Thursday, January 28, 2016

Julie Surprise: Homemade, Clean "Samoas" (Girl Scout Cookies)

Yesterday my sister posted this graphic on Facebook.

I confess, after looking at all the unnecessary additives and poor quality ingredients, I bragged in a comment that I could easily make my own and that they would be better in every way. Someone replied to that comment by saying, "Please hurry!"

I laughed at first, but it got the wheels turning for me. I looked at what the girl scout website said about their cookies and it just seemed like it would be all too easy.

I've been working with coconut flour for a few years now, and I've made very similar treats, like this to-live-for, caramel chocolate cheesecake that tasted like it had a crust made from twixt bars. (Yeah, I still need to post that one.)

Anyway, I figured, I might as well give it a shot. So I made a very small batch of half a dozen cookies last night and had to take the time to convert it to a larger batch for all of you here this morning.

The recipe does have a lot of steps, but it really isn't difficult. If you want to shave off some of the time it will take to make these, I would suggest not cutting out a center hole and just leaving them a solid circle. If you like the idea of the narrow strip that the wreath shape provides, you could even dispense with circles altogether and shape the cookies into little sticks instead. (Think twixt bar)

One reason I was able to do this so spontaneously last night was because I already had some leftover caramel in the freezer that I made a couple of months ago. Although, I could have made fresh caramel since I have dates in the fridge right now. It's a pretty simple recipe and if you can get someone else to help you make the cookies you could have one person working on the caramel while the other person mixes and shapes the cookies.

At first I felt sure that someone else must have already created a clean version of these cookies, and perhaps someone out there has, but a quick browse through pinterest only revealed "homemade" versions that consisted of store bought cookies covered with store bought caramels and melted chocolate chips. . . .
Yeah. I know.

Thus, I present to you:

Julie Surprise:Clean Caramel & Chocolate Covered Cookies ("Samoas")

Cookie Ingredients:

(Oven Preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.)

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients until you have a nice shape-able cookie dough consistency.

     Note: You might want to add the coconut milk one tablespoon at a time and test in between to gauge how much moisture you need to help the dough form into a circle without crumbling. I'm high altitude so you may need to add more or less milk to achieve the desired consistency. (See note for Step 3)

2. Cover a large cookie sheet with baking parchment and form about a teaspoon's worth of dough into circles using your fingers, directly onto the pan. You may flatten them with the underside of a cup.

    Note: if you are going to use cupcake liners for adding the toppings later, you may wish to have one handy so you can form the cookie into a size that will fit into the bottom of the liner. The cookies will not spread when baked.
3. If desired, cut circles out of the center of each cookie with a small cookie cutter or other small cylinder that will serve the same purpose.

     Note: You may need to use the tip of a knife to help you remove the circles from the cookies once cut. Seeing how your cookies react to this step will also give you a clue as to how crumbly the dough is. If cutting out the center makes your cookie fall apart, you may wish to return the dough to the mixing bowl and add a bit more coconut milk. Thus, you may wish to test one cookie in this way, before you transfer all your dough to the cookie sheet.

4. Once all your cookies are formed on your cookie sheet, bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom edges are starting to turn brown.

    Note: You will probably start smelling the cookies just as they reach this point.

5. Once baked, remove from oven and carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

6. Once cooled, you can begin to coat the underside of each cookie with chocolate. (recipe below)
To do so, drizzle a small layer of chocolate into the bottom circle of a cupcake liner. Place cookie on top of chocolate taking care that the entire bottom surface is sitting on chocolate. Place the cookies in the freezer for a couple of minutes to quickly set the chocolate layer.

     Note: You can return the cupcake liners with cookies to a cooled baking sheet, or to a plate before transferring to the freezer, whatever best suits you.

7. Once hardened, remove cookies from freezer and carefully scoop your prepared date caramel onto the cookie; creating a nice thick layer. Top with coconut and return to freezer.

8. Once cooled, drizzle stripes of remaining chocolate onto cookie and return to freezer a final time.

9. Once set, remove the cookies from the papers and serve, or store in the freezer or fridge in an airtight container.

    Note: If you choose to make wreath shaped cookies, the center hole may become filled with a thin layer of chocolate. This is easily removed with a few pokes of a straw or knife, or you may leave it intact for extra chocolaty goodness.

Chocolate Layer Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup liquid coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder

Mix in a small dish until smooth, with no lumps remaining.

          Note: I did not think it was necessary to add any sweetener to the chocolate as the date caramel is already quite rich and sweet. I prefer the contrast between the dark unsweetened chocolate with the caramel. Plus the layer of chocolate is so thin, it is really not noticeable when you take a bite of the whole cookie that the chocolate has no sweetener. 

 Caramel Filling Ingredients:

  • 12-16 Dates
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 to 1/2 tablespoon Grass Fed Butter (optional, see note below.)
1. Soak dates and coconut oil in a small sauce pan over low heat until dates ate very soft.

2. Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt. Blend directly in pan with an immersion blender, or if you prefer, transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. 
     Note: If the consistency is too thick to easily spread on the cookies, or simply thicker than you wish it to be, you may add additional butter and see if that helps. Another way to thin the caramel could be to add some warmed coconut milk a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. You want it somewhat thick, but spreadable, and not so thin that it drizzles off the cookie's surface once applied.

Overall, I thought they were delicious. Admittedly I did not try them in a side-by-side comparison to the girl scout version, (for obvious reasons) but to me they are awesome. My husband and three kids also approved of them, with my two year old begging for more, my six year old proclaiming them the best treats I've ever made, and my eight year old saying, "They literally melt in your mouth; they are really good!"

If, for some reason, you find them lacking, you are perfectly welcome to experiment with my experiment. My cookies turned out soft instead of crunchy. In order to achieve a crunchy texture I would probably go with more of a shortbread type recipe, dispensing with the eggs and adding coconut oil to the dough. I considered this at first, but wanted to be sure the cookies would hold together. Shortbread can be a bit of a trial and error at times, especially when working with coconut flour.
Adding more coconut sugar to the dough, or some liquid sweetener of choice to the chocolate coating may bring them closer to the original flavor. I also noticed that the original cookies have mixed the coconut with the caramel, instead of just sprinkling it on top. I will probably try this next time I make these, and you would be welcome to do the same.

Happy baking, and happier eating to you all!

~Julie :}

Friday, September 4, 2015

Julie Surprise: Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Yesterday marked the anniversary of my youngest daughter's second birthday. (WHAT???)
Every time we had mentioned to her that she would be having a birthday in the days leading up to it, she would always respond with, "Yeah! Cake!" Then, the night before when I told her I needed to go to bed so I could make her a cake the next day she started begging for chocolate.
Luckily, that had already been my plan. Thanks to the generosity of my awesome neighbors, I had fresh garden produce, including raspberries and zucchini from my friend Kelly. (One needs something fibrous if one is going to make a cake without flour.)
I also ended up borrowing some cocoa powder from my friend Jenni a few doors down because, wouldn't you know? I totally forgot we were all out until I started making the cake!
I just felt that I ought to mention these circumstances so that we could give credit were credit is due.
Thanks so much ladies! This cake couldn't have happened without you!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Cake
  • 1/2 cup of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut 
  • 1/2 cup of Peanut Butter (Or Almond Butter etc.)
  • 2 cups of Coconut Palm Sugar
  • 8 Eggs (Separated)
  • 1 Huge Zucchini, (seeded, shredded, drain then blended smooth).
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Tbsp of Coconut Oil or Butter
  • 3/4 cup of Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries (opt.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your food processor, pulverize coconut until almost a butter. Add this and the rest of the ingredients except the egg whites to your food processor or a stand mixer and mix everything together. 
  2. Finally, in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and gently fold into the rest of the batter. Some streaks may remain. 
  3. Grease three 9"  pie pans with butter and line with circles of parchment paper. Evenly divide the batter between them. 
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Carefully remove cakes to a cooling rack until cool. (You may want to refrigerate it, or put it into the freezer to speed up the process and help it firm up.)
  6. Frost with chocolate buttercream icing and top with fresh raspberries if desired.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
  • 1-2 cups of Coconut Palm Sugar (Ground to a fine powder)*
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/4 cups of Coconut Oil and/or Butter
  • 1/4 cup of Cocoa Powder (Or more for a darker chocolate.)
  • A dash of salt (if your butter is unsalted)
  1. Whisk together sugar and cocoa until well blended. Then add to wet ingredients and whip until fluffy.
  2. If the consistency is too runny, chill for 10-15 minutes then whip again. 
  3. Be sure the cake is well cooled before you ice it.
* I usually grind my coconut sugar in my mini food processor to reduce it's gritty texture in certain recipes like frosting. Because of this, 1 cup of sugar may reduce down to a bit less than 1 cup, so you might want to add a bit more than a cup. Also, a lot of people who use coconut sugar find it to be slightly less sweet than cane sugar so they may wish to increase the amount regardless. I would recommend using up to two cups if you want the icing very sweet, but do not go beyond that.  We tried two cups and it was extremely rich. Luckily the milder sweetness of the dark chocolate cake helped counterbalance that and the fresh raspberries added a refreshing contrast of tartness. 

The Birthday Girl really loved the cake! She kept asking for more and more. I have to admit it was pretty amazing, even if I do say so myself. 

This cake is super moist, (almost like a fudgey pudding) even after draining the zucchini as much as I had patience for. I could have drained it longer, but I wanted  to get the cake finished before bedtime. :)
Anyway, it really doesn't need frosting, and as I noted above the frosting was super rich. It was almost too much, so I would recommend reducing the sugar a bit if you use the icing, or maybe at least add some cream cheese. (We would have done that if we'd had any.)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this delectable recipe! I'd love to hear about what you thought if you try it, and seeing pictures would be great! I was so happy this recipe looked almost as pretty as it tasted because my last flourless cake was a bit less than photogenic and I really wanted a pretty cake to film for one of my upcoming music videos. Stay tuned and you might just see this cake in action!

