Sunday, 22 July 2012

Oh So Good - Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Holy moly stop this train I want to get off! Between school, work, and family, I haven't had much time to keep up with the blog, and I haven't made a post for some time. I have still had time for baking and cooking, though! Honestly, it's one of the only things that helps me relieve some stress, and I love sharing what I make with my family. I love posting about it, too, but I think I get a little carried away with the length of the posts.

So, let's keep it short and sweet!

In this case, very sweet!

The recipe today, again, comes from Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. These cookies are chewy, moist, and soft, but solid enough that they won't crumple in your hand. They're great for the classic 'Milk and cookies" without all the added sugar. Oh, and did I mention these are low-carb, gluten free, and vegan too!? I have some friends and relatives who are vegan/vegetarian, and I wanted to see how well a cookie would hold up without the egg or butter. Trust me, these passed the test and are delicious. But, if you'd like to go for the real deal, check out Elana's Pantry with butter, dairy free, and with grapeseed flour!

This recipe makes 30 cookies, so you'll have plenty left over (especially if there's only 2 of you, like us!) and a quick 5 second zap in the microwave will melt the chocolate and warm the cookies like the just came out of the oven. The key here is to use nice, high quality dark chocolate for the chips -- you can just chop up squares of your favourite brand of chocolate bar -- I use Lindt 90%! Makes me feel all grown up =)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, page 98 & Elana's Pantry
Makes 30

Oh so good... look at that chocolate!!
2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour/ground almonds
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup sucralose (or granulated sweetener of choice)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbsp to 1/4 cup water
2 oz chopped Lindt 90% chocolate (or any dark chocolate of your choice)

Place parchment paper on two large baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Chop your chocolate so it almost looks like mini chocolate chips. Your cookies will be thin so if you're unsure, it is better to have more finely chopped chocolate than larger chunks.

Combine the dry ingredients (Almond meal, salt, baking soda, & sweetener) in a bowl. Slowly add the oil while stirring to incorporate. Your batter will be very thick at this point so slowly add water, 1 tbsp at a time to loosen-up the batter. You want it to be wet enough to form into balls but not a droopy, watery mess.

Once you've achieved a good consistency, fold in the chocolate. I only needed to do it about 2 or 3 times to get a good distribution of chocolate through the batter. Put the dough in the fridge and leave it there for 20 minutes. Don't skip letting the dough sit in the fridge -- it will be easier to handle and measure out if you give it the time!

The original recipe suggests using a heaping tablespoon to portion out the dough,  but I had more luck in making cookies with a heaping half tablespoon measuring spoon.If you find dough is sticking to your hands when you're measuring the cookies out or trying to flatten them, wet your hands liberally with water every 7 - 8 cookies or so. These cookies will not spread so this step is important to ensure that all the cookies bake at an equal rate.

Bake for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes of baking is done, leave your cookies on your baking sheet and turn the oven off. Leave them there for about 30 minutes. This will stop the cookies from being so "wet" and the edges will get a nice cookie crisp to them. I cannot stress how important this is, especially when you don't have egg or anything else to otherwise bind the cookies!

If you can resist them, these cookies will keep in the fridge for about 1 week. These were approved by J and both of my sisters, one of whom was practically born with a chocolate chip cookie in her mouth. My two sisters alone devoured 5 cookies each in one sitting. Yes, they're that good. Oh, and all three of my taste testers said they were just as good as traditional cookies, and actually couldn't tell they were vegan!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I've always had a bad bad sweet tooth. I love sweet things. One of the hardest things for me to get away from was all the sugar I was eating, and though I always tried to keep my sweet tooth in check, I never realized how much sugar I was truly eating. I shudder when I think about how many mornings I would have Tim Hortons muffins (those things are actually cakes, really) with their French Vanilla coffee (it was just like drinking liquid sugar) and Grande Carmel Macchiatos (another liquid sugar haven) with a "healthy" low-fat fruit bar (fruit good, all that extra sugar, not so much). On a given morning I was having somewhere in the range of 75 - 100g of carbohydrates, mostly from sugar, and all before I got to work! Given the fact that a sugar hit like that will drive anyone's blood sugar crazy, it's no wonder why I was so hungry all the time.

