Tag Archives: dessert

Lemon Meringue Pie = Chemistry in the Kitchen

lemon-meringue-pieHello and happy day to you. I hope that the weather is just as spectacular in your neck of the woods as it is for me. I thought I would take a break from being outside to share a recipe with you that I tried for the first time two weeks ago. It was MIL’s birthday and to celebrate, I thought I would try making one of her favorite desserts, lemon meringue pie. I was a bit hesitant at first because I had heard that these pies can be tricky to make, so I decided to hedge my bets by also making a chocolate cream pie. That way, if the meringue didn’t work out, I could pretend that it never happened and still have a tasty dessert to share.

I started by baking the pie crust – all was well at that point. Next came the ingredients for the lemon filling. I poured the agave, cornstarch, water and egg yolks into the saucepan and stirred continuously while heating. At first, the ingredients swirled in the pan like an odd assortment of messy debris. I looked away for a moment to mention something to SensitiveHusband, and when I turned back I saw a smooth, glistening, even-colored vision of dessert. It was a fine hour for chemistry in our kitchen!

The last piece to make was the meringue topping. Into my stand mixer went the egg whites and agave. I set the mixer to high and watched the mixture slosh around for a bit. After a short time, the liquid turned into a fluffy, voluminous meringue. I stood there, amazed for a moment, and then turned off the mixer. Another score for chemistry in our kitchen!

lemon-meringue-pie2This pie is actually fun to make, especially cool if you ever enjoyed science class, and everyone who sampled it that evening really enjoyed it. Of course, we all had to also try the chocolate cream pie since no dessert should go to waste. It’s a very summery treat for the season.

This recipe calls for only three eggs, which is a good thing since the price for wholesale chicken eggs increased 84.5% from May to June. This increase was the largest single-month jump since 1937, when the first records were started. Why the price increase? It’s because the Avian flu killed 49 million chickens during the past winter, according to CNN, thereby reducing the supply.

This recipe is adapted from Gluten Free & More‘s April/May 2015 issue, to remove all of the refined sugar.

Ingredients
3/4 cup light agave syrup
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup cold water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
zest of 1 (or 2) lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 (9-inch) pie crust*, baked
3 egg whites

*If you are looking for a ready-made crust without refined sugar, Pillsbury has a refrigerated version. For a refined sugar free homemade crust, try my graham cracker version. If you are looking for a gluten free pie crust, there are many store-made products and homemade recipes available.

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup agave and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Stir in egg yolks.

Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat and boil one minute. Remove from heat. See the chemistry!

Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and butter.

Spoon hot filling into baked pie crust.

In a small bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, at high speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup agave and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Chemistry again!

Spread meringue evenly over hot filling, sealing to the edges of the crust.

Bake pie 15-20 minutes or until golden.

After cooled, refrigerate until served.

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Coconut Cream Frosting (Gluten & Dairy Free)

Good day, everyone! I hope that this blog finds you well. I am truly appreciating the weather today, such a bright and sunny day, which is a welcome relief from all of the wind and rain we had this past week. The apples I have been purchasing at the local farm have been outstanding, so much so that I have not baked with apples yet this season because SensitiveHusband and I keep eating them before there is any chance of making a muffin or sauce. The carrots, however, I managed to snag for a cake (more on that in a moment). carrot cake cupcakes

Speaking of cake, have you ever eaten “too many slices of suboptimal, day-old cake,” which then inspired you to figure out how best to slice a cake so as not to expose the remains to the air and get dried out? No? To tell you the truth, I hadn’t thought much of it either. Yet this issue has been pondered for well over a century. In 1906 Sir Francis Galton, a British mathematician, discussed the scientific principles of cutting a cake in a letter written to the journal Nature. Galton, who was a first cousin to Charles Darwin, notes that instead of cutting a cake into wedges, you should cut the cake down the middle and remove a thin slice, then push the cake back together, which seals the cake back up. Galton goes a step further and suggests wrapping a rubber band around the outside of the cake to guarantee that no air dries out the baked good. He, who discovered regression to the mean, perhaps only ate cakes with fondant frosting – because I fear the effects of a rubber band wrapped around a luscious buttercream.

