Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Salted Caramel

Gluten-free and dairy free!

We don’t have sweets around our house too often but Christmas calls for a few special desserts, baked good or snacks and I love making them! 🙂 We use mostly unrefined sugars though some of them do raise your blood sugar so I’m careful as too how often we indulge in sugary treats. My “go to” sweetener is stevia or raw honey but when special occasions come about I use a few of the following sugars such as; maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar or palm sugar (coconut sugar). I am a little sensitive to sugars so only a little honey for me since it ranks a 30 on the glycemic index but when I can buy raw honey from a local farm verses agave nectar in the store, I just feel that the raw honey is absolutely the better choice of the two!

I noticed a recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Sandwich Cookies on Everyday Occasions by Jenny Steffens Hobick. She blogs about lovely ideas for entertaining though I only gain inspiration from her recipes as they’re not usually gluten-free or dairy free. So I felt inspired to create my own recipe for these lovely cookies!

Now remember, sweets such as these are treats! 🙂

Also, I have to admit that when cooking the palm sugar, I truly do not know how it changes the make-up or nutrition of the sugar so it may not be the best for you…just take note please.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Salted Caramel

5 cups blanched almond flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1 cup raw agave nectar

2 Tb vanilla

2 eggs

Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add grapeseed oil, agave, vanilla and eggs. Mix until smooth. Chill dough in refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator and roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper to about 1/4 in. thick. Use a cookie cutter of your choice and place cookies on a baking sheet layered with parchment or silicone mats. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cookies should be soft to the touch when you pull the pan out. Let cookies cool completely. 

Salted Caramel Filling

2  3/4 cups palm sugar

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned coconut milk (do not use light!)

1 Tb coarse sea salt

Using a heavy bottom saucepan, stir together water and palm sugar. Turn heat on low until sugar dissolves. Stir just enough to mix. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Let mixture boil for 5-7 minutes. The mixture should become thick and bubbly but be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in coconut milk. Continue to stir to incorporate the milk. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes until the milk and sugar are melted together. Remove from heat and stir in sea salt. Cool in the refrigerator until thick enough to spread onto cookies. I used a knife for spreading the caramel but a cake decorators bag may also work well. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and remove 5 minutes before serving to allow caramel to soften. 

*Note: I found that I did not cook the caramel long enough the first time I made this but was able to reheat it for a few minutes longer and I had beautiful caramel filling! So, do not despair if you feel it’s not perfect the first time! 🙂

I must say I was quite pleased with how these turned out. Not only was I able to cut out fun shapes but created a recipe that melts in your mouth for everyone! My husband complimented me on these and he’s not totally gluten and dairy free so I was very happy! I love when I can share something that everyone can enjoy!

I don’t drink caffeine but I would imagine that these are very yummy served a wonderful fresh cup of coffee!

Happy Baking!

Potato Pot Pie

I love finding new ways to make “old” things! I don’t like when the recipe is given the same name as the original such as “Blueberry Cheesecake” with the words below stating “really raw cheesecake”. I truly enjoy raw cheesecake but there’s just no chance you’re going to convince me that it tastes like real cheesecake! So when I create something new that inspired by something old I want to give it a new name also. I don’t want someone to feel disappointed or for their taste buds to be shocked or so surprised that they can hardly enjoy the goodness of a new creation!

So, here’s to pot pies…they usually have lots of crust made with plenty of gluten which I cannot eat and my husband eats very little of so I decided it was time to create something similar but new. I have to admit that my inspiration was an article in Martha Stewart’s magazine. She had pot pies of all sorts! The crusts and the fillings were different and quite delightful for the chef’s imaginations!

I decided on something relatively simple. Red Potatoes. Creativity with fillings can be endless but I used a few winter root vegetables for this recipe. However, I would like to try leftover Thanksgiving turkey with a little celery and swap the beef broth for chicken broth. Doesn’t that sound good?

Potato Pot Pie

1 1/2 cups beef broth, divided

6 oz. stew beef, cubed

2 medium carrots, 1/4 in. pieces

1 medium parsnip, 1/4 in. pieces

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1 tsp thyme

3 tsp cornstarch

2-3 red small red potatoes, thin sliced with a mandolin

2 tsp olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Place 1 cup broth, carrots, parsnips, onion, beef and thyme in a medium kettle. Bring to a boil. Combine remaining broth and cornstarch in a mason jar and shake well until any lumps are mixed in. Slowly pour into vegetable mixture. Stir well. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Pour into a greased baking dish. Top with potato slices, layering each slice to form concentric circles starting with the edge of the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately. 

We thoroughly enjoyed this dinner and served it with gluten-free cornbread. I like using Pamela’s Gluten Free Cornbread Mix.

Happy cooking!

Iced Tea or Water?

Iced Tea…Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter!

Yes, I know, it’s not exactly ice tea weather although we’ve had some really warm days with plenty of sunshine, but I drink water all the time and sometimes I just need something with a good flavor! Shake it up a bit, you know? 🙂 My evening ritual  almost always includes some sort of hot tea and on occasion a hot cocoa but tea is usually the drink of choice. And the options are endless!

My favorite is fresh dried peppermint from my grandma or mom’s garden. We’ve been drying peppermint tea as long as I can remember and it doesn’t get any fresher than that!

