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Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie Cupcakes

mint choc chip brownie cupcakes

Last weekend, I decided I would make something green for my coworkers in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not normally one to really celebrate the holiday in any grand style (Not Irish, and I’m not the biggest celebrator of holidays anyway, save a few. Just call me a big fuddy-duddy.), but I made an exception this time.

It started with a superb little pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream that I enjoyed a few weeks ago. I went back to the freezer to have another small helping only to find it was gone. (Teenagers in the house means this happens more often than I’d like – c’est la vie!)  But since then, the idea of these cupcakes, made with brownies and topped with frosting reminiscent of mint chocolate chip ice cream, just stuck in my mind until I decided to make them.

And so I did.

I opted for brownie base rather than just a regular chocolate cupcake because, let’s face it: brownies are better than regular cake. It’s just a fact. At least it is in my mind. Besides, I’ve always found that making brownies gluten-free is so simple, as the flour is not as much of a star ingredient in a brownie as it is in cake – instead, sugar and eggs play a chief role. And of course, the cocoa powder. Because chocolate is the chief-est of all chief roles in brownies! (Yes, I totally just made up the word “chief-est”. Let’s just go with it and move on.)

Once the brownie-cupcakes were baked, I made the frosting. It was super-simple, and because of the chocolate chips stirred in, I opted to simply smear on the frosting rather than try to carefully pipe something out. Definitely a time-saver, and it saved me from my otherwise perfection-driven tendency to spend far too long trying to execute perfectly piped frosting.

The end result was delightful. A sweet, chocolate-y treat with the pleasing, but not overpowering flavor of mint. The brownies were rich and full of fudgy chocolate. And that frosting? It was truly like my ice cream I was craving.

So even though St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, I felt this treat just had to be shared with you. Because mint (and green food) isn’t just for March 17th. I think this would be a great treat for any time of year. I hope you agree.

Print Recipe

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie Cupcakes (gluten-free, dairy-free options)

For the cupcakes:

1/2 c unsalted butter (can use vegan buttery sticks for dairy-free)

1 c granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t peppermint extract

2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 T sweet white rice flour

3 T tapioca starch

3 T superfine brown rice flour

1/2 t unflavored gelatin

1/4 t kosher salt

 

For the frosting:

1/2 c butter, softened (can substitute vegan buttery sticks for dairy-free)

About 4 c powdered sugar

2-4 T milk (use almond or coconut milk for dairy-free)

1 t vanilla extract

1/4 t peppermint extract

5-8 drops each yellow and blue natural food coloring (or until desired color is reached)

1 c mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life is gluten and dairy-free)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with 9 cupcake liners.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium heat, stirring until completely melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs, vanilla and peppermint extracts, and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, gelatin and salt, and whisk those into the butter mixture until completely blended.

Portion out the batter equally into the lined muffin tin (about 1/4 cup of batter each). Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center still brings out some chocolate, but the centers are set and no longer jiggly. (You don’t want to wait until the toothpick comes out clean or the cupcakes will be dry.) Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth and start adding in the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time. Add the milk and beat until the texture is stiff enough to hold but still creamy, adding more powdered sugar or more milk until desired texture is reached. Add the extracts and food coloring and beat well. Stir in half of the chocolate chips.

Frost the cupcakes with the frosting once they have cooled. With the remaining chocolate chips, microwave in a small bowl 30 seconds at a time, and stir until melted. Drizzle the chocolate over the frosted cupcakes.

Store in the refrigerator, and serve at room temperature. Makes 9 cupcakes.

 

 

 

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

chocolate covered cherries

Growing up, one of my Dad’s favorite treats was a box of chocolate-covered cherries. I loved them too. Biting into the chocolate shell to reveal the sweet maraschino cherry inside was like opening a delicious present. But over the years, the boxed chocolate-covered cherries of old became less appealing. The quality went down, and they were more often a cheap chocolate shell filled with cherry-like goo. Next-to-none of the real thing.

While I certainly could have sought out a higher-quality confection from one of the fancy candy stores, I opted instead to attempt my own. I’ve made other candies – chocolate coconut candies, fudgepeanut butter cups, chocolate pecan pralines and more – so why not these?