I know, for my health, the best thing is and was to cut back. Significantly reducing my sugar and keeping the big indulgences it to special occasions not only keeps my weight in check, but also, honestly, leaves me feeling less hungry. As committed I am to my health, I still look with longing eyes at the seasonal treats that Starbucks and the other coffee shops put out. Pumpkin bread, red velvet doughnuts and cupcakes, brownies, bars - you know how you just know something is bad for you, but you think "just this once..." I would see tons of recipes for these types of goodies, but they were all still high in sugar and used conventional flour -- things I wanted to avoid.

And then I found Carolyn and her blog All Day I Dream About Food. My eyes just about fell out of my head. There were all these things, these wonderful baked goods, cakes, loaves, muffins, bars that Carolyn had largely created, and substantially all of them were without grains and sugar. I was overwhelmed and spent hours going through the site. Carolyn's blog was one of the very first I stumbled upon, at a time when I was missing a lot of the traditional treats. The first thing I made was her Maple Walnut Candy. Yes, it used regular maple syrup, but over a whole pan, a tablespoon wasn't much. From there, my desire and love for baking grew, and I still regularly make recipes off of her blog.

So, it's only fitting that this week's recipe is adapted from her blog. I've become more and more comfortable with making substitutions, so when Carolyn posted this recipe and lamented the bars she made were too cake-y, I was up for the challenge to try and improve them. I thought using a combination of coconut flour and almond flour would do the trick and lend a little more softness while adding stability to the bar. The great thing about coconut flour is that a little goes a long way -- it is super absorbent and is a natural thickener, and with time, it tends to stay soft and actually improves the taste and texture of the baking you do. Though, I have to admit, I didn't quite achieve the chewy texture I was aiming for. They get better after 24 hours in the fridge, but they still retain a bit of their cookie texture. Not that it's a bad thing -- It didn't stop J and I from topping them with ice cream!

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Makes 16
Adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

See the flowers? J surprised me with them after work!
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, warm, but not hot!
  • 1/2 cup granular sweetener of choice w/ 2 tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup liquid sweetener of choice (or use water but increase your sweetener)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine almond flour, coconut flour, granular sweetener, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl with a whisk.

In another bowl, whisk the egg with a fork until combined and bit frothy (bubbles should start to form).
Whisk your butter & liquid sweetener into the egg mixture, stirring constantly.

Make a well in the centre of your almond flour bowl, pushing the dry mix up the sides. Slowly pour your butter/egg mixture into the centre, and stir gently until all ingredients are just combined (the batter will be thick)

Press into a greased 8x8 inch square baking pan. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (but watch it!! The edges tend to brown quickly). Sprinkle with cinnamon (or some ground ginger and granulated sweeter (1 tsp ginger + 1 tbsp sweetener).

Let the bars cool  completely (or else you'll end up with the cracking and crumbling like I did!) and then cut into squares (or triangles). Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Note: I used sucralose (also known as Splenda) because it's what I had on hand. It's almost all gone, and I've decided that I won't be using it for much longer, as it bothers my sister when she has it (and I want to share my baking with her, too!). I am going to be trying out using Stevia in my baking, which is a natural, plant based sweetener which has little glycemic impact, and you need a lot less of it to achieve a desired sweetness. So, if you're using sugar, you can use the measures exactly in the recipe - otherwise, adjust your sweetener accordingly based on its strength!

I hope you enjoy these as much as J and I did. Really, giving these 24 hours to sit in the fridge improves the texture and taste so much. They're even better warmed, with about 12 seconds in the microwave, and you have soft, cinnamon-y bars. Though, if you can't wait to try them, I don't blame you!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Proscuitto & Salmon with a Red Wine Scallion Butter + Sides

Whew! What a week!

Actually, it's been a hectic last couple of weeks. J and I had big exams and so we were studying wildly and admittedly very, very stressed. I even lost the picture of my Pistachio Halibut that I was going to post, oh no!

But, if I've learned anything in life, it's always important to have a Plan B. So, I present to you a date night recipe that I made two  weeks ago (and again last night): Prosciutto wrapped Salmon with a Red Wine Butter, very slightly adapted from Karen Barnaby's Low Carb Gourmet that I talked about a few weeks ago. I can never say enough about this book, seriously. It has resulted in so many delicious meals in our house, it's one of the best ways I've ever spent $20.

