Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sunbutter No-Bake Oat Cookies

Hope you all had a great Christmas- can you believe how it goes by so quickly and then the new year is right before us?! I love reminiscing over the past year. And I am a complete sucker for all those top ten year-end lists (or top eleven, this year). I love to know who made the list for the most inspiring, beautiful and whatever else. It is interesting to me how certain things become trendy or fall out of trend so quickly. It is also interesting to me how the general public views people and our society. I guess you could call me a 'people watcher'. And that goes for the media and pop culture as well. 

But I also love reminiscing over my own life from the past year. The first full year as a new momma and watching my babe grow, crawl, and now walk. My son is a constant reminder to me how life is moving so fast and that each new day is a gift. 

With life moving so fast, this week would be a great time to find some space to reflect...or make resolutions...or goals... or is a great time to ask what you want to keep in your life, what you want to get rid of and what to want to add. I like to think about the things I want to add...silly things like more fictional adventure books. Or sensible goals like more chia seeds to my diet. Really the sky is the limit on who you want to become in your life. Taking the time to really write some things down about your self and the past and coming year can be really rejuvenating and inspiring for your soul. 

In the meantime, after all the busy-ness of the holidays, you may also just need a very simple and delicious way to end the year. And, yes, I have yet another cookie recipe. This is my 7th cookie recipe this month, and I thought I would finish off the theme right with one last recipe. And this one is just perfect after being worn out from traveling, parties, cooking and yes, even baking.
These no-bake cookies will rise to the job and make your year-end parties, reflections and whatever else more wonderful. I have another no-bake cookie recipe that is made with a peanut butter base. Which I love, but this one is amazing with the no-nuts option. I am a huge fan of sunflower seed butter. I have fallen off the wagon for it this year. Seriously, my favorite butter for toast, cookies, pies and more. So consider sunflower seed butter to be in my top-ten foods for the year of 2011 :)
Sunbutter No-Bake Oat Cookie Recipe 
(gluten, dairy, egg and nut-free)
4 cups of certified gluten-free rolled oats (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 ts. of course sea salt
1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious coconut milk beverage)

1 1/2 cup of creamy Sunbutter
1/3 cup of organic coconut oil (I used Nutiva)
3/4 cup of coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 ts. of pure vanilla extract
1 cup of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious coconut milk beverage)

First, in a large mixing bowl add the 4 cups of oats, sea salt and then 1/2 cup of milk. Mix around and let the oats sit for 10-15 minutes to soak up the milk and become just a touch more soft. Then in a medium saucepan add the remaining ingredients. Let the sunbutter, sucanat, milk and oil melt and stir continually with a rubber spatula. When the mix is completely combined and warm (don't let it get too hot or boil for more than a second) Then you pour the hot chocolate mix over the oats. Stir well, getting every oat covered. Then let sit for 10-15 minutes to stiffen just a bit. After about 10 minutes you can plop down a cookie-sized serving glop, ball or whatever you want to call it on a parchment papered cookie sheet or even in a 9x13 pan. This recipe will make about 3 dozen cookies, so you want to make sure you have enough room in your fridge to cool these cookies down. I suggest a cookie sheet for 1-2 dozen and then a cover container to put in the remaining amount. Then you can stack the cooling cookies in the fridge without too much fuss. Chill in the fridge for 2 or more hours. These cookies keep best in the fridge and are delicious served cool or at room temperature with a hot beverage. 

If you want to add another ingredient while you are in the mixing process of the sauce and the oats, here are a few suggestions with amounts:

optional ingredients
1/2 cup mini allergy-free bitter-sweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand)
1/2 cup of favorite dried fruit
1/2 cup of favorite seed or mix

I hope you try out this super simple and wonderful cookie recipe and enjoy!