Turns out, they were easier than I’d imagined. Making the fondant was a cinch, and without the testy nature of boiling sugar (like there is with pralines or caramels and such), this was a project I could do at my own pace and while working on other things in the kitchen without fear. The most difficult part in my opinion was remembering to set the cherries to dry out a bit the day before I wanted to make these – which really isn’t that difficult at all!

So whether you want to treat your Valentine this year to something special, or you just want to play candymaker in a new way, I encourage you to make your own chocolate-covered cherries! They’re sweet and delicious and well worth a little work.

Print Recipe

Chocolate-Covered Cherries (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

About 20 maraschino cherries (I used an 8 oz jar of these, as they have no dyes or corn syrup)

2 T butter or vegan buttery sticks (don’t use the vegan spread, as it has too much water), softened to room temperature

2 t agave nectar

1 1/2 T reserved cherry liquid

1/4 t almond extract

1 1/2 c powdered sugar

8 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate (I used Guittard)

The day before you want to make your chocolate-covered cherries, drain the cherries from their liquid (reserving the liquid) and pat dry. Set on a wire rack inside the refrigerator to dry overnight.

The following day, to prepare the fondant, add the butter/buttery stick, agave nectar, reserved cherry liquid, and almond extract and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar, and mix on low speed until everything comes together in a ball around the paddle. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of cherry liquid. Too sticky, add a bit of powdered sugar. You want the texture to be a soft and malleable dough, but not sticky.

Scoop a small ball with the dough (about the diameter of a quarter) and roll in your hand. Flatten out the dough into a circle, and place a cherry in the center. Wrap the cherry with the fondant so that it covers the cherry completely, and roll between your hands to get rid of any seams or wrinkles and make it as round as possible. Place on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining cherries. Place sheet of cherries in the refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes while you prepare the chocolate.

Temper the chocolate: Prepare a double boiler. Once water is simmering, add chocolate to the top bowl/pot. Allow to melt and come to about 113-120 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Scrape chocolate onto a cool marble slap, and using a scraper, smooth out the chocolate and move it around the slab to help it cool. (alternatively, you can reserve some “seed chocolate” and add it to the warm chocolate to cool it down.) Once it’s about 80 degrees F, scrape the chocolate back into the double boiler. Allow to come to about 90 degrees F, stirring occasionally, making sure not to warm it too much. Then it’s ready for dipping.

Dip each cherry into the chocolate, rolling around to coat completely. Place the cherry back on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cherries.

You can store the cherries in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Over the next few days, the fondant will soften and liquefy a bit (this will slow down considerably in the refrigerator). My photo shows them still with a solid fondant – they’re still delicious that way too!

Makes 20 chocolate-covered cherries.

 

 

Pear Buckwheat Cake

It’s been a while since I’ve made a rustic cake like this. Something that could be as welcome at a breakfast or brunch table as after dinner. Something your grandmother might make. Something unpretentious; something that just says “Hey, it’s late summer, sit down and enjoy some pear cake.”

I’d picked up some small pears at the farmer’s market, and they sat around in my kitchen for about a week. I knew I wanted to do something with them, but wasn’t sure what. I wasn’t up for making jam. (Although I need to sometime before pear season is over – I’m out of habanero pear from last year!) I opted instead for cake. After all, who doesn’t like cake?

Buckwheat happened to be the perfect compliment to the subtle sweetness of the pears. Now, I am not really a fan of store-bought buckwheat flour. It’s really strong in flavor. However, if you take raw buckwheat groats and grind them (I use my Vitamix), the flour that results is much lighter in flavor – something that’s more readily accepted by the gluten-eaters. It also doesn’t overwhelm the pears. And even if your flour isn’t powder-fine (mine wasn’t), there’s no residual gritty texture once the cake is baked. Buckwheat flour isn’t for everything, but in this cake, it was lovely.

Of course, if you don’t have access to raw buckwheat groats, you could simply substitute sorghum flour or superfine brown rice flour. I haven’t tried these substitutions myself, but since they are similarly weighted flours, I imagine they would substitute pretty well. Don’t have pears? Apple slices would make an equally delicious cake. The beauty of a cake like this? It’s opportunistic. What you have available is what you use. (That’s often how many recipes appear here, to tell the truth!)