So the one thing you'll probably notice is that the salmon isn't wrapped. When I did this two weeks ago, I had been so frazzled that I had totally forgotten to wrap the salmon as I was searing it. Whoops! But, I had a bright idea as I was cooking -- see those mushrooms in the back? They were roasting in the oven and I draped the long slices of prosciutto over them, so not only did I get extra tasty mushrooms, I got slightly crispy, warm prosciutto as well. Oh, also take note of those beautiful scallions. We picked those up from a local organic farmer at the farmer's market in town. They last FOREVER and are so very fresh!

The Full Meal Deal
There's also a delicious salad, which pleasantly surprised J. As I said, the salmon is adapted, but the mushrooms and salad are GG originals (simple, but still mine!) Barnaby calls for you to cook the salmon for about 8 - 10 minutes per side, but this is a waste if you're using fresh salmon. She also calls for you to season the salmon with thyme, but I found that adding it to the sauce was much more flavourful! I'm also going to let you in on my quick and easy way to sear salmon, or any kind of fresh fish. This is a trick passed down from Chef Todd Bright at Wild Rice. If you're ever in Vancouver or New Westminster, be sure to check out the restaurant! Haven't had a bad meal from there EVER!

And without further adieu, here's the recipe for the Salad, Mushrooms, and Salmon.

Simple Salad
Serves 2

Source: Original Recipe

2 cups of any mixed greens of your choice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle of fresh (or freeze dried) Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk your olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper in a small bowl until combined. In a larger bowl mix your salad greens (if they haven't been already). Pour dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Let sit for 8 - 10 minutes. Serve

Note: The reason why you want to let it is is so that your greens start to absorb the flavours of the dressing. You don't want to let it sit too long though, or you'll lose that great crunch!

Oven-Roasted Herbed Mushrooms
Serves 2

Source: Original Recipe

6 - 8 medium  sized mushrooms, quartered
1 - 2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Thoroughly wash and quarter your mushrooms, placing them into an 8" x 8" square baking dish. Whisk your olive oil and Herbes de Provence in a small bowl. Drizzle over your mushrooms and toss to coat (don't be afraid to use your hands!)

Roast for 25 - 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Note: Watch these things pretty carefully after the 20 minute mark. They should be lightly browned, still plump and firm, but not shriveled! It will depend on how your oven feels that day (mine is quite temperamental) and the size of your mushrroms.

Seared Salmon with Prosciutto and Red Wine Butter
Serves 2

Adapted from: Low Carb Gourmet by Karen Barnaby

Look at those Fresh Shallots!

For the Salmon:
2 salmon filets, about 6 oz (170g) each
A little bit of salt and peper
1/2 tbsp - 1 tbsp of olive oil for the pan (you'll need less if you use a cast iron pan - another great investment!)

Let the salmon come up to room temperature, about 15 - 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper on each side. Heat the pan over medium high heat. When your pan is hot, add your oil, and wait a few seconds to allow your oil to heat up. Add the salmon and DO NOT TOUCH (peek, prod, poke or otherwise lift from the pan) for 3 minutes and then flip. Turn off the heat and let sit for another two to three minutes. Serve topped with the red wine butter and over your crispy prosciutto.

Not flipping or touching the salmon, fish, or whatever else you're searing is very important. If the sear isn't complete you risk breaking your fish or having an uneven sear. Trust me, you won't burn it, no matter how much it sizzles. The great thing about searing is it is so easy, it's perfect to try during the work week for  a versatile dish that you can put any glaze or dressing, or add any side dish you want. Remember, practice makes perfect with searing! It doesn't take long to get the hang of it, and you'll impress everyone you know with your superior searing skills.

For the Red Wine Butter:
1 tbsp minced shallot
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Place the shallot and red wine in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the sauce is reduced and the shallots are glaze-y and the sauce looks sticky. Place the butter in a small bowl and pour the reduction over the butter. If your glaze is too thick, add 1 tbsp of hot  hot water and then add to the butter. Stir gently until the butter is incorporated. Serve over the salmon.

That's all I've got for you today! Hope this makes up for my dropping off the face of the blog-o-sphere for a little while. Life should give me a little more time to cook (hopefully!) so I hope to get one or two posts up every week.

