Tag Archives: bake

Avoid the Sugar Hangover! Gluten Free Peanut Butter, Cacao Nib, and Coconut Cookies

FoodShoot-4466
Photography by Kim Mennen and Jake Lowe, Styling by Ali Nardi
Notice: WordPress is having a mini meltdown and currently won’t recognize spaces between paragraphs. Sorry for the big block of text.
Last night I had my ladies over. We used to get together to exercise, but now, we mainly get together to eat and drink wine, which suits us all just fine…
I made a wholesome and really flavorsome classic for them: a lemon and rosemary roast chicken with roast spuds, sweet potatoes, garlic, and kale (I will try to post that recipe soon). My friend Alice is off the sugar Sarah Wilson style, and inspired by Alice, I haven’t been eating much processed sugar either. It’s usually just a bit of fruit everyday and that’s been the deal. I feel pretty good, and I considered this fact while deciding what to make them all for dinner.
We were all full and satisfied, but then my friend Amelia went into the kitchen, and returned with a box of gorgeous Greek pastries. So gorgeous, that even Alice crumbled. What was meant to be just a bite of each turned into a bit of a feeding frenzy, but lady style, so it didn’t actually look like a frenzy…. and before you knew it, there were only a few measly scraps left–which I ate for breakfast this morning to try and cure the terrible sugar hangover I awoke to this morning.
Sugar. It’s super addictive. I consider myself very lucky that I’ve never really had a sweet tooth, but a few months ago, I slipped into dangerously high sugar-eating territory, and it was a major effort to scale it back. I was addicted for a bit, and I don’t want to go back to that place. I always felt tired, bloated, and desperate for something sweet. It truly made me feel hungover in the morning, without the benefit of actually being drunk the night before..
That being said, I never planned and still don’t plan to quit sugar completely, and by sugar, I mean fructose. I don’t like extreme dieting. I love almost all foods, and to cut out sugar completely would be cutting out a lot more than just the sweetness. It would be cutting out experiences, not to mention always being the difficult one at the dinner table– or any table for that matter.
The problem was just that I was having sugar way too often–like with every meal, and that didn’t feel so hot…
I read Sarah Wilson’s e-book, I Quit Sugar, and there were some strong points in there, and it definitely helped me cut down big time. But that point that stood out to me the most is that she drinks a cup of warm milk while sniffing incense when she wants a treat– and that sounds fairly dreadful to me.
I like to enjoy a hard cider or two on occassion when I’m out with my friends. I clearly enjoy Greek pastries once in a while. I like making birthday cakes for me friends, and enjoying them with them. And I’m certainly not going to miss out on eating a gelato here and there throughout the summer.
So sugar is in, but only when it is really worth it. I stay away from it unless I am eating a proper dessert that accompanies an occasion. The Greek pastry event was a bit over the top, but again, experiences! It wouldn’t be as much fun to share a stick of celery around the table. But that’s one night. And the rest of the week will have to be pretty clean (with the exception of Thanksgiving, which is  free-for-all in my book.
Maybe I should have mentioned at the top that this is not a post that is trying to keep you off the sweets over the holidays. I have no place telling you what you should or shouldn’t eat. I’m just letting you know what I enjoy. Really, what I am trying to say is: I think it is ok to eat bad stuff, as long as it’s usually and mostly eating good stuff. (And Thanksgiving is only once a year…)

peanutbutter cookie 3

peanutbutter cookies

One way I manage to do this is by keeping treats that are low in sugar and packed with protein and good fats in the house, like Tahini Date Refrigerator Snacks.  This week, I’m talking about Peanut Butter Cookies– really good ones, with mostly good stuff in them apart from 1/8 cup honey. They are gluten free, and have some delicious optional extras in them. They are based on a recipe from Elana’s Pantry–she does great desserts– but I’ve cut the sugar in half, made a few other changes, and added some extras to keep you full for longer and add some more interesting flavor.

Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter, Cacao Nib, and Coconut Cookies
Makes about 12 cookies
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tblsn cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded or dessicated coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda, and shredded coconut in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat peanut butter, honey, butter and vanilla extract, until light and fluffy.
  4. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients, and beat until well combined. Stir in cacao nibs and chopped peanuts.
  5. Scoop dough 1 tablespoon at a time onto lined baking sheet and press down with a fork.
  6. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
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Flourless Pistachio Spice Cake

cake with wineThe best-worst thing I have been asked since being in NYC so far? “Excuse me, how do I get to ground zero?” I don’t have to explain the issue with that one. Other than that it is great. Weather is gorgeous, the food is great, and the people aren’t too cranky. My favorite bite so far was a really simple but beyond delicious Sicilian Panel Sandwich (i’m pretty sure the sandwich bit is the Italian American twist)– fried chickpea fritters  with a dollop of fresh ricotta and grated pecorino on a crispy light bun. I certainly couldn’t get away with a meal like that on a regular basis, but when I do eat something blatantly unhealthy, I go all in. And it’s not so often I get to spend time with my dad, who is a bit of an expert on the truly great yet hipsterless grub spots in Brooklyn. So when I am home, almost anything goes in the food category if I’m out for a meal.

