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Welcome to my food blog!

Featuring delicious recipes made healthier and reviews to give you some new ideas, plus, some toddler food ideas.

Fudgy Gluten-Free Caramel Brownies

Posted by Ann | Posted in All Recipes, Ann's Favorites, Cookie and Bar Recipes | Posted on 19-05-2009

Photo by Roland A. Manarin

My mother-in-law makes the best caramel brownies with the caramel sandwiched between two layers of brownie.  Everyone requests them for any type of special occasion and she graciously makes them every single time.  I’ve made them before but they are time-consuming and not at all healthy, so I usually just chow on hers when she makes them!  This past weekend, she made them for my brother-in-law before he goes away for the summer.  As I ravenously munched on one…I realized, I can make this healthy and organic!  Well…healthier anyway.  The original ingredients are: a German chocolate cake mix, a stick of butter, 50 caramels (or a pound), 2/3rds cup evaporated milk, and 1 cup of chocolate chips. 

As I said, the original recipe is delicious but full of processed foods with hydrogenated fats and who knows what else.  For starters, I decided to add some Salba(or chia seeds) to mine to kick up the nutrition.  I borrowed the caramel recipe, consisting of organic honey and organic cream, from 101cookbooks.  I think it tastes better than any store-bought caramels anyway!  This version is dark-chocolatey but sweetened up with the caramel layer, it’s ooey, gooey, and delicious!  If you could see me right now, I’m dancing all over the place.  This is a little time-consuming and messy, but well worth it if you’re able to come up with the time.  I think I’m in caramel brownie heaven.

Ingredients:

  • 15-16 oz bag of bitter-sweet chocolate chips.  I used Ghiradelli 60%
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp stevia
  • 5 Tb ground Salba or Chia seeds, I grind mine in the coffee grinder, but buying them pre-ground would’ve been less messy
  • 1/2 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tb vanilla
  • 1/2 cup almond flour, packed
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour (or, instead of almond and brown rice, use 3/4 cup of whatever flour/flour mix you like…using coconut flour you’ll have to add lots more eggs.)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup heavy cream (for caramel)
  • 1 cup honey (for caramel)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (for caramel)

Method:

  • Click here for instructions on how to make the caramel.   …make caramel.  The caramel cools while you’re putting together the brownie ingredients so you may not need to put it over ice.  I did not.  I let mine get to 230 degrees and took it off the heat -I didn’t want the caramel to harden quite as much as if it were to be on an apple.  If you want less caramel, you can just use whatever ratio you prefer (3/4 cup cream to 3/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup to 1/2 cup)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9×13″ pan
  • In a saucepan, melt butter and chocolate chips over medium, remove from heat when melted.  Add Salba, brown sugar, stevia, salt, vanilla and applesauce.
  • mix together brown rice flour, almond flour and baking soda 
  • Make sure the chocolate mixture is not too warm, then add eggs, easiest to use a fork or a whisk to get them incorporated
  • Add flour mixture, stir well
  • Pour half of the brownie mixture into pan.  To be on the cautious side, pour a little less than half.  Put in the oven and bake 6-7 minutes
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool a couple of minutes
  • Pour caramel mixture into the pan, spread it around to cover bottom brownie layer completely
  • Slowly piece together pieces of the brownie batter and flatten it and put on top of the caramel.  It’s more like a spoonful at a time, slowly making sure that all of the caramel is as covered as you can get it.  I was able to cover up all of the caramel 
  • Put in oven and cook another 18-20 minutes
  • Allow to cool completely, if you’re impatient like me, I put mine in the fridge to cool off.  These are too good to wait for!

If you don’t have Chia seeds or Salba, I think you can probably just omit it.  Here are a few resources if you’d like to read more about the health benefits.  Just hover over the word:  Salba brand, some chia info,  this one quotes Oprah’s Dr. Oz…of course, they’re touting their product, and here’s a not-so-biased information set.

…A note on the chocolate.  As we all know by now, dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate.  I find the darkest chocolate too bitter, I can comfortably go up to 63% where I think it tastes the best, but much more darkness and my enjoyment factor is gone.  If you can go darker, do it in this recipe!  If you don’t like it at all, just use milk  chocolate chips or semi-sweet, which are sweeter than 63% or bittersweet.  I had a good time one day about 8 years ago buying all kinds of percentages of fancy chocolate and having my own little taste test.  If you’re not sure what you like best, try that out!

Reviews of True Lemon and Nature’s Splash

Posted by Ann | Posted in Reviews | Posted on 13-05-2009

Lemon Drinks

 

First off, I feel so dumb taking pictures of products, but I can’t find the images online of one of the products so I figured I’d just take one nice snapshot so you can see what I’m talking about.  I’ve been really into lemon stuff for some reason over the past year.  Even lemon beverages!  I’m really happy to have found both of these products for different reasons.  I’ll start with the one I’ll be most likely to buy again:

True Lemon  is basically just lemon flavor, no sugar.  The ingredients are: citric acid, lactose, lemon juice, lemon oil, maltrodextrin, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).  One packet has zero calories and 25% Vitamin C.  I like it because when I run out of lemons at home and I really want lemon in my water, this does the trick.  It’s a little stronger so you may not want to empty the whole packet in to your tall glass of water.  Or…you can do what I do and just chug the first few drinks and then refill for a normal lemon-water flavor.  I think the best part of this is if you are afraid of getting feces in your water.  You know… haven’t you seen all the media stories scaring us into lemon (and ice for that matter) in our water at restaurants, airplanes and wherever.  Even with all the scientific data about poop in our water, I still brave the lemons at restaurants.  Anyway, if you’re afraid of it, this is a nice option to get rid of city water flavor at restaurants or just zest up your water.  Just throw some packets in your purse or pocket and you’re good.

