Chocolate Chip Cherry Ginger Cookies

Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cherry Ginger Cookies (Paleo, Gluten-free, Naturally-Sweetened)

I took a day off from work yesterday, for no particular reason. It was a long time coming. Call it a moment to myself, call it a mental health day, call it a much-needed break. Whatever you call it, it was fantastic.

The thing is that no mental health day (or whatever you decided you were going to call it; I went with mental health day) is complete without a soft, chewy, ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie (or 3). So, before I knew it, I was stirring and scooping and baking and chowing. 

Once the seal was broken, I just kept cooking and baking all day (including an irresistible carrot layer cake and some baked chicken fingers, both of which are coming soon to a blog near you). By the end of the day, I was stuffed to the gills and my feet hurt like hell but I was felt more relaxed and accomplished than I have in awhile. Note to self: take mental health days more often, make cookies always.

Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cherry Ginger Cookies (Paleo, Gluten-free, Naturally-Sweetened)

Chocolate Chip Cherry Ginger Cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  2. 1/4 cup coconut flour
  3. 3 Tablespoons Norbu, Natvia, or granulated sweetener or choice
  4. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1 large egg, beaten, or vegan egg replacement
  8. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 1/4 cup maple syrup
  10. 1/4 cup coconut oil, butter or vegan butter, melted and slightly cooled
  11. 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or roughly chop the large ones)
  12. 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
  13. 1/3 cup roughly chopped dried cherries
  14. 1/3 cup chopped dried ginger (it's up to you whether to use crystalized/sugared or uncrystalized)
Instructions
  1. Preheat 350F and line 2 cookie sheets with a nonstick pad or parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour, granulated sweetener, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a smaller bowl, stir together the egg, vanilla, maple syrup and melted coconut oil or butter
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to combine. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure everything gets incorporated.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips, pecans, dried cherries, and ginger.
  6. Scoop 3 Tablespoon portions of dough and roll into a ball. Use your palm to flatten into a thick disc and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing each cookie 2-3" apart on the sheets.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the cookie sheets until firm (see note), before moving to a rack to cool completely.
  8. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Notes
  1. When you remove the cookies from the oven, they will seem so soft that you'll think something is wrong. The tops will look slightly golden, but if you try to pick one up, it will be so soft, it will probably crumble in your hand. That's ok, and that's why you need to let the cookies cool on the sheets before you try to move them.
  2. Yield: 15 cookies
A Clean Bake http://acleanbake.com/
Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cherry Ginger Cookies (Paleo, Gluten-free, Naturally-Sweetened)

Creamy Roasted Sunchoke and Sage Dip

Roasted Sunchoke and Sage Dip (Gluten-Free, Paleo and Vegan)

In the course of healing a dysfunctional digestive system, you learn – and consequently, start to casually use, in the coarse of casual conversation – words like “glutamine” and “prebiotics” and, subsequently, “sunchokes”. You also start to chat nonchalantly with people about what potency of probiotics you’re on, and how many milligrams of magnesium you’re taking each day, the way I imagine hardened alcoholics backdoor-brag about their tequila tolerance. But that’s a story for another day. Today, the story is sunchokes. But what is the name of ugly root vegetables is a sunchoke?

Roasted Sunchoke and Sage Dip (Gluten-Free, Paleo and Vegan)

Roasted Sunchoke and Sage Dip (Gluten-Free, Paleo and Vegan)

That’s the exact question I asked myself when my doctor (ok, nutritionist, but I feel like a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills when I admit to seeing a nutritionist) told me to eat, among other things, more sunchokes. Sunchokes are a semi-marketing-y name for a Jerusalem Artichoke, which is also known as a Topinambour, which probably does absolutely nothing to ring any bells. These ugly little nubs that look maybe like a truffle/maybe like the root of an elm tree you’d trip over and sprain your ankle are actually a root vegetable that has wonderful prebiotic (meaning enables healthy gut bacteria to grow and flourish) properties when eaten. Contrary to its name, it’s neither Israeli, or an artichoke, but is actually native to North America and contains high levels of insoluble fiber (that’s the prebiotic part) as well as potassium, iron, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper. But all that aside, they make a darn good dip too. 