I hope to have one or two more posts before January, which will include some of my most popular recipes for 2011. And a few of my favorite foods and products for 2011. I told you I was a sucker for top-1- lists :) Consider yourself warned :)

Much love and life to you today!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pumpkin Nog Pancakes (gluten-free, vegan)

 Christmas morning is 2 sleeps away. Can you believe it?! 
I made these amazing pumpkin nog pancakes this morning. We are starting the Christmas holiday a bit early. Might as well with these sweet babies. So delicious and perfect for Christmas. They are mostly made with buckwheat flour and can be made vegan. I made both a batch with an egg and a batch without. Both turned out pretty much the same and were perfect. The nog makes the batter extra thick so you may feel like you are flipping burgers over flipping pancakes- to make them thinner just spread out the cake right after you lay some batter on the skillet. Spread it thin and it will be a thinner cake. I didn't want to try and add more liquid because I wanted the cakes to stick together well, but if you want to experiment I bet you could add a touch more nog or pumpkin to thin them just a bit. I learned a lot about pancakes in general from Iris' post (@the Daily Dietribe), and these are similar to her base recipe. Yet, I think what really makes these cakes great is that they are perfectly chewy and fluffy, which I think the nog deserves credit for. Perfect combo. Especially for Christmas!

Pumpkin Nog Pancake Recipe
1 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour
1/4 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of ground nutmeg
1 ts. of pumpkin pie spice blend
1-2 TB of coconut palm sugar

2 TB of light olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 to 1 1/4 cup of So Delicious Coconut Nog (or other vegan nog)
1 farm fresh egg (or egg replacement- use 1 TB of chia meal and 1/4 cup more nog)
1/3 cup of pumpkin puree ( I used fresh)

In a mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together first. Then add the oil, pumpkin (egg or replacement) plus the nog. Whisk well with a rubber spatula or whisk. Then let sit for a few minutes for it to gel together and allow the baking powder to activate. 

In a skillet, covered in grapeseed or coconut oil (both oils are better for frying), take a 1/3 cup of the batter and spread it on the skillet. You can use a griddle skillet, or I used a cast iron skillet. Make sure to not have your temp too high, you can always raise the heat, but it's hard to drop the heat quickly if the cakes are burning. Cook about 2 minutes on each side. You know the first side is cooked when you noticed bubbles popping from the top of the cake. Flip em' and watch carefully to not burn. 

This recipe makes about 10-12 pancakes. Serves about 4 people.
For serving top with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, craisins, or even fresh fruit. A dash of nutmeg or powdered sugar might be a nice touch as well. I also like to have a little pat of some vegan butter. Super delicious. And, such a treat for Christmas morning.
I hope you have a blessed and restful holiday. Remember that the coming of Jesus is the miracle of heaven and earth coming together. He comes to be with us. He brings us hope, joy, peace and love. His love defines our lives and in Him we find restoration and grace. I am so thankful for this miracle and for this gift every day.

Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of your holiday in a small way. I hope your gluten-free Christmas will bring you joy and no stress.
Much love and light to you this Christmas!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Apple Molasses Cookies (gluten-free, vegan)

I had to share one more gluten-free cookie recipe before Christmas. Molasses cookies have been my favorite cookie over the past few Christmases. I have made this recipe the past few years, which is a sure favorite. But this year I wanted to add a few variations, including no eggs and honey. There is always room for dreaming and I thought some fresh apples may be a nice touch.
I always can't believe how much I love these cookies because molasses can be such a strong flavor. But once you fall for them, you fall hard. They are so rich and spicy. They also have lots of great vitamins and minerals because of the blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is an everyday remedy for low-iron ailments and if you are nutrient deficient or anemic you should get to know this staple pantry item. Try and look for an 'unsulphured' variety to help avoid less chemicals and preservatives that are added in the processing of molasses. I try to think of how I can add more molasses to my life and in my baking, and these cookies are a no-brainer for consuming more of it. But maybe that is just a justification for these desirable cookie treats.
Molasses cookies are a holiday favorite and I just had to add them to my Christmas cookie line-up. I decided to add a little twist of applesauce and fresh apples. I think apples and molasses are such a good pair, so why not put them together for another great holiday treat. I also used a touch of vanilla stevia to add a lastly touch of sweetness without calories or added sugars. Plus, these are made without eggs and butter- perfect for the sensitive stomach like mine!