Happy cooking! Feel free to email me (check out the sidebar to the right!) and don't forget to like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Salmon Leek Tart

Over my past two years eating low carb, I've accumulated a number of cookbooks. Before I started losing weight, J and I never cooked -- in fact, we almost always ate out, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week. Not only was this habit expensive, but the Thai food, burgers and fries, and endless sushi eventually took its toll on me. I went from 140 lbs to almost 180 lbs in less than a year. I was absolutely devastated. I had weighed this much in high school, before following the South Beach diet and getting down to 140 lbs, which I maintained for 3 or 4 years. One of the hardest reasons to stick with South Beach was that I had two cookbooks (and that was it), and the recipes were not very flavourful to eat, not very exciting to prepare, and just all around very blah.

So, when I checked out Karen Barnaby's Low Carb Gourmet, I was astounded and overjoyed. There were so many wonderful recipes in that book, and I cooked and baked and cooked and baked so many low-carb tasty things, that I definitely could see eating low-carb wasn't all just bacon and eggs (If you can find it at your local library, I highly recommend checking it out). But, after a while (and it was quite a while) I started to get bored. I ended up searching online, and one of the first websites I found was Elana's Pantry.

I am so incredibly thankful for Elana's website. Elana cooks gluten-free wonders for her family as some members have Celiac Disease. Unlike most common gluten-free recipes, which contain a myriad of flours, often obscure, and sometimes a lot of other things that you just rather not eat, Elana largely uses almond meal/flour and coconut flour in her recipes. Not only does almond meal have an amazing nutritional profile, it has tons of protein and almonds are easy on your blood sugar, helping you feel fuller longer.

I fell in love with Elana's website, and I purchased her cookbook, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. In a sort of homage to her amazing cookbook, and equally amazing website, I hope to showcase a number of wonderful recipes which are simply delicious and wonderful to eat and prepare, regardless of the fact that it's low-carb or gluten-free. I do still have to modify the recipes (sometimes more than others) to go with the ingredients I have on hand or to reduce carbs and sugars.

The first recipe I have for you is a Smoked Salmon & Leek tart, which is just too simply amazing to pass up. J always devours this every time I make it, and leftovers make a satisfying lunch to take to work the next day. This crust is especially great, though, because you can put any type of quiche filling in it, which makes it perfect for a work-night dinner and, as a bonus, a way to use up those leftovers.

Smoked Salmon & Leek Tart

6 Servings
still so good
J ate 3 slices!!

For the Tart Crust:
1 1/2  cup ground almonds - you can finely ground these yourself in a food processor, but high quality almond flour will work best
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp scallion 

1/4 cup olive or coconut oil

Oven temperature: 350 F

Add the almond flour, salt, and  scallion  and olive oil into a bowl. Well grease, with your fat of choice a, 9 inch tart pan or pie plate and press mixture. The mix should be sticky but not overly wet. You can add a bit of water, one tablespoon at a time, if you need to make the batter a little wetter. 

Let the crust bake completely for 15 - 20 minutes. Watch it very carefully after the 15  minute mark. Depending on how thin you've made your crust, it doesn't take long for the crust to turn into burnt almond, which won't lend a pleasing taste or texture. 

The crust is great because it can be made ahead of time -- in fact, it's probably better if it is, as it needs to cool completely (at least a half hour) before it's filled. You can omit the salt if you're going to be using salt in the filling -- it was too salty for my taste otherwise. Be careful to not overbake the crust -- watch it carefully as burnt almond dries out and it will be much harder to remove from the dish.

 For the filling:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leek, white and green parts
2 oz smoked salmon lox, chopped up
1 tbsp dill, chopped
4 eggs
1/2 tsp sea salt

Place the two tablespoons of oil in a hot pan. Cook your leeks until they are slightly browned and soft, about 10 minutes over medium heat. While that's going whisk your eggs in a separate bowl an add the salmon, dill, and salt.  When leeks are done, make sure you let them cool down a bit before you add them to the egg mixture, or else your eggs will start to cook in the bowl as you mix them, resulting in a less even cover when you pour it into the crust. Also, fresh ingredients make all the difference here! The small expense for fresh herbs is worth it.