Roasted Sunchoke and Sage Dip (Gluten-Free, Paleo and Vegan)

I really wanted to make a legume-free version of white bean dip, but it is hard to imagine these nubs – which, when uncooked, sort of look, taste and feel like a cross between a raw white potato (but not as starchy) and a radish – transforming into a soft, creamy dip. So, as usual, the answer is to roast them and then add cheese. For this, you can use whatever cheese you have and can tolerate: I used goat cheese (which contains lactose, but is much more easily-digestible than cow’s milk cheese), but you can sub any soft cow, nut or soy cheese. In fact, this cashew cream cheese (do not add scallions), or even store-bought vegan cream cheese would work really nicely.

This sunchoke and sage dip comes together fairly quickly – a light roast, then a whirl in the blender, and serve – and keeps in the fridge for quite some time. It’s hearty and filling, so makes a great snack or even light lunch with some crackers (or “carrot crackers”, aka carrots slices on a wide diagonal for optimal scooping performance) or crudites.

Roasted Sunchoke and Sage Dip (Gluten-Free, Paleo and Vegan)

 

Creamy Roasted Sunchoke and Sage Dip
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb sunchokes, scrubbed and chopped into small (~.5") pieces
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (or more or less, to taste)
  4. 1/2 cup creamy cheese of choice - I used goat cheese; you can also use cashew cheese (see note), soy cream cheese, or cow's milk cheese if you prefer.
  5. 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  6. 2 Tablespoons of water (or more, depending on your desired consistency)
  7. 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  9. 10 whole fresh sage leaves, washed and stems discarded
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment, a nonstick pad, or a lightly greased piece of tinfoil. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the chopped sunchokes with the oil to coat.
  3. Spread them evenly on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt
  4. Roast for 25 minutes, or until tender.
  5. Let the sunchokes cool slightly before transferring them to a food processor. Pulse a few times to chop them into smaller pieces.
  6. Add the cheese, lemon juice, water, salt, pepper and sage leaves and process until smooth.
  7. Adjust seasonings to taste before serving.
Notes
  1. For a basic nut cheese recipe, try this one, but leave out the scallions.
  2. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.
A Clean Bake http://acleanbake.com/

Mexican-Spiced Dark Chocolate

Sugar Free Mexican Dark Chocolate (Dairy Free, Paleo and Vegan)

By this time, you’ve heard it all before: Hi my name is Nora and I’m exhausted, and I’m sick of winter (which is back, by the way), and my job can be super overwhelming sometimes. These are all the reasons I stress bake regular bake, but more so, these are the reasons I no-bake, because sometimes instant gratification is the name of the game, and the rules of the game are as follows: First rule: chocolate. Second Rule: See first rule.

Even though work exhausts me, I work with some pretty smart and creative (and cool) people, including my usual project partner, who deserves precisely all of the credit for these. After trying my sugar-free dark chocolate recipe, he nonchalantly mentioned that it might be good with some chili powder. See, I told you I work with some brilliant people.

One night last week, when my husband was working late, I did what every one does in such a situation: made chocolate. Wait, isn’t that what you do?

Sugar Free Mexican Dark Chocolate (Dairy Free, Paleo and Vegan)

These tiny chocolates pack a punch of flavor that will bring you back to life. They are so dark-chocolatey that they taste almost coffee-ish, and they are sweetened just enough to take the bitter edge off the cocoa powder, but not a drop more. Start with that, and mix in some spicy magic: cinnamon, nutmeg and chili powder. Ohhhhh, the chili powder. You see, when you mix it all up, you might think “gosh I am disappointed that these flavors are so weak.” Just wait. 

Just as the liquid mixture transforms to a solid as it chills, so too do the drab, washed out spice flavors transform into an amalgam of  flavor that evolves from sweet to pleasantly bitter and finishes with a just-bold-enough smoky spiciness from the cinnamon and, more so, the chili powder that will send a shiver down your spine in the best possible way.