Apple Molasses Cookie Recipe (gluten-free, vegan)
1 1/2 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup of organic millet flour
3/4 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 TB of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
3 TB of chia seed meal (grind chia seeds in magic bullet type grinder)
3/4 cup of coconut palm sugar
2 ts. of ground ginger
2 ts. of ground cinnamon
dash of black pepper
2 dashes of ground cardamon
1/2 cup of unsulphured blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup of room temperature organic coconut oil
1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce (I use homemade)
2-3 TB of maple syrup
15-20 drops of pure vanilla stevia liquid (I used NuNaturals)
1/4-1/3 cup of finely chopped fresh apple pieces
Mix all of the dry ingredients first in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the flours to blend well. Then, add the wet ingredients all together without the apples and mix well. It will be pretty wet and sticky, so do not worry. Then lastly add the grated and chopped apples and mix well again. Molasses cookie batters are usually a bit more 'wet' and gooey than others, so to help this, you can put the batter in the fridge for 60 minutes to help chill it more and stiffen it up to roll out your cookies. You can also chill the batter for days up until baking. The chilling process helps the cookies not spread to thinly too quickly while baking, so for best results I suggest chilling.
After chilling batter. Roll out large TB-sized cookie balls and place them on a parchment papered cookie sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes. 

Some notes:
- You can omit the stevia and add another 1/4-1/2 cup of sucanat. But I like to add the touch of stevia for more sweetness and the added vanilla. If you add sugar instead, you may want to add 1 ts. of pure vanilla as well. 

- If you want to roll each cookie before baking in coconut sugar for an added touch of sweetness, these cookies would do great with that.

-Adding some finely chopped candied ginger or raisins could be a nice added option as well.

- Some other molasses recipes from my blog are HERE.
There is 1 more day to enter the NuNatural's GIVEAWAY. Enter HERE. I can't wait to announce the 4 winners later tomorrow. There is still time to enter now, so please do. Don't wait last minute...that is what Christmas shopping is for :)

I hope you have a festive day and enjoy!

Much love to you!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grammy Ethel's Chocolate Oat Nut Cake

This time of year brings out all your favorite family traditions, secrets and memories. One of those being for my husband is his Grammy Ethel's chocolate cake. Grammy Ethel was his great-grandmother that he remembers visiting as a child. He remembers that Grammy Ethel was a great baker and that she loved to share her goodies with her family. A great lady that loved to care for her family with good food... who doesn't want to be loved by grammy with a slice of her yummy chocolate cake?!
This cake seems to be famous to the family I married. I have been hearing about it since before we married and haven't tried the original because of my gluten-free disposition. But, who says that you can't adjust the flour and make it gluten-free? Why not, right? My husband was excited for me to make it and share in a little family tradition. And, I was excited to try and re-create a family favorite into a gluten-free masterpiece.
My hubby says that the cake wasn't meant to be a decadent cake with lots of frosting or extras. But instead it was a moist oatmeal-filled cake with lots of texture and flavor. I thought, "Sounds decadent to me!" And his mom graciously shared the family recipe with me to try and make the gluten-free alterations. It was pretty simple actually since you can now find certified gluten-free oats. I decided to make it with the called-for eggs, but you could try making this cake vegan by adding an egg substitute instead if you desired. Also, I used "healthier" versions of sweetener and a touch of chia meal to add some glue to the mix. It turned out pretty wonderful. I mean, you really can't go wrong where chocolate and nuts are involved. Super simple and delicious. A great holiday cake that I am happy to carry-on in the family, gluten-free style of course :)
Grammy Ethel's Chocolate Oat Nut Cake Recipe 
(gluten and dairy-free)
1/2 cup of sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup of millet flour
3/4 cup of tapioca flour
2 TB of chia seed meal
1 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of baking soda
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 cup of coconut palm sugar

1 cup of Bob's Red Mill certified gluten-free rolled oats (or cooking oats)
1 1/2 cup of boiling water

