An ecstatic moment involving some brûlée-d sugar and a spoon

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Not paleo.

Definitely not dairy free.

And there is no way this is vegan.

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Sorry I’m not going to be a teensy bit sorry… ever.

Because what this is, is nothing short of…

SPECTACULAR.

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Guys. CREME BRÛLÉE. Please excuse all the capitals but really. I’m having an ecstatic moment that I actually made this.

I kind of had some weird ingrained impression that creme brûlée was something fancy I could only get in a fancyschmancypants restaurant. You know, like how english muffins are mysteriously, perfectly english muffiny until you make them? Or maybe that’s just me. Whatever, anyway this is all beside the point as usual.

Point being, I used to looooove creme brûlée when I was a kid. I remember ordering a flight of them at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite when I was fairly little and being excited that it came in three flavors… and then realizing that I apparently still liked vanilla best. I’m a vanilla girl, don’t mess. Why tamper with something already so delicious?? But anyway, I really don’t remember much creme brûlée in the intervening years. What was wrong with me?! And why haven’t I made this before now?? Not to give away any trade secrets or anything, but it’s actually relatively simple (as long as a water bath doesn’t scare you).

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But seriously. Besides being delicious, creme brûlée is so fun! I’m like Amelie, I like smacking the top with my spoon and making the sugar crack. The little things are so satisfying…

And speaking of satisfying. This is made with nothing besides cream, egg yolks, and a bit of sugar and vanilla. Go ahead. Indulge yourself, because really—you’re worth it!

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Coconut Sugar Creme Brûlée

Apparently I can’t get too far away from my attempt to bring at least a little healthy into everything—-this is technically refined sugar free! Wheee! It’s made with coconut sugar, which is lower in fructose (good), and which retains the minerals, short chain fatty acids, and antioxidants found in the coconut palm from which it comes (also good). Besides that, it’s delicious. It tastes caramel-y and a little earthy to me, and goes spectacularly with vanilla. The awesome recipe came from Grain-Free Goodness, here! Makes six small ramekins.

Acquire the following, and let’s embark on culinary shenanigans:

  • 2 c heavy cream (1 500 mL container; or I think mine was 437 mL or something weird, but ended up exactly 2 c)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract*
  • 6 tbsp coconut sugar+more for brûlée-ing

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Preheat the oven to 325, and boil a medium saucepan of water (or use a kettle if you’re lucky enough to have one). You’ll need the water for the water bath, so makes sure it stays at a boil until just before you need it. Procure whatever you’re making your creme brûlée in—-I used three ramekins and three oven-safe coffee cups that were about the same size as the ramekins. You’ll also need a big casserole dish (or two) with deep sides.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream and the vanilla over low-medium (no higher!), stirring frequently. You want it to come just barely to a simmer, but none of that scalding business– none of that! Once it’s just barely at a simmer, pour it into something with a  spout, for ease of pouring later.

While the cream is heating, beat egg yolks with the coconut sugar until creamy. It should lighten in color when the sugar is fully incorporated. With the mixer running, pour a small bit of the hot cream into the egg yolks, beating the whole time so that the eggs don’t cook. Keep pouring small amounts and beating them in, until all the cream is incorporated (once about half the cream has been added, you can add more to the eggs at each pour, since the eggs are already tempered). Skim the froth off the top with a  spoon. Pour all this back into whatever pouring thing you used for the cream, and then pour equal amounts of it into the ramekins/cups of choice. Set all the ramekins into the casserole dish, and (CAREFULLY) pour the boiling water into the casserole dish, avoiding the ramekins (no one wants watery pudding). Make sure the water goes about halfway up the sides of your ramekins.

Bake until custards are *just* set—-they should be jiggly in the middle, but not liquidy when you touch them. The surface should be set, with the jiggle happening just below a thin skin of set custard. They’ll set up quite a bit when they cool, so don’t worry if they’re jiggly—they’re supposed to be! No over-cooked custards around here… I baked mine for half an hour (the ramekins), and then 35 minutes for the coffee cups, which were a little deeper. Check them every five minutes after a half hour, just to be safe.

Remove from the water bath and let cool on a cooling rack completely before covering in plastic wrap and chilling in the fridge. They should chill for at least several hours before serving (I did mine the day before I served them, as they keep well in the fridge for several days before you brûlée them).