Placed your filling into your cooled tart crust and let bake for 30 min at 350 degrees. Let the quiche cool for about 20 minutes when you take it out. This is often key with almond flour baking as it hardens as it cools, giving it more stability and shape.

The key to this dish is using a flavourful high quality smoked salmon or lox. The combination of the rich salmon flavour, delicate flavour of the leek, and the nutty crust is delightful! This tart recalls leisurely Sunday brunches, but with a rustic but elegant flair imparted by the use of the almond meal.  This tart has been made many times since I purchased Elana's cookbook a couple of years ago. J has always loved this, but this past time he just raved.

Serve this dish with a light spinach salad with shaved Pecorino or Parmesan and a crack of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Enjoy and happy cooking!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Cauliflower Rice and foray into the blogging world...

So, for my first post I thought I would talk about a staple, and honestly wonderful vegetable, that I used to hate as a child and never really ate until I gave up the white, starchy rice (and all that goes with it). If you've ever took a look at low-carb recipe websites, you'll see that the cauliflower rice recipe is essentially a staple and it seems everyone has their own recipe.

The first recipe I had ever come across for cauliflower rice was actually not through a blog at all, but through a wonderful, and sadly out of print cookbook titled Low Carb Gourmet by Karen Barnaby. Barnaby is actually a Vancouver chef at the Fish House in Stanley Park, and the book is full of wonderful recipes that are relatively easy to prepare but are no less impressive and delicious. I credit this book with persuading J to realize that eating low carb didn't have to be boring or not nutritious (and thank goodness, could you imagine if your spouse wasn't willing at least eat the same way you did to help you lose weight!!) -- my diet change actually forced us to cook at home (instead of eating so much delicious thai food... mmm) and as a result we ended up eating healthier and eating a ton of fresh vegetables.

I still do have white rice on occasion, and there are some things that I will never substitute it for. Making risotto with cauliflower is an affront to everything I know about making a delicious risotto (thanks, Zia and Nonna!), and I just simply cannot bring myself to make a risotto. Sorry, I'll eat the rice in this case!

So, enough of my yammering -- here's the way that I make Cauliflower Rice:

Cauliflower Rice

1 head of cauliflower, grated or sent through the food processor with the grater/shredder attachment
1 tbsp of butter
Salt to taste (if desired)

Food processors are a wonderful thing, though if you don't have one, you can great it by hand (though you end up with cauliflower everywhere and it takes TONS of time). Anyway, take the shredded cauliflower and melt the butter (or other fat of choice) in a hot pan. You may need to use a large pan depending on the size of your cauliflower -- you need enough room to stir it so the stuff at the bottom doesn't burn. Saute the cauliflower at medium-high until it starts to get tender. This is generally about 10 minutes and you can hear it sizzling in the pan.

And that's it!

No, really, this is probably just as easy as making regular ol' rice. This basic recipe opens you up to a TON of variations. For example, change the butter for 1 tsp sesame oil, add an egg and some green onions and sauteed mushrooms, and you have a super healthy fried rice. I can't really comment on how many servings you'll get, but you'll get a lot. The best thing about cauliflower rice is that it is easily reheated, and doesn't get sticky or weird like traditional rice does. Also, you'll lose that bloated balloon belly feeling you get from eating too much, like at Chinese or Thai restaurants.

Phew! If you read all of that, I thank you! If you've never tried cauliflower rice before, I would recommend giving it a shot. Even though I'm out of the weight loss stage and could eat rice on a regular basis, I actually end up preferring the cauliflower. It makes it easy to get all those healthy vitamins and nutrients -- and eat your vegetables.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, 5 May 2012


Hello everyone!

So this is a first attempt at making a blog to document my cooking adventures. Over the last two years, I've changed up my eating and follow a lower-carb, sugar free, and largely grain free diet. But, that doesn't mean I don't love to indulge once in a while!

My love for cooking started with my Nonna many years ago. I enjoyed her homemade Italian cooking and my aunt very wisely took the time to learn these recipes by heart, and teach them to me. Though my diet no longer contains the same pasta and bread staples, I still make these foods to feel close to her and to my family.

Thank you very much for stopping by! I hope you find something helpful on this site. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me at .