When I started learning about 'Clean Eating' earlier this year I quickly realized that the phrase can be interpreted many different ways. For some people it means no gluten, for others it means no sugar and for others it means all organic foods. The definition that made the most sense for me and my family is the one that Lisa Leake used during her 100 Days of Real Food pledge. Here is a quick summary of the 'rules' she followed:
Now, these are the rules the Leakes used during their pledge and though I'd LOVE to live this way 100% of the time, I realize that it's not realistic for me. However, I do try to eat by these rules most of the time. Rather than commit to 100 days of real food like the Leakes did, they offer a different challenge to their readers - A 10 Day Pledge! For as much as I've learned about and talked about Clean Eating over the past 8 months I've yet to take this pledge myself. That's all about to change! I'm excited to announce that I am going to take the 10 Day Pledge beginning August 12, 2014! ( We have this little event coming up known as my daughter's 9th birthday...so I thought I should wait til after that!) I invite YOU to join me and sign up for the pledge yourself so we can do it together!
So, now that we've defined what Clean Eating means to me, I'd like to share a recipe with you. I thought that a great way to start off the blog would be with dessert, of course! Brownies! I first tried these brownies a few months ago when my friend made them for her diabetic daughter. Only after my non-diabetic kids devoured these brownies she told me that they were gluten free AND sugar free! Since my older daughter has a major sweet tooth and has never met a carb she didn't love, I thought these would be a fantastic addition to her lunchbox in a few weeks.
These are made with a high quality almond flour (I find mine at Costco) and honey which my kids love! The original recipe calls for chocolate chunks and orange zest. Though I really enjoyed the orange zest, it got mixed reviews in my house so I omitted it. Also, in an effort to make these completely sugar free I omitted the chocolate chunks as well. If I were making these for a special occasion I would totally use them, but for an everyday lunchbox treat I think they are just fine without them. Also, to add a little extra depth to them, I topped them with a little fleur de sal when they were done baking.
Fudgy Brownies (Gluten Free and Sugar Free)
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or other flaky sea salt)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
Pinch of fleur de sel (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line an 8x8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray with extra virgin olive oil.
Place almond flour in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and any chunks have broken down. Pulse in cocoa powder and fleur de sel until mixture is well blended, about 10 seconds.
Add eggs, one at a time, and process until mixture is smooth. Add honey and coconut oil and continue blending until the mixture is smooth and all ingredients are fully incorporated.
Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool about 15 minutes before removing from the pan using the parchment to lift it out. When brownies are completely cooled, sprinkle with additional fleur de sel and cut into 16 squares.
Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend! If you overindulged a bit (and don't we all?) I have the perfect recipe for you! This is another recipe that features my very favorite fruit: the avocado. Over the past few years I have developed a lower and lower tolerance to milk (and sadly, milkshakes), so I've been enjoying less and less smoothies and milkshakes. I had read many times that avocados are a great addition to shakes and smoothies to get the creaminess that is missing from non-dairy versions. I had never actively searched for a recipe but once I came across this recipe on Pinterest and knew this was one to try! Lots of smoothies look healthy but are secretly filled with tons of sugar and calories. What I like about this smoothie is that it is dairy-free (yaaay!), contains 1 1/2 servings of fruit, is sweetened with honey, not sugar and has tons of protein.
This drink totally disguised itself as a chocolate milkshake to my two princesses! JP liked it and Bean loved it. My little Bean definitely acquired Mommy's avocado obsession :) It's chocolate-y and creamy and sweet, but not too sweet. The avocado is there, but I swear you can barely taste it. It's a great way to sneak a lot of healthy things into your kids!
Chocolate Banana Avocado Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup crushed ice
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon honey (you can use dates if you want to make this vegan)
1/2 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons almond butter (make your own here!)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground flax seed
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Adapted from Against All Grain
I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and because of that I tend to hold a loyalty to all PA-based foods - TastyKake, Heinz ketchup, too many potato chip and pretzel makers to count and, of course, Hershey's chocolate. A few years ago when I quit working to become a stay-at-home-mom I began watching my grocery budget to the extreme (we're talking Excel spreadsheets, broken down by item, store and price per unit. Yes, I'm that person). I tried many store brand and generic items and, for the most part, they were all acceptable substitutes. Hershey's Chocolate Syrup though....no way I could give that up!! I justified the higher cost over store brand because I consistently bought it at Target which was much cheaper than my go-to grocery store.