1/2 cup of grapeseed oil (or other baking oil: soft coconut oil or light olive oil)
3 large farm fresh eggs
10-15 drops of NuNatural's pure vanilla stevia

1 10 ounce bag of dairy-free semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used Enjoy Life's)
1 cup of chopped walnuts or other nut-variety
First things first, boil some water and pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over your 1 cup of gluten-free oats in a glass bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes for the oats to absorb the water and soften up. Then in a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon or whisk. Then add in your oil, eggs and stevia and stir. Then add in the oats mixture and stir well. Lastly, fold in half of the bag of chocolate chips ( about 1 cup's worth).  Pour batter into a 9x13 greased pan, and then top with the rest of the chocolate chips and about 1 cup of crushed or chopped walnuts (or nut-mix). Sprinkle the toppings evenly and then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Pull from oven and let cool completely before cutting into for best results.

Some Notes:
-You can sub all of the flours above for a favorite GF all-purpose flour mix if that is easier for you or what you have available. Just start with 1 1/2 cup of your flour mix and if it seems too wet then add a touch more flour, up to 1/4 cup. 

-I used Bob's Red Mill certified gluten-free rolled oats because that is what I had in the house, BUT I this the cooking oats may even work better. They both will work so use what you got. 

-This cake doesn't have or need frosting. The topped nuts and extra chocolate chips add the perfect ending to each slice. 
Making this cake was a little pre-Christmas present for my husband. He loved it and even though it was a bit different than the original, he said it was pretty darn close for being gluten-free. Now, I must carry on with a few more Christmas presents. Can you believe Christmas is less than a week away? Crazy. I might seem a little weird because there is no snow here yet. I am hoping for some snow for Christmas...everyone loves a white christmas.

Also, there are 3 more days to enter the NuNatural's stevia giveaway! PLEASE enter HERE if you haven't. You have the chance to win such a great product and will be able to start trying it in some low-to-no-sugar recipes for the holiday or new year.

Much love to you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sugar-Free Stevia-Sweetened Holiday Punch

When I was a kid I loved going to my aunt's or grandma's house for the holiday and getting a special cup of punch. It was always a bubbly kid-friendly treat and it made you feel festive and full of cheer. There is something about the holidays that bring out the inner cheerful self. You don't need a lot of sugar or "adult beverages" to make this happen either. In fact, your body will thank you for it if you do not overload on empty carbs and calories of sugar. So, that is why this festive holiday punch is so great. It is sweetened with stevia and fresh and frozen fruit. Gorgeous too. A beautiful punch bowl is the perfect centerpiece to any party-table. Forgo the soda and sugar-filled crap and stick to some sparkling fruity goodness that will bring your whole holiday table and party together. 
This punch recipe is super simple and has all your favorite seasonal flavors. You can make it in your own festive punch bowl in minutes. You can also get the kids involved or add a few different flavors depending on your tastes or what you have available. I like to stick to a cranberry-apple combo and use stevia to sweeten.

Cranberry Apple Holiday Punch Recipe
2 liters of mineral or sparkling water (Pellagrino, Perrier, or Gerolsteiner)
4-6 cups of fresh apple cider
6-8 ounces of pure cranberry juice concentrate
55-60 drops of NuNaturals stevia liquid
1-2 cups of frozen whole cranberries
1 fresh apple, horizontally sliced with the seeds in

In a large punch bowl, pour in all of the chilled liquid ingredients and stir together. Then add in the frozen cranberries to help the punch stay chilled and add flavor and color. Lastly, slice an apple horizontally, leaving the seeds in and you will see how the slices will look like they have a star in the middle. You can pop the seeds out at this point if you want. You can double and triple this recipe if you desire, or mix a back up amount in a pitcher to re-fill the bowl when it is running low. If you want to trade out the cranberries for frozen raspberries and juice, that is also a great option. It is just that simple, and no sugar needed!

Which leads me to this amazing NuNatural's stevia giveaway...