Need to see this to believe it? There is an excellent video demonstration by Alex Bellos – check it out here. And see if it convinces you that a wedge slice may not be the only option for parsing out dessert.

Since I continue to think of cake, I will share with you a recipe I made recently for my SIL’s (sister-in-law) birthday. This carrot cake was inspired by a fabulous recipe found in Elana’s Pantry. I chose to sweeten the cake with honey and I used grapeseed oil for the fat. I also crushed the walnuts and baked them into cupcakes. My notes are included in the recipe below. And then I topped them off with a maple coconut cream frosting! I again was inspired by Elana’s Pantry, although I sweetened the frosting with maple syrup, which paired so nicely with the flavors.

Still not sure how you want to slice a cake? No worries, just bake cupcakes!!

CARROT CAKE – INGREDIENTS
3 cups blanched almond flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
5 eggs
½ cup honey (or agave nectar)
¼ cup grapeseed oil
3 cups carrots, grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped

PREPARATION
In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, honey (or agave nectar) and oil
Stir carrots, raisins and walnuts into wet ingredients
Stir wet ingredients into dry
Place batter into 24 cupcake tins with liners (or 2 well greased, round 9-Inch cake pans)
Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes (35 minutes for cakes)
Cool to room temperature and spread with frosting

MAPLE COCONUT CREAM FROSTING – INGREDIENTS
1 cup coconut milk (in a can)
1 cup maple syrup
pinch sea salt
5 teaspoons arrowroot powder
3-5 tablespoons water
1¼ cup coconut oil

PREPARATION
In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, maple syrup and salt, simmer for 10 minutes
In a small bowl, combine arrowroot and water to form a smooth paste
Pour arrowroot mixture into saucepan
Whisk vigorously to combine, then bring to a boil, briefly, until shiny
Remove pot from heat and very gradually blend in coconut oil with a hand blender (or mixer)
Allow pot to cool for 10 minutes
Place pot in refrigerator for 45-120 minutes, until frosting solidifies
Remove from refrigerator and blend again with a hand blender (or mixer), until fluffy
Spread over cake or cupcakes

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sundaes

Hello, and happy summer to you all! As you know, SensitiveHusband and I recently bought a house and moved, and we just sold my condo. So as you can imagine, my free time has been spent moving boxes around. I also find myself doing a lot more laundry since my washer and dryer are just off of the kitchen, which makes moving the clothes around so much easier. It’s weird, I actually find myself making excuses to just do another load of laundry! I bet that feeling will wear off eventually.

peanut butter ice creamHowever, I have still been trying new recipes. And this one for peanut butter ice cream is so delicious and creamy, you won’t even notice the lack of dairy, refined sugar, or gluten. It is rich and satisfying, especially if you pair it with some hot fudge sauce!

How did I uncover this gem of a recipe? My friend MaryAnn sent me a link to the Gluten Free Goddess web site with a simple note attached – “You MUST make this! AMAZING!” Since I like ice cream, and this recipe seemed to be receiving a ringing endorsement, I thought I would oblige.

sundaeI made two changes to the original recipe. First, I doubled it. If the ice cream was really going to be this good, I better make a sizable batch. And secondly, I substituted the brown sugar with coconut palm sugar. The recipe went off without a hitch and when I sampled it, I was overjoyed. So far I have made this ice cream twice, once for SenstiveHusband’s birthday (hence the candle in his sundae), and once for a family party. And I already have all of the ingredients for another batch.

Ingredients:
2 14-oz. cans organic coconut milk, chilled
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup organic natural peanut butter
1 dash sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons dark chocolate shavings (or grain sweetened chocolate chips if you can handle gluten)

Preparation:
Prepare your ice cream maker ahead of time by freezing the canister overnight. Now is a good time to chill your coconut milk in the fridge too.

Combine the chilled coconut milk and coconut palm sugar in a blender and whip until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the natural peanut butter and vanilla extract. Whip just until the mixture is creamy and frothy.

Set your freezing canister in place and turn on the ice cream maker. Pour the mixture into the freezing canister.

