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Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

No Bake Pecan Pie Bars - Gluten-free, Raw and Vegan

I have become obsessed with Medjool dates and I am still just as amazed now as I was the first time I baked with them. It is incredible how sweet they are. I have made quite a few simple raw “cookie” balls in the processor with just oats and/or nuts, some dates and other goodies like chocolate chips or peanut butter. They are so simple and a totally healthy way to get your sweets-fix. I need to start taking photos of those and sharing them with you. You will love them.

A few months back while shopping at the Lexington CoOp here in Buffalo, I ran across something called a “Raw Pecan Pie Bar” (I forget the name of the company that made it) – it was raw and sweetened only with dates and also had sprouted pecans and sprouted something else (can’t remember, again). It immediately peaked my interest, so I picked one up. It was quite tasty, but I couldn’t help but think I could make it even better. Plus, at $3.50 for a single small bar, I knew I could make it cheaper.

I had been looking at different recipes online for date bars as a base for my recipe and ultimately settled on Oh She Glow’s blog, once again. I liked how simple her recipe was and that it included everything that I love! I made a few additions and changed it up a bit to make it similar to a pecan pie. I am so excited about how these turned out. Oh and one quick thing to mention about these bars, because they aren’t loaded with sugar, you could even have this as a breakfast bar. I cannot believe it is sugar-free, egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and it’s even raw! If someone rattled off all of those things to me, with the words “pecan pie” – I would likely laugh in their face. You have to trust me though, these are so amazing. Even my southern-boy pecan pie loving hubby liked him, though he took one bite and said “man, these are good, a big ‘ol scoop of vanilla ice cream over top would really make this.” haha some things will never ever change.

I tend to actually have cravings for sweets around this time of year, which is crazy since I really don’t crave sweets that often. I think it could be the fact that everywhere you look there are holiday cookies and sweets just laying out, begging to be eaten. I am trying really hard to stick with my usual way of eating through the holidays this year, so I don’t step on the scale after the holidays to find I put on 5-lbs. I am planning to make a handful of alternative holiday sweets over the next couple of weeks, so I can still partake in the festive eating, but in a healthy way. I am also making sure when and if I do partake in some not-so healthy holiday eating – that I remember that everything in moderation is OK, a taste here won’t kill me and I would much rather have a little and know when to stop then to feel like I am missing out on something I really want.

Do you try to eat healthy during the holidays or do you just forego all healthy eating rules during the holidays?

No Bake Pecan Pie Bars - Gluten-free, Raw and Vegan

No Bake Pecan Pie Bars – Gluten-free, Raw and Vegan

Adapted from Oh She Glows
Makes 9 large squares or more if cut smaller

Crust:

1 1/2 cups whole raw almonds (you could also do 3/4 cup almonds and 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut)
1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats (if you aren’t gluten-free just use regular rolled oats)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
10 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Date and Pecan Topping:

25 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup roughly chopped raw pecans

Line an 8″ x 8″ pan with two pieces of parchment paper going opposite ways. In a food processor, process the almonds, salt, and oats until a fine crumble forms. Add in the chopped dates and process until crumbly again. It your coconut oil is solid, melt it quick and add to the mixture with vanilla and process until sticky and a bit doughy. If your dough seems a bit dry, you can add a bit more oil, mind was fine as is. Remove from processor and press the dough very firmly and evenly into the pan to form your crust.

Clean the food processor real quick and process the dates with water and vanilla until a thick paste forms, it should be mostly smooth and creamy. You will have to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl often. You can add a tiny bit more water if needed, but you want the paste quite thick. Scoop out the date mixture onto the crust and gently spread with the back of a wet spatula until even.

Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly across of it and gently press down with fingers. Refrigerate in the fridge until firm for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. Cut into squares and serve. Store in the fridge or freezer.

