Thursday, 25 April 2013

Mmmm... Brownies.

 Not feeling overly energetic these days. Not feeling overly anything really; well besides swollen and
tired and in need of copious amounts of chocolate. With only eight weeks left until baby is due to arrive, I am particularly appreciative of a stolen moment or two alone to put my feet up and indulge in something wonderful.

I found myself in precisely this situation this evening yet had nothing suitable to please the pregnant appetite. Having recently restocked my pantry with baking supplies I thought to myself, "why not. I'll make a pan of brownies. They're quick and easy.  Ooh, maybe if I blog them I can say it was out of necessity instead of my own guilty pleasures."
Well then, task complete I suppose. Cross it off my to-do list. Oh the sacrifices I make. ;)

Brownies are actually one of the easiest conversions to GFCF I've dealt with. With very little flour in a lot of recipes it adapts well. Also a lot of recipes use oil or clarified butter.

These brownies use a slightly different method, heating the fat first. They were so rich with chocolate and wonderfully chewy. I'm a chewy brownie kinda gal. There are three types of brownies: fudgy, chewy, and cakey ( is that an actual word?) As I was saying, it's all bout the chew for me. Because of this I do not frost my brownies, it tends to take away in my opinion. Also it helps in the justification of eating five brownies in one sitting. (Whoops)

Anyway, in the spirit of no nonsense and getting to the point, the point being just give me some chocolate, on with the recipe. 

I do not make low fat low sugar brownies. I have already made them gluten and dairy free, they are delicious, but I think it would be cruel to the brownie to take more. If you want low fat, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, eat some celery. This is a treat, and worth it. 

Chewy Brownies

5 TBSP coconut oil
5 TBSP ghee (clarified butter with proteins and sugars removed)
3/4 cup coco powder
1 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 eggs
1/2 cup gf flour blend (make your own blend, recipe found here)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp xanthm gum
1/3 cup dairy free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. Heat oil and ghee in pot on stove until quite hot. Place coco, sugar, vanilla, salt, in mixing bowl. Add in fat and mix. 
Let sit for a few minutes to slightly cool. Then add eggs. Once eggs are mixed in, add flour and xanthm gum. Blend for a 1 minute on medium speed. Turn mixer off and fold in Choc chips. 

Grease either a square or small rectangular pan with additional ghee and press batter into pan and smooth out top. Batter will be quite thick and a touch sticky. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top begins to turn light brown and edges are well set. 

Cool in pan for twenty minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container and keep at room temperature or freeze.

Tip: you can buy a brownie pan with a removable bottom for easy removal, or you can line bottom of pan with parchment paper that overhangs on two sides to use as handles to lift out. 

These were delicious. I ate more than I should have and only stopped because I was beginning to get a serious case of eaters remorse. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 

*****Update: I have recently made these in a mini muffin pan, well greased, and they came out great! The recipe fit perfectly into my pan which holds 18. They were perfect "two-bite brownies" for little hands. Just remember to adjust cooking time accordingly.*******

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Cookies

Does anybody else remember these? This was one of two desserts my mother made growing up, and I love them!

Now this particular version of these cookies is a healthier variation that sacrifices none of the taste. (stop rolling your eyes, they really do taste the same)

I love coconut and chewy oats, chocolate goes without saying, but I do not love refined sugar laden, casein tainted treats that are bad for my waist line and bad for little man's everything. These cookies were quite easy to switch around to make not only vegan, but low in refined sugar and containing very healthy fat. As an added bonus, these babies only take about ten minutes of actual work!

Before I get into the recipe for these, I would like to just quickly talk about fats. We all know the old adage that consuming fat will raise your cholesterol, skyrocket your pant size and make you unhealthy. Well, out with the old way of thinking about fats, and in with the new: a less generalized understanding.

Distinction is key when talking about food and it's health benefits and nutritional value. If you were told to go on a reduced calorie diet, and you consumed 1300 cal in whole foods vs 1300 cal in fast food, you would have a dramatic difference in your over all health after some time.

This principle is extremely important when talking about fats. Lets take hydrogenated fats for instance. They are man made by manipulating cell structure of vegetable oils, producing a "butter-like" product that is often used in margarine spreads and many prepackaged food items. These sorts food items have been falsely understood as healthy by the general public. They are thought by many to be lower in fat and cholesterol. This is not the case. They lower good cholesterol, raise bad cholesterol, and are partially attributed to the ever growing poor health of North Americans including, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, immune deficiencies, and obesity.

Heart disease, obesity, and diabetes have risen to much higher rates since we began trying to find "less fatty fats". Man made = BAD!! This is also true for GMO products, which we will go over more later, and surprise surprise, oils are number 3 on the top of the GMO list. This is corn oil, veg oil, canola oil, soy oil.

Canola oil is commonly thought of as equal to olive oil in health aspects by many, due to the fact that it is mono-unsaturated (the bad cholesterol lowering fat) which is also the fat present in avocados. Avocados and Olive oil however, are not genetically modified nor do they contain trans fats. Certainly not equal.

Saturated fats get a particularly bad rap, saying that they are a large contributor to heart disease and raise cholesterol. This is propaganda spewed by the people who greatly benefit from the mass production, and selling of vegetable oils.

Saturated Fats are solid at room temperature, like coconut oil, butter, or animal fat. Avoid solid fats like shortening.

Health benefits of saturated fats:

Saturated fats are vital for brain function and development. The brain itself is made up mostly of cholesterol and fat. Without a sufficient supply of saturated fat, the brain cannot function correctly. This is particularly interesting when speaking of autism and brain function.

Bone density is a major issue as age. This is why we are urged to get enough calcium in our diets and through supplements. Without saturated fats however, the calcium we ingest does not make it to our bones.

The immune system is greatly aided by saturated fats because they contain anti fungal, antiviral, and antimicrobial fatty acids.

Contrary to what the common conception of saturated fats is, these fats actually help to reduce your risk of heart disease by lower bad cholesterol and protection our heart.

Saturated fats also help to aid in digestion, thyroid function and boost the immune system. Therefore all so called reasons for eating these unsaturated fats (lower in cholesterol, better for your weight and heart) are void. Naturally occurring products are better for you and are utilized correctly within your system to restore and maintain as apposed to the processed, refined and genetically modified versions that actually inhibit and damage.

I have recently gone to using strictly coconut oil and ghee (butter that is clarified often used in Indian cooking). I also use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for cold preparations such as salads. Ghee has been separated from the proteins and sugar (casein, serum, and lactose) and is a delicious buttery, all natural, and rid of the components that people have sensitivities to. Coconut oil is pure and so beneficial to your overall health. I not only choose it when fat needs to be used in foods but also make a point of trying to get enough coconut oil.

OK, OK, enough. On with the recipe...

No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Cookies
3/4 Cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups GF oats
1 TBSP flax meal
1 TBSP ground chia
3 TBSP coco powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup honey
2 TBSP almond milk
pinch of salt

combine coconut, oats, flax and chia in a bowl. (chia and flax are strictly for added health benefit and are optional)
In a sauce pot, combine remaining ingredients, bring to a boil for three minutes stirring regularly. Add oat mixture to coco mixture and stir until well coated.
Working quickly, spoon onto parchment or silmat lined cookie sheet. Place in refrigerator until set (about an hour).
After they are set, they can be removed and put on a plate or in  a container. Store in fridge and serve chilled.

These taste like my childhood. Sooo goood. Max thought they were great too. Success! All that yummy taste and healthy dose of fat ;)