NuNaturals is a health company that sells many varieties of stevia products. You may be asking, what is stevia? Stevia is an herbal sweetener derived from a plant native to South and Central America. It has been called over the years the sweetleaf plant or sugarleaf plant and is called stevia because of the bontanist who first researched it. I first tried stevia in the powder form sometime last year because I was curious about it. You hear so many good things about it. Like how it is calorie-free, doesn't raise your blood sugar and is an herb so there is no weird additives or allergic reactions. I was curious to try and reduce the use of other sweeteners, but also to try and bake with a combination of stevia and another sweetener. I was skeptical of how it would taste. And, it turns out that it is actually very good. It helps you spread the sweetness and have even a more complex sweetness to your treat. Not to mention...less calories...and no changes to your blood sugar.

Last summer I bought a stevia plant from my local farmer's market. I liked seeing the real plant where my stevia extract came from and it was also fun to add the fresh leaves to tea, lemonade and desserts for an added touch of sweetness. It was also fun to have friends over and have them just pick a leaf off and eat it. It is surprisingly sweet and is actually 30 times sweeter than sugar. Yet, it is calorie free because it the stevia sweetener is derived from the green leaf. When the leaves are dried and made into a powder or extract, the sweetness is amplified and is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and that is why you only need a few drops or pinches here and there to add the sweetness.

Yet, I was slow to try it out because of the cost. It seemed super expensive when I looked at the prices, but I started slow and tried a powder variety that I really liked. Then, last month I received an amazing sample of stevia products from NuNaturals. They were overly generous in the sampling of a huge variety of their product and more than helpful on their website with information, recipes, reviews and more. I was impressed, and as you can see from my last 4-5 recipe posts, I have made quite a bit of holiday cookie recipes with their great stevia product. I have also discovered that the price of stevia is totally worth it in the long run. My favorite is the NuNatural's pure vanilla stevia liquid. Perfect for baking! You use so little for each recipe that the bottle will last a very long time so the cost is worth. I honestly really like NuNatural's stevia over other brands I have tried as well. The product has a smooth sweetness and no noticeable aftertastes or bitterness. I am throughly impressed with NuNatural's product and think I found the brand I plan to stick with when it comes to stevia. Many thanks to NuNatural's for sharing their product with me. I am loving it in my gluten-free, dairy-free, and now sugar-free baking!

And, best of all, NuNaturals wants to offer a giveaway to my fact, they want to gift to 4 winners in this amazing giveaway. And, on top of that, for those who don't win but are really wanting to try their product, NuNaturals will offer a discount code for all of my readers. And, as always, they also will send you (or anyone) samples of their product in a the mail. (All of these details will be listed below).

The NuNatural's giveaway details include:
1.) This giveaway is open to FOUR (4) blog readers and will be selected at random by by me. The contest is open immediately and the winners will be drawn on December 22 at 9pm EST. You have 1 week to enter and tell your friends!
2.) The 4 winners will receive 1 box of NuStevia Packets (50 ct box) and 1 bottle of NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia Liquid (2 ounce bottle)
3.) The giveaway is open to Continental U.S. residents ONLY

What you need to do for a chance to win:
1.) Leave a comment on this blog telling of your favorite way or idea of a way to use stevia
2.) For extra chances to win, "LIKE" Hope for Healing Gluten-Free Recipes on Facebook, and "LIKE" NuNaturals  Facebook Page, and make sure to leave an additional comment each time you do that. You have at max 3 chances (3 comments) to get in the running to win.
3.) PLEASE leave your email address in each comment so that you can be easily contacted if you win.

