Friday, January 13, 2012

Grain-free Lemon Biscuit Cookies

Need a grain-free and low-sugar but delicious and simple treat recipe?  This is it!  These biscuit like cookies are perfect for dunking into some raw milk eggnog, which is exactly what I did this past Christmas Eve!  The grain-free members of the family were so happy to have a fun cookie option.  Look at those shapes!  To get the shapes, I pressed 1 Tbsp of the cookie dough into a Christmas shaped cookie pan I scored from Bed Bath and Beyond last January which I bought in anticipation for this years Christmas baking.  It was a great find!  These cookies are also great on their own, thanks to their buttery cake-like texture and fresh lemon zest.  And kids will love to decorate these little guys with different colored icing!!

Lemon Biscuit Cookies
    makes almost 24 cookies

    3 cups  almond flour - source
    1 cup  organic coconut flour - source
    zest of one lemon
    1/2 tsp  unrefined sea salt - source
    1/4 cup  organic raw honey - source
    1  happy pastured egg
    1/4 cup  palm/coconut sugar - source
    1/2 cup (1 stick)  cold grassfed butter - source
    1/2 tsp  baking powder - source
    2 tsp  vanilla extract - source

To make your biscuit cookies:
    1.  Preheat oven to 350.
    2.  In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Zest lemon on top and mix again.
    3.  Take your butter, cut it into pieces with a sharp knife and work the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until there are no big chunks.  BEWARE - this cookie dough is extremely good and quite addicting.  There's no such thing as a "small taste" of this dough.  Only the brave can have just a little bit, it's that good.  And if you eat less cookie dough you can form more cookies ;)
    4.  Press the cookie dough into your desired pan or mold filling it slightly less than completely full.  Bake until the edges of the cookies are slightly browned and flex to the touch.  The tops of the cookies will not brown.  The bottoms of the cookies WILL brown and you cannot see this happening.  Err on the side of less cooked than over baked.  Let cool for about 10-15 minutes and then carefully take cookies out of the mold onto a baking rack to cool completely.
This was my first batch of cookies, see how well they brown? Be careful!
    5.  Serve warm and slathered in butter, or cold and dunked in eggnog or you could even dip them in a homemade chocolate sauce or frost them with icing, or devour them plain!

Not all the cookie dough fit into my special pan, so the rest I scooped out and pressed into mini muffin tins!  They are fun to nibble.  The lemon zest is fantastic!!

These cookies are very versatile and have a mild flavor that goes with anything!  Eat them for breakfast as a biscuit, or crumbled on top of yogurt, for lunch dipped in eggnog, as a snack anytime of the day or for dinner as a not-too-sweet finish to the meal.  You could even fold some poppyseeds into the batter to go with the lemon zest!  Don't forget, you can make these anytime of year, just use a non-Christmas shaped cookie pan :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you're like me, you absolutely hate putting any kind of food to waste.  Leftovers must be given away, eaten or frozen for later.  My experience working in food has only increased my desire to never let anything edible go to waste.  The word edible, however, means different things to different people.  Some think that items like refined sugar, vegetable oils, junk food, processed foods, frozen meals, soft drinks, juices and conventional milk are edible.  To me, they only come up on my radar as "edible food like substances," items that never should be considered fit for human consumption.  It is the fresh and nourishing foods should never be wasted.  And so it kills me to throw away any kind of perfectly good food.  Lots of things like banana peels, veggie ends, avocado pits and red pepper seeds can be easily shoved into the compost bucket, but I like to salvage everything I possibly can.  This can be problematic because I hate throwing away burned food or cookies too, yet sometimes it's definitely necessary ;)  Cookie crumbles can be saved for ice cream topping later right?

In the past I have always put my scooped out pumpkin seeds in the trash.  I knew it was possible to use them for something, but had never tried to bother with the annoying orange stringys and was a bit daunted by the whole process.  Turns out using pumpkin seeds is way easier than I had ever realized.  I threw these together one day in an experimentation moment (this tends to happen a lot) and discovered that roasting seeds isn't so scary after all!

I've made these spicy seeds for a couple of times now and each time they are delicious!  I've used sunflower seeds, squash seeds from a butternut squash, and also store-bought pumpkin seeds.  In fact, the photo is actually of roasted squash seeds!  They are all so similar and work very well.

Mmm, naturally sugar-free, spicy and crunchy = the perfect snack!