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When you’re ready to eat them, you get to play with fire! Ha. Sprinkle a bit of coconut sugar on the top, attempting to evenly distribute it. You can use a kitchen torch (if you’re lucky and have one, unlike me… anyone want to send me one??) or an old spoon if you’re janky like me. If you use the spoon, heat it over a gas burner on your stove (holding it with an oven mitt just in case, thank you) until you can feel the heat coming off it when you hold a hand a bit away, then press it down onto the sugar. It will caramelize immediately! If the surface of your custard is big, you might need to repeat this a few times. Beware… your spoon will never be the same. But it might encourage you to make this more often, if you have a designated brûlée-ing spoon…

Eat immediately! These don’t keep for more than an hour after they’re brûlée-d, so do yourself a favor and get cracking! Hehe.

to be eaten with a Pooh spoon, obviously.
to be eaten with a Pooh spoon, obviously.

Happy Monday! You know you want cookies…

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Random thought of the day: I’m currently watching a very acrobatic squirrel do some amazing things on the eaves outside of my house. Go squirrel!! Show Monday whatcha got.

I showed Monday, that’s right: I’m post-Jazzercize! I maybe love it. A LOT. I really can’t think of a better way to start a Monday. Besides, my skin is sooooo dry, and getting my sweat on/fogging up the windows in the studio seemed like a fab idea. I feel better now, thank you…

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And these!! I made them to fill a post-yoga void in my stomach (funny how those always occur when I do mid-morning yoga). I loooove tea… as anyone who hangs out with me regularly knows… who else carries two bags of assorted and miscellaneous tea bags in their purse?! Right. I do. Just in case. You never know when you’re going to want tea.

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But then!!! You can put tea in COOKIES! Who knew?! That’s like two of my favorite things all smooshed up into one big ball of awesome. Or a little ball, as the case may be, but whatever. Beside the point. Smoosh that [variegated size] ball of awesome into a flatish thing, dollop a bit of naturally-sweetened jam in the middle, and you got yourself a winner! Tea. Tea in my cookies. Tea cookies with my tea. Yummm. Can’t go wrong (Unless you’re a coffee fan, in which case I apologize and will get back to you with some coffee type cookies if you ask me nicely).

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Happy Monday! Get your sweat on and then go eat some cookies, I promise it will make Monday better.

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Earl Grey Thumbprints with Wildberry Jam

I made a little teeny batch that was actually supposed to be bigger: I got six adorable cookies out of mine, which were adorable but I wanted more. I’ll post the bigger batch here, which would yield 12. The recipe is lightly adapted from 5’oclock A Tea Bag, here! Could probably be easily gluten free, though mine weren’t. They are free of refined sugar, however.

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  • 6 tbsp butter (I used salted)
  • 8 tsp coconut sugar
  • 3/4 c + 4 tsp whole wheat pastry flour
  • 6.5 tbsp almond flour
  • 4 tsp Earl Grey tea leaves (mine was decaffeinated; this would be about 4 tea bags)
  • large pinch of salt
  • enough jam to dollop each cookie (I used apple juice sweetened wild berry)

Cream together butter and coconut sugar until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, tea leaves, and salt. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Refrigerate dough for about a half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll the dough into smallish balls, flatten each one, and with a thumb make an indentation in the top. Dollop your jam into the imprint, then place on a cookie sheet. Repeat until all cookies are done… then pop into the oven and bake for about 12 minutes! They should be lightly golden brown.
Enjoy them with tea! Obviously…

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I think you’ll find I’ve had a browniepiphany

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So you know how I’m always whining about how I’m soooo picky with brownies and that I never make them and blah blah blah?!

Yes, well…

I think that might have changed.

THESE.

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Gaahhhh… I can’t even.

Crackly crust. Fudgy, dense interior… IN. A. SKILLET. With ice cream. And date caramel. And two spoons.

Be jealous, it’s okay.

And yeah. They were so good I didn’t even really get proper pictures, but that should tell you just how good they really were. I think they might actually be too good for their own good…

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Everything I want in a brownie and then some. AND double bonus, they’re gluten free and dairy free! Not that I’m either (um, hello BUTTER) (and bread. obvs) but for all my little pallies out there who don’t do the gluten and dairy thing, these are for you. Because I love you and I want you to have fabulous brownies.