Nature’s Splash is a lemonade drink mix meant to be mixed with 16 oz of water.  The ingredients are: evaporated cane juice, citric acid, malic acid, maltodextrin, less than 2% lemon juice solids, natural flavor, rebiana (Truvia), salt, soy lecithin and magnesium oxide.  Basically, it’s supposed to be better for you than a regular sugar-full glass of lemonade.  One packet has 50 calories and 12 grams of sugar.  The flavor is actually pretty darn good!  It’s not freshly made lemonade, but it’s a great alternative if you’re trying to not spike your blood sugar.  The lemon flavor is nice and mild and not too sugary.  This makes me happy because Truvia brand sweetener is made of stevia (and if you’ve read my post on  supertasters), then you’ll know that stevia is typically too bitter for me but I want to like it because so far it seems like the best, most natural, no-cal sweetner for you.  That’s probably why they added evaporated cane juice, to reduce the bitterness of the stevia.  However, maybe the lemon flavor alone does the trick. 

If you check out the True Lemon website, they’ve also got a lemonade type drink also made with truvia.  However, it only has 5 calories per serving (not sure of how many ounces that is) and is only made with Truvia for a sweetener…intriguing.  It may be bitter or it may be a great alternative to high-sugar lemonades.

You can also try a free sample!  Gotta love that…click here.  If you live in the Omaha area and want to purchase either of these items, I bought the True Lemon at No Name Nutrition and the Nature’s Splash at Whole Foods.  No Name Nutrition is a great place to go if you want any natural remedies.  These people do their research constantly and really love what they do and you can tell the difference.

Let’s hope Truvia and the other stevia-derived sweeteners don’t end up messing with our bodies after being processed…the study should come out about 10 years from now after we’ve all ingested a few tons of it each.  Here’s a great article on the safety of Truvia and stevia.

Super what? Supertaster!

Posted by Ann | Posted in Food Chatter | Posted on 21-04-2009

I just thought of the ”Supertaster” again after having experimented with stevia in some made-up cookie recipes.  So far, the people that have tried the cookies liked them but I think it leaves a bitter aftertaste.  Stevia is such a wonderful, healthy option to replace sugar in your baking recipes and so I really want to like it!

In college, I attended a lecture about supertasters.  First thing, the presenter handed these tiny strips to everyone attending the lecture.  We were all told to put these strips on our tongue.  I will tell you, this strip was extremely bitter and nasty and I about gagged!  The strange thing was, as I looked around most people had a very mild reaction or no reaction whatsoever!  There were a few bewildered students like me making grotesque faces and wondering what in the world was going on and why weren’t the rest of the attendees begging for water?  I think this was a huge source of amusement for the presenter, who went on to say that if this strip tastes unbearably bitter and nasty, you are a supertaster, if the strip tastes slightly bitter, you are normal, and if the strip doesn’t evoke a reaction, then you are a nontaster.  A supertaster has an unusually high number of taste-buds.  About 25% of the population are supertasters, 50% are medium-tasters, and 25 are nontasters.  Apparently, supertasters are more sensitive to bitter compounds in foods as well as fatty food textures.  The theory goes that this is an evolutionary bonus and negative as well.  Back in the day, sensitivity to bitter flavors helped distinguish poisonous plants thus allowing for better chances of survival.  Also, supertasters (not all) tend to be thinner due to the sensitivities of experiencing more intense reaction to bitter, fatty, and even super-sweet foods.  However, supertasters (again, not all) tend to avoid some bitter perceived foods such as broccoli and grapefruit and then miss out on the health benefits and are more susceptible to illness for that reason.

If you’d like to learn more about the chemical component used originally and now to test for supertasters, here is a great article from the New York Times in 1997:    An excerpt from the article, “While all humans are born with an innate liking for sweets,  supertasters find many sugary foods to be sickeningly sweet. Frosting is yucky. Saccharine has a strong aftertaste. Coffee is too bitter, and alcohol too sharp. Hot peppers and ginger produce an unpleasant burn. Food should be tepid.”  For me, the majority of these statements are true.  However, everyone is different and not all supertasters are the same.  I have a sweet-tooth.  For the most part, the sweets I eat are healthier versions and not overly sweet; I prefer cream cheese frosting and often scrape off the regular stuff.  I cannot stand the fat in meat and so if a meat is fatty, I usually can’t get through more than a bite or two of it.  I add milk to my coffee and for the most part think hard alcohol is nasty unless disguised by something (mmmm, rum cake!).  I do like spicy foods though, so there’s my little quirk I guess.  I can taste the heat, but I think it’s fun!

Supertasters do not have superior taste-buds, just more sensitivities due to more papillae (taste-buds).  If you’re a woman and have ever gotten pregnant, you may have noticed your sensitivities increase.  That is your body trying to protect itself from illness from you and your child.  You probably experienced a supertaster year!  I swear that ever since I got pregnant two years ago, my tastebuds got even more sensitive than before, and it never truly went away.  I preferred being less sensitive personally.  It’s easier!  However perhaps I should be thankful for this because maybe I’m a food nut due to all those extra tastebuds?  Either way, the supertaster phenomenon is pretty interesting to me, and if you’re curious, you can always purchase a test strip on the internet or dye your mouth blue:  http://www.slashfood.com/2006/01/22/are-you-a-supertaster/

Maybe I’ll like stevia when I’m older.

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