Add in the shaved dark chocolate.

Churn until frozen; at 30 minutes it should reach a thick, soft-serve consistency.

Scoop into a freezable quart container, cover and freeze.

hot fudge sauceUpon sampling this peanut butter ice cream, you may find yourself craving a sundae. If this is the case, try this recipe for Homemade Bittersweet Chocolate Syrup from the Nourishing Gourmet. Plus, it’s Paleo; gluten, refined sugar, and dairy free!

And if you need to top it all off with some whipped cream (not dairy free, but gluten free and refined sugar free), you can check out my recipe.

Sugar Free! Key Lime and Chocolate Cream Pies

Two PiesOnce you have the sugar free graham cracker crusts prepared (see my previous blog post for the recipe), you can fill them any way you choose. I tried making key lime and chocolate cream pies because they are such sweet treats for the summertime, and I wanted to take on the challenge of making them sugar free.

For the key lime pie, I started with a Cooking Light magazine recipe that is a healthier version than many other recipes I reviewed. The trick with a key lime pie is to get the right consistency without using sweetened condensed milk. My online research found that heating evaporated milk with agave nectar could work as a good substitute. Adding Greek yogurt to the filling provides some tang and a thick consistency. This pie takes a while to bake and it will continue to thicken once it is out of the oven and cools. Fresh key lime juice tastes great in this pie although fresh lime juice will work just as well.

Ingredients for Filling:
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh Key lime juice (or fresh lime juice)
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
3 large egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup agave nectar

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine evaporated milk and agave nectar in a small saucepan. Cook on low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Use approximately 14 ounces (or 1 2/3 cups) of the resulting mixture in the filling in the next step.
3. To prepare filling, place yogurt, lime juice, lime zest, egg yolks, and milk/agave mixture in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350° until set, about 35 minutes. Cool pie completely on a wire rack. Cover loosely, and chill at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

As for the chocolate cream pie, I again started with a Cooking Light recipe as the base. I substituted the coconut palm sugar for the cane sugar, and used grain sweetened chocolate (Endangered Species or Sunspire are delicious cane sugar free options) instead of the usual store-bought sugary brands. This pie is delicious and had a light and rich texture.

Ingredients for Filling:
2 cups fat-free milk, divided
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 ounces (cane sugar free) chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated (cane sugar free) chocolate

Preparation:
1. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup milk, 2/3 cup palm sugar, and next 4 ingredients (2/3 cup palm sugar through egg) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
2. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat. 3. Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Add chopped chocolate; cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared crust; cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill 3 hours or until cold. Remove plastic wrap; spread whipped cream evenly over filling. Sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Pi PlateServe your favorite pie in a pie plate – or in my case – a pi plate! Pi (pronounced “pie”) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter, which is the same value no matter the size of the circle.

Step 1 for Sugar Free Pies – Graham Cracker Crust

Two PiesGood day! I hope that this blog post finds you doing well. I have been trying some new recipes over the past few weeks and trying to keep up with all of the CSA produce that I receive each week. The weather this summer seems to be conducive to leafy green vegetables, which always make my day. Now that the temperature is heating up, corn, tomatoes, and beans are plentiful.

I have also been working on a baking project – how to make pies without refined sugars. The fillings can be challenging because it can be tricky to get the correct consistency. And I have not been able to use any graham cracker crust recipes because virtually all call for crumbled store-bought graham crackers – and I have not been able to find a brand without sugar. So I had to take a more proactive approach in order to bake a sugar-free crust.

SensitiveHusband recently purchased a lovely cookbook for me called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. The author has made dozens of popular foods and calculated how much it costs to create them homemade, and then compared the cost of similar store-bought items. Based on the difficulty of the homemade preparation and the cost, the author then recommends either making the item or buying it. Fortunately she includes a recipe for honey graham crackers. According to her calculations, homemade graham crackers cost approximately $0.18 per ounce, Honey Maid Cinnamon Grahams are $0.23 per ounce, and Annie’s organic graham crackers are $0.53 per ounce.

