I’m baaaaaack!

Yes, I’m back…..I didn’t quit, I wasn’t MIA, I didn’t throw my laptop out the window and I most certainly did not lose my passion for following in Oma’s footsteps to bake my way into everyone’s hearts……I simply took a little break from sharing all the deliciousness with the world (well, at least with social media!).  I was still busy baking away, sharing the goodies with friends and family and definitely enjoying EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of it!  Summers are busy for most people, vacations, kidlets out of school, barbecues, picnics, beaches….the list goes on.  I did partake in most of these, however, I’m a bit of a sports nut, especially in the summer when I can A) be outside doing as much as I can that is sports related or physically active and B) dust off my cleats and glove and get back on the diamond!  So that was basically what took up most of my free time over the past several months, hence the hiatus from blogging!

ballOk, sooooo I thought I’d come back with one of the most popular and tastiest cookies I’ve ever made (aside from my mom’s recipe, which came from my Oma).  They are not only incredibly simple, but they are gluten free and healthy – yes, healthy (unless you eat the entire batch in one sitting!)  The amazing chef responsible for this recipe is Vanille Verte’s Nathalie.  I’ve made many recipes from her site and every single one has been outstanding.  But these……these literally make your taste buds dance on your tongue!   Salted Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Go ahead, say it out loud “Salted Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies”  Just saying it makes your mouth water and now you want to try one, don’t you?

                             salted-pb-choc-chip-cookies-013     salted-pb-choc-chip-cookies-014

Well there are only 6 ingredients in these and they literally take 20 minutes to make, so get to it.  One egg, peanut butter, coconut palm sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips and sea salt.  Seriously, that’s it!  Easy Peasy and did I mention Gluten Free??  The only tricky part (and it’s not even really all that hard) is that you cannot overcook these otherwise they will be really dry!

salted-pb-choc-chip-cookies-020Because these do not have any flour in them, the bottoms may burn a bit if they’re directly on the baking sheet, so be sure to line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  They don’t spread out too much, and when you scoop them out, they should be kept round-ish, so they will bake evenly AND that also makes it way easier just to pop them in your mouth in one bite   You will not be disappointed with these chunks of heaven.

salted-pb-choc-chip-cookies-024

 

Attack of the Giant Raisins

So, after being told several times by different people that I really should watch the movie “Julie and Julia” with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, I finally got the chance to.  It was very cute and it kind of planted a seed in my head…..I’m actually considering doing something similar – finding a really amazing dessert cookbook (recommendations are more than welcome – feel free to leave your ideas in a comment!) and making all the recipes in it!   The only 2 things I need is to find the cookbook and find someone (or multiple someones) that would volunteer as guinea pigs to try the end results of my efforts!  The other thing in the movie that came up was in one of the blogs that Julie Powell was writing, she asks if there is even anyone that reads her blog and I got to thinking the same thing!  Does anyone read this?  Do I inspire anyone to try making a new dessert or try to improve on a classic?  Is there anyone out there?  Or is it just me, writing my overspilling brain’s thoughts on to my computer screen?      On to today’s blog…………….

Growing up, I thought dates were “yicky” and this was probably because I thought they were like a prune or just giant raisins – which I also wasn’t a fan of.  In all honesty, up until about a year ago, I still wasn’t sold on them.  Then I tried my first date square and was kicking myself for not giving them more of a chance.  I realized that they are sweet and tasted like a brilliant mix of caramel, cinnamon and honey.  Plus, there are so many wonderful health benefits to them.  Aside from being filled with nutrients your body needs, like protein, anti-oxidants, B-Complex vitamins, potassium and magnesium (which both aid in the regulation of blood pressure and give you a big boost of energy), they are also a great source of fiber, and we all know how beneficial that is, especially for our digestive system!  Did you also know that they help combat arteriosclerosis, which is the thickening and hardening of the walls of your arteries.