About a year ago, when I first stumbled across food blog (seriously, you'd think I'd been living under a rock all these years!) I saw lots of recipes for DIY Chocolate Syrup. Naturally, my first thought was "Yeah, right. Who wants to do that when you can buy Hershey's?" I'm not sure what possessed me to do it (possibly the crazy short ingredient list?), but I gave this recipe a shot and, WOW! No more store bought in this house!! I felt a little bad abandoning my old-faithful, but I used Hershey's Cocoa Powder so I could still sort of call it Hershey's Homemade Chocolate Syrup....right? Give this one a try - it's one of the easiest DIY recipes you will find!
DIY Chocolate Syrup
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk together to break up any lumps. Stir in the water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Once cool enough to handle transfer to a bottle and store in the refrigerator.
I like these bottles from The Container Store because they are squeezable and BPA free.
I know, I know. Crazy long title for a little cookie. But I didn't want to leave any one, delicious ingredient out of the name. Brown butter - just like regular butter, but toasty and nutty and filled with awesomeness. Dark chocolate chips - just like regular chocolate chips, but richer and a little bitter and a little better for you, too. Sea salt - my second kitchen love (after butter, of course) that comes in so many unique varieties. They are all important players in the game. What you end up with here is a basic Nestle Toll House cookie that's been dressed up all fancy and treated with extra love. Yeah, that's exactly what you have here.
I've been trying to think of ways to take something simple and well-known and really amp it up and make it mine. I had been thinking about fancifying the basic chocolate chip cookie for a while now since seeing all of those brown butter, Nutella-stuffed, sea salt cookies all over Pinterest. I finally had a chance to give this idea a try since we hosted out of town guests this past weekend. The cookies were made Friday night with the intention of taking pictures Saturday afternoon when we had a rare sun-filled PA day. Let me tell you, by Saturday afternoon they were almost gone! Can you say "Success"? I couldn't stop eating them on Saturday - so much for cutting back on sugar. I ran 7-miles on Saturday morning so I sort of gave myself a free pass! Ha!
Browning butter is a relatively easy thing to do. You just heat the butter over medium-low heat until it starts to turn brown and smell nutty. Watch it very carefully because no one wants cookies made with burnt butter! Check out this tutorial here.
You can use any sea salt you have or kosher salt, but I used this fancy Maldon Sea Salt I bought a while ago. It's so neat looking - almost looks like little pyramids - so cool! I think it really imparts a nice, balance salt flavor to these salty-sweet dishes that are so popular now.
Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
Makes about 30 cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, I used Maldon
2 sticks of unsalted butter, browned (see this link) and slightly cooled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces dark chocolate chips
Additional sea salt, for topping
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with silicon baking mats. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk to blend. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine brown butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Mix until well-combined. Add in the eggs and mix until blended. In two or three batches, add in the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.
Sprinkle hot cookies with additional sea salt. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Adapted from Nestle Toll House
After the craziness of the second half of 2012 with the move and the overblown holidays (self-imposed...I know) I vowed to sit back and relax in January. Besides running and playing in the kitchen I succeeded in doing very little last month. By the end of the month I was starting to feel like a shut-in! All that's changed in February. How is it that the 31 days of January drug by so slow and then I blink and it's already February 20? Where did this month go? I have a good idea - it's called back to reality! After-school activities, meetings, doctor appointments, birthday parties, school parties.....like I said, reality. This past weekend I was lucky enough to spend 48 glorious hours with my hubby and our little princesses at Kalahari in Sandusky, Ohio. This is an indoor waterpark and resort about 3 hours away from us. It was so much fun and such a great feeling to wear flip flops and bathing suits again for a little while! I love weekend getaways but they always leave me feeling flustered and 'behind' on things.