I adapted the recipe to remove the refined sugars by replacing with coconut palm sugar, and figured out how to roll into two crusts rather than shape into crackers (although you could still use this recipe for crackers). This recipe yields the lightest and tastiest graham cracker crust – the best I have ever sampled. SensitiveHusband agreed that this crust is terrific.

Step 1 for baking pies is having a great crust, and the recipe delivers. This is definitely more labor-intensive than purchasing a box of graham crackers, but the taste of the homemade version is worth it.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup honey

Preparation:
1. Stir together the flours, wheat germ, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
2. In another bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and honey until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and stir well. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, knead once or twice, then flatten into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
3. Cut the dough into two portions. On a floured surface, roll one portion of the dough into a circle that is about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a pie plate and remove any dough that hangs over the sides. Prick the dough with a fork in a number of places throughout the dough. Repeat this process with the other portion of remaining dough.
4. Bake the two crusts in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees F for about 12 minutes or until very lightly browned. Make sure the crusts are completely cooled before moving onto creating your pie fillings.

Chocolate Beet Cake

Good day everyone! We are in the middle of our second week of our community-supported agriculture (CSA) program with a local farm. Each week, we pick up one box (a half share) of fresh produce. At this point in the season, our box has been bursting with greens including spinach, lettuce, kale, and collard greens. It’s exciting to discover what is in the box each week and a fun challenge to use all of the fresh ingredients in interesting ways. The CSA program works well for a farm because there is a consistent demand for the produce, and the program also benefits a household because the prices are lower than what is seen at the grocery store. If you are willing to try a variety of vegetables, a CSA is a fun and economical option.

This week we received two vegetables that we do not eat that often but are such a treat when we do: kohlrabi and beets. I roasted kohlrabi during the week with olive oil and asiago cheese…click here for my simple recipe. Roasted beets are also delicious as an accompaniment to a meal; however, they can also be turned into a sweet and healthy dessert!

chocolate beet cakeI found this recipe from The Simple Lens for Chocolate Beet Cake for Two. I immediately liked the recipe because it did not use any refined sugars and was vegan, which appeals to a number of my friends. I swapped lemon juice for vinegar to keep the acidity level the same. In addition, the yield is two small cakes, which is a nice option for a household that does not want a large amount of cake sitting in the kitchen, tempting people to eat it. This dessert is rich and satisfying and very chocolatey, without being heavy. The beets lend a subtle sweetness to the taste and a soft raspberry hue to the cake. Try this for a fun treat with some fresh beets. You will enjoy it!

Ingredients
For Cake:
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons applesauce (unsweetened)
1/3 cup beet puree (1-2 medium-sized beets)

For Chocolate Ganache:
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons (unsweetened almond) milk
4 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (dairy-free)

Preparation:
1. Prep beet puree: cook beet(s), let cool, process into puree in food processor.
2. Sift together dry ingredients (salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour, cocoa.)
3. Combine wet ingredients (lemon juice, vanilla, applesauce, maple syrup, water, beet puree).
4. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
5. Divide mixture between 2 well-greased ramekins.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes (or until skewer pulls back clean). Let cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from ramekin. (Or just eat right out of it!)
7. Prep ganache: bring milk just to a boil and then remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips and syrup.Continue stirring until chips are fully melted.
8. Plate up: Pour delicious, melty ganache over beet cake and serve. Makes 2 (ramekin-sized) cakes.

I am sharing my recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Chocolate Macaroons are Full of Taste Yet Free (of Gluten, Dairy & Cane Sugar)

Chocolate MacaroonsMacaroons always look very pretty, delicate and light, yet I rarely eat them because they do not have my favorite dessert ingredient, chocolate. I assume that many other people have snubbed a macaroon when deciding what treats to eat from a dessert table since the majority of us agree that chocolate is our favorite dessert flavor.

dessert_flavors_tableThe most recent SensitiveEconomist poll shows that 63% of the 112 respondents would choose a chocolate dessert over any other flavor, with mint coming in a distant second place with 11% of the responses. These survey results mean that when given the choice between a light and flaky macaroon and a slice of chocolate cake, most of us turn to the delicious cocoa. Until now – where we can have both.

