Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free Cookbook Review and Giveaway

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Hi everybody, happy Friday! A few months back I had the opportunity to sign up to review a new cookbook by Ricki Heller called Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free.  I knew back then that following the PCOS diet would mean making healthier choices in regards to sweets, and trying to eat as close to low-glycemic as possible would be a huge puzzle piece in my efforts to get fit. The book first attracted me because of the gorgeous cupcakes on the front cover. Although I can get down and dirty in the kitchen, I don’t consider myself a great baker… EXCEPT for making and decorating cupcakes. A few cake deco classes later, and I’m pretty confident with my swirly-topped creations. I have to admit that sometimes, the words gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan make me skeptical. Is it *possible* to have delicious tasting treats without butter, cream, eggs, or sugar? The answer is yes, and I know from both Lenny & Larry’s Vegan Protein Cookies and this new cookbook that vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free CAN mean delicious!
As a highly visual person, one of my favorite things about this book is the gorgeous photography by Celine Saki. There are more than 60 full-color photographs in the book, which makes me happy because I think the most important part of any cookbook, besides the recipes, are the pictures. Doesn’t this picture of Cinnamon Buns make you drool? I’m a sucker for gorgeously styled food photography, and I must be the daughter of a photographer because today I was even pondering buying one of those mini light boxes for amateur food photographers.

vegancinnamonbuns_rickiheller

Heller also spends some time discussing how she came to be a food blogger and natural foods baker. She struggled with IBS and various tummy ailments her whole life, until she learned to start eliminating wheat, sugar and processed foods from her diet. Her story is similar to so many people I know, including my best friend, and I always appreciate it when authors give personal context to their work. Heller also provides a handy breakdown of the different types of non-wheat flours and sweeteners, which was helpful to me as I cheated a little bit in the upcoming recipe and used pre-ground Almond Flour by Bob’s Redmill. Shhhh.

The recipe I decided to test first was the “Easiest Almond Cookies”. The relatively short ingredients list appealed to me, and other than flax seed, I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. I was slightly intimidated by the process of grinding my flax seeds at first, because my food processor wasn’t seeming to “grind” them — just whirled them around helplessly. I finally realized if I jiggled the processor a little bit as it spun, it hit the seeds just right to turn them into crumbly, coarse meal.

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

Once I got past the step, the recipe lived up to its name, and they were pretty darn easy to make. I especially like that these are “smush” cookies, meaning you get to roll the dough into little balls with your hands, which I always think is fun. What can I say, I’m still six years old in a lot of ways 🙂 After a brief visit in the oven for just eight minutes, my cookies were delightfully firm around the edges but still chewy and soft. I barely let them cool, took a bite and was pleasantly surprised by how clean they tasted. Most cookies are so sweet that you’re kind of sugar-shocked with the first bite. These have a very delicate, light taste with a fragrant almond after taste. The texture would be lovely with a dark British tea like PG Tips. I did make one small substitution by using coconut oil instead of the suggested sunflower oil, as I had it on hand and am loving all things coconutty.

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You can find the recipe at the bottom of this post, but because you guys are awesome and so is Ricki Heller, she’s graciously offered one copy of the book to one lucky Double Chin Diary reader. To enter is pretty straight-forward — just leave a comment on this post telling me which recipe from the book you’d most like to try. You can read about a few more recipes at this webpage. For an extra entry, “like” Ricki Heller on Facebook or follow Ricki Heller on Twitter.  Just let me know in the comments if you did either, and I’ll count your entry twice. This giveaway will end one week from now, on Friday, October 4 at 11:59 PM PST. GOOD LUCK!

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

This recipe is from Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free by Ricki Heller. Recipe re-printed with permission from Sellers Publishing, 2013.

Yield: 15 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (12 oz or 340 g) natural raw skin on almonds, preferably organic
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) finely ground flax seeds (from about 2 Tbsp or 30 ml whole)
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) pure almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water, if necessary

 

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
  • 2. In the bowl of a food processor, whir the almonds, flax, baking soda, and salt until you have a very fine meal (it should be the consistency of a coarse cornmeal or fine breadcrumbs, with no large pieces of almond visible). Watch that you don’t blend so long as to obtain almond butter, however!
  • 3. Add the agave nectar, oil, and extracts, and process again just until the mixture holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl. It should look like a moist dough. If the mixture is too dry, add the water and pulse quickly to blend.
  • 4. Using a small ice-cream scoop or tablespoon (15 ml), scoop the dough and roll into balls; place them about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Wet your palms (or use a silicone spatula) and press down to flatten each ball to about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
  • 5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through baking, until the edges are barely golden brown and the cookies are dry in the center (the tops will still be light). Allow to cool completely before removing from the cookie sheets; the cookies firm up as they cool.