Print Recipe

Pear Buckwheat Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

6 T vegan butter, softened

¾ c plus 2 T sugar

1 large egg

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t almond extract

½ c buckwheat flour (raw buckwheat groats ground)

¼ c sweet white rice flour

¾ c arrowroot starch

¼ + 1/8 t guar gum

2 ½ t baking powder

Pinch salt

½ c coconut milk

1 T grated lemon zest

About 1 lb pears, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced

Confectioner’s sugar, for serving

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-inch springform pan and dust with sweet white rice flour.

Beat the butter and ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and beat for about a minute on medium.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, guar gum and salt in a bowl. Add the flour to the butter mixture a little at a time, alternating with the coconut milk, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for at least another minute or until everything is well mixed. Add the lemon zest and mix in.

Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan and spread out evenly with a spatula. Arrange the pear slices in a circle on the top of the batter, starting at the edge of the pan and standing them on end with the narrow point in the batter. Fill the center with as many slices as you can fit. They should be close together. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake (not the pears) comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack, removing the outer ring after about 10 minutes. Once completely cool, serve, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

Dairy-Free Coffee Panna Cotta

I’m definitely a fan of coffee in desserts. Okay, let’s face it: I’m really just a fan of coffee. I love using it in unexpected places – in rub mixes for meat, for example. I’ve used it before in brownies. I love it in ice cream, and lately, I’m really digging starting my morning commute with a jar of cold brew coffee. I figured I’d go ahead and continue with my coffee routine, and make this unbelievably easy dessert with a coffee flair - panna cotta.

Panna cotta is one of those desserts that are excellent for dinner parties. They’re make-ahead, and really only take a few minutes to prepare. Then, they keep in the fridge until ready to serve, and you can whip them out, add any finishing touches you desire, and you’re ready to go. I don’t know about you, but that’s the way I like to do things. I’m not very good at playing hostess and putting together something complicated in the kitchen at the same time. I have to concentrate in the kitchen. So when I have guests, I try my hardest to plan my meals so that I can do as much preparation as possible before they arrive, making things easy for me while I’m hosting.

Anyway, back to this panna cotta. It’s creamy. It’s not overly sweet. In fact, it’s a perfect treat after a late summer dinner – creamy and cool. The coffee flavor is definitely there, but it’s not overly strong. In contrast to many of my favorite foods, this isn’t one of those in-your-face flavor punches. It’s gentle, a little rich, somewhat subtle, but especially satisfying.

You can certainly serve this with garnishment – some shaved chocolate or a chocolate or vanilla sauce. I preferred to keep things simple for the time being, and served mine unadorned.

Print Recipe 

Coffee Panna Cotta (gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free)

2 T + 1/2 c strong brewed coffee, cooled

1 1/2 t unflavored gelatin

1/4 c coconut palm sugar

1 1/2 c full-fat canned coconut milk

Pinch of salt

4 panna cotta molds, bowls, or dessert dishes

Pour the 2 tablespoons of coffee into a bowl and sprinkle over the gelatin. Let stand until softened.

Pour the remaining coffee into a small saucepan along with the coconut palm sugar, coconut milk, and salt. Stir until dissolved, and place over a medium heat. Allow to warm until just before it comes to a boil (when there are bubbles just starting around the edges). Remove pan from heat.

Scrape all of the softened gelatin into the pan and whisk until it has fully dissolved.

Divide the mixture equally among the 4 molds or dessert dishes. (You may wish to first pour the mixture into a pitcher or measuring cup for ease of pouring.) Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or until set. Allow to sit out at room temperature around 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Crispy Squares

I’ve been thinking lately about how we are all in back-to-school mode. I’ve been browsing a bunch of lunchbox recipes on Pinterest lately. My step-kids don’t live with us, and so I don’t get to experience that fun/stress, but I can certainly empathize. Heck, it’s tough enough just packing my own lunch every day!

