Archive for March, 2012

Bliss Bakery

Over the last few months, I’ve stopped by the Bliss Bakery booth almost every Saturday at the Santa Rosa farmers market to buy tasty treats (sometimes as a late not-so-healthy breakfast). If you want to buy their baked goods, make sure you go early; Bliss’s items are really popular and often sell out rather quickly. From my experiences, if you get to there around 11:00am or 12:00pm, you may find your choices a little slim. It really doesn’t matter what you buy though, since everything is very very good, vegan and gluten-free.

I have great news! Bliss Bakery now has a store front! Cori, one of the talented bakers, says the bakery is open Monday through Friday from 1:00pm to 6:00pm. They bake a variety of items daily. I went by on Thursday and bought freshly-made caramel blondies and a bunch of day-old almond maple bars, pecan “butter” cookies, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate hazelnut cookies, and the day-old items are only a dollar! The caramel blondies are much different than their chocolate chip blondies; instead of being in the regular muffin shape, they are baked in a pan like square-cut brownies. The blondies were nice and ooey-gooey after I warmed them up in the microwave for a bit. Cori said these blondies were actually a kind of experiment, but I think they turned out pretty well.

Everything looked lovely in the little pink box. It only cost $15 for the whole thing! I cleaned them out of all of the day-old cookies and bars. (We are having a painting party on Saturday, and I only had glutenous cookies in the house.) I took a picture but not until after Christopher ate two of the chocolate chip cookies and after I ate both of the blondies. Bliss’s Flax bread is nice and savory and perfect with either sesame (tahini) or almond butter spread on top. Their oatmeal raisin cookies are also scrumptious. Amazing!

When I first bought their cookies and bars (either last summer or the summer before that), I was only really impressed with the maple bars. I honestly wasn’t really impressed with their other items and only found them okay, nothing I would recommend. (At that time, The Cosmic Cookie Jar was still in Santa Rosa and had a booth at the Santa Rosa farmers market, but they don’t anymore. I really miss their mouth-watering cookies.) Since then, gluten-free recipes all over have advanced and improved, it seems, and (maybe as a result of that or merely trial and error) Bliss’s baked goods’ visual appeal, textures and flavors have improved astonishingly! Now everything tastes delicious and has great “mouth feel” and texture, definitely goodies I recommend.

I can’t wait to buy more from Bliss on Saturday. If they have another big blueberry coffee cake this week, I may have to just buy it, that is if lamb farmer from two weeks ago has lamb sausage, goat or rabbit. Some of the farmers aren’t at the market every week and are only there once or twice a month. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of all of the meat selling farm booths, since they seem to swap out all of the time. More than a few of the farmers are only at the market seasonally. Well, we’ll see. If the lamb farmer is there and I can get the sausage or other meats, I’ll make a post about it.  ^_^

Garlic Thyme Cheesy Kale Chips

I know kale chips are really “fashionable” right now, but they are actually really tasty, nutritious and super easy to make. Kale is rather mild in flavor and goes with pretty much anything. You can cook it like chard or other winter greens. Kale is great in sautes, soups, sandwiches and mixed in with other salad greens; use the tender younger leaves in raw dishes. You can make savory or sweet chips. I’ve made chips with sea salt and garlic, Italian herbs, and spicy paprika; I have seen recipes for chocolate kale chips and sweet cinnamon kale chips.

Many recipes say to remove the stems, but the entire leaf is edible. If you like celery, you’ll like kale stems, too. After stemming the kale leaves, you can snack on the stems like any other vegetable sticks and even dip them in hummus or some other tasty dip or dressing.

I bought my kale at the Santa Rosa farmers market. There are so many different kinds to choose from at the various farmers’ booths. The Himalayan sea salt and organic dried French thyme I used was from the Savory Spice Shop. The garlic I got was from Costco; to save time, I bought a peeled bag of Christopher Ranch heirloom garlic. I minced it in my food processor and bottled it in jars; it’s ready to go whenever I need it. Don’t worry though; it gets eaten before it has a chance to go bad. I bought the nutritional yeast in the bulk section at Oliver’s Market.

There are several kale cultivars available, some edible and some non-edible ornamental. Of course for making chips, you want use the edible ones. Red Russian kale has green leaves with purple veins and stems, whereas Siberian kale has white veins and stems and blue-green leaves. Tuscan (lacinato or dinosaur) kale is very dark green, and the leaves are shaped like romaine lettuce but are bumpy looking. Red variety of curly kale (or Scots kale) is entirely bright purple, stems, veins and leaves, whereas the green variety is blue-green. Another variety of Scots kale that is bronze-rust color near the edges, like red leaf lettuce.Like mustard, kale is in the cabbage family; there’s even a flat-leaved kale that looks much like mustard greens but lacks the spicy flavor kick.

Cheesy Garlic Thyme Kale Chips
Adapted from versions 2 & 3 of Raw Food: Kale Chips 9 Ways
You need 4 or 5 dehydrator trays.

