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Magical Mulberry Squares (raw, vegan, gluten-free, low-glycemic, soy-free, grain-free, paleo friendly)

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Lately I’ve been wanting to make a fruity raw dessert that was neither chocolate nor overly nutty, but I’ve been uninspired by winter fruits.  Persimmons in fall are pretty much my last love until stone fruits return in spring– my winters are spent begrudgingly munching on Fuji apples that provide no groundbreaking dessert ideas.  So, I took the dried fruit route today and hit my cupboards up for inspiration, and thankfully, my cupboards (and freezer) did me right.  Here is a chewy, sweet, tangy and decadent treat that is packed with superfoods and contains very little added sweeteners.

Magical Mulberry Squares

Base:
1 cup dried mulberries, ground in food processor or blender
1/2 cup whole dried mulberries
1/2 cup cashews, ground as above
1/4 cup dried raisins and/or cherries, ground as above
1/2 cup lucuma powder
3 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tbls coconut nectar or honey
1 tsp camu camu powder
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt

Grind fruits and cashews, then mix together with all other ingredients. Mixture will be malleable and slightly sticky. Press into a 8″ baking pan and refrigerate.

Topping:
3 tbls almond butter
3 tbls coconut oil, melted
2 tbls coconut nectar or honey
1 tbls lecithin powder
1 tsp Longevity Power “Maca Bliss”*
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

Mix all ingredients together and pour over base layer. Once firm, dust with lucuma powder and cut into squares of any desired size.
*Maca bliss is a unique maca product; it is extracted at low heat, has had the starch and fiber removed, and unlike regular maca, has no overly malty flavor. It is available online here.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Revisited: Fresh/Healthy Gluten-Free Vegan Fruit-and-Nut bars

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A couple of Thanksgivings ago I got hooked on my own adaptation of this recipe from Elana’s Pantry for cranberry bars.  I used  a crust that had coconut flour in addition to the nuts she uses, and saved some to sprinkle on top, which was an idea I got many years ago from America’s Test Kitchen, when they did an oatmeal-based recipe for peanut butter and jelly bars.  I love using one mixture for two different textures and purposes in a dish.  This past week my mom sent me a few new recipes from Elana’s site, including this one for Raspberry Streusel.  While I liked the idea of her recipe, it made me long for those old peanut butter and jelly bars, so I jumped ship from her basic recommendations and came up with a new version of that old favorite of mine.

Generally when baking for myself, I use either all stevia or a combo of raw buckwheat honey and stevia, but I wanted to make something that Ace would enjoy too, and she is a firm believer in desserts involving actual sugar.  Since I was already making this vegan and gluten-free, I decided to use coconut sugar as the sweetener, which is a good compromise because it has no bitter flavor like stevia, but is still moderately low-glycemic.  You could easily sub out the sugar for stevia, xylitol, or erythritol, but since these still have fruit in them they wouldn’t be completely sugar-free.

Strawberry-Cherry Almond Butter Streusel Bars:

Filling: (any other fruits could be substituted in same proportions)
16 oz strawberries, cut into halves or quartered depending on size
1/2 cup dried (unsweetened) tart cherries
3 dates, soaked for 10 minutes in hot water, then chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup date soak water
1/4 cup coconut sugar
Cook stovetop on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until strawberries are limp, cherries are plump, and dates have mostly dissipated.

Top Crumble and Bottom Crust:
1 cup nuts- I used 3/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup walnuts
Pulse in food processor until finely ground
Add:
1 cup almond flour or meal
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil (Earth Balance or butter could be used if that flavor is preferred)
2 tbls coconut flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pulse until a crumble forms, then place 2/3 of mix into a greased 9×7 or 8×8 baking dish.
Press crumble down firmly with hands until a uniform layer is formed.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Assembly:
Once crust has cooled slightly, gently spread 1/3 cup almond butter onto it. (You could, of course, use peanut butter instead- almond is just a healthier option.)
Add fruit filling to pan and spread to edges.
Drop remaining crumble on top, scattering about into randomly sized bits and pieces.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then allow to cool before cutting.

These are the bars right out of the oven:

And this is how the layers look once cut:

If strawberries aren’t in season and you want to use apples, below is a similar cobbler/crumble/streusel I made with those, on its way into the oven.  Lining them up makes for a very pretty presentation.