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Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

I absolutely love my mom’s apple crisp, it is one of my favorite things about fall! I have been making my own gluten-free version for a while now and it is so delicious. After I made the vegan apple cobbler two weeks ago with palm oil shortening instead of butter, I decided I wanted to make an updated and healthier version of the apple crisp, too. I’ve actually been calling it Apple Crisp 2.0, but I didn’t think that would make for a good title or dish name. This apple crisp is as healthy as dessert can get in my opinion – it is gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, dairy free, egg free and corn free. Besides using organic all natural palm oil shortening in place of butter in recipes to make them vegan, I have also really fallen in love with baking with coconut oil (I use Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil). When solid, it makes a great replacement for butter in many baking recipes that call for cutting it in. The benefits of coconut oil are numerous and can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc. It is great for your skin and hair when used topically and has been found to have anti-aging, regenerative effects. We even use it topically on and feed it to our dog, Seri, when she has itchy skin. She LOVES the way it tastes.

I was also excited to play with date sugar and maple syrup in this recipe instead of refined white or brown sugar. It turned out so perfectly sweet. Date sugar is totally unprocessed, unrefined and raw. It naturally contains fiber and is loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium. Because date sugar doesn’t melt the way sugar does, I knew I wouldn’t get that delicious syrup with the apples that I usually get with the brown sugar, so that is how I decided to add in the maple syrup. It was such a small amount, you can barely distinguish any maple flavoring, if any at all. Other options  instead of the maple syrup would be rice syrup or molasses or if you aren’t vegan, you could also use honey. I am so excited about how this apple crisp turned out. It has so much flavor and I actually think it is better than any apple crisp I have made in the past.

You could serve this with your favorite vegan (or not vegan) ice cream or whipped topping. Something that I saw a while back on Healthful Pursuit that I have been meaning to try is coconut whip, which I think would be perfect on top of this recipe. I may just need to make that happen this week.

Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free  and Vegan)
serves 6

Filling:
4 cups of peeled and sliced apples (4 med)
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup certified gluten-free oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup date sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup (1 for the topping and 1/2 to drizzle over the top)
1/3 cup coconut oil (make sure it is somewhat solid and not liquid)

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place apples in an 8-inch square pan, pour lemon juice over. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, spices and vanilla, toss around to combine.

Mix almond flour, oats, spices, date sugar and maple syrup together in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Cut in coconut oil in to make crumbly consistency.

Sprinkle over the apples, drizzle remaining 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup over top and bake 30-40 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

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Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler

First off, I know the name makes this dessert sound so far off from the traditional cobblers that we all know and love. How can a cobbler be good without flour or butter? I am sure you are thinking this tastes like a healthy hippie dessert, made from sticks and dirt. WRONG. You really would never know that the gluten or the dairy is missing in this one. It is full of flavor and is so deliciously satisfying. My husband, Mark, is a southern boy who loves his cobbler. He actually gets angry at crisps and how “stupid they are” (in his words). Whenever we head down south, he seeks out cobbler on every trip. He loved this cobbler, he kept telling me he couldn’t believe it was gluten-free! He of course served a big ‘ol scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of it, but I can’t really blame him.

I honestly was playing around with this recipe thinking it would likely not work on the first try and I would have to try it again and again to get it right, so I am pretty shocked that it not only worked, but it was absolutely delicious. I plan to make it again in a smaller pan next time, so both the apple filling and the cobbler topping are a bit thicker, but that is just a personal preference. When I loaded the apples into the pan it looks like so much, but as it cooked down it definitely sunk in a bit, so maybe the answer is more apples. I liked that the cobbler topping got a bit brown and crisp and I love how beautiful it looked as it baked and sunk in around the apples pieces. The spices were perfect, the topping was crisp and perfectly doughy and the sweetness level was exactly where it needed to be. Obviously everyone’s personal sweet tooth is a little different plus the sweetness of the apples may affect how sweet the filling is, so taste your apple filling before you put the topping on, you may find that you want more sugar. I personally don’t like excruciatingly sweet desserts. Plus, since it isn’t disgustingly sweet it would also make a delicious breakfast, if you are into that sorta thing.