~Julie :}

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Breadless Butter Snacks! Part 1

I have always adored butter. (Yes, as one of my sister will gladly tell you, my nickname even used to be butter-ball, mainly because of an incident that occurred when I was about 18 months old.)

While learning about food and discovering that whole grains are not the miracle of healthfulness that most proclaim they are, I have simultaneous learned that butter is actually extremely beneficial and important to a healthful diet. (Did I used to say things went together like bread and butter? Looks like I need a new adage.)

Of course, when you find the need to reduce, or eliminate grains from your diet, you will find that there are A LOT of bread-type recipes that are grain free, and these are obviously quite helpful, and awesome in their own right, especially as you begin a difficult transition away from the crumby, carb-heavy diet that most Americans consume.

In fact, I will be sharing some of my favorite grain free, bread-type recipes here shortly, but today I want to talk about something new. A complete freedom from your previous dependence on bread. Especially in regards to enjoying butter.

When my nutritionist first told me how important eating butter was, he pointed out to me that one of it's main benefits is that the amino acids in butter help us to absorb vitamin D. He suggested that any time I come inside from being out in the sun, I should not only drink water to stave off dehydration, but I should get myself a piece of bread and really slather it with some butter to help me absorb and use all the vitamin D that my skin had just created. Of course, this was before I started noticing the correlation between my digestive problems and grain based foods like bread.

So, in trying to continue following the doctors orders, but avoid any uncomfortable gastric problems, I decided it was time to get a little bit creative and come up with new ways to enjoy one of my favorite condiments. Butter.

Of course, one could obviously melt it into sauces, soups and over hot veggies, but I have always loved the flavor, texture and consistency of room temperature or slightly chilled butter.

Here is one of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy a snack with some soft creamy butter!

Spiced Butter Dip & Raw Carrots:

I believe the inspiration for this one came from a carrot cake craving that hit me a couple of years ago.
I began to wonder if I could still enjoy the flavors of carrot cake without the effort of baking (and of course without involving grains.) Somehow it came to me that if I made a dip out of the same spices that go into a carrot cake, then ate it with a raw carrot, it would be just as yummy. It is.

Since I've been doing this for a couple of years now, I've had plenty of time to experiment with the recipe, though truth be told, I never measure anymore, so giving you exact measurements would be iffy.
I usually will mix some of this goodness up in a small ramekin using roughly, a couple of tablespoons of soft butter. Sometimes I've also added coconut oil to the base, sometimes I don't. Then I've sweetened and spiced it to fit my current mood.

As you can see by the photos that I've taken over the past couple of years, the consistency can change depending on how much of each ingredient I add. Sometimes I've wanted a lighter flavor so I've added less honey and more coconut oil. It all depends on what I want the end result to be.
But the bottom line is, the measurements are of secondary concern. The results are always scrumptious.

In fact, last year I began eating so many carrots (Organic Carrots are available at our Costco, $5.99 for 10 lbs) because of this recipe, that I really did turn orange. Luckily, I'm so fair it doesn't really show much. You can only really tell if you look at the callouses on the edge of my palms.

I've also called it different names as time has gone on. At first it was 'Carrot-Cake-Batter dip,' but this seemed a bit misleading, and then I started to miss the flavor of ginger snaps and so I stopped adding raisins and went heaver on the ginger and the coconut sugar. (See first Photo) So then I called it 'Gingerbread dip' or  'Ginger Snap Dip.' Yet, again this seemed misleading. Because my dip does not contain batter, bread or cookies, it merely tastes like those things, I finally had to admit that Spiced Butter Dip is the most accurate name.

Spiced Butter Dip

Room Temperature Butter (Grassfed would of course be ideal)
Organic Coconut Oil (Either melted or thicker, doesn't really matter)
Raw Local Honey (To Taste)
Organic Coconut Sugar (To Taste)
About a 1 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, more or less.
About 1 to 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger " "
A sprinkle or two of any of the following as desired:
      * Ground Cloves
      * Cardamom
      * Allspice
      * Nutmeg
About a tablespoon of raisins, (opt.)
A sprinkle of sea salt is desired to enhance flavors (especially if your butter is unsalted.)

Mix together and enjoy with a fresh raw carrot or two!

Bonus Note:

I've tried this dip with apple slices as well, but I prefer it with carrots. The apples with a sweet dip seem a bit too sweet for me still.

However, I have also made the same dip and substituted Cream Cheese for the butter and that is extremely tasty with both carrots and apples. Especially apples because of the flavor contrast.

It's a really good flavor combo for carrots though because it's kind of like the cream cheese frosting one finds on a carrot cake. But I still find myself going back to the butter based dip for carrots because it is truly delicious and the goal is also to be getting my butter in. Thanks to some spices and a raw carrot, this is far easier than pie.