  • “The anti-oxidants in Medjool dates play an important role in ridding from the body bad fats as well as reducing the risk cancers. Their high fiber content also plays an important role in fighting deposition of plaque, mostly associated with development of arteriosclerosis.”   ~  www.healthbenefitsofeating.com

datesEnough from the side of my brain that is obsessed with the health factors that certain foods bring to us and over to the other side, the side that is obsessed with creating deliciousness and transforming these sweet, plump and luscious fruits into a gooey, thick mixture to cover a crumbly, soft crust.

pouring mixtureDate squares are actually quite effortless to make.  Chopping the 3 cups of dates is perhaps the most time consuming task of the whole process.  Nevertheless, chopping them by hand is the best approach, as you can decide how big or how small you want the pieces of dates to be.  I cut mine into medium sized chunks (about 8 little nuggets per date).  I found keeping them a good size helps keep the mixture a bit thicker, so when the final masterpiece is baked, the filling doesn’t ooze out the sides when you grab a square to sink your teeth into!  Add a bit of water, lemon juice and some brown sugar and pop the concoction on the stove to simmer it all together into a thickened, blended filling.  The crust and the crumble for the topping is a basic recipe – flour, butter, brown sugar, oats and a bit of baking soda.  You can get fancy if you want and add a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg, or some chopped nuts, whatever your taste buds are in the mood for that day.  Bake it for about a half hour and let the enticing aroma take over your kitchen.

fresh from the oven 
I guarantee these mouth watering squares will not last in your house!  But just remember that dates have a healthy dose of fiber and amino acids that will help “move things along” your digestive track, so it would be a wise decision NOT to eat half the pan of squares in one day!!

ready to eat

 

 

This amazing recipe was found on www.robinhood.ca

 

 

Banananaaaaas

I love using bananas when I’m baking, mostly because they are good for you and when you mush them up, they make such a great substitution for other not-so-healthy ingredients (like oils, butter, shortening or even eggs if you are wanting a vegan recipe).  The riper the banana, the sweeter the taste too, so with simple cookies where you only have a few ingredients (like this one), a riper banana will boost the taste a little. Don’t forget – cookies can be both delicious and healthy……you just need to use the right ingredients and ones that are whole and not processed.  These tasty little morsels are just that – with a base of bananas and oats, add in a bit of cinnamon and chocolate chips and voila, you have a cookie that will settle that craving and they take less than a hour to make!  I found this really easy recipe on simple-veganista.com.  So, yes, not only are they easy & deee-lish, but they are also gluten free and vegan!

  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • a handful of chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup)

Bake in the oven at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.

ready to bakeIf you wanted to change them up a bit, you can always add in things like a splash of vanilla, dried fruit, a couple spoonfuls of nut butter, nuts or even a bit of coconut.  Anything that you might be craving that day!  This time, I decided to change my chocolate chips for butterscotch chips and they were a big hit!

Gluten Free Banana Oat Bites

Kid Approved

With all the baking I do, most of the recipes are full on desserts, meaning they’re made with things like flour, butter, eggs, milk, a lot of the traditional ingredients you’d use when you think of desserts.  So when my beautiful and dear friend, Victoria, asked me if I could write a blog with some gluten free and vegan recipes, I happily went through my recipe books in search of a few good ones.

So, yes, most kids love ooey, gooey, sugary cookies and cupcakes, but in all honesty, how many do you know that would actually eat not just a ‘protein energy ball’, but a gluten free and healthy one?  HA!  Well, I found a crazy delicious recipe on thewhoot.com that is all of the above AND it’s kid approved!  These cutie patooties are Ryland and Jaks, 2 of the 4 sweet little munchkins that I have the pleasure of spending my days with and they are, without a doubt, typical kids that love their cookies!  So, I was very happy when they both devoured a couple of these little morsels!

                                  Ryland approved    Jaks approved

These seriously take about 5 minutes to toss these 8 simple, healthy ingredients together in a bowl – 1 cup oats, 2/3 cup coconut, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 cup ground flaxseed, 1/3 cup honey (or maple syrup), 1/2 cup cacao nibs, 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1 tsp vanilla. Chill in the fridge for about a 1/2 hour, roll into balls and voila…..you have a tasty treat!  Just keep in mind – with the flaxseed and chia seeds in them, if you eat more than a few of them in one day, they will certainly give your digestion a big boost!!

                                  Ingredients Mixed    Protein Balls

As I’ve done a 30 day healthy detox program with my USANA business a few times, there are a lot of gluten free and vegan recipes, but most are meals, not desserts.  However, one of the desserts in the program, which is both gluten free and vegan, is so delicious, that the pan of them literally does not last more than a couple days any time I’ve made them.  The No Bake Protein Bars recipe was created by Gorete Almeida, who is one of the brilliant nutritionists that helped create the program and some of the recipes.