Time for second breakfast. I ate oatmeal for the first round, so obviously brownies make a logical second choice? Yes, I thought so too.

tis the season!
tis the season!

The Best Brownies

Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free. Recipe adapted from Recreating Happiness, here! I made a 1/2 batch for a 5″ cast iron skillet, so I’ll post those measurements here. Double for a larger skillet, or an 8 by 8 pan. I highly recommend making them in cast iron, because eating them out of a warm skillet is magical.

  • 1.5 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 oz dark chocolate (I used 72%)
  • 1/2 c extra dark chocolate chips (I used Guittard)
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar
  • 1/3 c almond flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c extra dark chocolate chips (Guittard)

Preheat the oven to 325, and lightly grease pan of choice (I used a 5″ cast iron skillet and coconut oil).

In a microwave safe bowl, melt coconut oil, dark chocolate, and 1/2 c extra dark chocolate chips until completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside to hang out with the cooling chocolate.

In yet another bowl, whisk together coconut sugar and melted chocolate until combined. Whisk in egg—longer whisking creates the crackly crust! (who knew). Whisk in vanilla, then stir in the contents of the almond flour bowl and the chocolate chips. Pour/spread batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the top is set. Make sure not to over bake! No one likes dry brownies… I checked mine at 17 minutes, and then let them bake for another 4ish minutes. Mine were fairly thin, so test according to thickness and how hot your oven runs.
Let cool… or not.

Eat out of the skillet, preferably with ice cream and some date caramel… and someone else. Sharing is caring ;)

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Math is only fun when there are cookies on one side of the equal sign

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Whoops… I baked.

Um really though? Like that’s any surprise at all, you all know me far too well.

And whatever, it’s the holidays and I can’t help it!! It’s like… wired into my synapses that as soon as it gets cold I have to make things. Not just any things but preferably cookies. COOOOOKIEEEEESSS!!! Holidays = cookies. Just like butter = heaven. Everyone knows that.

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Besides, there are lots of excuses to feed people around the holidays and we know I really like doing that too.

As Brianna the Bestie (BtB?!) pointed out: “Because I know that’s something you hate to do… cook for people…”

Oi. I am so predictable sometimes.

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But not always… I like to spice things up and keep it interesting. You’d get bored if I wasn’t kind of nuts and supremely hilarious all at the same time, wouldn’t you?!

Speaking of spice…

It’s in these cookies.

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Because it’s the holidays! And even though I’m not a math person I’ll give you one more equation (because equal signs really mean balance and obviously your life needs cookies to have the proper balance): cookies = holidays = cold weather = spices. Like ginger and cinnamon. Luckily for you, these have both! So you don’t have to choose or anything… The hardest choice regarding these is probably whether or not to dip them in chocolate. And that’s not really a hard choice because seriously? Why WOULDN’T you?!

And maybe make a sandwich with them and some salted almond date caramel. Because I don’t know about you but that just took my cookie to a whole new gastronomical level. My cookie is in the stratosphere now. Is yours?

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Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies

Recipe gratefully adapted from Whole Pure Recipes, here! I made a half batch for a yield of 14 small cookies—I’ll post the measurements for the small batch here. Obviously I made the entire recipe of date caramel because hellllooooo, of course I want extra of that lounging around. Obvi.

Vegan and refined sugar free!

For the cookies:

  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (organic, please)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1/4 c unrefined coconut oil, slightly softened
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar
  • 1/8 c molasses
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • a bit of extra coconut sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a smallish bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. In a really smallish bowl, combine flaxseed and water and set aside to gel. Now in a slightly largish bowl, combine coconut oil and coconut sugar. Using a whisk (I wanted a bicep workout, feel free to use an electric mixer or whatever), vigorously whisk together sugar and oil until the mixture lightens in color a bit. Whisk in molasses, vanilla, and the flax egg, until smooth. Add dry ingredients into wet in two batches, stirring to combine but avoiding over mixing. Roll the dough into small teaspoon size balls, roll it in the extra coconut sugar, and then flatten them slightly on the cookie sheet (they won’t really spread). Bake for just about 9 minutes, until the tops are firm. Remove and let cool for a few minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

