Almond Joy Brownies (GF, DF…. OMG included)

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 oilIMG_0199
  • 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.

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The Topping

  • 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..

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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.

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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.

2 Families = A Recipe for Variety

As some of you know, Little Sis is here visiting us in Middle Tennessee.  Yeah!  You’d think there’d be a whole lot of cooking and blogging going on… Sorry!  There HAVE been a whole lot of fun trips with kids and LOTS of talking going on instead.  However, there has been some eating going on as well, and where there’s eating … there’s cooking (at least around here)!  So with Little Sis’ clan set to arrive late afternoon on Bro-in-law’s birthday, I certainly had some cooking to do.

Now for the variety part of my title.   My fave Bro-in-law is a wonderful and trained cook, especially when it comes to cakes and pastry.  What to make for his birthday dessert?  On top of that consideration, my husband is going gluten-free, Little Sis is leaning heavily towards vegan-ism, her male twin is a meat lover and my 11 year old and Little Sis’ daughter are both pretty picky.  Plus, the only thing you can count on the picky twin to eat is bread.  Yikes!

Something for everyone was the only solution.

We started with crackers and olive tapenade copped from An Unrefined Vegan.  YUM!  Descriptions / recipes below for the rest of the menu!
Chicken soup
Asian noodle salad
Dosas
Almond Joy macaroons

The night before I had roasted a chicken after about 2 weeks with no meat.  That meant a carcass calling out for soup!  So I boiled the carcass with leek tops and swiss chard stems that I had in the freezer.  What a heavenly smell!  Picked the meat off the bones, chilled the broth to ease removal of some of the fat and then I added some Better Than  Boullion, celery, carrots, grape tomato halves, brown rice and finally baby spinach.  I think the most time consuming part of making soup is picking the carcass and that speeds up with practice.  The chicken was roasted with garlic and fresh rosemary sprigs in the cavity so those flavors were in the mix as well.

That satisfied the gluten-free contingent as well as Little Sis’ son who LOVES meat.  “Chicken!  Yeah!”  He said.

For an alternative dish I made a rice noodle salad.  Here is the recipe adapted from Mark Hyman’s Ultimate Metabolism cookbook.

Cashew Chicken Salad:
4 ounces dry rice noodles
Dressing:
1 Tbsp cashew butter (I used almond)
1 Tbsp. plain unseasoned rice vinegar (I used seasoned)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp lime zest
Salad:
1 cup cooked diced chicken (I left this out – vegan contingent)
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
2 sliced scallions
1 cup sliced carrots (I omitted these in favor of extra red pepper)
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
1 fresh orange cut into chunks (I used canned mandarins… shame on me!)
Cook noodles according to package directions.  When cool, cut into smaller pieces.
Mix dressing
Mix veggies and then mix everything
Then taste and if you think it needs more flavor or moisture you can add more rice vinegar and some sesame oil.  If you think it needs a little more zing add some Bragg’s or soy.

And then for a gluten free bread-like-substance, I decided to try Dosas.  I am embarrassed to say that I found this recipe on-line and did not note the website when I copied it into my recipe folder.  Apologies to the author!  This recipe is simple and could easily be amended and varied.  Plus I’ve had Bob’s Red Mill chickpea/fava bean flour in the pantry for a couple of months working up the gumption to try some gluten free baking.

Dosas:

1 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup rice flour
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (I used this and this amount of cumin powder and it was not overly strong)
1 cup shredded zucchini

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Add water slowly and mix thoroughly.  Then add shredded zucchini, mixing it in. Heat up skillet until it is quite hot, add a small amount of olive oil and then add the dosa mixture, spreading it out like a bit flat pancake.  Flip it over when the first side is cooked.  I found that if the dosas are thick they are a little heavy and gummy, so try and thin with water and with spreading in the pan to make a thinner dosa.

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Dessert was coconut macaroons adapted from a recipe found on Snack Girl which I made less sweet.  They were pretty and VERY tasty.  Bordering on too sweet for me (can’t believe I just said that) so I really think the sugar could be cut a little more.  Here is the original with my changes in parentheses.

Almond Joy Macaroons Recipe

1/3 cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, well drained (I used fresh, chopped small)
1 3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup liquid or fresh egg whites (I used fresh)
1/4 cup all purpose flour (I meant to use rice flour but in a rushed moment used wheat – ooops!)
1/8 tsp salt (I used 1/4)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
nonstick pan spray (I did not use at all)
30 whole almonds
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Put first 6 ingredients into sauce pan on medium and cook, stirring constantly for 5 or 6 minutes until mixture resembles oatmeal.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To bake: Preheat to 350 with rack in center.  I used parchment paper or you can use silicone mat or spray.
Scoop out Tbsp. size balls and arrange 1/2 inch apart.  They will not spread.  Press an almond into the top of each cookie.  Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Rotate tray halfway through.  Cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Melt chocolate in double boiler or slowly and gently in microwave and  drizzle over the tops.

Will keep up to 1 week in container at room temp.  Dough can be made up to 2 weeks in advance.  These were very good and soft enough to shove a candle down into for singing Happy Birthday.  I had to quickly make a chocolate chia pudding because I absent-mindedly used whole wheat instead of my intended rice flour so my husband could have dessert as well.  Whew!  Then I was done and we ate.

Ahhh… lots of leftovers for our trip to the science center the next day, and everyone had at least one thing they wanted to eat… even the picky twin and the picky 11 year old.  Gotta love it.