Tonight my 2nd grader had her First Reconciliation and each parent was asked to bring a dozen cookies for a little reception afterwards. Now, you all know me, so there was no way I was running out to the local grocery store for said cookies! In lieu of how much I have on my plate right now I chose to make a simple shortbread cookie and dip them in chocolate for a little something extra. They are so easy and delicious that I wonder why I don't make shortbread cookies more often. Oh wait, I know why - because I would eat them all! They are chewy and crumbly: buttery, salty and sweet. They are simple perfection! And after a quick dip in melted chocolate they are just that much better!
Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 pound milk chocolate, wafers
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, salt and sugar together for about 2 minutes. Add the flour and mix just until combined and a cohesive dough is formed. Roll the dough into a long roll, 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and freeze until very firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Set aside.
Remove the log of dough from the freezer and slice into cookies, no thinner than 1/4 inch in thickness. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bottoms are a light sand color. Allow to cool on the baking sheets a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Place about 2/3 of the chocolate wafers in a microwave safe bowl, preferably glass. Put the bowl in the microwave and cook for 40 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir. Place the bowl back in the microwave for 20 seconds, then stir again. Continue heating the chocolate for 20 seconds and stirring until the chocolate is smooth and reads about 110° F. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, add the remaining 1/3 of the chocolate wafers to the melted chocolate and stir gently. Any clumps remaining should melt slowly.
Dip 1/2 of the shortbread cookie into the melted chocolate. Place on a wire rack to cool and harden the chocolate.
Cookies adapted from King Arthur's Flour Baker's Companion
Chocolate melting technique provided by the Foodies at Market District
Brigadeiros. Ever heard of them before? Me either until very recently. A few months ago I was watching Unique Sweets on Cooking Channel when I first heard of these and I was intrigued by them. They look like a truffle, all small and chocolatey and decorated up cute as can be. But they aren't a truffle. Hmmm...what ARE they??? According to a quick search on Wikipedia, brigadeiros are a Brazilian truffle made with sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder, unlike traditional truffles that are made with melted chocolate and heavy cream. They are a very popular candy in Brazil and Portugal and are often served at children's birthday parties. Ok, I'm even more intrigued. I would love to try them but I have no plans of going to Brazil anytime soon (though my passport is aching to be used again!) Imagine my excitement when I opened the new America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook and found a recipe for brigadeiros!! These were a MUST MAKE!
So, last weekend I gave them a try and found them to be ridiculously easy to make! You basically stir, stir and stir some more. Then you chill the mixture for a while before rolling into balls and decorating with the coatings of your choice. They are rich and delicious with a taste somewhere between raw brownie batter and hot fudge sauce! Yum! I found that crystallized sugar was my family's favorite topping to give them that extra little crunch. If you are still looking for a sweet treat to make for your valentine this week, you should definitely give these little gems a try!!
Makes about 30
1 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Sprinkles, crystallized sugar, cocoa powder, etc for topping
Grease and 8-inch square baking dish. Set aside.
Combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is very thick. When you run a rubber spatula over the bottom of the pan it should leave a distinct trail. This will take about 20-25 minutes. Do not be tempted to turn the heat up - keep it on low or it will burn.
