Carrot Cake Muffins

Hello, spring! I know I might be a little late to the game on this one, but carrots are still in season, and there’s no time like the present to enjoy them.

I’m always a little hesitant to test a new baking recipe, because my husband is brutally honest about grain-free baked goods. I know that baking can be a sort of alchemy: you can measure and weigh everything perfectly, calibrate your oven, and time it exactly, but the final results can mystify you. As I learn new techniques with grain-free baking, I find that “practice, practice, practice” has been the most helpful for me. Paying careful attention to your ingredients, especially the quality, can influence the final results. For example, there is a huge difference between two types of honeys that I use: Big Island Bees Ohia Lehua Blossom Honey, and Big Island Bees Wilelaiki Honey. If you click on those links, you can immediately see that the viscosity, color, and opacity are completely different on each of those honeys. I can tell you that the flavor is completely different as well: the Ohia Lehua honey is lightly sweet, with a wonderful crystalline texture; while the Wilelaiki honey is more caramel in flavor, with a smooth, syrupy texture. Each honey will bake differently, and impart a different flavor to the final product, so think about what types of ingredients you may use and how they will complement the final product.

And so, for these carrot cake muffins, I knew a deeper, more robust honey would complement the flavor, so I used the Pumpkin honey from Old Blue Raw Honey. I highly recommend both Old Blue and Big Island Bees for their wonderful selection of varietal honeys!

And so, on to the recipe. These muffins are low in sugar, plus they include vegetables, so you can definitely feel good about eating them…the frosting, however, is up to you! Some would say that a cream cheese frosting is necessary, but if you are not consuming dairy, I think coconut cream works just as well. Feel free to add walnuts, raisins, or toasted pecans to the batter for some extra texture!

Carrot Cake Muffins

It’s seasonal, full of vegetables, and a great idea for breakfast or dessert! The frosting is made with coconut cream for those of you avoided dairy, but can easily be swapped with a dairy frosting for those of you who enjoy it! Just swap the coconut cream concentrate for cream cheese, and swap coconut milk for whole milk, and you should be good!

Yields: 1 dozen muffins

  • For the muffins:
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded organic carrots
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cups raw honey
  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1 1/5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • For the frosting:
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream concentrate
  • 4 tablespoons light colored raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • The tiniest sprinkle of sea salt and the tiniest splash of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners, or grease the tin with coconut oil, butter, or shortening.

Place the dates in a bowl and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of warm water over them. Soften in microwave on half power for about a minute.

Make sure the shredded carrots are dry, and if they are moist, pat them dry with paper towels and set aside.

Place the dates, eggs, and honey in a food processor and blend for 30 seconds. Add the almond flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and process again for 30 seconds.

Place the dried carrots in the processor and pulse 2 or 3 times to blend, or blend by hand if you want to keep the structural integrity of the carrots more intact.

Divide batter evenly among each muffin cup, making sure you do not fill more than 2/3 of each cup. Bake for 28-31 minutes.

While the muffins are baking, decide if you'd like frosting, and then decide yes. Place all of the frosting ingredients in a stand mixer and blend on low until combined, or use a hand mixer and a slip-proof bowl and blend on low until just combined. Add more coconut cream concentrate if it looks thin, and add more coconut milk if it seems thick, and feel free to add a little more honey to your taste. The frosting will solidify once stored in the refrigerator.

Cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before adding any frosting.

  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 28 minutes
  • Total time: 48 minutes

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Puppy Chow Ice Cream

Happy Fourth of July! Time to celebrate with ice cream!

There are times in my life when I have an epiphany. Often when I cook or bake, my epiphanies come when I mix up leftovers together. Sometimes they come when I’m just sitting at the pantry, staring into the abyss. I was at my computer, staring into the abyss at this particular epiphany, but I knew immediately that it would change my life.

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OK, maybe that is a bit hyperbolic. But if you have a background like mine, specifically the St. Louis Catholic all-girls high school background, then you know the importance of puppy chow. Puppy chow has many other names, like muddy buddies or monkey munch. It’s essentially a snack mix originally made of Chex cereal, coated in a chocolate peanut butter mixture, then tossed with powdered white sugar, often with other add-ins like candy or nuts. This is obviously not Paleo in the slightest, so my version of puppy chow has a different texture, plus the flavor of coconut, in addition to the chocolatey, nutty, sweet taste. I find it very delightful, and I’m sure you will too!

puppychowingredients

This recipe needs time to cool and freeze, and it takes several steps, so this is not a quick dessert choice. I break it into 5 main steps: making the puppy chow, cooling it, making the ice cream base, cooling it, then churning them together. I think it makes the most sense to make the puppy chow first, refrigerate overnight, then make and freeze the ice cream the next day, while adding in the puppy chow. Just don’t add the puppy chow into the ice cream while it’s hot – it will definitely melt the ice cream, and make a slushy mess in the ice cream machine!