                                   Ready for the freezer   Plated

Typically, dessert recipes that are gluten free and/or vegan have ingredients that some people really don’t care for too much (like tofu) or that you may need to do a little hunting around for, such as amaranth, buckwheat or coconut flour or even flaxseed meal.  Luckily, these sensational squares are made with simple ingredients and most are probably in your pantry or cupboards right now!  Coconut, oats, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup, natural peanut butter……and they’re all healthy too!  And on a side note – these are out-of-this-world delish when you store them in the freezer!

Healthy-er Baking

I’m sure that most people would think that ‘healthy’ and ‘baking’ are complete oxy-morons.  BUT, they really aren’t.  There are plenty of healthy recipes out there, some are really good, some are just ok and sadly, some taste like you’re eating cardboard.   However, if you have a really super delicious recipe that you want to make a bit healthier, like one that calls for buttermilk, you can substitute it with plain yogurt or add a tablespoon of lemon juice to regular milk (let that stand for about 5 minutes first before adding it to your recipe).  Or instead of using white sugar, you can substitute organic sugar, packed brown sugar or even coconut sugar.  There are copious substitutions available, but I thought I’d compile a list of 10 of the more popular ones:

  • replace white flour with whole wheat flour – for every 1 cup of white, use 7/8 whole wheat.  Whole wheat has more fiber than white, which not only helps with your digestion, but it can also lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • unsweetened apple sauce for oil or butter – using a ratio of 1:1.  This works really well in breads, muffins and cakes because it provides similar consistency, without the fats you will get in oil or butter. In case you’re wondering – 1 cup of butter has 1600 calories whereas 1 cup of applesauce has 160 calories, you do the math!
  • avocado puree for butter – using a ratio of 1:1.  When used at room temperature, the avocado has nearly the same consistency as butter and adds the same creaminess, again, without all the extra calories.  Avocado also has the natural good fats that your body needs (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), AND they are cholesterol and sodium free
  • mashed banana for butter is another great substitution if you’re not an avocado fan!  A ratio of 1:1 works well and bananas will give you some key nutrients your body needs, like potassium, fiber and vitamin B6
  • natural peanut butter for “reduced-fat” or “fat free” peanut butter.  This is a big one for me, as these altered PB’s may not have as much fat, but they have way more sugar, not to mention oodles of artificial additives.   Next time you’re at the grocery store, take a look at the ingredients in a jar of reduced-fat or fat-free PB, how many can you pronounce?  Or even recognize?  Natural PB adds the same consistency and sweetness, just without all the extra junk in it
  • honey or maple syrup for corn syrup.  Corn syrup is a liquid starch made from maize, so not the best for you and recent studies show it is actually more unhealthy for you than over processed white table sugar.  Other good substitutes include rice syrup and agave syrup
  • 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg.  For those that are keeping an eye on their cholesterol, replacing a whole egg with 2 egg whites will still keep the texture the same in any recipe. Plus, even without the yolk, egg whites still contain riboflavin, selenium and potassium, which are key nutrients your body needs
  • chia seeds for eggs – yup, chia seeds, those same seeds that grow what resembles hair or fur out of a clay figurine “Ch-ch-ch-chia!”  Combine 1 tbsp of seeds with 1 cup of water, let it sit for about 15 minutes and voila – egg subsitute!
  • graham cracker crumbs to replace a cookie base.  Instead of the traditional sugar cookie or Oreo crust for a pie, try using crushed graham crackers.  Typically, they have half the calories and are just as tasty.  If you really NEED to have chocolate, you can always add a tbsp of cocoa powder the graham crumbs!
  • Cacao nibs for chocolate chips.  Yes, I know that chocolate is an immensely delicious ingredient in lots of yummy recipes, (believe me, I use it a lot!), but were you aware that the bag of those chips actually started off as cocoa beans before getting smooshed in to chocolate?   So why not opt to just use the rawest form of them?  They’re tasty, less processed AND they provide you a big, healthy dose of antioxidants

As I mentioned, these are just a few healthier substitutions that you can use to bake with, there are countless others and even more that can be used with regular (non dessert) cooking as well!