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
    makes a delicious spicy snack for several people

    2 cups soaked fresh pumpkin seeds (from a pumpkin!)
    2 Tbsp Frank's Red Hot sauce
    2 Tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
    1 tsp sea salt
    1 tsp black pepper

To prep your pumpkin seeds:
    1.  Open up your pumpkin using any method that makes you most comfortable.  I wash mine thoroughly and then cut it in half with a very sharp santoku knife.
    2.  Then pull out the seeds gently with your fingers.  If you're careful, you can get a lot of the seeds out string-free with this method.  Inside the pumpkin the stringies should still be attached.  Place the seeds in a small bowl and try to pick out as many strings as you can.
    3.  Cover the seeds with some lukewarm water and about 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt.  Soak overnight.  In the morning, drain the seeds (they will have sunk to the bottom and some left over strings will be on top) and separate any remaining stringies.

To make your spicy seeds:
    1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2.  In a small bowl, toss soaked seeds with hot sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Mix with hands to combine.  The sauce should cover the seeds and there shouldn't be much excess hanging out on the bottom of the bowl. If there is excess, or if the sauce doesn't fully cover the seeds, just add equal portions of hot sauce and olive oil, or more seeds, until the seeds are fully coated but with not much excess in the bowl.
    3.  Spread out seeds onto a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes.  Stir seeds.  Bake for 7 more minutes or until seeds have crisped but have not burned.  This can happen easily so DON'T leave the kitchen!  When done, let cool and store in a sealed air-tight container.

These were definitely a hit with my family for Christmas.  They would also work as a great gift idea during any time of the year.  Who doesn't love a spicy crunchy nourishing snack?  They're a perfect introduction into healthy, real food, WAPF, and Primal eating for those who aren't quite there yet.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Grain-free Buche de Noel aka Yule Log.

Grain-free Yule log unfrosted.

This year I promised I would make a grain-free yule log.  I knew that it could potentially be wrought with problems, but I was going to do it anyways.  I like to defy difficulty, shake my fist at hard culinary feats, and say happily "I conquered the ___" [insert hard culinary endeavor here].  Therefore, I was determined that the cake would roll well, it would be delicious, it would have a good chocolate taste that would allow the cake to be eaten on it's own, and it wouldn't turn into a grumpy crumbly mess of cake when sliced or eaten.  It would be a cake that tasted normal, not overly dense and full of almond flour, or that sometimes eggy coconut flour taste.  I mentioned this in my last post, when I showed you all just how exactly to make a yule log with step by step photos, sure to help even the most novice baker acheive yule log success.

During Christmas time I always make two logs.  One yule log to bring to the extended family, and one enjoy with my immediate family.  And thank goodness my family lives in the Northeast.  When I come home for the holidays and bake it's always super convenient to have an "extra fridge" and "freezer space," also known as outside in the cold garage, to keep all the Christmas goodies fresh when there's no room in the refrigerator.  This year I was determined to make a delicious grain-free yule log.  And I've done it.  Best of all, I like it better than my standard gluten-free version which has always worked so well.  I also inadvertently made this recipe without refined sugar.  Turns out we had none in the house!  How cool :)  Luckily I had some coconut/palm sugar on hand, and it worked very well instead of white sugar.

The uncut side before frosting.

 Grain-free Yule Log aka Buche de Noel.
    makes one log, serves 12-14 people with about 1" slices

    5  happy eggs, from grass-fed chickens
    3/4  cup almond flour - source
    1/4  cup organic coconut flour - source
    1 1/4  tsp baking powder - source
    3/4  cup coconut/palm sugar - source
    1/2  tsp unrefined sea salt - source
    1/4  cup cocoa powder - source
    1  tsp vanilla - source
    2  cups raw milk cream (for inside)
    1  deep cookie sheet 10x15 (edges of the pan need to be at least an inch tall)
    real butter, from grass-fed cows (for greasing the pan) - source
    wax paper
    organic powdered sugar (for dusting)
    1  tea cloth (I used an old linen calendar)

Chocolate Outside layer: feel free to use your most favorite chocolate frostingrecipe, or either of the recipes listed here
    Chocolate frosting
    2   cups organic powdered sugar
    1/4   cup cocoa powder
    1 1/2   sticks grass-fed butter, softened
    6   Tbsp raw whole milk
    Dark chocolate ganache/buttercream**
    1/4  cup hot water
    1/4  cup cocoa powder
    8  oz unsweetened chocolate - source
    1/2  cup chocolate chips - source
    1/2  tsp unrefined sea salt
    1  Tbsp vanilla
    2  sticks grass-fed butter, softened
    2  cups organic powdered sugar

