Sunday, October 6, 2013

Raw brownies and a giveaway

It's been a long long time since I last posted here. Months seem to go by as fast as days and the recently gone summer was full of new activities and lots of work. After xmas I took on a new crafty hobby. Knitting and crocheting, which have kept me busy with all sorts of projects for family and friends. Baking has still been a part of what I do, but the continued heat over the last few months has kept my oven turned off to avoid heating our small apartment.

However, I recently purchased a food processor that needed some use. I had seen many many raw brownie recipes all over the internet and I was certainly curious as to whether or not they would be a suitable alternative to their baked cousin. Turns out they are incredibly flavorful and filling, but not heavy or sugary.

These little cubes of joy can be made from whatever ingredients you have in your pantry. Play with the nuts and the dried fruits to achieve the perfect brownie according to your taste. Add protein powder to them to make them post-workout protein bars. In other words, have fun with them.

My version of the treat had figs, date pieces, pistachios, walnuts and cocoa powder, along with a little bit of Zulka pure cane sugar. This recipe is part of the Non GMO month challenge hosted by Zulka. As part of this challenge, one of my readers will receive a free bag of their pure cane sugar. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post telling me what is your favorite fall recipe to make with pure cane sugar. The giveaway will be closed 10/31/13 at midnight. The winner will be selected at random. 

Now for the recipe...

1 cup walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 cup dried figs
1/2 cup date pieces (or chopped dates)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup Zulka pure cane sugar

Into a food processor fitted with the cutting blade (not the dough blade), add the figs, cocoa powder and sugar. Process the mixture until you obtain a dark homogeneous paste. Add the date pieces and pulse 5 times until only small bits remain. Add the walnuts and pistachios and pulse a few times until the nuts are chopped but visible chunks still remain. Cover a glass or plastic container in parchment paper and add the raw brownie mixture. Press the down until flat and cut it in squares. Keep in an airtight container for up to a week.


Disclaimer: I received no compensation to host the Zulka giveaway

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hazelnut brownies and my war against 'diets'

This is sort of a rant post. Why? Because I'm really sick of hearing about the newest diet that comes out every other year. The Atkins diet, the pineapple diet, the juice cleansing and the latest and most annoying, Paleolithic diet. I will say this right now, before I go on my rant. I am not a nutritionist, I am not a doctor and I have no health training other than reading literature about the chemistry of the human body.

I do however, have a good friend who is a nutritionist. I have commented with her that I am most certainly against these miracle diets that make you lose weight by eliminating a food group from your diet completely. She agrees. Now, don't take me wrong. If you're vegetarian or vegan and you have moral issues with eating certain foods, I get it. What I don't get is this idea that we should eat like the paleolithic man. Who by the way, wasn't even the same species of human we are.

Turns out that during the Paleolithic era, humans evolved from Homo Erectus, to the neanderthals and then to Homo Sapiens. Part of the human evolution was diet based. We introduced more foods to our diets and that allowed us to migrate to new regions and survive in periods of the year with less animals (meat) around. Turns out there are about 2000 years of Paleolithic history where humans started agriculture.

But wait, there's more. The paleo diet wants you to eat like a species of human that was LESS evolved than us. Had less brain capacity and shorter life expectancy. Seriously? am I the only one who finds this utterly ridiculous?

Anyway, I just don't believe in diets. I have tried them all. The Atkins, which gave me terrible results and meant I had to test my urine for compounds that in excess could be very detrimental to me. Does that sound good to you? The dissociated diet, so not mixing certain food groups with others. And so on and so forth. The result? none of them work. They all made me hungry, cranky and I didn't lose all that much weight.

You are obviously all free to do whatever you like with your body. I personally stick to eating low processed foods, local farm raised and grass fed animals (in a much lower proportion than veggies and grains) and no junk food. In combination with exercise, about 5 times a week, the result is 24 lbs lost in less than a year. I am not hungry, I am not cranky, I eat brownies, muffins, candy and whatever the hell I want. In moderation. I love carbs, I love grains and legumes. And I'm personally not about to give up any of that for a funky fad diet. I feel better than I have felt in my entire adult life.

That's my motto folks. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full. Exercise. If you want to control your candy/pastry intake, you can establish a rule. When it comes to baked goods, you pretty much don't eat anything you don't bake yourself.

One of my recent food changes has been to use only pure cane sugar. No refined sugar, just raw, turbinado, call it whatever you want. In my opinion, it tastes much better and the texture it gives to baked goods (and oatmeal) is much more interesting. Crunchy and with more depth of flavor. So when Madeleine at Zulka offered me to review their non-processed sugar, I was happy to do so. These brownies were made with their sugar and they have a slight crunch and almost a molasses flavor. As a disclaimer, I'll warn you that I didn't get any monetary compensation for reviewing this product. I got it for free, I tried it, I liked it and I'm letting you know about it. Pure cane sugar is the only one I've used for a few months now and Zulka is available at all major grocery stores. (Oh, the zip closure is a plus for clumsy people like me).

As I said before, I'm no doctor. I'm just offering my personal experience as a person who has struggled to lose weight her entire adult life and has managed to do so without going into radical diets. That's my five cents. And here's the recipe for hazelnut brownies. They taste almost like the hazelnut/chocolate spread you find at the store. But without all the junk. Enjoy!

Hazelnut brownies
adapted slightly from Alice Medrich

1 stick of butter
1/2 cup Zulka, or any other turbinado sugar
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped, plus a few for decorating

Preheat your oven to 350 F
Over a boiling water bath, melt the butter along with the sugar and cocoa powder until you have a thick but runny mixture (2nd photo). Remove the mixture from the heat and add two beaten eggs while whisking to prevent any curdling. Add the flour and hazelnuts and mix gently with a spatula. Do not overmix or the brownies will be tough. Pour the batter in a pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If desired, decorate with a few whole hazelnuts. Bake for 20-30 min until a knife inserted in the brownies comes out clean. Let the brownies cool before slicing. These freeze really well.