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Puppy Chow Ice Cream

This recipe has a few steps with waiting and cooling periods, but it is SO worth it. First, toast your coconut flakes, then mix up your melted chocolate/nut butter mixture, place the flakes and mixture in a plastic bag and shake it up! Then coat the flakes with maple or powdered coconut sugar. After it has cooled, mix in with a vanilla ice cream base, and you’ve got one of the best desserts of all time.

  • Paleo Puppy Chow:
  • 2 cups toasted coconut flakes (instructions to follow)
  • 1.75 oz dark chocolate, or approximately 1/8 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
  • 1/8 cup almond or other nut butter
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup maple or powdered coconut sugar
  • Vanilla Ice Cream:
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups almond or cashew milk
  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar

First, toast the coconut flakes by spreading them out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and baking them at 300 degrees for about 5 minutes, or until they are a nice golden brown color. Let cool.

While the flakes are baking, gently melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave on low (on power level 4 or less), stopping to blend at 30 second intervals. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't seize up. After about a minute, add in the nut butter and continue to gently melt together. Once it is a smooth liquid, add the vanilla extract last and stir together.

Take the cooled flakes and scoop them into a plastic bag. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bag and gently shake it until the flakes are fully coated. This is a delicate process, because you can easily smash the flakes into crumbs, but since they're going into ice cream, you can just aim for evenly sized pieces.

Next, pour in your powdered sweetener and gently shake until everything is coated. Unfortunately, since powdered maple and coconut sugars are translucent, the puppy chow will not have that characteristic bright white of powdered refined sugar, but I promise, it's just as delicious. Place the bag in the freezer for 20 minutes or refrigerator for an hour.

Next, place all ice cream ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until fully incorporated. Place ice cream base into a freezer-safe container and place in freezer for 30 minutes or into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Once chilled, place the ice cream base into your ice cream machine and follow instructions to make vanilla ice cream. Add the cooled puppy chow near the end of the freeze cycle, reserving several handfuls to sprinkle on top. Enjoy!

  • Preparation time: 30 minutes to 4 hours
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: around 1 hour 30 minutes

Honeycomb Ice Cream

It’s no secret that I love ice cream. And honey. Those two things together make magic.

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In my never-ending quest to make the perfect ice cream, I think I’ve come pretty close with honeycomb ice cream. It has the perfect ratio of sweetness to fat, with a smooth creamy texture punctuated by semi-frozen crystals of honeycomb. And, even better? It doesn’t freeze solid into a brick like most of my ice creams do in my freezer. Somehow it retains its creamy texture, and resists freezer burn.

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The only problem is that honeycomb is both expensive and hard to find. I usually buy it when I see it, and it’s usually around $16 a pound or so. I would say use it judiciously: either eat it whole, put a small amount in a high quality tea, or the best application (in my opinion) mix it into vanilla ice cream!

honeycomb_closeup

This recipe is wonderful on its own, but it pairs really well with a salted caramel sauce, fresh strawberries, or even a few dark chocolate chips. I was being very intuitive when I was making this ice cream so the measurements might be a bit off, but this is the best I can remember.

Honeycomb Ice Cream

In my opinion, this is the best application of honeycomb. It’s sweet, delicious, and the little frozen crystals of honey make the ice cream surprisingly pleasant.

  • 1 can organic full-fat coconut milk
  • 1.5 cups of homemade almond milk
  • ~0.5 lb of honeycomb in honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of collagen hydrolysate dissolved in 0.25 cup of water (this acts as a stabilizer so that the ice cream keeps its texture)

First, dissolve collagen hydrolysate in water by mixing together with a spoon. Then, place all ingredients except the honeycomb in a blender.

Blend ingredients on high until fully blended. Pour as much of the liquid honey into the blender as you can, then blend on high.

Break the honeycomb into smaller chunks and either mix in by hand or with the blender on low. You do not want to fully break down the honeycomb, since it adds a wonderful texture to the ice cream. You can also save some honeycomb to mix into the ice cream later while it is churning in the ice cream maker. Once it's uniformly spread in the ice cream base, pour the ice cream into an airtight container.

Refrigerate for 4 hours or more, or you can freeze for 1 hour and then pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Honey Cinnamon Graham Crackers

Hello!