1/3 C Filtered Water
1/2 tsp Himalayan Sea Salt
3 – 5 T Minced Garlic
1 T Dried Thyme Leaves
1/3 C Nutritional Yeast
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 C Kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces

To make the marinade, mix the water, salt, garlic, thyme and yeast in a large glass mixing bowl. Set this aside for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle and the thyme to hydrate. Mix the marinade again, and stir in the oil. Add half of the kale on top of the marinade in the glass bowl, and massage the marinade into the leaves. Don’t be afraid to really squish the leaves with your hands as you massage them; they will wilt anyway, which makes more room for the rest of the batch. Add the remaining kale, and continue to massage the marinade in until it is fully saturated.

To make raw dehydrated chips, line the dehydrator trays with non-stick flexible sheets or pieces of parchment paper. Transfer the kale bits to the trays, and spread them out so that the leaves do not overlap as they dry. Dehydrate the kale at 115°F for 4 to 6 hours, depending your desired crispness. To decrease the drying time, you can set the temperature to 145°F for the first hour without cooking the leaves; they will still be raw and merely loosing moisture (or so I have read). Check on the chips after 4 hours. If they are not dry enough, check again after an hour or two. If the chips are too crisp, the flavorings will flake off, so you may want to retain some flexibility if your chips are bigger than an half dollar.

To cook kale chips in your oven, preheat it to 350°F. Line some baking sheets with parchment paper. Transfer the kale to the baking sheets, but make sure the chips do not overlap. You don’t want them to stick together as they dry. Bake the chips for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once at about 12 to 15 minutes, half way through the cooking time. After 25 minutes, make sure you check the chips frequently for doneness so they do not burn or get to hard. Cool the chips for about five minutes, and then chow down!

Kale chips are a great substitute for carbohydrate-rich potato and corn chips. Plus, kale has a ton of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The chips are so tasty, it is easy to loose track of how many you have eaten. Make sure you portion some out for yourself, otherwise you may find that you have eaten half of the entire batch. That’s a lot of kale, although it is very very good.

Berry Preserves Thumbprint Cookies

Here are some cookies that Anise and I made. We converted the Jam Thumbprint Gems recipe from Anise’s mom’s cookie book into a version free of gluten and dairy. If you like you can easily make these cookies vegan by using flax or chia “eggs”. We used strawberry and raspberry preserves in the center of the cookies, but you can use whichever jams, jellies or preserves you want to, even marmalade or citrus curd. I like to buy mine at Oliver’s Market and the Santa Rosa farmers market.

Berry Preserves Thumbprint Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen

Olive Oil Cooking Spray
1/4 C Egg Whites
OR 1 Golden Flax or White Chia “Eggs” (1 T ground seeds + 1/4 C Filtered Water)
1 1/2 C Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
1/4 C Nana Mae’s Organic Apple Sauce
2 T Earth Balance Spread* or 2 T More Nana Mae’s Organic Apple Sauce
1/2 C Powdered Sugar or 1/2 C Powdered Sucanat (+ 1 T Cornstarch or Arrowroot Starch)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Extra Flour, as needed
1/4 C Strawberry Preserves
1/4 C Organic Raspberry Preserves
1 T Powdered Sugar (see above), optional garnish

*You can also substitute Earth Balance with extra virgin coconut oil.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease the cookie sheet with olive oil spray. Prepare the eggs. For flax or chia “eggs”, powder the seeds in a spice grinder. Mix the ground seeds with water, and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and spices with a fork.

In another large bowl, combine the apple sauce and buttery spread until it breaks down into pea-sized pieces (as needed). Mix in 1/2 cup of sugar, the egg and extract. Mix in the dry mixture with a wooden spoon. The batter should be stiff.

With flour-dusted hands, roll out single teaspoon-sized dough balls, no bigger. Add more flour** if necessary. We added at least 1/4 cup of extra all-purpose flour. If you do need to add more flour, just kneed in a small handful at a time. Remember that gluten-free flours do not absorb as much water as glutenous ones do; our dough was rather sticky. Place the cookies about 1 inch away from the cookie sheet edges and 1 inch apart. Press your thumb gently into the center of each cookie to make depressions for the jam. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of preserves into each cookie center. For whatever reason we thought it might be more fun or easier to use a frosting extruder; you can also use a zipper bag with a corner out off or a pastery bag. We filled half of the cookie indentations with each type of preserves.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are light brown or golden.

As tempting as the cookies are, make sure to completely cool them on a wire rack before you eat them. You do not want to burn your tongue with molten preserves, like I did.

At this point you can garnish the cookies with more powdered sugar or sucanat. We did not garnish ours.

**Coconut flour is particularly moisture absorbent.

Our cookies came out kind of dry and cracked-looking, maybe since we left out the yolks and changed the oil type. The recipe originally called for shortening, but I think I remember mixing in coconut oil instead. I wonder how they would turn out with just apple sauce and no oil. Any ideas?