Speaking of sweet, feel free to play around with sweetener options too, I had wanted to use coconut sugar, but I finished off what I had in the pantry on the pumpkin bread. You could also play around with using honey or maple syrup as the sweetener in the apple filling. Just remember if you use a liquid sweetener in the cobbler topping, to adjust your flours accordingly. Also, if you aren’t vegan and you absolutely need to have butter in your cobbler, you could certainly substitute butter for the palm oil shortening. I just really wanted to try making this without butter. I am so excited that this cobbler came together and it’s so incredibly delicious, plus low in sugar (just a half cup in the whole recipe), no butter and gluten-free. I am so proud of this!

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler

 

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler
serves 6

Apple Cobbler Filling
2 1/2 pounds (or more) peeled apples – I used a mix of Crispin’ and Honeycrisp apples
1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar or coconut sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cobbler topping
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar or coconut sugar (plus a little bit more to sprinkle on top)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground (plus a little bit more to sprinkle on top)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/4 cup unsweetened organic almond milk, you may need less
4 tablespoons chilled organic palm oil shortening (you can use unsalted butter here instead, if you wish)

Preheat the oven to 375º F.

Make the cobbler topping first. Combine almond flour, sorghum flour and tapioca start with the salt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut the pieces of shortening into the flour mixture until it comes together, it should be like coarse sand. Pour in the almond milk, a little at a time, continuing to stir until it all just starts to come together. You may not need all of the almond milk, so don’t add it in too quickly. It will feel a bit sticky, don’t worry.

Form the dough into a ball using your hands and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place it into the fridge while you peel the apples. Once the apples are peeled, core them and cut them into thin slices or small cubes, place them in your baking pan and drizzle them with the lemon juice and set them aside. (I used a 11″ x 7″ pan, but I think next time I would use my 8″ x 8″ pan.)

Take the dough out of the fridge, it should be a bit firmer now and roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Don’t press too hard, just enough to flatten it out into a square the size of the pan. Place the rolled out square onto a baking sheet and place it into freezer, let it chill while you finish preparing the apple filling.

Add the sugar, spices and vanilla to the apples, toss gently to combine everything. Check on your dough, if it seems nice and firm and chilled, pull it out and gently lay it over the top of the apples, it is definitely a tricky maneuver but you can do it. I just peeled the parchment paper off of one side and flipped that size down on top of the apples, then I carefully peeled the other parchment sheet off the top. If any of the dough rips or peels off, hangs over, etc – you can just easily fix it up with your hands. The dough is really forgiving and it definitely doesn’t have to be perfect. If all else fails and your cobbler topping is being a jerk, or it’s too sticky, just spoon it on top biscuit style, it will still be totally delicious.

Sprinkle another teaspoon or so of sugar on top of the cobbler as well as a little sprinkle of cinnamon. Place the pan in the oven and bake the cobbler for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping is brown and firm. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Walnuts

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Walnuts

Well, the last week has been another crazy one for us. We have a ton of awesome projects happening, we had our Fab.com sale and we were in Birmingham, Alabama meeting with a client and taking reference photos of the city for some illustration work we are doing for them. It has been a fun whirlwind. Of course, this means my time in the kitchen has been limited and therefore my posts on here limited, as well. I have had some fun ideas for things I want to make, but finding the time has been difficult. Thankfully, I made a big batch of delicious pasta (inspired by a post on Pinterest) last weekend and have been living off of it all week. I made my version with gluten-free penne, butternut squash, dried cranberries, sliced fennel and a bit of parmesan. It was simple to make and I made a large enough amount, so it worked perfect for dinners and lunches on the fly all week, when I didn’t have the time or the ingredients to make anything else.

After taking some time last night to plan a few meals for the week, I finally was able to get to the farmers market and the grocery store this morning to stock up. Even though I had some work to get done, our assistant was here helping us print posters and it was generally a madhouse, I wanted to make the time this morning, regardless of all that was going on, to bake some pumpkin bread, to use up one of the pie pumpkins I have had for a few weeks.

