Saturday, 23 June 2012

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I've always had a bad bad sweet tooth. I love sweet things. One of the hardest things for me to get away from was all the sugar I was eating, and though I always tried to keep my sweet tooth in check, I never realized how much sugar I was truly eating. I shudder when I think about how many mornings I would have Tim Hortons muffins (those things are actually cakes, really) with their French Vanilla coffee (it was just like drinking liquid sugar) and Grande Carmel Macchiatos (another liquid sugar haven) with a "healthy" low-fat fruit bar (fruit good, all that extra sugar, not so much). On a given morning I was having somewhere in the range of 75 - 100g of carbohydrates, mostly from sugar, and all before I got to work! Given the fact that a sugar hit like that will drive anyone's blood sugar crazy, it's no wonder why I was so hungry all the time.

I know, for my health, the best thing is and was to cut back. Significantly reducing my sugar and keeping the big indulgences it to special occasions not only keeps my weight in check, but also, honestly, leaves me feeling less hungry. As committed I am to my health, I still look with longing eyes at the seasonal treats that Starbucks and the other coffee shops put out. Pumpkin bread, red velvet doughnuts and cupcakes, brownies, bars - you know how you just know something is bad for you, but you think "just this once..." I would see tons of recipes for these types of goodies, but they were all still high in sugar and used conventional flour -- things I wanted to avoid.

And then I found Carolyn and her blog All Day I Dream About Food. My eyes just about fell out of my head. There were all these things, these wonderful baked goods, cakes, loaves, muffins, bars that Carolyn had largely created, and substantially all of them were without grains and sugar. I was overwhelmed and spent hours going through the site. Carolyn's blog was one of the very first I stumbled upon, at a time when I was missing a lot of the traditional treats. The first thing I made was her Maple Walnut Candy. Yes, it used regular maple syrup, but over a whole pan, a tablespoon wasn't much. From there, my desire and love for baking grew, and I still regularly make recipes off of her blog.

So, it's only fitting that this week's recipe is adapted from her blog. I've become more and more comfortable with making substitutions, so when Carolyn posted this recipe and lamented the bars she made were too cake-y, I was up for the challenge to try and improve them. I thought using a combination of coconut flour and almond flour would do the trick and lend a little more softness while adding stability to the bar. The great thing about coconut flour is that a little goes a long way -- it is super absorbent and is a natural thickener, and with time, it tends to stay soft and actually improves the taste and texture of the baking you do. Though, I have to admit, I didn't quite achieve the chewy texture I was aiming for. They get better after 24 hours in the fridge, but they still retain a bit of their cookie texture. Not that it's a bad thing -- It didn't stop J and I from topping them with ice cream!

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Makes 16
Adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

See the flowers? J surprised me with them after work!
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, warm, but not hot!
  • 1/2 cup granular sweetener of choice w/ 2 tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup liquid sweetener of choice (or use water but increase your sweetener)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine almond flour, coconut flour, granular sweetener, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl with a whisk.

In another bowl, whisk the egg with a fork until combined and bit frothy (bubbles should start to form).
Whisk your butter & liquid sweetener into the egg mixture, stirring constantly.

Make a well in the centre of your almond flour bowl, pushing the dry mix up the sides. Slowly pour your butter/egg mixture into the centre, and stir gently until all ingredients are just combined (the batter will be thick)

Press into a greased 8x8 inch square baking pan. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (but watch it!! The edges tend to brown quickly). Sprinkle with cinnamon (or some ground ginger and granulated sweeter (1 tsp ginger + 1 tbsp sweetener).

Let the bars cool  completely (or else you'll end up with the cracking and crumbling like I did!) and then cut into squares (or triangles). Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Note: I used sucralose (also known as Splenda) because it's what I had on hand. It's almost all gone, and I've decided that I won't be using it for much longer, as it bothers my sister when she has it (and I want to share my baking with her, too!). I am going to be trying out using Stevia in my baking, which is a natural, plant based sweetener which has little glycemic impact, and you need a lot less of it to achieve a desired sweetness. So, if you're using sugar, you can use the measures exactly in the recipe - otherwise, adjust your sweetener accordingly based on its strength!

I hope you enjoy these as much as J and I did. Really, giving these 24 hours to sit in the fridge improves the texture and taste so much. They're even better warmed, with about 12 seconds in the microwave, and you have soft, cinnamon-y bars. Though, if you can't wait to try them, I don't blame you!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Proscuitto & Salmon with a Red Wine Scallion Butter + Sides

Whew! What a week!

Actually, it's been a hectic last couple of weeks. J and I had big exams and so we were studying wildly and admittedly very, very stressed. I even lost the picture of my Pistachio Halibut that I was going to post, oh no!