In the summer peppermint tea is steeped from fresh leaves and gives a wonderfully potent flavor. It’s iced and often lots of sugar is added.  When I get a craving for fresh tea in the summer I add a little liquid stevia and maybe a few teaspoons of fresh honey. I don’t miss the sugar anymore and it’s so much better for us to drink!

Back to options…my tea tray includes:

Chamomile-good for relaxing, bedtime and pms cramps

Green Tea-wonderful antioxidants and good for your skin

Lemon Echinacea Throat Coat-the name says it all

Chia Spice-good antioxidants

Wisniowa by Malwas-one box which I am unable to read the label very well because I found it in my Ukrainian friends shop this summer! But, I can read the ingredients: aronia (or chokeberries), rowan (a bitter fruit used in Britain as a jelly to accompany meats), apple, rose hip, elderberry, cherry, hibiscus flower, red currant. Packed with flavor, color and antioxidants you can’t resist!

This tea makes a tasty and beautiful red tea full of bursts of fruit flavors and is perfect over ice! A little stevia to sweeten and a wonderful change from my boring water! 🙂

Iced Tea

3 Tb loose leaf tea or 3 tea bags

1 qt. boiling water

1 qt. cold water or 1/2 qt. + 10 ice cubes

12 drops liquid stevia

Prepare your tea bags or loose tea in a mesh strainer. Pour boiling water over and let steep 5-7 min. Remove tea leaves and add cold water. Refrigerate for an hour before serving. Add ice if you wish and enjoy!

Try experimenting with any tea you wish. You’ll find there’s plenty more to drink than just water! And, if you really don’t’ like tea, try a few slices of lime, lemon or orange in your water! 🙂

Balsamic Swiss Chard

Greens, greens, greens…

Yes, swiss chard is a green vegetable and guess what? It’s wonderful! When I was first diagnosed with food allergies I felt I had nothing to cook! But, I was so wrong! About a month into my diet change my husband and I went to buy groceries for the week and I decided to linger in the produce a bit longer. I took my notebook and made note of every vegetable and fruit that I had never tasted or did not know how to cook or prepare. I decided then and there that I was going to have fun with this! I was not going to feel sorry for myself and I wasn’t going to miss out of good tasting food! And so my journey began…

I attempted kale first and while I enjoy kale the swiss chard won the prize! I prefer the buy red or rainbow chard because its beautiful colors looks so exciting on my plate!

Swiss Chard offers an array of nutritional benefits. Due to its color palate it is packed full of at least 13 different antioxidants and a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. These are wonderful sources for controlled blood sugar, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. It is packed with vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, not to mention long list of others. I suppose if I ate chard for every meal I may be able to skip my multivitamin! 🙂 Swiss Chard is one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean and is considered one of the most nutritious vegetables available.

To store swiss chard before preparing, do not wash but place in a plastic bag and gently release air. Typically, it will store up to 5 days.

Balsamic Swiss Chard

Serves 2-4

4 large Rainbow Swiss Chard leaves, washed and ends trimmed off

2 shallots or boiler onions, sliced thin

2 Tb coconut oil

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

2 tsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Wash and prepare swiss chard, separating the stems from the leaves in separate bowls. Heat coconut oil in a pan on medium heat. Saute the swiss chard stems for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add onions and leaves and sauté for 2 minutes or until leaves are wilting slightly. Add remaining ingredients and stir gently to combine. Serve immediately.

*Leftovers may be added to scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Fruit Roll-Ups

Homemade Fruit Roll-ups

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…it doesn’t matter when you have Fruit Roll-Ups, they’re always good! I’m not one of those talented and committed girls that dehydrate everything and eat it all raw but I’m slowly learning a few things. I go for the easy ones…something I have on hand or that’s on sale. Sometimes its trial and error but in the end its tasty!

I love having a few healthy snacks on hand and these are great because they help curb that sweet craving, no sugar, just real fruit! The best is fresh fruit; puree and discard seeds if necessary. I’ve found that depending on the climate you’re in, it may take a little less time to dry them. You want them to be a little sticky to the touch, not dry or they’ll be fruit crackers when you’re finished! Trust me! 🙂

Have fun and try your own combinations and flavors. You can always add 100% juice or water if liquid is needed. Fresh fruit is always the best but frozen and canned will also work and sometimes needed for my budget! If you use either frozen or canned, you may not need to add liquid as they tend to have more water in them. Enjoy!

Peach & Pear Fruit Roll-Ups

3 large fresh peaches

3 large fresh pears

1/2-1 cup water

2 tsp cinnamon

Peal, core and quarter fruit. Place in a blender and add 1/2 cup water. Blend on high. Add a little more water if necessary to blend smooth. Add cinnamon and mix well. Pour onto lightly greased drying sheets and dehydrate for 2-4 hours checking every 15 min. towards the end. Cut fruit with a pizza cutter and roll into snack size portions. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks. Great for snacks, lunches and traveling.

Variations:

Very Berry

2 cups blueberries

1 cup black raspberries

1/2 cup apple juice

Follow as directed above. Strain mixture to remove seeds and follow instructions for drying.

Strawberry-Banana

2 cups fresh strawberries

1 very ripe banana

1/2 cup water

Follow as directed above.

May your day be full of tasty, healthy little snacks!