’ve heard tell there are folks who prefer savory snacks.  Ok, I admit it, I’m even related to a couple.  A tin of these babies will knock their unsweet socks off.

9. Nut Butter Bliss Balls (GF,DF) – Pleasing normal treat eaters everywhere… or at least in parts of Tennessee and Maryland

If You’re To “Bring Dessert”

10. Cranberry Apple Pecan Crumble (GF,DF) – Easy for you, delish for everyone.

11. Cocoanutty Good Bars (GF,DF) – No it’s not your imagination, I served these bars as cake and it was a huge success.  Drooling a little, and I guess you didn’t need to know that.

12. Pumpkin Pudding (GF,DF) – Bigg Sis wondered what would happen if you stopped worrying so much about the pie crust… and it was good.

Well, there it is.  Now you have a pretty good idea what’s going to be going on at my house for the next few weeks.  Here’s hoping your house is full of delicious and healthful food and wonderful people.

Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Ooooh boy these are some good little cookie like thangs!  There is no baking involved and lots of goo on the fingers to lick off when you are done.  What could be better than that?

Did you think I wasn’t going to tell you what was better than that?  Well!…. These lovely little sweets were consumed, enjoyed and complimented by folks from all ranges of the baked goods and sugar consumption spectrum.  In other words, as my son would say, both the health whacks like his dear old Mom and the normal people liked these cookies.  This is not always the case with the sweets that come out of my kitchen.  In fact, both of my sweet offerings were appreciated.  One of them, Healthy Pumpkin Cookies, was shared earlier in the blog and now, because I am so nice and generous and love to toot my own stolen horn, I will share the Nut Butter Bliss Balls recipe with you!  I hope these recipes (along with the list of healthier holiday foods from our blog that Little Sis is working on) will help you party with folks from all over the spectrum this holiday season.  ‘Tis the time of year for sharing, right?

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So back to tooting my own stolen horn…. I didn’t steal a horn, I adapted a horn, er…  recipe, from the wonderful Diana Herrington at Real Food for Life.  She calls them Peanut Butter Bliss Balls.   Mr. Bigg Sis doesn’t do peanuts, so I made them both with almond butter and the original way because my son and I LOVE peanut butter.   They are heavenly either way.

Nut Butter Bliss Balls
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup nut butter (I have tried almond and peanut – you can cheaply make your own almond butter – with or without chocolate!)
1/2 cup honey (original is 3/4 cup – I found 1/2 to be awesomely sweet but chickened out and added another Tbsp tothe1/2 cup for my guests batch)
1/4 cup coconut (unsweetened, flaked)
1/4 – 1/2 cup almond flour (original coconut flour which is costly) but you could also use oat flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

First off – if you don’t have toasted nuts and seeds, I toasted the sunflower seeds at 350 for about 8 minutes – just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, and the sesame seeds for about 5 minutes, again, watch them as ovens are different, pans are different, it’s a beautiful variable world!

Secondly – the reason for the wishy-washiness of the flour amount.  Peanut butter and almond butter (beautiful variable world consideration again) have varying consistencies, and honey is hard to measure accurately, so the stickiness of your final product is affected by these variables.  I use almond flour which is the dried out leftovers from making almond milk, so it may be a bit lighter than store bought almond flour.  Basically you want a dough consistency that is sticky enough to hold together and pick up a coating of sesame seeds but not too sticky to eat.  Start with the lowest amount of flour and add more until you like the consistency.  Taste tests are totally appropriate and recommended.

After you’ve toasted the sunflower seeds, place them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients except the sesame seeds and smush it all together, preferably with a purple spatula ;-)

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Pour your toasted sesame seeds onto a plate, form edible size balls (this of course will be affected by the wonderful variety of mouth sizes…. I make mine large) and roll them in the sesame seeds.  For more variety you can roll them in unsweetened coconut.

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I am singing a happy song of variety….. and one must try all of the varieties to be equitable (after eating your pre-emptive veggies of course!)

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Breathe, enjoy the season, and as Little Sis says when I worry over pleasing guests that are coming…. “It’ll be fine.  They’re your friends!  They love you.”

Peace and love to you and yours in this world of infinite variety and possibility.