Sugar Free Mexican Dark Chocolate (Dairy Free, Paleo and Vegan)

Mexican Spiced Dark Chocolate
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
  2. 2 1/2 Tablespoons granulated stevia or sweetener of choice (I have made these with both Norbu monk fruit sweetener and Natvia granulated stevia)
  3. Pinch salt
  4. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  6. 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  7. 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons, divided) coconut oil, melted and still warm
  8. 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (cocoa powder through chili powder)
  2. Mix the coconut oil into the cocoa powder mixture, 1 Tablespoon at a time. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl periodically to make sure it all gets incorporated.
  3. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Divide between two lightly greased mini loaf pans or a lightly greased chocolate mold (here is the mold I used for these chocolates, and I also have this heart mold).
  5. Allow it to set at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to set completely.
  6. Store in the fridge until you're ready to eat it. This gets a little mess if kept at room temperature.
Notes
  1. - As far as what cocoa powder to use, make sure you're choosing something of reasonably good quality, since this is the primary source of flavor in these chocolates. I used Hershey's Special Dark, which I love, so you definitely don't have to get the most expensive artisanal chocolate out there. Just maybe spring for more than the store brand.
  2. - Although it is not mandatory, it is helpful to have a silicone candy mold for this. They are quite inexpensive, and you can use them over and over again for chocolate or even gummies. This is the one I used for these.
  3. - Yield: about 12 chocolates.
A Clean Bake http://acleanbake.com/

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza (and a Giveaway!)

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)Every so often, something gets dropped on your lap (or, in your mailbox, as it were) that is so wonderful that it doesn’t leave your side for at least a few days, and the cookbook from whence this grain free thin crust pizza came is one of those things. I took it to the gym to read on the elliptical; I read it in bed; I dreamed of this pizza. I’m completely serious.

I’m probably going to get kicked out of the midwest for this, but I am squarely in the thin crust pizza camp. Not too thin that it’s a cracker crust, but crispy-outside/tender-and-chewy-inside thin crust. OK YOU GOT ME. I’ll just come right out and say it: no pizza is better than a New York pizza. There. Happy now? I sure am!!

It’s been ages since I have had pizza, and I’ve had the most intense longing for it, one of the most perfect foods known to man. That’s probably why I ended up making two different recipes in about three days. I’m not even going to pretend I’m considering being ashamed about that.

Thank you, Bill Staley and Hayley Mason (plus Hayley’s sister, Caitlin Nagelson), for saving me from the throes of pizza withdrawal.

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

This grain free pizza* comes from Make It Paleo II, the newest tome from the team behind the Primal Palate website (the name of which might sound familiar because I guest posted for them a few weeks ago) and everything about it was exceptional. I don’t gush, I’m not a gusher, but I couldn’t (still can’t) stop carrying on about this book. After the second or third read through, I couldn’t stop thinking “this is the kind of work I aspire to”. Not only do they use real food in their recipes (no weird, unpronounceable stabilizers or thickeners, for example), and not only do they make your favorite foods from “the old days” before certain foods were enemies of the state (stomach), but their attention to detail is astounding. For example – and this is probably my favorite part of the book – they include an entire section in the book devoted to projects.

By projects, they mean foods that you probably don’t have the time or energy to make on a regular basis but once in awhile, it is fun and so satisfying to make and eat them. There are already an overwhelming number of beautiful and incredibly delicious looking recipes in this book, so by the time you get to the projects chapter, composed basically of bonus recipes like 10 spice mixes, cured salmon, ginger beer and coconut milk yogurt, that must have taken a lot of time and energy for the team to develop on top of the work that they had already put in, you are completely blown away by the amount of attention, passion and love that went into this book. 

*note: in the book it is called Nightshade Free Pizza; it’s also nut free and dairy free.

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

Aside from this pizza, the book also contains a cauliflower crust pizza recipe, a pizza sauce recipe, and a nut free pasta recipe. Be still my Italian heart. And Hayley, Bill and Caitlin have generously invited me to give you a taste of the book by sharing their nightshade/nut/dairy free crust recipe here – lucky us! Admittedly, I made this pizza crust a little thinner than the recipe called for (see: I <3 New York style pizza) and I made a few changes to the toppings, but nothing that dramatically changed the final product. But if you prefer to stay true to the original, I have some good news for you: I’m giving you a chance to win your very own copy of this beautiful book between today and next Thursday. Just scroll down to enter! (And if you don’t want to wait a week, you can also pick up a copy on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.) But enough talk. Let’s skip right to the pizza!

