Thursday, 23 January 2014

Salted Caramel Shortbread Cookies (Grain free)

Salted Caramel is probably my favourite treat. I would put it on ANYTHING, no seriously, steak, potatoes, cereal, you name it.

I also happen to love shortbread, the stiff, buttery, rich, Scottish style. It's simplicity and perfection are not even comparable to most other cookies. I have been trying to come up with a really nice shortbread cookie for some time. I have had homemade and store bought gluten free shortbread cookies from all different sources, and have been so excited to taste them, right up until the moment they touch my tongue and I get that awful gritty texture that trumps any delicious buttery flavour. Little man seems to be in agreement as well.

I had high hopes for my rice flour free all purpose flour blend, because it worked SO well in chocolate chip cookies and brownies, but I found it to be a bit too strong in flavour for a cookie that was primarily only flour and butter. What to do, what to do...

The answer: Paleo. I have been warming up more and more to paleo, simply because practically EVERYONE who has committed to a paleo diet has raved about its health benefits. Many recent studies have found direct links between high grain, high sugar, high processed diets and chronic disease, inflammation, and reduction in health. Many parents of children with non-neurotypical children (autism, ADHD, schizophrenia  etc) have found that cutting these things from their child's diet help with both behavioural and gastrointestinal issues. Not to mention the number of people who have both lost and gained weight to achieve their healthy weight with this sort of lifestyle.

Now I'm not saying I'm about to rock the caveman life all the time, but i have been cutting back on how much we rely on grains and carbohydrates as our family's pyramid base and have tried to replace with good fats, nutrient-dense foods, and whole organic foods. One of the ways this has become achievable is by learning how to use honey and other unrefined sugars as sweeteners. Raw organic honey is both tasty and quite good for you. people like to make the argument that it still effects blood sugar levels and therefore is no better than corn syrup or refined sugar. In my opinion (and the opinions of many others) that sort of over simplification is wildly inaccurate. Honey is natural, unprocessed, rich in beneficial enzymes and naturally antiseptic and antibiotic. It does not require preservatives or added flavouring, and is so tasty.

Salted Caramel Topping
1/2 cup local organic honey
1/2 cup grass fed butter, ghee, or coconut oil
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tsp sea salt*

  • In a medium pot bring honey and butter/oil/ghee to a boil on high heat.
  • continue to boil for about 5 minutes, watching closely, until a medium caramel colour is achieved.
  • stand back and add coconut milk in all at once. It will bubble and spit a bit. 
  • Using a heat safe rubber spatula, stir well until combined and completely smooth. 
  • Add 1 tsp* sea salt, and stir until dissolved 
  • Pour into a shallow glass dish and refrigerate until very cold.

*Note: If using salted butter, reduce salt to 1/2 tsp

Shortbread Cookies
1 cup room temp (not melted) ghee or grass fed butter
1/4 cup local organic honey
1 3/4 cups paleo flour blend
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp sea salt*

  • mix honey and butter/ghee in stand mixer with paddle attachment for about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed.
  • Add salt* and mix again for 1 min
  • Carefully add starch and flour blend, being careful not to send it flying with the mixer. 
  • When combined, turn up speed to med-high and mix for about 2 minutes. 
  • scrape contents of bowl onto parchment paper. 
  • Cover with a second piece of parchment and squish down into a 1" disk
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Remove from fridge, roll out on lightly floured surface with a rolling pin to 1/4-1/3" thick
  • Working quickly, cut into desired shapes and transfer to lined cookie sheet.  
  • Using a small circle, cut centre out of half of the shapes
  • Bake in preheated 300°F oven on middle rack for 9-11 minutes
  • Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

*Note: If using salted butter, reduce salt to 1/2 tsp

To assemble the cookies, stack two cookies together, one base and one with the centre removed, and fill hole with caramel. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and place in fridge or freezer to set.

Store in single layer at room temp. If it is really warm where you are, you may want to store in fridge or freezer to keep the caramel from getting too runny, and remove a few minutes before eating.

Both of these recipes are very versatile and I am sure I will be referring back to them in future recipes as well. They were a big hit here and no one would have guessed that they were grain free, soy free, refined sugar free, gfcf, and paleo.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Winter squash and carrot soup

January always seems so dark and long to me. The "January blahs" take their toll emotionally, and physically, most people find their bodies feeling a little sore and achy, and their spirits a little dampened.

Don't fret though, help is on the way ;)

This delicious squash and carrot soup is very nutritious and amazingly full of anti-inflammatory, soothing yumminess. I've added turmeric for both a beautiful sunshine colour (which really does help to cheer things up) and for it's great health properties. Butternut squash is rich in antioxidants, FULL of beta-carotene, and is a great source of fibre, potassium, and B6.
We all know how great carrots are for you, and as they share a lot of the same health characteristics as butternut squash, these two pair up to become a power house that is great for your skin, bones and teeth, heart, eyesight, and helps to prevent cancer and inflammation throughout the body.

With all these great benefits, wonderful flavour and texture, minimal cost of ingredients, and it's sheer ease of preparation, this soup will defiantly become a favourite.

Winter Squash and Carrot Soup:

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 med butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and diced
5-6 med carrots, peeled and diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 lg sprig fresh thyme
1/2 can organic coconut milk
2 cups veg stock
2 cups water

  • Sweat all diced vegetables in the coconut oil on medium heat for about five minutes. 
  • Add turmeric and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes
  • Add remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to low boil
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer for approximately 30 mins or until all vegetables are tender
  • Remove Bay leaf and sprig of thyme (I like to leave them whole for ease)
  • Blend soup with regular blender or stick blender until very smooth
  • Season with salt and pepper

I served mine with a few toasted sunflower seeds, but you could use croutons, coconut cream, fresh herbs, or nothing at all. This dish is a great appetizer soup or perfectly lovely all by its self. It is vegan, Paleo, GFCF, and SCD friendly. It also reheats and freezes really well.

I hope you take the time to do a little something for yourself and whip up a tasty bowl of sunshine to brighten your day. You might find those January blahs aren't so bad after all.

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