Like I said though, I can’t or rather know I shouldn’t eat like that all the time, but I still crave the “naughty foods.” But you know my theory– If it’s gonna have bad stuff in it, make sure to add the extra good stuff too. And it’s just starting to get chilly enough to turn on the oven in NYC, which is the perfect reason to make this next recipe.

This is a Flourless Pistachio cake based on a recipe from Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette. It’s a massive book and although it’s not particularly original–it’s more abut comfort food, with extra spice thrown in– it’s great way to get inspired in the kitchen. There are some cool spice-based health remedies in there as well.

Of course I healthied up their recipe a bit. I started by cutting the sugar in half (trust me, you won’t miss it). I also used coconut oil instead of butter and added cardamom to the recipe. I baked it in a much smaller cake pan than the one the recipe calls for (which i have provided measurements for below) and the result was a much taller cake with a crunchy outside and a slightly undercooked inside. This actually translated into a beautiful creamy texture on the inside and a nice firm shell with the called-for layer of pistachio crunch on the bottom. It worked. That being said, I am sure it is just as delicious when done in the original pan.

The original recipe is served with greek yogurt with orange zest. I have added those to the ingredient list below, but we all like it on it’s own (about 6 different people demolished tasted this cake).

pistachio cakeThis would go great with some fresh mint tea or even a bit of desert wine…

Flourless Pistachio Spice Cake

Adapted from: Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette

Ingredients:

  • 150 grams ground pistachios, and 75 grams coarsely chopped pistachios
  • 200 grams almond meal
  • 120 grams coconut oil, soft but not melted (or softened butter)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 110 grams brown sugar (about 1/2 cup packed)
  • 250 grams Greek yogurt (extra to serve)
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, ground in mortar and pestle.
  • Orange zest for yogurt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease and line an 8″ (20 cm) spring form pan with baking paper (I use a 6″ pan). You can use a smaller cake tin to make a higher cake as in the photo above. Just adjust baking time appropriately.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat coconut oil with an electric beater until smooth. Add ground pistachios, almond meal, and salt, and beat to blend. If chunks of coconut oil form, just work mixture with your hands to knead out any lumps. Press half of the mixture evenly into the pan.
  3. To the remainder of the mixture, add eggs, sugar, yogurt, and spices and beat until mixture is smooth. Pour mixture into cake tin and scatter chopped pistachios on top.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is fairly firm if you press the top. If you make a higher cake in a smaller cake pan, make sure to cover the top of the cake after 45 minutes with foil so the top doesn’t brown too much.
  5. Allow to cool and serve with greek yogurt mixed with orange zest (optional). Keep leftovers refrigerated (I actually prefer this cake cold from the fridge).

Unemployed? Have a Cookie

cookies 4Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

My housemate really likes ice cream. We have a freezer full of it. Sure, it’s his ice cream, but it’s right there, and it’s not just one brand and one flavor. It’s a whole selection. Damn you Tom!

I repeat, it’s his ice cream. But like I said, there was so much of it, and right there! I cracked the other night and stole far more than a modest scoop. Then I felt like the horrible housemate who steals food, and excessively apologized the next morning. I started with, “I did something bad,” which is up there with “Can we talk,” as a phrase that fuels anxiety. It was a poor sentence to start with. I could see the color drain from his face and feel those unpleasant butterflies fluttering around in his ice cream coated belly. He was thoroughly relieved when he realized I was just talking about ice cream.

I’m unemployed. It’s a state of being that I personally find really challenging, especially after leaving a perfectly good job. But, I simply had to move to Melbourne, and I don’t regret that. And starting over is kind of habit of mine, except for the past almost three years, instead of flying solo I’ve got a start over buddy whose beard looks like haven for birds at the moment (it suits Melbourne though).

There is of course the honeymoon period, where everything is new and exciting, and honestly, my interest in Melbourne hasn’t worn off in the slightest, and I am genuinely thrilled to be here. There is just the fact that I will eventually need an income if I want to stay, and I definitely want to stay.