In addition to your chance to win:
1.) You can send a self-addressed envelope to NuNatural's for a sample of their product. Send the envelope to:
NuNaturals, INC
2220 West 2nd Ave.#1
Eugene, OR 97402

2.) PLUS, all of my readers are authorized immediately for special discounts with a discount code when you order online from NuNaturals.  Go to their website:, and when you place and order and come to the checkout page you need to enter the code: BLG0612, and then you will receive a special discount of 15% off your entire order. And, if you buy more than $35 dollars after this special discount, you get free shipping in the continental US. This offer is effective now and ends 06/30/12.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eggnog Cookies (gluten-free, vegan)

Yes, yet another cookie recipe. I am still baking holiday cookies around here. I have been making batches and freezing a dozen here and there so that I have a nice gluten-free mix for Christmas and New Year's celebrations. I like the perfection of the small and dainty cookie-treat. If you have self-control you can have one (or maybe even two) and feel like you are getting a treat without too much indulgence or calories. Plus, these cookies have reduced sweetener and a special holiday ingredient that I just LOVE. 
Yes, I am weak in the knees for So Delicious' Coconut Nog this season. I was given a sample earlier this fall and couldn't wait till my local store started stocking it, and now, they have it on-sale for the month of December! Yep, you can bet I stocked up a a few to have over the holidays. When you can't have a lot of other gluten-dairy-filled holiday treats, you have to find ones you like and make those even more special. 
Like nog. Yes, you will know what I am talking about after you try some, trust me! Plus, it is the inspiration behind these yummy Christmas cookies. So if you can spare a little for these cookies (and maybe share with Santa!) you can enjoy the rest. Delish!  
Around the holidays, you've got to have a plan if you know it is best for you to stay on the gluten and dairy-free path. When you have a plan, with options of your own, you are less likely to cheat, or worse yet, feel awful about yourself and your body by enjoying nothing. So, when you are able to make a plan, have a treat of your own and even share those treats with others, you feel more acceptance and joy about your 'gluten-free issue'. People used to ask me why I couldn't eat sugar, or what kind of weird diet I was on even during the holidays. I learned that you can't expect others to 'get' your thing about gluten. You have to be understanding of others, and just do the best you can to make a plan and feel good about your choices. After all, you and I both know that gluten isn't a 'diet', it's a lifestyle. It is for your health, your future. It isn't a trend or something cool to do and feel great for a while. For me, it is a necessity. I am literally one sick dog if I have gluten, and can't function like a normal human being. I know that. So cheating is not an option for me anymore. Cheating is the worst. So, to overcome this temptation and find joy, I bake. 
 'Egg' Nog Christmas Cookie Recipe (gluten-free, vegan)
1 1/2 cups of sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup of organic millet flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
2 TB of chia seed meal
1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar
1/2 ts. of ground cinnamon
1/2 ts. of ground nutmeg
dash of ground cardemon
1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce  (I use homemade)
1/3 cup of room temperature organic coconut oil (or vegan butter)
3/4 cup of So Delicious Coconut Nog (or other vegan nog of choice)
15-20 drops of NuNaturals liquid pure vanilla stevia

Mix all of the dry ingredients together first in a large mixing bowl. Then add the coconut oil, applesauce stevia and nog. Mix well with a spoon and then use your hands to mix really well. The batter will be wet, but let it sit just a minute and it will be more pliable. Then roll out small TB-sized balls and press them down on a cookie sheet. I always use parchment paper to avoid sticking. Then press down the cookies just a touch and sprinkle with some ground nutmeg over each cookie. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Do not over bake, because they will be dry, so stay around 10-12 minutes and they will be perfect. This recipe makes 2-3 dozen cookies depending on how large you make them. 

Some Notes:
-You can most likely sub any GF flour mix for 2 1/2 cups of flour. I have not tried this out personally, but sorghum and millet are a good base of a lot of mixes, so if you have a flour blend that you can sub and use 2 1/4 cups of flour and add the last 1/4 cup slowly to too make sure you still have a wet and pliable dough. 

-You can make a simple icing for these cookies if you prefer: 1/3 cup of coconut nog, 2-3 cups of powdered sugar or powder coconut sugar, and 1/3 cup of vegan butter

-Serve cookies with more nog to really enjoy the flavors. The sprinkle of nutmeg on top is just the perfect touch, but if you want to make more "sweet" you can add a sprinkle of powdered sugar as well.