Most of you will share in my excitement for Kay Stepkin’s recipe for chocolate macaroons that I read in my newspaper a few weeks ago. What a great way to combine a light and delicate treat with my favorite dessert flavor, chocolate. Plus, this recipe is free of gluten, cane sugar and dairy – and it’s vegan! This is a delicious treat for so many people. I made the dessert for a dinner party and they were an absolute hit! I will definitely be making these again right through the summer.

Speaking of summer, what is your favorite summertime food? Please share your opinion with a simple poll right on my home page. Just click your answer and then click “vote” and you will see the up-to-the minute results. The food with the most responses will probably find itself highlighted as a main ingredient sometime soon on this blog. Thanks for participating!

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1½ cups cocoa powder
½ cup almond meal/flour (or ground almonds)
1/4 teaspoon sea (or kosher) salt
Coconut sugar, optional

Preparation:
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pour coconut oil, maple syrup, almond extract, coconut, cocoa powder, almond meal and salt into a bowl; stir until well combined.

2. Using a large tablespoon of dough per cookie, shape into mounds, packing mixture firmly. Distribute cookies onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Do not press down.

3. Bake for 15 minutes. When cool, dust with a little coconut sugar.

Makes about 22 cookies.

Additional Notes:
(1) For the almond meal, you can substitute with almonds ground up in a food processor.
(2) If you would like this recipe to be nut free, substitute the almond extract with vanilla extract, and replace the almond meal with brown rice flour.
(3) Since the coconut oil will be solid in the jar to start, microwave until melted and then spoon out the liquid oil for the recipe. After the coconut oil cools it will return to its solid state.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Food Trip Friday.

Minding the Vitamix – Part 4/Finale: Chocolate Ice Cream

Chocolate Ice CreamThe alternate title for this blog post is: See you soon, old friend.

MIL and FIL returned from their trip and wanted to tell us about their travels…along with seeing their new Vitamix blender! I kept it good company while they were away by making turnip and potato soup, strawberry muffins, and spinach hummus. But I knew I had to try my hand at one more item before handing the appliance over…and that was a recipe for chocolate ice cream. The Vitamix cookbook had a recipe that looked fairly easy, and it only required me to substitute the sugar with maple syrup. There are only six ingredients needed and the time between measuring the ingredients and trying a spoonful of dessert is about five minutes. The result is what I would describe as a cross between a frozen ice and a gelato. It’s a refreshing treat that you can garnish any way you choose.

So now the Vitamix blender has been delivered to MIL and FIL’s house. Although I will offer to keep it company the next time they travel so I can try some new concoctions. See you soon, old friend.

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsweetend cocoa powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups ice cubes

Preparation:
Place all ingredients into the blender in the order listed and secure lid.
Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to High. You may need to use a tamper to press the ingredients into the blades.
In about 45 seconds, the sound of the motor will change and four mounds should form.
Stop machine. Do not over mix or melting will occur. Serve immediately.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free…and am happy to be featured too!

Freshly Squeezed Orange Oatmeal Cookies

2013-01 orangesGreetings from sunny Florida! That’s what the box on the gift of oranges read. This gift has been excellent and came at the perfect time – while SensitiveHusband and I wait for the next snowstorm, we have been able to enjoy really fresh, juicy, delicious navel oranges!

According to the Florida Department of Citrus, the Florida varieties that are currently in season include Temple Oranges, Honey Tangerines, Red Grapefruit, Pink Grapefruit, White Seedless Grapefruit, and Juice Oranges. Since the rainfall in Florida has been lighter than usual this year, the crop is estimated to be 142 million boxes, which is almost 5 million boxes fewer than the 2011-2012 season. According to Florida Citrus Mutual, the Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employs almost 76,000 people, and covers about 550,000 acres.