So now just simply isn’t the time to go cold turkey on sweets, or I could end up dipping into something much worse as the psychological effects of starting over yet again and being unemployed slowly but steadily chip away at my self-esteem.

I know, it’s not to the most interesting or dramatic vice, but god forbid I revert back to my smoking days. I lost track of how many times I had to quit to truly kick my addiction to those delicious cancer sticks, and for the past few years it has been breezy. I have maybe two a year just for the nostalgia factor, and the next day I feel hung over and shitty.  I couldn’t go back if I tried. My body won’t let me, not to mention Anders would hound me the same way I hound him about eating bacon EVERYDAY. And I am grateful for that (not the bacon part, just the rest).

Yeah, being unemployed can suck, and that’s nothing new. Depending on where you are in your life and what your goals are, it can be a good experience too, if you can motivate to go do some cool things with your new-found free-time that don’t cost anything. Currently I am working on building defensive forces against the negatives of unemployment by constantly distracting myself with projects.

But the negativity still managed to slip in. In fact, I feel like I cause a lot of my own grief over not having a job.

choc chip cookies 2 asia

For example: I feel rejected even when I’m not applying for jobs! This is the most ridiculous contradiction I experience. Even if I am actively NOT looking for a job, I still feel like no one wants to hire me. What? That one just makes me angry at myself, and it is probably annoying to read. You might be thinking I need a good slap and a shake. I don’t blame you.

Another thing: Being unemployed is an excellent conversation killer, but I could easily eradicate this problem by simply lying. When people ask you, “What do you do?” meaning “what do you do for a living?” and not what do you do in your spare time for fun (unless you are in San Francisco, where it actually means, “what do you do that makes you happy”), they often get uncomfortable when you can’t provide them with an answer. If you are speaking to a gainfully employed individual, chances are you are making them feel like unemployment is contagious, and they must exit the conversation post-haste to save their own pay check. So instead of saying, “Oh, I’m currently looking for a job….” or “Yeah, things are a bit slow right now….” I could be saying I teach Norwegian lions how to speak Spanish, or even better, I could say I am an Internal Project Manager Analayst Engineering Consultant. I guarantee no one will actually ask me details about that one.

Choc chip cookies

To cope with the “U” word, and that fact that I am back to having one friend within over 500 miles (shit that’s far, and true!–Anders alone has to act as my BFF, boyfriend, personal butler, and therapist all at once) , and so I don’t attempt to overcome the challenge of un-quitting smoking,  I indulge in sweets and watch The Biggest Loser in moments when I feel like throwing in the towel. Those are the bits I am willing to share with you at least. But I like to think I am being clever about it. I’ve been steadily baking sweets that aren’t going to harm me too much, and might actually help me on both the nutritional and psychological front. And ultimately, they prevent me from pilfering Tom’s ice cream.

choc chip cookies 3 asia

I do this by cutting out the flour (my usual MO) and adding some extra nutritional bits in there. There is a flourless chocolate chip cookie recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte with lovely photos by Hugh Forte that I  keep coming back to. (They also have a blog by the same name with loads of recipes.) It uses almond flour and is so easy and delicious, and it ain’t that bad for me (so I let myself have way to many which bring me back to square one). It is without a doubt my favorite flourless recipe so far, and one of my favorite recipes in general. I have adapted it just slightly by adding espresso and chia seeds for flavor and texture and to keep my energy levels up.

Chocolate Chip Chia Espresso Cookies

Adapted from: The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods

Yields 22 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups almond meal
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
  • ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tblspn chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil (or oil of choice), melted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat over to 375 F/ 190 C
  2. Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl as well as chia seeds if using.
  3. Beat egg until doubled in volume and foamy. Whisk in butter and vanilla (make sure butter has cooled so it doesn’t cook the egg!)
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry and allow to stand for 10 minutes
  5. Wet hands, and roll dough into balls the size of a large marble (about 1 tblspn dough per cookie). Place dough onto ungreased baking tray and flatten dough balls with palm.  Bake for 7- 10 mins. (Almond meal tends to brown fairly quickly, so it’s best to make these small so you don’t end up with a burnt outside and undercooked inside)

The Jew-Factor: Just Follow the Matzo Crumbs… Passover Carrot Cake

Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

Except there are no matzo crumbs.

Being a Jew in Australia is both comical, and a little difficult to swing.