**** A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes, and an affiliate link to Amazon is included above. As always, all opinions are always 100% my own!

lyssaloves

Low-Fat Blueberry Applesauce Muffins – 107 calories each

Enjoy with some reduced-fat butter spread or a drizzle of honey!

Hello Double Chinners! Today is my 200th post! Hard to believe I’ve been blogging in this dusty little corner of the internet for 200 posts – awesome! Thanks for reading my blog.

Today while picking up some cake decorating supplies for my classes, I stumbled upon adorable strawberry muffin liners at Michael’s in the $1 section. (Those sections get me into trouble.) I knew instantly I wanted to do some baking with fresh fruit – and lo and behold, I had about a cup left of delicious, sweet blueberries. However, I knew a traditional blueberry muffin recipe would break MyFitnessPal calorie bank, so I decided to do a recipe modification from the Betty Crocker book, and came up with these calories which come in at 107 calories and 1 gram of fat each.

Now, I’ll warn you. These aren’t super sweet muffins like you find at Starbucks, they’re on the milder, more simple side, which works for me. They’re also more dense. I substituted apple sauce for oil, but if you want a lighter, airier cupcake, simply swap the 1/4 cup apple sauce for 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil (puts them at 147 calories each instead of 107).

If you don’t have fresh blueberries, frozen will work just fine!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
2 TSP baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 TBSP brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper lines and lightly mist each with Pam or other non-stick spray. Mix all ingredients except blueberries in a large bowl and whisk gently until the batter has no lumps. Once batter is smooth, gently fold in the cup of blueberries. Stir until blueberries are evenly dispersed in the batter. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter, sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake 17-18 minutes until spongy and a knife inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

 

What’s in my Pantry? Round 1

Hey peeps. Sorry it took me a bit to get to this post, life is kaaa-razzzz-yyyy right now. Can’t wait till school’s over – As of may 17, I’ll be half way done with my Master’s Degree! Woo, woo! Anyhoodles – let’s take a peek into the Curran pantry, shall we?

Top Pantry - canned goods.

Pretty standard, right? Nothing too too bad, though some would argue cooking with coconut milk is like pumping lard straight into your veins….

The junky part of my pantry.

Ok – here we go. This is the bad part, haha – or as I call it, carb central.

  • Pretzel Slims. So crunchy… so salty… so addictive.
  • Way in the back, Pita Puffs. They’re like pita cracker pillow things. Not very impressive. (From TJs)
  • You can’t see it, but there’s a big box of 100-cal popcorn. Yum.
  • Crystal Light Pure Fitness. This stuff is kind of meh compared to the original Crystal Light, but it keeps me from swigging 10,000 cans of Diet Coke a day.
  • Pop Tarts. I wasn’t fooled by the “20% Fiber” claims.. I know they’re still crap at 190 calories a piece. Sugar bomb!
  • Apple Watermelon Dried Fruit Snacks. These are just ok. They’ve been in there awhile.
  • Another thing you can’t really see- Trader Joe’s individually packaged Kettle Corn. Delicious!
  • Golden Raisins (old people food, but necessary for banana bread)
  • 100 Calorie Pack generic cheez-its. Don’t buy ’em, they taste nothing like the real things.
  • Golden Grahams – Matt must’ve bought these because I had no idea we had them.
  • Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds. LOVE these. Filling, so salty…
  • Fancy Feast – It’s the latest diet fad! (For my kittehs)
  • 1 Giant Sack of Chocolate Whey Protein Powder. For after a good work out.

I feel that this part of the pantry definitely reveals more of my eating habits. My weakness is all about the carb – and the salt. If it’s crunchy and salty, I’m all over it. I also realize from writing this blog that there are a lot of things in my pantry that have been there an embarassingly long time because they didn’t suit my fancy (I can count three or four things on the list above. heh) Perhaps the lesson is I need to clean out my pantry more often?

So come on – some other bloggers should post a picture of their pantry. It’s fun! and revealing! and let’s you know what’s probably covered in mold or stale to the point of breaking a tooth! 🙂