2013-01 orange juicerLast weekend I decided to get a little creative by figuring out how to bake with an orange. I took inspiration from a recipe for Orange Oatmeal Cookies and made a number of ingredient swaps and substitutions to remove the butter, cane sugar, cream of tartar (since I didn’t have any on hand), and reduce the gluten (although these could be made gluten free if you prefer by swapping the whole wheat flour out and replacing with brown rice or millet flour). I also enjoyed using my great-grand-aunt’s green juicer, shown above. I pictured her laughing and smiling while I juiced the orange and made the cookie dough. The result was a hearty and perky cookie that is delicious at any time of the day…even as a mid-morning snack! Whether you are enjoying a day at the beach or watching the snow fall (I am in the latter camp today), these cookies use ingredients that are easily obtained year-round.

2013-01 orange oatmeal cookiesFreshly-Squeezed Orange Oatmeal Cookie Ingredients:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg white, beaten until foamy
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large naval orange, zested and juiced
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix together canola oil and maple syrup in a large bowl. Stir egg white and applesauce into mixture. Stir in orange juice with pulp and orange zest.

Mix flours, oats, (optional) walnuts, baking powder, and cinnamon in a separate bowl; fold into the large bowl of wet ingredients until evenly incorporated.

Drop by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake in preheated oven until bottom of cookies are lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

I am sharing my recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

I Dig Fresh Fig Dessert Bars

I dig figs. As a kid, I enjoyed snacking on Fig Newtons, which had a nice combination of crunchy filling and smooth cake. Or were the outer crusts actually cookies? It was always hard to tell.

About one year ago, while at my friend’s parents’ house, I sampled a fresh fig just picked from their fig tree. At first I was a little apprehensive because I did not know how to eat it. However they showed me how to break off the stem, peel the fruit and eat the center. The fruit was so good – sweet, juicy and fragrant. So I tried another and another…and when I went home that evening, I had a bundle of figs under my arm to enjoy over the next few days.

Not only are figs delicious, but they are nutritious too! According to Nutrition-and-you.com, figs are low in calories and high in soluble fiber. They are also good sources of vitamins A, E, and K; and minerals such as calcium and iron. So what’s not to love about this fabulous fruit?

This past summer, whenever I saw fresh figs on sale at the grocery store, I purchased them. The figs usually come six to a package and I would eat them two at a time. I never dreamed that I would ever have enough figs in my possession to use them in a recipe – since I just enjoy eating them as is. Well last week, I had a lovely visit with my friend’s parents…and they gave me about 80 figs to take home! For the past few days SensitiveHusband and I have been enjoying an ongoing fig feast!

And guess what other wonderfulness was bestowed on me? They gave me a small fig tree, grown from a piece of their own. It is now adorning my deck and has a few figs ripening on it. We will bring it in for the winter and intend to plant it in the springtime. I hope to experiment with fig recipes in the years to come. That is, if I don’t eat them all as I pick them!

Below is my first ever fresh fig recipe…the result is a fabulous dessert bar mixed with oats and walnuts. I started with a recipe from Simple Daily Recipes that used fresh figs (rather than dried) as the main ingredient. I substituted the cane sugar with honey and reduced the overall amount of sweetener used. I also played with the amount of water in the filling and added some chopped walnuts to the top for an extra flavor boost and crunch. These bars are so delicious; thanks to Tony and Sylvia for their hospitality and for sharing their figs and tree with me!

Ingredients:

Filling
*3 cups fresh figs, chopped and without stems (may be peeled or unpeeled)
*3/4 cup water
*1/2 cup honey
*pinch of salt
*2 tablespoons lemon peel, finely grated
*2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
*1 tablespoon water
*2 tablespoons lemon juice
*1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Crust
*1 cup butter
*1/2 cup honey
*2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
*pinch of salt
*3 cups oats
*1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Preparation:
Heat Oven to 350ºF.

For Filling: Combine figs, water, honey, salt and lemon peel in saucepan and simmer 1 hour or until dark and thickened, stirring occasionally. Combine flour and water and stir into fig mixture. Cook 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and walnuts.

For Crust: Mix butter with honey until light and fluffy. Combine flour, salt, and oats into creamed mixture. Divide mixture in half and place half into the bottom of a well-greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Spread the fig filling evenly over bottom layer. Sprinkle remaining half of crust mixture on top, along with the remaining walnuts, and press with fork.

Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cut into squares while still warm. Cool completely before removing from pan.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.