Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dates and Almonds

After more than 3 1/2 years, I am ready to get back to blogging! A lot has happened since my last post. "Fickle Toddler" is now a kindergartner with a 2 1/2 year old little brother. My moments of free time are now fewer and farther between. Most of my cooking now happens during nap time and most of my inspiration is currently coming from Cooking Light's Sunday Strategist. My blog going forward will be much less structured than its original version and my posts will be less frequent. I'm thinking of it now more like a food journal for me to share what I'm cooking and what I'm thinking about. I welcome any and all comments and suggestions and I am excited to once again channel my food obsession into this blog. :)

And so we begin with something sweet...

A dear friend of mine first introduced me to dates about 2 years ago at a playdate for my older son. She offered me a date, I politely declined, and she was incredulous! How could anyone refuse a date?!! They are only the most delicious food on earth! And so I tried one and it has been a love affair ever since. A dried date is nature's perfect candy - sweet, chewy, decadent! They were my go to dessert during my 2013 cleanse and now I love to use them as a natural way to add a little sweetness.

Almond flour/meal has gained popularity in recent years among the gluten-free, low-carb, and Paleo communities. I don't buy it often as it tends to be expensive, but whenever I need it for a recipe I make sure to buy enough to also make the yummy muffins and cookies below. Enjoy!


Makes 15 muffins
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. oatmeal (rolled or quick oats)
1/2 c. almond flour/meal
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. finely chopped pitted Medjool dates
1 c. low-fat buttermilk*
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. loosely packed grated carrots (I use a food processor)
Cooking spray
*I usually make my own buttermilk by adding 1 T. of white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup and then adding enough regular milk to make 1 cup. I give it a stir and let it sit for about 5 min. Voila! Buttermilk.
1. Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients making sure there are no clumps (whole wheat flour through salt). Stir in the dates allowing them to become individually coated in the dry ingredients so they don't stick together.
2. In a medium bowl (or right in the food processor), whisk together the carrots, buttermilk, melted butter, egg, and vanilla until well combined.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently stir until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Let sit for about 5 minutes for the batter to poof up just a bit.
4. Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray and use a large cookie scoop to portion the batter into the cups. Bake until the tops of the muffins are just browned and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 21-23 min. When cool enough to handle, use a butter knife to gently remove the muffins from the tin and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

My younger son and I went to a kids cooking class this week and made smoothies. I'm usually more of a warm weather smoothie drinker, but I started craving these and you know I already bought some dates...

Makes 2 servings
1/2 c. coconut water
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1 medium banana, peeled
3 T. walnut pieces
2 Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
* You can totally swap up the milk, nut and/or water you use. My last batch was made with regular water and coconut milk and they were still delicious. :)
Put all ingredients in a blender and add ice to bring the volume to 2 cups. Blend on high speed until smooth. Poor into glasses and serve.

And last, but certainly not least are the most DELICIOUS. GLUTEN-FREE. COOKIES. For those of you not familiar with the gluten-free world, those 3 words don't usually go together. These cookies are truly amazing! Plus, the protein from the almond flour makes them really filling and hard to binge out on.

Almond, Coconut, Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Sara Forte) - GF, V
Makes 18 cookies
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 c. almond meal
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1 egg
3 T. canola oil
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1. Place chocolate chips in a small food processor and process until no large chunks of chocolate remain. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the chocolate chips, almond meal, coconut, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar.
2. In another bowl, beat the egg very well until it is a uniform color and doubles in volume. Whisk in the canola oil and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Put the bowl in the fridge and chill for at least 30 min. or up to overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small cookie scoop to evenly portion out cookies onto the baking sheet. Flatten each one slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake until the edges just begin to brown, 7-10 min. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

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