But, if I've learned anything in life, it's always important to have a Plan B. So, I present to you a date night recipe that I made two  weeks ago (and again last night): Prosciutto wrapped Salmon with a Red Wine Butter, very slightly adapted from Karen Barnaby's Low Carb Gourmet that I talked about a few weeks ago. I can never say enough about this book, seriously. It has resulted in so many delicious meals in our house, it's one of the best ways I've ever spent $20.

So the one thing you'll probably notice is that the salmon isn't wrapped. When I did this two weeks ago, I had been so frazzled that I had totally forgotten to wrap the salmon as I was searing it. Whoops! But, I had a bright idea as I was cooking -- see those mushrooms in the back? They were roasting in the oven and I draped the long slices of prosciutto over them, so not only did I get extra tasty mushrooms, I got slightly crispy, warm prosciutto as well. Oh, also take note of those beautiful scallions. We picked those up from a local organic farmer at the farmer's market in town. They last FOREVER and are so very fresh!

The Full Meal Deal
There's also a delicious salad, which pleasantly surprised J. As I said, the salmon is adapted, but the mushrooms and salad are GG originals (simple, but still mine!) Barnaby calls for you to cook the salmon for about 8 - 10 minutes per side, but this is a waste if you're using fresh salmon. She also calls for you to season the salmon with thyme, but I found that adding it to the sauce was much more flavourful! I'm also going to let you in on my quick and easy way to sear salmon, or any kind of fresh fish. This is a trick passed down from Chef Todd Bright at Wild Rice. If you're ever in Vancouver or New Westminster, be sure to check out the restaurant! Haven't had a bad meal from there EVER!

And without further adieu, here's the recipe for the Salad, Mushrooms, and Salmon.

Simple Salad
Serves 2

Source: Original Recipe

2 cups of any mixed greens of your choice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle of fresh (or freeze dried) Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk your olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper in a small bowl until combined. In a larger bowl mix your salad greens (if they haven't been already). Pour dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Let sit for 8 - 10 minutes. Serve

Note: The reason why you want to let it is is so that your greens start to absorb the flavours of the dressing. You don't want to let it sit too long though, or you'll lose that great crunch!

Oven-Roasted Herbed Mushrooms
Serves 2

Source: Original Recipe

6 - 8 medium  sized mushrooms, quartered
1 - 2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Thoroughly wash and quarter your mushrooms, placing them into an 8" x 8" square baking dish. Whisk your olive oil and Herbes de Provence in a small bowl. Drizzle over your mushrooms and toss to coat (don't be afraid to use your hands!)

Roast for 25 - 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Note: Watch these things pretty carefully after the 20 minute mark. They should be lightly browned, still plump and firm, but not shriveled! It will depend on how your oven feels that day (mine is quite temperamental) and the size of your mushrroms.

Seared Salmon with Prosciutto and Red Wine Butter
Serves 2

Adapted from: Low Carb Gourmet by Karen Barnaby

Look at those Fresh Shallots!

For the Salmon:
2 salmon filets, about 6 oz (170g) each
A little bit of salt and peper
1/2 tbsp - 1 tbsp of olive oil for the pan (you'll need less if you use a cast iron pan - another great investment!)

Let the salmon come up to room temperature, about 15 - 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper on each side. Heat the pan over medium high heat. When your pan is hot, add your oil, and wait a few seconds to allow your oil to heat up. Add the salmon and DO NOT TOUCH (peek, prod, poke or otherwise lift from the pan) for 3 minutes and then flip. Turn off the heat and let sit for another two to three minutes. Serve topped with the red wine butter and over your crispy prosciutto.

Not flipping or touching the salmon, fish, or whatever else you're searing is very important. If the sear isn't complete you risk breaking your fish or having an uneven sear. Trust me, you won't burn it, no matter how much it sizzles. The great thing about searing is it is so easy, it's perfect to try during the work week for  a versatile dish that you can put any glaze or dressing, or add any side dish you want. Remember, practice makes perfect with searing! It doesn't take long to get the hang of it, and you'll impress everyone you know with your superior searing skills.

For the Red Wine Butter:
1 tbsp minced shallot
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Place the shallot and red wine in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the sauce is reduced and the shallots are glaze-y and the sauce looks sticky. Place the butter in a small bowl and pour the reduction over the butter. If your glaze is too thick, add 1 tbsp of hot  hot water and then add to the butter. Stir gently until the butter is incorporated. Serve over the salmon.

That's all I've got for you today! Hope this makes up for my dropping off the face of the blog-o-sphere for a little while. Life should give me a little more time to cook (hopefully!) so I hope to get one or two posts up every week.

Happy cooking! Feel free to email me (check out the sidebar to the right!) and don't forget to like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!