Much love and light to you as we prepare our hearts and home in this advent season. 
Hope you have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fig Thumbprint Cookies (gluten-free, vegan)

Things have been pretty quiet in my kitchen the past few days. I have been busy creating other things... many homemade Christmas gifts. I would tell you what I was making, but then some of you would not be so surprised on Christmas morning :) Besides gift-making, I have been sewing felt stockings and tree decorating as well. Christmas for sure brings out my inner-artsy-fartsy- do-it-yourself side. It's fun to make the house look pretty and festive too.
But we all know that I can only stay away from the kitchen for so long. Today I decided I needed to get back to baking and make another possible Christmas cookie. I have been making many cookies as of late with liquid stevia and finding them to be quite satisfying. And today I also turned to an addicting sweet treat as of late...
Figs- wonderful figs. They are like candy (especially if you haven't had candy in a long time ;) I found some organic, sun-dried, unsulfured black mission figs at Costco for a really great price (brand is Made in Nature, Black Mission Figs). If you are not a Costco member, I am sure you can find a decent dried fig at your local health store or marketplace. Or you may be really lucky and live in a region where you can find them fresh and freshly dried. If you can, look for figs that are organic and unsulphered to avoid more chemicals. (And, if you are a Costco member, I suggest you search these babies down next time you are there!) Figs have amazing nutritional qualities as well: amazing amounts of potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber. Plus loads of vitamins and an easy way to add another serving of fruit to your life. 
I have not been able to find or make a decent gluten-free version of the famous 'fig newton'. But this cookie does bring all of the fig-lovin' goodness out and is even refined sugar-free. Perfect. So these rustic thumbprints with the topping of figs may be just what you have been looking for to make your gluten-free cookie platter complete this holiday season. 
Fig Thumbprint Cookie Recipe (gluten-free vegan)
2 cups certified gluten-free oat flour *I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
(or grind your own GF rolled oats in a high powered blender or magic bullet to make your own flour)
1/2 cup of gluten-free rolled oats *I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
1/2 cup of organic millet flour
1/2 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 TB of chia seed meal
2-3 TB of coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup of organic, room temperature extra virgin coconut oil
zest and juice of half of organic orange (can omit if you like but add 1 more TB of applesauce instead)
5 TB of unsweetened applesauce (I used homemade)
2-3 TB of fig paste (recipe below)

Fig Paste Recipe
1 1/2 cups of chopped dried figs, (stems removed)
1/2 cup to 1 cup of pure water 

Chop up a heaping cup of figs and put in a glass bowl. Cover the figs with 1/2 cup of water or more water if your figs are extra dry. You basically want your figs almost covered in water. Let soak for 30-60 minutes. Then take your figs and water mix and put in a high powered blender or magic bullet and blend on full speed until you get a 'fig paste'. It will look like a thick preserve or butter. You can basically make more or less of this depending on how many figs you chop and how much water you add. If you paste is too liquidy... add a few more figs and blend until it is more pasty.  

For the cookie base: 
In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together first, then add the coconut oil and the rest of the wet. Mix well with a spatula or your hands. If you need more flour for dusting, use some millet or tapioca flour. Then you should have a nice cookie batter...not too wet or too dry. Add more fig paste if your dough is too dry or crumbly. Then, roll out in your hand small little cookie balls and place them on a parchment papered cookie sheet. Use your thumb or index finger to create a print in the middle of the cookie and then fill the hole with a teaspoon of fig paste.
This recipe will make 2-3 dozen cookies depending on your size. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Until your kitchen smells heavenly and they are golden brown.  

Some notes:
-You can use another fruit preserve with this cookie recipe no problem.
-You could dust the cookies with some powdered sugar for serving if you want them to be "more pretty".
-You can sub the millet flour for sorghum or brown rice flour.
-You could leave out the coconut palm sugar or sub in some maple syrup or agave if you prefer. 
These cookies would make a great addition to your Christmas cookie platter or mix. Plus they're super delicate and dainty for any party, tea date or gift. Figs have been thought a delicacy is many ancient cuisines, and they are still around impressing us with their complex flavor and texture. And, this recipe is made with some pretty simple ingredients just so that you can enjoy that true fig-flavor and delicacy. 
Well, I hope you are having a great weekend with lots of holiday fun. Back to my Christmas projects and gift wrapping I go. I guess it's much more what I prefer over going last minute shopping in the crazed malls :) 