What I am good at, however, is coming up with an after-school treat. Most of the time, it would be something nutritious, like apples and peanut butter, dehydrated apple slices, some cut up raw veggies and a tasty dip, or even a trail mix. But sometimes, it’s fun to have a real treat. You know, something with chocolate.

Of course, the presence of children is not a requirement to make these. They’re equally satisfying for those of us wishing to speak to our inner child. Or inner peanut butter and chocoholic. Whatever.

They’re a cinch to make – not much more difficult than a rice crispy treat, really. There’s no baking required, making them perfect for late summer, when it’s still too hot to turn the oven on. Just a little stovetop magic, and a brief nap in the fridge, and they’re ready to impress a crowd with their crispy combo of sweet and salty peanut butter and rich chocolate.

Print Recipe

Peanut Butter Chocolate Crispy Squares (gluten-free, dairy-free)

6 c rice Chex (you could substitute gluten-free crispy rice cereal)

1 c agave nectar

1 c coconut palm sugar (you could substitute cane sugar)

1 1/2 c natural peanut butter

A pinch or two of salt (depending on how salty your peanut butter is)

3 c semi-sweet dairy-free chocolate chips (Enjoy Life is a dairy-free brand)

Lightly oil a large bowl and pour the cereal in. Oil a 9 X 13 inch baking dish and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the agave nectar and coconut sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring, just until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and salt until smooth.

Immediately pour this mixture over the cereal and stir in until evenly distributed. Transfer this into the prepared baking dish, pressing out evenly with the back of a spoon.

In a bowl set over a small saucepan filled with an inch or two of simmering water (or a double boiler), place the chocolate chips. Stir occasionally until melted. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top of the peanut butter-Chex bars. Place baking dish into refrigerator for an hour or until everything has cooled completely. Cut into squares.

Makes 40-60 bars, depending on how large you cut them.

What gluten-free after school treats do you like to have handy for when the kids come home hungry? Share at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community!

Grilled Mango Ice Cream (Dairy-Free)

Friends, I apologize. I thought I’d shared this amazing little recipe with you about a year ago. But browsing through some things, I realized I hadn’t. That’s darn-near shameful. Keeping such a lovely little summer treat like this from you. It’s just not right.

So I figured I shouldn’t delay any longer. I mean, after all, summer won’t last forever. (Although where I live, it tends to feel like it does…) Grilled fruit is definitely something you ought to be enjoying now, and ice cream, well, ice cream never goes out of style. But to combine the two? That’s a newer, fresher approach, and something you should try right away.

This is another easy-peasy vegan ice cream that uses coconut milk as the base. What I particularly love in this recipe, though, is that the slight coconut flavor combines beautifully with the mango, giving a full-on tropical feel. Of course, I gave it a bit of an Indian edge, adding a bit of garam masala and ginger to the mix. The spices don’t overwhelm the flavor, but they add a lovely background note that compliments the sweet mango and creamy coconut. It makes this the perfect little treat to end a meal (preferably one cooked outdoors, so you didn’t heat up the house). I definitely hope you become a fan!

Print Recipe

Grilled Mango Ice Cream (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar-free)

2 ripe mangoes, cut on either side of the pit, but not peeled

1 T coconut nectar (or honey or agave)

1 can coconut milk, chilled in refrigerator

½ c coconut nectar (or honey or agave)

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t salt

½ t ground ginger

½ t garam masala

 

Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Meanwhile, brush cut mango pieces with coconut nectar. Oil grates and grill mango pieces until well-marked with grill marks and starting to soften, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and allow to cool.

Peel and dice mangoes and reserve 1/3 cup. Place remaining mangoes, coconut milk, coconut nectar, salt, ginger, and garam masala in a blender or food processor and puree. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed.

Follow your ice cream maker instructions and process the mango-ice cream puree in the ice cream maker. Stir in the reserved mango pieces in by hand. Store in freezer to firm up for at least 4 hours.

