Spiced Hazelnut Carob Cookies

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Once in a while I make something that is so good I can’t stop thinking about it. About a week ago I made a batch of gluten-free, vegan cookies using carob powder. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of great results with these carob spice cookies because a few days earlier, I had made a batch of carob chip cookies from the same website, and the results were kind of disappointing.

So back in the kitchen I went with a new cookie recipe and some trepidation.

This recipe yielded 5 cookies in all. They were large, hefty mound cookies that held their shape well. Still I was a bit nervous. You see I may have completed a pastry chef program at a local community college a while back BUT I am not a seasoned vegan, gluten-free baker. It’s always a gamble when you omit eggs, butter, and all purpose flour, the things I was trained to use over and over again and instead substitute with flax eggs, a flour alternative like rice, almond or tapioca and some kind of vegetable oil, to keep things together.

So when I saw those beautiful cookie mounds coming out of the oven looking perfect, I was quite pleased. But what about the taste, you ask? Well after allowing the cookies to cool down for 20 minutes or so, I bit into one. It had a crisp exterior and a soft chewy interior. I used hazelnut flour instead of the almond flour listed in the recipe and the results were fantastic. The texture was chewy and aromatic from the baked hazelnut flour, the carob and the warming spices.

Between my husband and I, the 5 cookies did not last long. They were devoured on a Sunday afternoon.

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Spiced hazelnut carob cookies

(adapted from healthfulpursuit.com)

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups ground hazelnuts (or almond flour)

  • ¼ cup arrowroot powder

  • 3 tablespoons carob powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup safflower oil (or another vegetable oil)

  • ⅓ cup maple syrup, honey, or another liquid sweetener

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until combined. Set aside.

  3. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl, whisking until combined.

  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with a spoon until fully incorporated. The mixture will be coarse, just keep mixing it until all of the dry bits are incorporated into a large mass of coarse dough.

  5. Scoop cookie dough into a ¼ cup measuring cup, turn it over and drop it onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space (1-inch) between each cookie.

  6. Gently flatten the cookies. Place cookies in the pre-heated oven to bake for 10-15 minutes. Mine were ready in 10 minutes.

  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan for 20-30 minutes. Dig in and enjoy! They won’t last long.

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Buckwheat banana snacking cake: A one-bowl wonder

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One of the most challenging things to adjust to when embarking on an elimination diet is having to avoid gluten. It’s used in everything and found everywhere. Baking at home can be a bit more challenging as you will need to incorporate several extra ingredients to compensate for the lack of gluten. Extras may include xantham gum, arrowroot powder, potato starch, etc. The chemistry behind it can be challenging to even the most seasoned pastry chef.

For this recipe, the ONLY flour you will need to use is buckwheat. That’s it. No sifting, and mixing of compatible flours to create moistness and integrity. It all comes together nicely without having to use 4 different flours. No lie. It’s easy-peasy and I really love the wholesome flavour that buckwheat imparts on baked goods. The bananas in the recipe add moistness, without making the cake too sweet. The flax “eggs” that I used in lieu of the eggs, also create a lovely textured cake that is neither dry nor crumbly. In essence it’s a cake that I plan to make again for it’s simplicity and delicious flavour.

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Gluten-free banana buckwheat cake (adapted from powerhungry.com)

1  1/2 cups buckwheat flour

3/4 cup coconut sugar (or whichever sugar you want to use)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1  3/4 cups VERY ripe bananas, mashed with a fork or pureed in a food processor ( I placed my bananas in a mini food processor and whizzed them to create a creamy consistency)

2 tbs flax meal & 6 tbs water to make flax “eggs” (or 2 whole eggs)

2/3 cup sunflower oil (or a neutral tasting oil)

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans – if using (Toast pecans on baking sheet for approx. 5 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep a careful watch as they can burn quite easily).

(Note: you can also add chocolate chips to this recipe if you like. I skipped the chocolate because for me it’s an inflammatory ingredient).

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan. I used coconut oil.

Mix all the dry ingredients together  in a bowl (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt)

Add in the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, one at a time starting with the oil, then the flax eggs, the vanilla extract, then the mashed bananas and finally the chopped pecans. (You can also reserve a few chopped pecans and sprinkle them on top of the cake.) Mix everything in the bowl well until incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into the greased pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon or a spatula. (At this point you can sprinkle a few pecans on the top of the cake if you like.)

Pop the pan into the oven for approx. 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick or a skewer comes out with only a few crumbs. Remember this is a moist cake so it will show crumbs on your toothpick. That is totally ok. Don’t continue to bake the cake thinking it is still raw.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Cut into squares and enjoy! It tastes equally nice as a warm cake or as a cold cake the next day. I had a piece for breakfast the next day and it was sublime.

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Coconut Split Lentil Stew: kick that deep freeze in the butt

The weather has been exceptionally COLD lately. Like really, REALLY, painfully cold. I get it. We live in Toronto, Canada. It’s supposed to be cold during winter. The best way to counteract the cold weather is to dress warmly, with layers and layers of clothing, thick socks, a winter coat, snow boots, a hat, a scarf and gloves or mittens. It’s not rocket science. Another way to deal with this extreme cold is to eat warming foods like this creamy, coconuty, gingery split lentil stew.

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Just as an aside, I  didn’t follow a recipe. I sort of made this stew up as I went along and I added things that I already had in my kitchen. Feel free to use what you like in terms of vegetables and also what you have on hand. You can add diced potatoes, zucchini, peas, whatever. I’m following an anti-inflammatory diet so I chose ingredients that I know will agree with me.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups orange split lentils (rinsed)

3 – 4 carrots sliced into coins

3 – 4 stalks celery sliced

2 – 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 small purple onion, roughly chopped

small knob of fresh ginger about 1 tablespoon, roughly chopped

3/4  to 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (plain)

1/2 cup of coconut manna or 1 cup coconut milk

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 tsp sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 cups boiled water for cooking lentils (I find cold water slows down the cooking process)

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a pot on medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, carrots and celery together with the olive oil. Cover with lid for a few minutes to sweat.

When the vegetables have sweated after about 4 – 5 minutes, add the ginger and the pumpkin. You may also need to add some (about 1/2 cup) of the boiled water to this mixture to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the base.

Continue to cook, gently stirring. At this point you may also add the salt and turmeric. Also,  lower the heat a bit. Now proceed to add approximately 3 to 4 cups of hot water and add the lentils. The lentils will absorb much of the liquid in the pot so you want to make sure there is enough water for them to cook completely.

Put the lid back on your pot and continue to boil the stew at a slightly lower temperature than earlier to avoid scorching the base of your pot. I find that things can stick very easily once the lentils have been added.

Allow the lentils to turn mushy and then add your coconut manna or your coconut milk. You can use whichever you have on hand. The manna melted like butter into the stew and developed a creamy consistency. Note: If you add coconut milk, you may want to refrain from adding too much water to your lentils in the earlier step (above). You don’t want your stew to get too soupy.

And that is it. Take a spoon to taste a bit of the stew when you feel it is finished. Make any flavour adjustments. Add more salt if you like or more coconut milk. Give everything a good stir. Remove from heat when the lentils have turned mushy and the veggies are soft.

Enjoy the warming and nutritious effects of this hearty stew.

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