If a Fiddle Had a Stick, It Would… Make Cookies?

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I don’t know the first thing about babies- other than that 30something years ago I was one- but my very good friend Cortney does, so it’s probably for the best that she’s the one who gave birth this past year and not me.  Unlike my skills with children, which range on a scale from zero to none, I am adept at creating healthier homemade versions of commercial snacks and treats.  Recently Cort contacted me wondering if I had any ideas about how to make a homemade version of a toddler cookie called “Fiddlesticks,” because apparently toddlers like cookies.  I looked them up, and Plum Organics Fiddlesticks are basically just a gluten-free cookie with fruit.

If a fiddle had a stick, this is not what I think it'd look like, but that is what these cookies are called regardless.

These “snack sticks,” while organic and definitely better than the average stuff you find in a grocery store, had a few fatal flaws to me, because I am a SugarNaziHealthFoodFreak: they contain potato starch (which is unhealthy starch), tapioca flour (which isn’t terrible, but is empty nutrient-free carbs) xanthan gum (which can be constipating),  the sugar is straight sugar, and they have natural flavors (which are made in labs, not nature).  I decided to create a starch-free recipe to replicate these cookies, though I’ve never eaten them, or even seen them in person.

My first try was a failure- I made a fairly loose batter that I piped out with a piping bag, and it lacked structure.  The end result looked REMARKABLY like flat hot dogs.  I wanted them to work mostly because then I could call this blog “Congrats Kennedy Cookies” since it was the day Kennedy stood up alone for the first time, but it was not to be.  They did taste nice, so I decided to revamp the recipe as a firmer shortbread-type cookie that could be chilled and rolled out.  The second mission was quite successful!  I didn’t get to taste them because I’m in the middle of a juice fast.  Aside: can we all tell Cortney what a good pal I am to go baking sweets in the middle of consuming nothing but veggie juice for days on end? 😉 Ace tried them last night and even made me put a few aside for her, and since these were meant for those still in diapers, I took that to be a sign of success.

Thus I present to you: gluten-free, starch-free, low-glycemic fiddlesticks-style cookie “snack sticks” that are made for babies, but can be enjoyed by you, the grownup reader, as well.  These are blueberry-apple flavored, but that could be subbed out with any other fruit.  Also, there are no eggs in this recipe, so it could easily be made vegan with Earth Balance instead of butter.

The full batch- yield is about 3 dozen 4-inch cookies

Recipe, and as always I recommend using only organic ingredients:

1 small apple
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup coconut sugar
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
2/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
scant 1/2 tsp sea salt

Step 1. blend apple and blueberries in a blender until smooth.  Heat stovetop until thickened (approximately 15 minutes, with constant stirring). Jam could easily be substituted for simplicity’s sake.  Yield for puree from these ingredients once cooked should equal 1/2 cup.

Step 2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.

Step 3. Add 1/2 of dry ingredients.  I deally you’d pre-mix these and stir or sift together before adding.

Step 4. Add pureed fruit.

Step 5. Add remaining dry ingredients.  Batter should be very thick, so that it can easily be formed into a ball.  If it is not thick enough, add additional coconut flour tbls by tbls until sufficiently thick.

Step 6. Place dough on plastic wrap and flatten with your hands into a rectangle.

Dough, patted out to about 12-14 inches long and about 8 inches tall

Step 7. Chill for one hour, and during that time preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 8. Cut dough in half length-wise, and into about 18 strips width-wise.

Step 9. Roll strips between your hands and a cutting board (no flour needed, they didn’t stick for me) until squareness has lessened and they are tubular, and place on cookie sheet.  Prick cookies with a fork, numerous times each, once on the sheet.  They will split if left unpricked.  Place back into the fridge for about five minutes to firm back up if they have gotten soft during this time.

Step 10. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through (no need to prick 2nd side).

Though the steps are detailed out and therefore rather numerous, I assure you that these cookies are as easy as any “regular” ones, even though they lack both gluten and starch.  Ace ate them breakfast dipped in yogurt, so that is an option for those who would like to feed their baby some, but not necessarily three dozen, healthy cookies.

The close-up. I baked them a little extra dark to ensure they wouldn't get moldy while being shipped cross country.

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