Blueberry Crumble Pie

Those of you that are avid gluten-free bakers: have you ever noticed how much a brand change in a gluten-free flour affects your end result? I’ve heard this, but didn’t really experience it to a point where I thought “ugh, I really need to stick with this other brand” until I was making pie crust. You see, I’ve had this amazing pie crust under wraps for a while. I love it. It’s reasonably easy to roll out, and it’s light and crisp once baked. And until I switched flour brands, it wasn’t gritty or grainy in the least.

But the last time I was out of my Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour and Mochiko sweet white rice flour, I opted instead to buy a different brand, just because it was more convenient. Big mistake on my part – at least for this recipe. This time around, I purchased Bob’s Red Mill flours. They’re fine in most baked goods – especially the ones with plenty of moisture to “soften” the coarser grind of the flour. Pie crust is not one of those things. The crust with my usual flours is really great. It works with the Bob’s Red Mill flours as well, but it’s less pliable, and after baking, the mouthfeel is a bit grittier. I definitely could notice the difference, and while I like and use Bob’s Red Mill flours for a ton of things (in fact, they are the majority brand in my pantry), for this recipe in particular, I’m sticking to more finely ground flours.

That being said, I want to share this recipe with you all. It’s quite good – the best I’ve made or eaten so far. Like I mentioned above, it’s pliable, easy to roll out (as long as you roll between sheets of parchment), it tastes delicious, and it holds up to fruit fillings quite well. I won’t say that it behaves just like a gluten dough – I have yet to experience that in any gluten-free baking, really – but it’s easier to handle than most. It was excellent with this blueberry pie.

Blueberry season is coming to a close around here. I’m kind of mourning that fact. I love blueberries, and the local ones have so much more flavor than any I’ve found at the grocery. It’s a complex flavor, more than just sweet or tart. Almost perfumed, floral…it’s hard to describe, but I adore them. I’ve purchased a dozen pints from a nearby farm and have frozen them for yearlong use (which sadly, will in reality only last me until December or January). But I did have to sacrifice a good amount of the fresh berries for this pie. Although I wouldn’t really call it a sacrifice – because after all, who doesn’t like pie?

This pie isn’t overly sweet, but I found it the perfect way to end the day. A happy helping of this, and a scoop of vanilla (dairy-free) ice cream, and I’m definitely in heaven. But I won’t judge if you decide that you need a slice for breakfast too – it would be a perfect compliment to a cup of coffee.

Print Recipe

Blueberry Pie (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Pie Crust – this recipe makes enough for a double crust. Halve the recipe to make this blueberry pie, or save the remainder of the crust for another purpose:

1 ½ c sweet white rice flour (I prefer Mochiko)

¾ c superfine brown rice flour (I prefer Authentic Foods)

1/3 c tapioca starch

1 t kosher salt

¼ t guar gum 

12 T (1 1/2 stick) vegan buttery sticks (I like Earth Balance) or butter, if you can handle dairy

2 eggs, cold

1/4 c cold water 

Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Cut the vegan butter into smaller pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse until everything looks like a somewhat fine meal. Add the eggs and water. Process until it becomes thick dough. It should be pliable and hold together, but not overly sticky. If it’s too sticky, add a tablespoon of starch. Too dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of water.

Place half of the dough (unless you’ve halved the recipe; in that case, use the entire amount) onto a large sheet of parchment paper and pat together into a circle. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top, and roll out dough using a rolling pin with the dough in between the two sheets. You can stop and pull up the top sheet and lay back down to reposition if you get wrinkles in the sheet. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness.

Remove the top sheet of parchment paper. Place a pie pan upside-down over the dough, and slide your hand underneath the dough and bottom sheet of parchment paper. With one hand on the bottom of the pie pan, and the other on the dough, flip everything at once, so that the pie pan is right-side-up with the dough laying over the top. Peel back the parchment and press the dough in. If it cracks, simply press back together.

Bake crust according to your pie recipe (or as I am doing below).

For the blueberry pie filling:

7 c blueberries

1/2 c maple sugar (can also use regular white sugar or coconut palm sugar)

1/4 c tapioca starch

1 T lemon juice

1 T vegan butter, cut into small pieces

In a large bowl, place the blueberries, sugar, starch, and lemon juice. Toss to combine. Using a potato masher, mash some of the berries. You don’t want them to look totally mashed – you just want to release some of the juices.