Hope you are staying warm during this winter freeze. I know I’m getting sick of this weather. We already had a record-smashing blizzard that caused 2 power outages in my building, so I thought the worst was over. Then yesterday we get hit with a little snow and ice storm that gave us an additional 2 power outages (although these were shorter)! It’s pretty ridiculous that my building had so many power outages, considering we’re in the middle of the city and on 2 power grids! What is happening?! Well, anyway…

Whenever I make ice cream for my husband, it usually requires 6 to 8 egg yolks. Now…what to do with all of those leftover egg whites? I am not one to waste things, and egg whites are very versatile. So I actually like to make a little treat for myself – honey cinnamon graham crackers!

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The key to this recipe is to keep the oven temperature low and to watch them so they don’t burn. The crackers on the exterior of the pan will cook much faster, so I usually place the thicker crackers there because they take longer to cook. They’re still tasty when they’re burned, though, so don’t throw them away! They are quite crispy…just not quite as photo-worthy.

IMG_9073

Honey Cinnamon Graham Crackers

Yields: 2 dozen crackers (depending on size)

  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup coconut flour, sifted
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2 cup raw honey, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In one bowl, mix together dry ingredients (coconut flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda). In a separate bowl, mix together softened honey and coconut oil until uniform. Add vanilla extract, mix until uniform. Add room temperature egg whites and mix until uniform. Once the batter looks thoroughly mixed, carefully sift in dry ingredients until a nice, smooth batter is formed.

Take out dough and roll into a ball on a sheet of parchment paper. Take another sheet of parchment paper and place on top of dough, and using a rolling pin, roll out dough until it is a little less than 0.25 in thick. Using a pizza cutter or other rotary cutter, cut crackers to your desired width. Also, use a toothpick to poke holes all over the dough.

Very carefully, using a thin spatula, transfer the cut crackers to your parchment paper. Roll up remaining dough and form into crackers until all of the dough is used. Since I am a perfectionist, I use the pizza cutter to force the leftover dough into nice rectangles, instead of raggedy-edged crackers.

Bake for a total of 18 minutes. After 9 minutes, switch racks so that they cook more evenly. Start watching them at 15 minutes to make sure they don't burn! Depending on how thick they are, they cook unevenly.

Let cool, then enjoy! Maybe with a cold glass of almond milk.

  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 18 minutes
  • Total time: 38 minutes
avocado pumpkin cookies

Avocado Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I love autumn. It’s in my name.

My maiden name is “Herbst,” which as you may know, is the German word for “autumn.” So when this time of year rolls around, I can’t resist trying out new autumn recipes. I particularly love pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash, acorn squash, apples of all varieties, and pears… all those good things!

above_pumpkincookies

So I noticed today that I had a very ripe avocado, some leftover apple butter, and a half of a can of pumpkin puree. I thought I could maybe pull some cookies together out of that, and I was very pleased with the result!

avocado pumpkin cookies

I really like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, so I may have added more than some people would deem necessary…so I would recommend tasting the batter to make sure it isn’t overpowering for you! Yes, there are raw egg yolks in here, so if you don’t feel comfortable trying it, then have faith in my heavy-handiness in spices.

avocado pumpkin cookies

As always, this recipe can easily be molded around what fall favorites you have in your kitchen: apple or pumpkin butter; almond or any other nut/seed butter, and if you don’t have a ripe avocado on hand, then I think 1/3 cup of unsalted butter or palm shortening would work too. The measurements might be slightly off, but as you are pureeing in your food processor, you can check the texture to see if it needs more oil (the texture should resemble a smooth, thick applesauce).

 

Avocado Pumpkin Spice Cookies

This is a sort of “kitchen sink” cookie I made with leftover avocado, pumpkin puree, and apple butter. It actually turned out quite nice with a smooth texture, and an almost molten center. It has a very autumnal flavor profile with cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin, and the avocado is a healthy fat that adds smooth texture and does not interfere with the flavor!

Yields: Approximately 12-18 cookies

  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple or pumpkin butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seed butter
  • just under 1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut avocado and spoon flesh into a food processor. Add egg, pumpkin puree, coconut sugar, and apple or pumpkin butter. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. Then add the baking soda, salt, spices, and pumpkin seed butter (you can substitute almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter) and puree again. After the puree is smooth, sift in the coconut flour and puree quickly. Once all ingredients are incorporated, use a cookie dough scoop or spoon to drop cookies onto the parchment paper. Place in the oven and bake for 13 - 16 minutes, depending on your oven. I switched racks halfway through, at about 7 or 8 minutes. Cookies will be a dark brown, almost chocolate-like color and will start to crackle when ready. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then dig in!

  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 16 minutes
  • Total time: 31 minutes