When creating this recipe, I decided that the bread had to include the typical lovely spices that sing so beautifully with pumpkin, a nut or seed of some kind and I wanted something else. I was debating between dried cranberries or some other dried fruit or chocolate chips and then I thought of crystallized ginger bits. I thought they would compliment the pumpkin and other spices perfectly. I was right, the combination of pumpkin and the spices with the walnuts and the ginger was perfection. There is a subtle kick from the ginger that is so nice. This bread isn’t too sweet, so it would be perfect as breakfast or dessert. It would also be great with a thin layer of butter or cream cheese spread on. You could leave out the ginger and nuts or substitute whatever you’d like there, pecans, pistachios or any other nut or seed would be great, as well as raisins, dried currants, cranberries, chocolate chips, etc. Have fun with it.

I’ve really been enjoying creating my own blends of flours for baking, either individually for each recipe, or in a large batch as an all-purpose blend to use for a couple different recipes. I really love Gluten-free Girl’s ratio of 70% whole grains plus 30% starches for creating a great gluten-free whole-grain all-purpose flour that you don’t need to add xanthan gum to. It is so versatile since you can really use whatever you have on hand or can easily find at the store in any amounts or combinations, as long as the ratio remains 70% to 30%. I definitely have my favorite flours that I use all the time, but this ratio is so great for people with other food sensitivities to nuts or corn, etc.

This time around I created a 700 gram blend of almond, millet, buckwheat and teff flours and then added in a 300 gram blend of tapioca and arrowroot starches. I mixed them all together and placed them in a large storage container. I used just 250 grams of that all-purpose blend for this bread and I put the rest aside for another recipe. You could certainly use just one flour and one starch if you don’t feel like blending or buying multiples, but I have really found that a couple of different types of flours and starches really builds a much better base. See the list below that Shauna recommends and play around with what you love.

Shauna recommends the following grains for the blend:
Almond
Amaranth
Brown Rice
Buckwheat
Corn
Millet
Oat
Quinoa
Sorghum
Sweet Brown Rice
Teff

and the following starches:
Arrowroot
Cornstarch
Potato Starch
Tapioca Flour
White Rice Flour

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Walnuts

 

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Walnuts

Pumpkin Spice Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Walnuts
Makes one loaf

2 large farm fresh brown eggs (use an egg-replacer to make vegan)
3/4 cup coconut sugar (regular raw sugar, maple sugar, sucanat or brown sugar would also work)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh pureed pumpkin (canned will also work)
1/4 cup almond milk (cow’s milk or other non-dairy milk will also work)

250 grams of your favorite gluten-free all-purpose flour blend – see above notes on what I used (this can be anywhere between 1 1/2 – 2 cups of flour depending on what you are using, but I really recommend weighing)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, roughly chopped into little bits (reserving approximately 1 tablespoon for the topping)
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped into little bits (reserving approximately 1 tablespoon for the topping)

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder) together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In the large bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs and coconut sugar together until very well combined and fluffy. Approximately 3-5 minutes. Slowly while the mixer is running, pour the oil into the sugar and egg mixture, then add in the pumpkin, almond milk and vanilla, allow the mixture to mix another a minute or two until everything is well combined.

Then add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl with the wet ingredients. A little at a time, while the mixer is running on a low-speed. Mix until well blended. Then fold the crystallized ginger and walnuts into the batter. Mix the remaining crystallized ginger and walnuts together and set aside.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the ginger and walnut mixture all over the top. Place on the center rack in the oven and back until the top is golden brown, about an hour. Make sure a cake tester or knife comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then gently turn the bread out of the pan (being careful not to knock all the nuts and ginger off) and allow it to finish cooling on a wire rack.