Much love to you as always! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Cookie Bars

Gluten-free for the holidays. This could mean a lot of things depending on who you are. This will be my 5th Christmas eating gluten-free and I have discovered that creating, baking and eating your own mix of gluten-free cookies is worth the effort. I may just be saying this because I really love to bake, but seriously, there is something heart-warming about baking cookies for the holiday. Plus, I have been loving this cookie base I came up with to make cut-out cookies. It's my latest fixation. 
It may be the fresh buckwheat flour, or the fact that I am using mostly stevia to sweeten these cookies, but I am really loving the changes. I guess you start to evolve over time when it comes to your diet. You don't realize it, but then you look back and you see how far you've come. Or you think about all the new ingredients you have come to love and others you have come to do without. This past year I have stopped eating a lot of nuts and have switched to eating more seeds. I have also been doing more and more egg-less vegan baking. The changes I have made have mostly been because I wanted to bake what my son could eat, but also I have discovered that I used to over-consume nuts as a gluten-free dairy-free person. I think I was becoming sensitive to the allergens in the nuts, and so because of that I have been trying to consume them less. Plus, discovering how much I love buckwheat and seeds is a major bonus as well. 
But most of all I have discovered that your kitchen is a revolving door. Time moves on and what you eat changes. And you change. You have the power to consume what you want. And, it may be very scary at times when you just don't know what to eat or you are so overwhelmed with the don't-eat list. Especially around the holidays. I say, take baby steps. You can do it. Don't cheat when you know gluten makes you sick. Make one gluten-free cookie that you love (and make lots and freeze them). It could be a GF mix if that's easiest. Really, just make sure you do what it takes for you to be happy with you changes and experience some holiday cheer without gluten sickness. 
Raspberry Cookie Bar Recipe (vegan)
1 1/3 cup of fresh buckwheat flour (I grind my own fresh flour from groats in my magic bullet)
1 cup of tapioca flour
1/3 cup of organic millet flour
1 TB of chia seed meal
1 TB of flax seed meal
1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar 
1/2 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt

8 TB of room-temperature organic coconut oil (I used Nutiva) *Or grapeseed oil*
6 TB of unsweetened applesauce (I used homemade)
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk or water
1 ts. of apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)

1 cup of crushed frozen raspberries
3/4-1 cup of allergen-free mini chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life's)

Mix all of the dry ingredients together first, then add the wet ingredients and mix well with a spatula. It will be a crumbly batter. Then fold in the crushed frozen raspberry pieces. If you have whole raspberries, then put the berries in a separate bag or bowl and crush them to be little frozen bits instead of whole berries. Don't over mix the raspberries to prevent the berries from bleeding. Then fold in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips and save the 1/2 cup of chips to top on top of the bars for baking. Then drop the batter in a greased 9x13 pan and press down almost like a pie crust. Make sure to be careful to not let the raspberries to bleed to much again. Then, sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Pull from oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes before cutting into. Cut bars 4x5 and you will have 20 bars to serve. 
I used frozen raspberries because that is what I had in my freezer. I do not think fresh berries would work, but maybe it would if you cut the berries up extra small. When you freeze raspberries, it is easy to crush them while frozen to make little bitty pieces. I am happy with how these bars turned out with the frozen... they are somewhere between a cookie and a piece of fruit cobbler. I was thinking about making these cookies like actual cookies, but then they ended up in a pan in the end. They would be fine cut up and served on a platter for a party. Or just keep them in the pan and serve as you want. I think these bars would be yummy with some vegan ice cream or with a nice glass of coconut nog.  There is something about the chocolate and raspberry combo that is decadent and addicting.
Well, friends, I hope you are enjoying some holiday baking. One question though?! Where is the Michigan snow already? I feel like we need a little snow to get us in the mood for more Christmas baking, lights and gift wrapping.  Maybe this weekend...:)

Much love and light to you!