Happy New Year everyone! I took a longer-than-I-should-have Christmas break from blogging to entertain house guests, hang out with friends, organize my house and sleep (while I still can!). Oh, and to clean up after a little ice storm that brought down trees, power lines and Christmas spirits. Aye.
But I’m back just in the nick of time to talk resolutions. Have you got any food-related ones? I’ve got my mind on two: (1) scour the bazillions of cookbooks sitting on my shelves and make at least one new recipe each week (stay tuned), and (2) experiment with alternatives to wheat, refined sugar and dairy.
Re resolution (2) I promise I’m not going all gluten-free or homemade rice milk on you. That’s definitely not my schtick. But it’s easy to fall into a sandwich, pasta and cheese rut (am I the only one?), and the new year is the perfect time to mix up the foods we feed our families. I am not a fan of cutting out entire foods or food categories from my diet, but I am a BIG believer that variety is the key to good health and a happy belly. If I don’t eat too much of any one thing I won’t have to worry when the latest and greatest study declares that it’s toxic, carcinogenic, fattening, artery-clogging, etc., right? Sigh.
Just when I needed it, I just got my hands on a copy of Cooking with Coconut Oil: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Recipes for Good Living, by Elizabeth Nyland. It’s full of simple and healthy alternatives to standard starchy and sugary fare. The author is a fellow BC girl (yes I still consider myself a BCer at heart though I haven’t lived there in over 15 years), a food blogger, and a crossfit maven who found that eliminating dairy, refined sugar, grains, legumes, refined vegetable oils and processed foods has made her feel fitter, healthier and happier. Hooray! She’s refreshingly moderate about her views on the whole “paleo” thing however, encouraging readers to “cheat” at least once per week and to follow the “100 percent paleo, 80 percent of the time” rule of thumb. And though I’m not a paleo myself, I am definitely looking for new ways to incorporate more wheat-alternatives, healthy fats, nuts and seeds and colourful fruits and veg into my diet. This book is full of great ideas.
The first recipe I whipped up was these dark chocolate brownies. Which I appreciate doesn’t scream of New Year’s resolutions. But as far as brownies go these are pretty virtuous: grain, dairy and refined-sugar free. And hey, I’m still eating for two over here.
If you haven’t cooked with coconut oil yet, jump on the bandwagon and give it a try. It’s got a great mildly tropical flavour that works really well in sweet foods especially: baked goods, pancakes, French toast, roasted sweet potatoes, to name a few. And though it’s primarily saturated fat, we are now learning that it’s a healthy saturated fat with some potentially awesome properties: immune-boosting, anti-aging, cholesterol-lowering, bacteria-killing and inflammation-reducing, among other things. Whoa.
So you can have your brownie points and eat them too.
- 1 cup almond meal
- 3 tablespoons coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 8 large medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup nut butter (such as cashew, hazelnut, or almond)
- 2 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent or higher)
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8-inch pan.
- In a large bowl, blend dry ingredients with a fork. Set aside.
- In a food processor or high-powered blender, mix the honey, dates, vanilla, eggs and nut butter until smooth. Set aside.
- Bring a small pot filled a third of the way with water to a boil, then lower to a simmer and place a small bowl over the water (making certain the bowl is not touching the water) or use a double-boiler for this step. [Note: I used my microwave.] Place the dark chocolate and coconut oil into the bowl and allow to melt, stirring until combined. Mix this with the wet ingredients.
- Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and pour into the greased pan. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack until they are room temperature. Cut into desired sizes and serve.