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Apple Spice Cake

This afternoon when I took a break from work to have lunch, I was struggling to figure out what to make since our fridge is looking a bit bare. We are leaving Monday morning to go to Birmingham for a job we are working on, so we are nearing the end of the planned meals and the groceries I bought earlier in the week. As I sat thinking for a minute, it came to me, I made a chickpea, kale, sun-dried tomato salad with goat cheese and a homemade multi-grain mustard vinaigrette, on the side I toasted up one of those delicious gluten-free multi-grain rolls I had made earlier in the week and topped it with a tad bit of garlic butter and small sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. As I was “whipping” this all up, Mark sat down to eat his lunch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he started laughing at me and my creation. First he told me how jealous he was of my lunch and that he wished he had waited to see what I came up with. Then, he asked ‘what is your first memory of really loving good food. Like, at what age do you remember thinking, THIS is really good food?’

It was such a good question, I really had to think about it. I didn’t really have one solid memory, I just always remember loving good home-cooked food. Besides the traditional and super delicious Greek foods my dad and his family always made for holidays and the like, my parents cooked dinner every single night for us. My dad did the majority of the cooking, my mom most of the baking, but my mom had some really classic and comforting dishes, that I still think very fondly of now as an adult. One of my favorite memories growing up, that I always think of, was when my mom would make her homemade tomato sauce, totally from scratch, and the whole house would fill with the amazing smell of her sauce. I love my mom’s sauce so much. I used to come into the kitchen quite often while it would simmer away and grab the spoon and take a huge taste. I would sometimes grab a bowl from the cupboard and just ladle a ton of the sauce into it, maybe a meatball or two and just spoon it into my mouth like soup. It was so good. She never bought the jarred spaghetti sauce crap. It was that way for almost everything my family made. There was a major emphasis on homemade food. I am sure that is a large part of where I got my love of food and cooking from.

I asked Mark what he remembers and he told me about him being really young and biting into a really good ham sandwich and think “woah, this ham sandwich is REALLY really good” – haha. I can totally see a young, adorable little Mark all excited about his ham sandwich, likely served with some southern style sweet tea or orange soda on the side.

Can you remember the first time you really realized your love for good, home cooked food? Were you a kid? Or did you not really realize your love of food until you were an adult?

I made this cake yesterday morning. I was going to my sister’s apartment for a party in the evening and she asked everyone to bring a snack and something to drink. Since I knew there would be tons of savory snack options and wine, I decided I wanted to bring a healthy fall inspired dessert and some spiced rum and apple cider. At first I thought about making my gluten-free apple crisp (well really it’s my Mom’s recipe), but then I thought up the idea of an apple cake made with some of that great almond flour that I am obsessed with and just a tad bit of honey and dates as the sweetener. Look at me, all confident after my cookie recipe last week. I baked a cake, guys! My own cake with my own recipe.

The cake turned out great, I honestly have to say I was a little surprised, I had visions of the entire thing sinking in, or just being totally tasteless. It was the right amount of moist, which I honestly was a bit worried about, it seemed like so many wet ingredients to me. The spices all sang in perfect harmony with the apples and the dates and the small amount of honey surprisingly made it the perfect amount of sweet. I honestly hate super sweet cake, I think that is one of the reasons I don’t care for most cakes.

I cut into the cake to take photos to post the recipe here on the blog, but I didn’t taste it before I brought it to my sister’s. It seemed kinda tacky to show up with a whole cake, with one piece missing. So I served it up and crossed my fingers! Every one that tried it, loved it and some even asked for the recipe! Yay – success! This cake is gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free, it is also easily made vegan by substituting maple syrup for the honey.

Apple Spice Cake

Apple Spice Cake
 Serves 8-10

2 cups blanched almond flour (meal) – I like Honeyville
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup apple cider (unsweetened) (you could also try unsweetened apple sauce)
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (cow’s milks or other non-dairy milk should work as well)
1/2 cup honey (use maple syrup to make vegan)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 peeled and chopped medium-sized apples, reserve half (or more) of one peeled apple to slice thinly for the top of the cake (I used two very large Crispin apples that we picked last weekend at Blackman Homestead Farm)
8 or so Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

Optional add ins:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nut
1/2 cup raisins or craneberries

Topping:
1 tablespoon brown sugar or raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease and lightly flour (I used sweet rice flour) a 9″ springform pan.