Once the mixture has thickened, pour into prepared baking dish. Refrigerate until cool, at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. If leaving the dish in the refrigerator overnight, cover with foil or plastic wrap. Pinch or scrape the chocolate into 1 tablespoon-sized pieces. Place the chocolates on a cookie sheet lined with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper. Place the chocolates back in the refrigerator to chill before rolling. After about 30 minutes take the pan out of the refrigerator and roll inch 1-inch balls. My candies got very soft during this process so I placed them back on the cookie sheet for another 30 minutes. Once they chill again, roll them in your desired toppings. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook
I know I've said this before and I know I'll say it again, but, it's time for me to get healthy in my diet! I am a runner and I've always loved to exercise, but when it comes to eating healthfully I definitely don't always practice what I preach. My love for cooking, baking and eating always wins over in the end. So I'm constantly on a quest to find recipes that I can have fun creating in the kitchen AND not feel guilty if I accidentally eat half the batch! Ooops! Last night I broke open Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Healthful Cooking and this recipe caught my eye instantly. I've made meringues before and I know a few things about them - 1. they are very low in calories 2. they require very few ingredients and 3. they are the perfect sweet and crunchy treat any time of day. This recipe had me particularly excited because it calls for Dutch process cocoa powder and I finally scored myself some while on vacation in Richmond, VA at For the LOVE of Chocolate. I had heard about this store on my favorite blogger's site, Annie's Eats, and I'm so glad I stopped in! I could have bought a ton of stuff to bring home but since the temperatures were near 100° and we were nowhere near our hotel I decided not to. I did, however, treat myself to a Dark Chocolate and Bacon Truffle. Oh. My. Gosh! So rich and smoky. I'm a huge fan of bacon in/on my sweets so this was a real treat for me! Back to the meringues, I'm not sure if it's the cocoa powder or what, but these are so yummy! I've had, oh, um, maybe 6 since they came out of the oven an hour ago and the girls have probably had 3 each. No worries though, because the recipe makes a ton!
6 egg whites (make sure to have NO egg yolk remnants in the egg whites or you will never get stiff peaks)
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
Pinch of kosher salt
Position 2 racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 250° F. Line 2 baking sheets with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
Sift together the cocoa powder and 1/2 cup of the sugar into a medium bowl. Set aside.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until very frothy, about 1 minute. Add a pinch of kosher salt and continue beating until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Increase the speed to high and begin to gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing sugar to fully incorporate between each addition, about 10 seconds. Once all the sugar has been incorporated continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 1-2 more minutes.
Sprinkle 1/3 of sugar/cocoa mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the sugar/cocoa mixture into the egg whites, being careful not to deflate the egg whites. Once the sugar/cocoa is fully incorporated, repeat with another 1/3, then the final 1/3 of the sugar/cocoa mixture.
Once all the sugar/cocoa is incorporated into the egg white mixture, transfer to a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe meringues onto the prepared baking sheets in the formation of a ladylock, about 2 inches long. (You can get creative here and pipe any shape you like, really!) Space the meringues about 2 inches apart.
Bake until meringues are completely dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Transfer pans to wire racks to let them cool completely. Once cool, carefully lift off trays and place in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Barely adapted from Essentials of Healthful Cooking by Williams-Sonoma
Summer birthdays run high in my family. My little Bean's was 2 weeks ago and hubby's was a few days ago (along with my not-so-little-nephew 200 miles away...happy birthday buddy!). Since most of my family has lost all interest in my cupcakes (*sniff*) I am branching out to find other decadent desserts to celebrate their special day. My hubby has a strong affection with chocolate, which seems to be growing stronger with each passing year. So obviously, my inspiration for his cake was easy - chocolate-chocolate-chocolate! I haven't had a good cheesecake in a while so when I came across this recipe for Triple Chocolate Cheesecake I knew I had to try it. Wow! This cake was insane! It's rich with chocolate, but the creaminess of the cheese cuts it back a bit. It's just, *sigh*, PERFECT! Because this cake is baked the night before, the active prep time is actually pretty quick and the results are simply amazing!
Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
For the Cheesecake
9 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreo
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
32 ounces (4 x 8 ounce bars) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
For the Chocolate Ganache
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse chocolate cookies until finely ground. Add melted butter and pulse to moisten. Transfer to prepared springform pan and press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Set aside to cool.
Wipe out the bowl of the food processor. Combine cream cheese, sugar and salt. Blend until smooth. With the motor running add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Keeping the motor running add the sour cream and melted chocolate. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Pour mixture onto prepared crust. Bake for 1 hour, until just set. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for 1 additional hour. This will help prevent cracking.
Remove from the oven and run a thin knife around the edges of the cake. This also will help prevent cracking. Once the cake is cooled, cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
When ready to serve, prepare the ganache. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until melted. Set aside until thickened, about 2-5 minutes.
Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the springform pan and pour the chocolate ganache over top.
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!