Transfer the blueberries to your pie pan with the crust, mounding towards the middle. Scatter the butter on top of the berries.

For the Crumble Topping:

1/4 c sweet white rice flour

1/4 c superfine brown rice flour

1/4 c tapioca starch

1/4 t guar gum

3 T maple sugar (can also use brown sugar or coconut palm sugar)

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t kosher salt

1/3 c melted vegan butter, cooled slightly

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, guar gum, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and mix with fingertips to blend and crumble.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Crumble the crumble topping over the top of the blueberries. Place the pie in the oven on the center rack and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, covering with foil after 45 minutes if it starts to brown too much.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serves 8-10.

Do you have experiences with varied results when it comes to using different brands of gluten-free flours? Share at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community!

Black Plum Sorbet

Why, oh why, has it taken me so long to make sorbet? I mean, it would seem like an obvious first step once going dairy-free – that if I was to be making a frozen dessert, it would be sorbet. After all, sorbet is naturally dairy-free. But no – I dove headfirst into making ice “cream” that I could enjoy, as evidenced here, here, and here. I love making ice cream. But after scoring some huge, gorgeous black plums at the farmer’s market, I thought maybe I’d do something a bit different from my usual. I wanted something cool, sweet, and refreshing. This sorbet was just the thing.

It’s a simple sorbet, really, and comes together pretty quickly. One of my favorite components, however, is the bit of balsamic vinegar. It’s not overwhelmingly balsamic – it’s merely a background note that gives balance and interest to the sorbet. It keeps it from being cloying. Add that and the Cointreau, and it’s a perfect marriage of plummy sweet, slightly tart freshness that completes a perfect summer meal.

Print Recipe

Black Plum Sorbet (gluten-free, vegan)

2 lbs plums, pitted and sliced into eighths

1/2 c agave nectar

1 t pomegranate balsamic vinegar (can use regular balsamic)

pinch of salt

1 1/2 t Cointreau (or Grand Marnier)

Place the sliced plums, agave nectar, balsamic vinegar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to medium heat and cover, allowing to simmer, for about 8 minutes or until the plums become tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, add the Cointreau and puree in a blender until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve and chill thoroughly. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Live in the Dallas area? I’ll be speaking this Saturday, July 20, 2013 at the Gluten Intolerance Group of Greater Dallas! Come join us.

Lemon Sugar Cookies and Finding My Way Back to Center

Going through life, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned to let go. I’ve learned to be okay with less than perfect. I’ve learned that it is better to be happy with the “right now” instead of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. I’ve learned that sometimes, simple is best. And sometimes, I don’t need to “healthify” every single thing that passes my lips.

This is a big deal in my world. I am definitely what you might call a “healthy eater”. Around the time I went gluten-free, I started becoming more aware of the food I was putting into my body. My health wasn’t so great – gluten was starting to take its toll on my digestive system and my energy levels, among other things. So gradually, along with removing gluten (and then dairy) from my diet, I also removed processed foods, and for a while, even grains, beans, and sugar, in an effort to regain my health. I’ve been gluten-free now for right at 4 years, and in the past year, I’ve finally turned the corner and really have started to feel “better”. I’ve been able to eat things in moderation that previously would set off my oh-so-delicate digestive balance for days, sometimes weeks. So gradually, I’ve expanded my “allowed” foods. I eat grains, I sometimes eat beans, and sometimes, I even eat sugar.

What I really didn’t expect when going through this process was the mental hurdles I’d have to jump. Over the past 4 years, being at odds with my body which seemed to want to reject anything, trying to stay away from “offending foods”, and feeling deprived and overindulging in “off-limits” things anyway (never gluten, but sometimes sugar or grains – and I paid the price for it) caused me to become somewhat “scared” of foods. Some foods were bad. Some were outright demonized. Any amount of sugar was certain to give me diabetes, or at the least, send me down into a spiraling-out-of-control sugar binge. I’d get cancer if I consumed anything with preservatives. I’d cause damage to my intestines if I ate grains, and at best, I wasn’t honoring my body if I didn’t give it 100% nourishing, whole, organic, healthy foods. And all the while, I was afraid my digestive system would get worse if I deviated from the world of natural, whole meats, vegetables, nuts and the occasional piece of fruit. While I certainly would never have put these kinds of restrictions on someone else, I found that I’d landed myself smack in the middle of this world. I didn’t like it. It made me a little crazy, and definitely sucked all of the joy out of food.