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For the salted almond date caramel:

  • 1.5 c medjool dates, pitted
  • 1.5 tbsp unsalted almond butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Pour a few cups of near-boiling water over the pitted dates, and let them sit for about 10 minutes (while you do the cookie dishes and the cookies finish baking… multitasking, you know?), reserving the soaking water. Once softened, toss dates, almond butter, vanilla and sea salt into the bowl of your food processor, and send that baby for a whirl until everything is combined. Add the reserved soaking water one tbsp at a time, until the caramel is smooth (I usually leave some date chunks in there because I like chunks…). Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, assuming it lasts more than a day…

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For the chocolate dip:

  • 1/3 c extra dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp refined coconut oil

Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl (or a double boiler if you’re feeling less lazy than me) until melted.

Dip cookies in chocolate and thriftily eat the rest (it’s too good to waste!). I let mine sit on parchment paper on the counter for a bit before transferring them to a plate in the fridge for the shell to fully harden.

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Soup is just an excuse for bread, don’t try to deny it!

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Soooooop.

And bread.

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Because obviously you can’t have soup without some bready, carby side dish. We all know that soup is really an excuse for bread, let’s be real here.

But mmmmm, soup. I do love it (but I DO NOT love photographing it. Ugh). ESPECIALLY now that I have this fabby immersion blender!! Which means that I can dispense with all that silliness of attempting to blend soup in a food processor (no, I don’t own a normal blender), which is a dumb idea as a) soup is hot. Hot things expand and b) food processors aren’t watertight (rude). So instead of soup going slightly all over the counter, now I can just bust out the trusty immersion blender, stick it in the pot of soup buzz buzz buzz and low and behold!! Creamy soup, no mess required. Genius.

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Also. I bought a spiralizer. Possibly the BEST decision I have ever made. And also possibly the most fun kitchen utensil ever created.

See?

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Reeeeealllyyyy looooooong zucchini noodles! So much fun to play with. Obviously avoided if you do the smart thing and cut the zucchini in half first, but why spoil your fun? Incredibly long noodles are so much more entertaining. And delicious, especially when you top them with bison pasta sauce and other delicious things. Unfortunately, it was slightly too delicious and there went that before I managed to take a picture of anything besides the noodles. Whoops! Next time.

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Anyway. Let’s get seasonal! Hellooooo autumn, you’re my favorite. The day I made this, I ate three sources of beta carotene in one day. No eye problems for me!
This soup is very easy, comes together in a snap, and is (naturally) delicious. The muffins are awesome too, likewise easy and delicious. In fact, if you time it right, you can bake them while the squash is simmering, then blend your soup and have everything hot at the same time. Wheee!

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Ginger-Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4, with leftovers. Recipe inspired by Whole Foods, here! Gluten free, can be vegan with veggie broth.

  • a generous drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced (yield: 4 c diced)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated or diced
  • 3.5 c veggie or chicken broth
  • 1/2 c light coconut milk (out of the can)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • pepitas, for garnish!

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Toss in onion, carrot, and cucumbers, and let cook until the onion is translucent (about 5ish minutes). Add ginger, let cook a few minutes more. Finally, add stock, squash, coconut milk, sea salt, and pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook, covered, until the squash is fork-tender (about 30 minutes). Once squash is soft, use an immersion blender to puree soup to desired consistency. An upright blender is fine too, just make sure the soup is cool enough.
Garnish with pepitas just before serving!

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Pumpkin Cornmeal Muffins

My yield was 10, in my so-called ‘jumbo’ muffin tins. I never fill them all the way, but these muffins came out a totally normal size. High in vitamin A, low fat, refined sugar free, and whole grain! Recipe adapted from Running to the Kitchen, here!

  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 c lowfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted (I use Kerrygold Irish butter)
  • 1 c pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 375, and lightly grease muffin tins (I use coconut oil).

Whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk together egg, almond milk, yogurt, melted butter and pumpkin puree. Combine wet into dry, mixing just to combine. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 15 minutes (a tester should come out clean, and the tops should be slightly browned). Let cool for a few before turning out onto a cooling rack.
I’m sure these keep well, but ours didn’t last that long!