In a large mixing bowl, add the almond flour, chickpea flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, all the spices and the salt. Whisk together well so it’s all evenly mixed.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together well the apple cider, grape seed oil, almond milk, honey, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the apple pieces and the finely chopped dates. Mix well to incorporate.

Pour the wet ingredients into dry and stir by hand to combine. Be sure it is well mixed and there are no flour lumps.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared springform pan and top with the remaining apple slices in a circular pattern . Use as many or as few slices as you’d like. (I actually wish I had used a few more apple slices, but I was afraid to overdo it.) Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle the mixture on top of the cake.

Bake the cake for about 60-70 minutes or until a tester or a very thin knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for about 15-20 minutes, or longer before removing the ring on the springform pan, you may need to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a think spatula or knife. Slice with a sharp knife and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

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Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)

It is pretty unbelievable to me just how much I love baking now. I actually used to despise it, I hated that seemingly every little measurement had to be perfect or you would pull it out of the oven to find it ruined, with no way to fix it. That is so different from cooking and it was way too much pressure for me. I love with cooking how no measurement has to be precise, there isn’t as much chemistry of ingredients involved so you can really play around. I got even more scared of baking when I found out I was gluten intolerant nearly 7 years ago. All the different flours, starches and gums made my head spin. I was always nervous that I would spend nearly $10 on a package of flour that I had never heard of, to just ruin the recipe and not even have a delicious treat after all that.

I have finally loosened up a bit with baking and I am really starting to enjoy it. There are so many wonderful bloggers sharing their delicious gluten-free baked good recipes that I just started out by making those, making subtle substitutions here and there. As I have done more and more baking and experimenting, I have started to see what works and what doesn’t. What flours react well together and which ones don’t. I am still far from being an expert and I very rarely just dive right in and create my own recipe completely from scratch, it still intimidates me quite a bit. However, I have started to play a lot more this year and though there have been some pretty rough flops and fails along the way, I am still enjoying it.

I decided I wanted to make a fun fall-inspired cookie this weekend. Beyond wanting something sweet but relatively healthy after my cleanse, oatmeal cookies have just sounded good for a while now. Plus, it was my birthday weekend and we had a really fun weekend of fall activities planned to celebrate my aging and the beautiful fall weather. On Friday, we played hooky from work a few hours early to head up to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the afternoon. We walked around and checked out the little shops, I did some wine tasting, we had a couples massage at the Shaw spa and we had an incredible dinner at Epicurean. It was such a fun night. On Saturday morning, I made some delicious concord grape jam (I am gonna try to get a post together, though I didn’t take any process photos since it was a very dark and rainy morning), these cookies and then we spent the rest of the day working. Saturday night my parents took us out to Mangia Ristorante to celebrate my birthday. (By the way, Mangia has some of the most delicious Italian food I have had and almost all of their pasta dishes are available with gluten-free pasta). On Sunday we woke up and went apple-picking in the morning at Blackman Homestead Farm with my sister, Vicky, and my niece, Teagan. We had so much fun. Then we came home and I made a delicious fall dinner for us – a roast chicken from Sojourner Farm, with roast acorn squash wedges and baby fingerling potatoes over arugula – all from local farms. For dessert, we had some hot spiced apple cider that I had picked up at Blackman Homestead when we were apple picking and we served it with a couple of these cookies on the side. Such a perfect way to end a perfect fall weekend. Yesterday was my actual birthday and when we were eating dinner Mark had mentioned feeling bad that we were eating cookies that I made for dessert and that there hadn’t been any cake or candles all weekend and no birthday gifts to unwrap. I explained to him that my birthday included absolutely everything that I love and I couldn’t ask for anything more. That really is the truth. I am not one for cake and to me being around the people I love is truly gift enough.