And the joy of food is why I started really cooking, and why I started blogging. I wanted to share that joy with others. Especially those who must eat gluten-free; I wanted to share that we can still enjoy breads, cakes, cookies, and other things and be happy and satisfied on a gluten-free diet. We are blessed with such a variety of amazing things to eat, and eating and enjoying a meal together is a lovely, sacred thing. We ought to be able to embrace that pleasure. Obviously, I was losing sight of that.

So I’m finding my way back to center. I’m learning to balance. As I’m finding that my body is healing and that I’m tolerating more and more foods, I’m learning moderation again. I certainly still eat a healthy diet – I want to nourish my body and give it the fuel it needs to power through my day, and I do the best when I’m not at war with it. But I also know that part of health is pleasure, fun, and acceptance. Pleasure and fun come from enjoying all sorts of delicious treats, and acceptance that sometimes, those treats won’t be what is defined as “healthy”, and that’s okay. Sometimes, I will eat sugar. I will eat candy. And cookies. I won’t have to over-indulge, because these things are no longer forbidden. While I still can’t eat gluten, I can eat so many other amazing things. I am grateful. I’m still learning how to be in this new place of acceptance, but so far, I love it here.

I invite you to join me in this place. After all, in this place, there are lemon sugar cookies. They’re simple, sweet, and a delight to enjoy as an afternoon treat. They are gluten and dairy-free, so they won’t upset tummies, but I made no attempts to “healthify” them. Because sometimes, you just need a real cookie. And that’s okay.

Print Recipe

Lemon Sugar Cookies (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 stick (1/2 cup) vegan butter, softened

3/4 c + 2 T organic sugar

1 egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 t lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

1 1/2 T lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/4 t kosher salt

3/4 c brown rice flour

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c arrowroot starch (can substitute tapioca starch as well)

1/2 t guar gum (can substitute xanthan gum)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat in until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, salt, flours, and guar gum. Add this to the mixing bowl and beat in.

Spoon into mounds on a lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on edges.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Coconut-Macadamia Banana Bread

Who wants to bake banana bread this time of year? It involves turning the oven on, and it’s so warm in the house already.

Apparently, I do.

I wanted to make a breakfast treat of some sort, and the idea of making more biscuits or muffins just didn’t do it for me. I started rummaging around for inspiration, and came across this worn piece of paper with a banana bread recipe on it – one I’d been working on for a few years now. It’d been far too long since banana bread was made around here, and so I opted to remedy that situation.

And so today, in spite of it being summer, I bring you this tropically-inspired banana bread. It has a subtle coconut flavor, a delicious crunch of macadamias, and the slightest hint of coffee, upping the richness factor. And as any good banana bread should be, it’s moist and tastes delicious with a pat of butter (vegan or regular). I enjoyed a slice as soon as it was cool enough, and another the following morning, toasted in a skillet. It’s different than the average banana bread, but still manages to keep the essence of what makes banana bread great – it’s comforting and humble and delicious.

Print Recipe

Coconut-Macadamia Banana Bread (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 1/2 c mashed banana (3-4 bananas)

2 eggs, room temperature

3 T coconut rum (regular rum works too)

1 t vanilla extract

1/3 c coconut oil, melted

1 T finely ground coffee

2/3 c + 2 T coconut palm sugar

1/3 c brown rice flour

1/3 c teff flour

2/3 c tapioca starch

1/2 t guar gum

1 t baking soda

1 t kosher salt

3/4 c chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 4″ X 8″ loaf pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the bananas, eggs, rum, vanilla, coconut oil, coffee, and coconut sugar. Blend until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, guar gum, baking soda and salt. Add to the food processor and blend until well-combined. Add the macadamia nuts and pulse a few times to stir in. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and spread out.

Bake on the middle rack for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.