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo) Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

The most amazing thing about this crust is not that it is such a wonderful consistency, or that it tastes great, or that it is free of nightshades, nuts and dairy. The most amazing thing is that the dough is actually doughy. Many gluten-free bread products are very batter-like, rather than dough-like and you basically have to just trust that they are going to bake up into something recognizable in the oven. This dough is thick, strong and versatile, almost like the gluten version, so you can afford to play around with it a little bit if you want – try making personal pan pizzas, or maybe even calzones with it.

Like most pizza crusts, gluten-y or not, the recipe calls for pre-baking the crust before you top it. That works great, and I always like to add this step, because that way, the dough is sturdy enough to hold its own weight in the oven if you want to take it off the pan and put it directly on the oven rack (so that the underside gets a little crispier). I did that for only about the last 5 minutes of baking, and you can skip that step entirely. As for the toppings themselves, the recipe calls for pesto, mushrooms, baby arugula, prosciutto, red onion and buffalo mozzarella (if you can eat it). I fudged it a little, because I wanted to use what I already had on hand, so my version was topped with pesto, spinach, mushrooms, sweet onion, and a sprinkling of mozzarella on half of the pizza. And then, as hard as I tried to resist, I ended up putting a few eggs on top of it while it was in the oven. If you haven’t tried baking an egg just until the white sets but the yolk is still runny, I highly recommend it. Imagine that silky runny yolk mingling with the crisp doughy crust….yeah, I thought so.

Grain Free Thin Crust Pizza topped with Homemade Pesto and Veggies (gluten-free and paleo)

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Grain-Free, Nightshade-Free, Nut-Free and Dairy-Free Pizza Crust
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Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 cups tapioca starch, divided + more for the pan
  2. 1/3 cup coconut flour
  3. 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  4. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  7. 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  9. 4 large eggs, beaten
  10. 1/4 cup water
  11. 3 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly dust a pizza pan or stone with tapioca starch
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk 2 cups tapioca starch with the coconut flour, baking powder, sea salt, oregano, garlic powder, basil and black pepper.
  3. Dig a little well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the eggs into the whole. Then pour the water and coconut oil in slowly and stir gently until the mixture begins to come together into a sticky dough.
  4. Flour a clean surface with another 1/4 cup of tapioca starch and turn the dough out of the bowl onto the board. Use the heel of your hand to knead the dough and incorporate the tapioca flour, adding more as necessary to create the texture you're looking for. It should not be so moist that it sticks to your hand, but it should also not be so dry that it doesn't adhere to itself.
  5. Form the dough into a ball and place it onto the prepared baking sheet. Use the heel of your hand and your fingertips to gently work the dough into a disc by pressing outward from the center (moisten your hand with coconut oil if they are sticking to the dough too much). The dough will not rise much, so make sure you create a little crust around the edges if you want.
  6. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes until firm but not too golden. Remove from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 450.
  7. Cover the crust with a thin layer of pesto, then the veggies and finally the cheese (if using). Bake for 10-15 more minutes until crust is golden and cheese (if using) is melted.
  8. Serve immediately or cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Notes
  1. This recipe is very slightly adapted from Make It Paleo II.
  2. Tapioca Starch - Do not use more than you need to bring the recipe to a dough consistency. For example, the original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups tapioca starch, but I only needed 2 1/4 cups before my dough came together.
  3. Dried Basil - The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, but I didn't have it (and was planning to top the pizza with onions anyway) so I replaced it with dried basil.
  4. Toppings - The original recipe calls for topping your pizza with pesto, mushrooms, arugula, red onion and buffalo mozzarella. Since I wanted to use what I had on hand, I used about 3/4 cup of my favorite dairy-free pesto (though it does contain nuts), 1 package of frozen spinach (defrosted and drained; about 1 packed cup), 1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms, 1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet onion, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
A Clean Bake http://acleanbake.com/