Me at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Me at Niagara-on-the-Lake

Me and Mark - apple picking at Blackman Homestead Farm
Mark and me at Blackman Homestead Farm

Teagan enjoying an apple while apple picking at Blackman Homestead Farm
My niece, Teagan, enjoying an apple while apple picking at Blackman Homestead Farm

Vicky and Teagan
My sister, Vicky and Teagan sharing an apple.

Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)

Beyond all the awesomeness of the events surrounding these cookies, they also made me super happy because I didn’t use a recipe – I just planned my own recipe with ingredients I knew (well, probably more like hoped) would work together. I ended up adding more oats than I had originally planned, because I knew with how the dough felt in my hands that it would be too thin. This is huge for me. A year ago I would have slopped the dough onto the baking pan and had a little fit when they came out flat and too soft. My guessing and instincts overall paid off and these cookies turned out wonderful. They are so moist and chewy, not dry at all the way some oatmeal cookies can be. They have the perfect mix of spices and I love that there is no butter or sugar in them. Just grape seed oil and honey. You could certainly replace the raisins with dried cranberries or even chocolate chips, you could add nuts and of course, you could simply use your favorite egg replacer to make them vegan.

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend as well? Did you do anything fun?

Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)

Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)
makes approximately 2 dozen cookies

2 cups blanched almond flour (meal) – I use Honeyville brand, I don’t care for the Bob’s Red Mill almond flour
2 cups rolled oats (not instant) certified gluten-free if you are intolerant
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (canned will work)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup organic local honey (maple syrup would be great here, too)
1 large farm fresh brown egg (or egg replacement of your choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins (dried cranberries would also be delicious)
1 1/2 tablespoons flaxseeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375º F, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and honey until smooth and well blended. Mix in the egg, pumpkin and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stir to combine well, add in the oats, raisins and flaxseeds, stir until everything is well combined.

Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons 2-inches apart on the baking sheets, flatten the dough gently with a fork. Bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes until they are moist and soft but appear to be dull on the outside and are starting to lightly brown. Rotate the baking sheets during baking for even heating (I rotated mine every 6 minutes). Remove the cookies from the baking sheet after a few minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack. Or eat one while they are still warm, you know you want to.

Once the cookies are cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I plan to keep this post short and sweet, much like this recipe. It may sound a bit bizarre and hard to believe, but you really need to trust me and make it yourself.

After making some no-bake cookies for Mark in the afternoon yesterday (recipe coming soon), I was having a major sweet craving last night. Since I try not to keep too many sweets in the house for myself, I was feeling a bit bummed out that I couldn’t satisfy my sweet-tooth. I have seen many takes on vegan mousse that involved silken tofu, but I don’t really love tofu since it often bothers my tummy and I wanted to play around with the two very ripe avocados in my fridge that needed to get eaten up.

This mousse is so creamy, it is unbelievable that there is no dairy in there. It is decadent, rich and so satisfying. I was actually dancing around the kitchen and swearing with the spoon hanging out of my mouth on the first bite, I couldn’t get over how delicious it is. This mousse is naturally gluten-free, vegan and raw, it takes only 4 ingredients and you can make it in less than 5 minutes, so you can enjoy every last bite of it, guilt-free.

If it needs a bit more moisture when blending, try adding a little splash of almond or soy milk. You could also play around with adding peanut butter, chunks of your favorite chocolate bar, or simply just topping the mousse with your favorite vegan whipped topping and/or fresh berries. You could also play with adding in a dash of cinnamon or even cayenne for an extra little kick!

Now I need to do a little research about avocado fudge, a fellow food-loving friend, Kate, mentioned it to me on Facebook last night after I was carrying on about how amazing this was.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse
serves 2

2 ripe avocados, pitted and chopped into large chunks*
1/2 cup organic fair trade baking cocoa
1/2 cup agave nectar (you could also use maple syrup or honey)
2 teaspoons organic vanilla

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor or heavy-duty blender, process until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve cold.

*your avocados need to be very ripe and very soft to be able to get that just right smooth silky texture.

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