Here’s an example of the comical: Many Aussies assume that because I am Jewish, I am an expert on the Jewish religion– even though I am more of a Jew by heritage if you catch my drift. A friend wrote Anders an email when she returned from a trip to NYC: “While we were in New York, there were all these Jewish people dressed in traditional clothing going into these makeshift rectangle rooms. I think they were celebrating something? And the young boys were going around asking people if they were Jewish. Does Ali know what they were celebrating???”

The Difficulties: It’s not that I feel unwelcome or anything. It’s just that there isn’t really much of anything Jewish going on if you are a “casual Jew” like myself (something like a half-blood from Harry Potter, who grew up celebrating all Catholic and Jewish Holidays but never really tied any religious significance to either). So it’s hard to keep up with Passover, Yom Kippur, Chanukah. It’s also difficult to find egg noodles to make kugel with, and this is the real tragedy of it for me.

Being a Jew has always been a bit like wearing an accessory in my case–something I identify with to a certain extent and enjoy having as an extra flourish, but not something that I defined myself by…. until that is, I started living abroad and until I met Anders. In New York I am one of many who get called out while in the NYC subway: “Are you Jooeesh?” Here, it’s more of a novelty, because I am the only Jew most of my Aussie friends have ever encountered, or rather, known personally. And whether or not I chose to tell people doesn’t make a difference, as Anders has made it a well-known fact. It’s cute… sort of.  I didn’t understand how widespread the word was until people were leaving bacon just off of my plate (I do not keep kosher for the record). My favorite bit though is when Anders told his father I was Jewish before his father met me, and he said “Well don’t hold it against her!”

But like I said, no one I know has an issue with it. For the most part, they just didn’t grow up with it as part of their lives. During December holidays in Brisbane, there was no such thing as saying “Happy Holidays!” It’s just, “Merry Christmas!”

Bottom line: it’s good that people have a curiosity to know what it’s all about. I just wish I knew so I could tell them!

I feel like I should participate a bit in this inherited culture though, even without mom and dad and the olds here to organize Passover. I gotta represent! So this year, I have decided to do a mini Seder on the second night of Passover (tomorrow). In Brisbane, finding Passover products just wasn’t happening. But now we are in Melbourne, where the possibilities are endless (and the laksa is amazing!). Sure enough, there is Carlisle St. in Saint Kilda, an area that feels a lot like Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, about 45 minutes away from me via bike. So I took my wheels on an adventure yesterday, and got the necessary bits for passover. Matzo meal to make matzo balls, matzo bread (this is also nice to have in the house to snack on), and red horseradish (my favorite). The rest I can find at Vic markets tomorrow.

I also made a Passover Carrot Cake (flourless) that we can enjoy at the mini Seder and throughout the week, because I like having something sweet around that is nutritious enough to eat as a meal. I’m not a big fan of chocolate, and the typical flourless chocolate cakes at passover are too sweet and heavy for my taste, but I love a good carrot cake.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Elana’s Pantry. I’ve spiced it differently, added dried figs, and since I originally posted this, I have altered the frosting, as her cream cheese frosting didn’t really do it for me and can now give you an awesome cream cheese frosting recipe! Also, I simply don’t use gave in my food.

Instead of doing a two-layer cake, I do a one layer cake, and then make the rest into cupcakes, or do them all as cupcakes as a sweet snack to have during the  week– no frosting when going for the snack idea! (You might notice two are missing in the photo. Photographer Asia Upwards dog Bear got to them when we turned our backs for a second!)

Note: This cake is flourless (almond-meal), and can also be made dairy free by swapping out the melted butter with your oil of choice (I recommend coconut oil, or the original recipe calls for grape seed oil).

carrot cake 2 Asia

Flourless Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry

  • 3 cups blanched almond flour (DO NOT use Bob’s Red Mill. It is too coarse)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup honey or agave nectar
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 3 cups grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup raisans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup walnuts (plus a few extra for decoration)

Frosting

  • 1 cup creamcheese (about 250 grams)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick (115 grams) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease two 9 inch cake tins, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, using your fingers to break up any clumps of almond meal.
  3. In a seperate bowl, mix together eggs, honey and melted butter. Stir in carrots, raisans, figs, and walnuts.
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry, and divide batter evenly into cake pans.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If the top starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil. Allow to cool before removing from cake pans.
  6. For the frosting: With an electric beater, beat cream cheese until smooth in a  medium bowl. Add butter and honey and beat until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat cream until you have a nice thick whipped cream (don’t let it go to butter!). Combine with cream cheese mixture. Store in Fridge for up to a week, and store in freezer after that. To revive it, just beat it til smooth again.