Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mocha Chocolate Cake

Everyone has a "go-to" dessert.  Mocha chocolate cake is mine.  This has a really intense dark chocolate flavor.  Everyone loves it - especially my non-sweet loving hubby.  I got the recipe from Maria's Nutritious and Delicious Journal blog.  Changed it a little bit to make it less work.  It's pretty easy now.  You can make it with either almond flour or coconut flour.  I haven't made it with coconut flour yet - but will try someday.

The original recipe calls for an 8" or 9" baking dish.  Today I made little individual cakes - perfect for entertaining (you can get custard cups/ramekins here).  I also put some in a loaf pan to cut up into brownies.  I'll freeze some for later enjoyment and give the brownies to my mom who is recovering from a hospital stay.  She's diabetic, so these will be perfect for her.  Know anyone who's diabetic and has a sweet tooth?  Maria's book, Nutritious and Delicious, may be the answer.

Mocha Chocolate Cake/Brownies
1 1/2 cups Ideal Brown Sugar
4 Tblsp coconut oil
3 eggs*
1 1/2 cups almond flour*
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted (or 9 Tblsp cocoa powder PLUS 3 Tblsp coconut oil, melted)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup hot coffee
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
Coconut oil Spray

*If using coconut flour, you need 6 eggs PLUS 3/4 cups coconut flour

Pre-heat oven to 350˚.  In a saucepan using low heat, combine the coconut oil and unsweetened chocolate squares (or the cocoa powder and all 7 Tblsp of coconut oil) until melted and blended.  In a large bowl, beat Ideal Brown sugar with your eggs.  Add your melted chocolate mixture and  sour cream - mix well.  Add the coffee and vanilla and mix well again.  Sift the coconut/almond flour and baking soda in a small bowl.  Stir into the chocolate mixture. Spray your baking dish(es) with coconut oil spray and pour in batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  This will vary with the size baking dish you use.  I did about 25 minutes with the small ramekins...the larger loaf pan took about 5 minutes more.  For an 8"-9" baking dish, try checking around 30-35 minutes.

Serve warm or room temperature.  You can dust with powdered sugar or whipped cream if desired.

This does freeze well.  Make sure you cool thoroughly first and tightly wrap.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Almond Flours

One of the more difficult tasks of being grain-free is finding a good substitute for breads, muffins, wraps and the like.  For me, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, and almond flour have been good solutions.  I have listed some of these items in my amazon store.

Almond flour, is the easiest and most versatile of all of my alternatives listed above.  Especially since I've found three different varieties of almond flours that work differently in recipes. 

NOW Foods Almond Flour is the nuttiest and grainiest of the flours I use.  It has a coarser texture than the others that makes it very well-suited for pie crusts. 

Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour is finer in texture than NOW Foods - this is my go-to flour when baking.

But some of my recipes work out better with an even finer texture almond flour.  I discovered by accident that I could make a really fine almond flour when trying to make almond milk for the first time.  As you can see by the picture above, this flour is noticeably finer than the other two.  This is the flour I use when making my Cheesy Biscuits and it does make for a much fluffier biscuit than if I used one of the other almond flours.

The best part of making your own almond milk is that you do end up with your own almond flour - it's like getting two products for the price of one!!  Make sure you buy raw and not roasted almonds.  Here's the process:

Almond Milk
  • 1.5 cups whole or slivered RAW almonds (you can either buy them with or without skins)  
  • Water for soaking (optional) 
  • 4 cups water
          You will also need:  blender, strainer, large bowl, cheesecloth/cotton dish cloth, 
          cookie sheet

If you buy skinless almonds, you can move onto the next step.  If, however, you buy almonds with the skin on them, you'll want to remove those first.  It's not hard, just takes a little time.  Blanch your almonds in boiling water for 20-30 seconds - doesn't take much to loosen the skins.  Then you can "pop" the almond out of the skin by squeezing it.  You may need to work on some more than others.  I do recommend using skinless almonds as you will end up with a whiter and less starchy flour later.

My next recommendation is to soak your almonds for at least 4 hours or even overnight.  You can skip this step, but soaking them first makes the almonds softer and easier to blend.  Put your almonds in a pot and cover with cold water. 

Once the almonds are soft, drain all of your soaking liquid.   Put your almonds in your blender and add one to one and a-half cups of water.  It is easier to blend the almonds into a smooth paste if you don't use the entire four cups of water at the beginning.  Blend for one to two minutes, or until it is a nice, smooth paste.  Now you add the remainder of your water.  I sometimes don't add the entire four cups of water - my resulting milk is a bit thicker and richer this way.  If I want to use the milk for drinking, I can always dilute it later.
Your almond milk is basically finished right now, but it is really chalky and grainy....not something you would really want to drink.  So the next step is to strain out all of the almond solids.  Take a large strainer and line with either a clean, cotton dish cloth or several layers of cheesecloth and place this into a large bowl.  I prefer to use a cotton dish cloth as I think it's easier to strain out just the milk than with cheesecloth - your mileage may vary.  Use what works for you.

It is easier to work with this mixture if you only pour a small amount of your almond milk through the cloth of your choice and strainer into the bowl.  Gather all ends of your cloth and start twisting the ends together.  Some milk will strain out into the bowl.  Now really twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze until you can't get anymore liquid out.  Turn out the remaining almond solids onto a cookie sheet and repeat the process until you have processed all of your almond/water mixture from your blender.  I like to strain the milk one more time after this.  Pour your almond milk back into the blender - you will also get most of the remaining almond paste out of your blender this way.  This time, you can probably pour all of the milk through your cloth and strainer at one time because most of the almond solids have already been removed.  Gather up the ends of your cloth and twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze and twist and squeeze until you get all of the milk out.  Again, turn out the solids onto your cookie sheet.