Prepping for the Yule Log:
    1.  Preheat to 400 degrees.
    2.  Place the cookie sheet in front of you.  Take a hunky of soft room temperature butter in your fingers and rub it onto the bottom and sides of the cookie sheet, enough to grease it very well, but not in excess.  The most important thing to keep in mind here is that this step is designed to prevent sticking, so better to err on the more greased side than not enough.  Make sure to cover all the surfaces of the sheet, especially all the corners and sides.  The cookie sheet should look shiny and feel slimy.
    3.  Measure out a piece of wax paper to fit the pan, and place it on the buttered cookie sheet.  Press the wax paper down onto the sheet so it fits into corners and stays put to the edges.  The wax paper will stick to the cookie sheet since it is covered in butter.  It will also hang off the sides a little.  It does not have to be perfect, but you will need a few inches on both sides of the pan to remove the paper from the cake after baking, so don't cut off the ends too short.
    4.  Butter the top of the wax paper that you just pressed into the buttered sheet.  This makes a total of two layers of butter, one on the sheet and one on the wax paper, like this: sheet - butter - paper - butter.

Making the cake:
    5.  Using an upright stand mixer, add 5 eggs and sea salt, and beat until thick, glossy and lemon colored. Don't worry if it has bubbles, but don't try to make them.
    6.  In another small bowl, mix sugar and cocoa powder together.  Gradually add this mixture to the eggs, beating well after each addition.  Then add the vanilla.
    7.  In another small bowl (you can use the same one that you mixed the sugar and cocoa powder in), mix together both flours and the baking powder.  Add this gradually to the egg-cocoa mixture and beat until smooth.  Thoroughly scrape the sides to make sure all the ingredients become incorporated.  The batter may be a little thin or slightly thick depending your ingredients.  Either is fine and will not affect the final product.
    8.  Pour the batter evenly into the greased/waxed papered pan; smooth batter with a spatula, do not neglect the corners.
    9.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (usually it will be on the quicker side, but some ovens run hotter than others).  Cake will feel spongy to the touch, but is cooked through.

    10.  While the cake is baking, lay out a tea towel and sprinkle it generously with powdered sugar.
    11.  When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and loosen the edges of the cake.  Grasping the edges of the pan, flipping out the cake, wax paper and all, onto the sugar covered towel.  Do this fast- take it out, and tip it right over.
    12.  Gently peel off the wax paper from the cake and carefully roll up the cake in the towel.
    13.  Let the cake cool on the counter wrapped in the towel.  This is an important step to make the rolled shape. 
    14.  While the cake is cooling, whip up the cream.  I highly recommend putting the attachments and mixing bowl in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the cake, then all the utensils will be really cold for whipping the cream, and the cream will whip up more easily.  
    15.  When the cake has cooled, gently unroll it (do not force it flat) and frost the inside with the freshly whipped cream.  Then carefully roll it back up, but without the tea towel this time.
    16.  Gently lift the yule log and place it on the platter you plan to serve it.  Cut off one of the ends, or both if it gets a little burnt or if it is uneven.  If some cream squirts out of the log during cutting, just spoon it into the stump and frost over it.  Once you fill the log with whipped cream, return it to the cold so the cream doesn't go flat.
    17.  Make the chocolate frosting with your stand mixer:
           For normal chocolate frosting, proceed as you would for making any regular type of frosting.  Frost the log.
       **For making the dark chocolate buttercream:
       1) In a bowl, beat the butter,  2) then add the sugar and beat until fluffy.
       3) Melt the two types of chocolate in a double boiler.
       4) Boil water and in a small bowl combine hot water and cocoa powder.
       5) Let the hot water and cocoa cool until finger can be comfortably inserted into the chocolate without feeling too hot.
       6) Carefully add melted chocolate and hot cocoa to butter and sugar.
       7) Beat to combine until creamy and smooth.  Frost the log.  Log should not be very cold otherwise the dark chocolate butter cream may harden and not be spreadable.
    18.  Using one of the rolled up ends, place it on top of the log to mimic a stump.  Frost the stump.  
    19.  Decorate however you like.  The traditional way is to sprinkle coconut on top of the chocolate frosting to look like snow.  Fork marks in the frosting make the log textured and resemble bark.  You can also put some red and green MMs on top near the stump to look like berries and leaves.  If you do not have MMs or cannot eat them (I cannot) then just use whatever you can.  Have fun with it!  I have even used strawberries before!
    20.  Put the yule log in the fridge to set overnight.  Before serving, remove from the fridge for about 30 minutes.  Slice into half inch or one inch slices.  Serve with homemade vanilla ice cream.  Yule log freezes VERY well and stays good in the fridge for about 2 weeks.  Enjoy!

More posts on Yule Log:

Gluten-free Buche de Noel / Yule log - with step by step photos!
Gluten-free Yule log - my first one 3 years ago! 

View of the cut end - the cut off end makes the stump!

Enjoy your grain-free Yule Log.  My family sure did :)  We whittled it down slowly but surely and savored ever bite!  And don't forget to serve it with some homemade vanilla ice cream!