Your almond milk is now done!!  If you want, you add honey, a sweetener of your choice, vanilla, cinnamon etc.  I prefer to keep my milk plain and flavor as I use it if I want.  This will keep about a week in your fridge.  I have found, however, you can freeze it and then thaw it out for later use.  I like to freeze it in one-cup containers - I like these Ball 8 ounce freezer jars.

Almond Flour 

By now you have cookie sheet loaded with globs of almond paste.  Time to make flour!  Spread out the solids as much as you can and place your cookie sheet into a 200ยบ oven.  Bake the almond flour until it is totally dry - this may take up to an hour.  Stir and turn the solids frequently.  If you notice the flour starting to brown, turn off the heat totally and finish drying with the oven turned off.

Once this cools, you have little nuggets of dried almond flour.  Put these nuggets in your blender or Magic Bullet and process until a fine powder.  Voila!  Home made almond flour!

Fabulous Olive Oil - Verdict

I told you about Baja Precious Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my last blog post.  Life has been a little complicated of late, so I'm just now getting around to telling you Yay or Nay on it.  

A resounding YAY!  This is a very tasty Olive Oil.  Perhaps the closest to a true olive taste of any Olive Oil I've tried.  This is what the "foodies" say is a fruity Olive Oil.  I finally understand what that term means now.  A definite must buy!!

 Visit my amazon store and get a bottle (or two) of Baja Precious Olive Oil!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fabulous Olive Oil

I truly have a wonderful, supportive husband.  Not only does he go along with all of my changes in the types of foods we eat (and does so willingly), but he sends me links to topics he thinks would work well on this blog.  This past week he has sent me two links to blogs about the benefits of Olive Oil.

Everyone by now has heard that Olive Oil is good for your heart.  It appears its wonders go far beyond that.  I have listed several links below to other sites/wikis/blogs that are a worth a look.  Then when you're done reading, stop over to my Amazon Store and pick up a bottle of this liquid gold.  

My brother (who is a fab cook) always told me that the most important factor in purchasing Olive Oil is to find one that is grown and produced from just one country.  Spain, Greece and Italy are all top producers of Olive Oil.  Look on the back of the label and make sure only one country is listed.  Most of the cheaper quality oils will list two or three countries on their labels.   Choosing an Olive Oil from one country, better yet one producer, will yield the best tasting oil - not a watered down mix.

California is an up-and-coming region for producing top quality Olive Oil because its climate is similar to the Mediterranean.   I just ordered a bottle from a California producer - Baja PreciousBaja Precious is a very "earth-friendly" company which bottles their oil in BPA-free, 100% recyclable, bottles that have the UV and oxygen barriers equivalent to glass bottles.  Another plus is the can get a 750ml bottle (this is the size of a bottle of wine) for $9.99.  I've even heard that Rick Bayless recommends this oil.  I'll post later when I actually try it.  (UPDATE:  Click here for the verdict.)  Click here to try a bottle yourself!

OK...on to the links (with thanks again to my sweetie):

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cheesy Biscuits

oops....forgot to post recipes last night.  So sorry.....   

But then I got to thinking this morning....I've only made the cheesy biscuits (see recipe below).  Not sure how the other recipes will turn out.  Let's wait and see before posting, OK?? 

Cheesy Biscuits

1 cup almond flour*
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tblsp baking powder
4 egg whites
3 Tblsp butter (cut into small pieces) 
6 Tblsp shredded gouda** cheese
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp italian seasoning
1 Tblsp melted butter
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a muffin pan.  In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. In a separate medium bowl, mix the almond flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Cut in the butter until you have pea-sized pieces.  Gently fold into the whites.  Very gently fold in the shredded cheese.  Spoon the dough into your muffin tin.  
For the topping, melt the butter and stir in the salt and parsley.  Using a pastry brush, brush this mixture over the tops of your biscuits.  (This really makes them taste like Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits!)   Bake for 11-15 minutes until tops are golden brown.  Makes 8 biscuits.

* I have found that using my home made almond flour works the best.  Here's how to make your own:  You can always use Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour available from my amazon store

**You can use other hard cheeses like cheddar, but I have found that gouda gives the best flavor.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Menu

I'm staying home for Easter this year.  Thought I would plan a delightful, low-carb, sugar-free, grain-free Easter Dinner.  Here's my menu:

  • Ham Steaks
  • Buttered Peas
  • "Sweet Potato" Casserole
  • Cheese Biscuits
  • Carrot Cake Muffins
  • Paired with a Wollersheim Beaujolais

I'll post the recipes this evening.  But if you want to find them quicker, the "Sweet Potato" Casserole and Cheese Biscuit recipes are from Maria's Nutritious and Delicious Journal.  The Carrot Cake Muffins are an adaptation of a recipe from Healthy Indulgences.

I went with Buttered Peas because of Julia Child.  I've been watching the first few seasons of The French Chef thru my amazon prime membership and my Roku (an internet streaming device for our TV).  The first season was in 1962....I'm halfway thru season 3.  Julia must have loved buttered peas, because she was always using them as a side dish for her recipes.  Even though it is incredibly dated and pales in comparison with today's TV chefs, I have learned so much from her.  I will continue to watch the episodes of every season until I have seen them all!