Around 15 months ago I went to BlogHer Food, a food blogger’s conference, and a woman named Elana from my DH’s hometown of Boulder gave me some delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. They were from her blog, Elana’s Pantry, and her cookbook The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. As soon as I got home I ordered her cookbook and researched almond flour. Elana uses Blanched Almond Meal Flour (Bob’s or other meal type almond products won’t work in her recipes), so I ordered some of that, too. Meanwhile the severity of Baby Yum’s sensitivity to proteins in my milk was becoming increasingly clear to us, and on the recommendation of our pediatrician, I decided to go on a restricted allergen-free diet to continue breast-feeding her. All well and good, but that meant no nuts- and no almond flour, and hence, I couldn’t make a darned thing from Elana’s book. The almond flour went in the freezer, the cookbook went in the bookshelf, and I gnashed my teeth in frustration. And then I went and looked at my beautiful baby’s downy head, and touched her soft, round little cheek, and knew it was all worth it. Fast-forward a year and some. Baby Kira has outgrown her protein sensitivity and the pediatrician has cleared me for a normal diet, barring reactions. Nuts are back on the table, and so are Elana’s almond flour recipes.
This month for Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger I was a woman on a mission. I wanted to try as many of Elana’s recipes both from her blog and in her cookbook as possible. But where to start?
From her blog, I tried her chestnuts with brussel sprouts, pumpkin custard, pumpkin bars, cauliflower rice, and chocolate chip cookies.
On Thanksgiving we tried Elana’s Chestnuts with Brussel Sprouts. I was a little nervous to try a brand new recipe for a big holiday celebration with the in-laws, but it turned out beautifully. I always love creative brussel sprouts recipes that show people that there are more ways to prepare the vegetable than by boiling. It had never occurred to me to try sauteeing chestnuts with my brussel sprouts, and I loved the pan searing method. I usually roast them in the oven, but they were just as flavorful on the stovetop. I have to admit that I cheated and used prepared chestnuts, but only because they were out of fresh at the store, and I happened to have several packs of the prepared stuff in my cupboard. I loved the recipe, but I did catch my DH picking off the chestnuts. Apparently he doesn’t like them. Oh well, at least he ate the sprouts themselves. One small victory for green veggies! I would make this recipe again any time, and even for Thanksgiving again!
Elana’s vegan pumpkin custard recipe caught my eye with its creamy texture and intriguing flavoring. The cashew base was brilliant, and I was excited to try it. However, I think this may be one case where equipment really does matter. Elana uses a Vitamix and I don’t even have a blender right now, since an unfortunate incident involving hot soup and aging rubber spokes on a Kitchenaid blender. Oh how I wish I had a Vitamix, but it just isn’t in the budget. What I do have are a regular sized Kitchenaid Food Processor in Red and a mini Cuisinart food processor. I like them both, but they are not well suited to raw nut applications, and I ended up with a slightly chunky custard. Oops. Let me reiterate- I need a vitamix! or at least a new improved Kitchenaid. Can you tell I’ve been thinking about blenders a lot lately? Anyway, I loved the concept of this recipe but wasn’t able to execute it quite to my satisfaction. Also, it had a hard time competing at our table with more traditional, sweeter pumpkin pie. I thought the agar agar thickened very nicely, and might try it again if I had better equipment.
I was intrigued when I saw Elana’s recipe for Gluten-free dairy-free Pumpkin Bars. I love me some pumpkin bars! These didn’t disappoint. I happened to be out of pumpkin, but I had canned butternut squash, and you would never have known they weren’t made from pumpkin. Elana’s recipe yielded light, fluffy, pumpkin flavored bars that you would never guess were grain-free. I made this recipe for my Bay Area Celiac Support Group (otherwise known as gourmet dining potluck party group) and watched them vanish as if by magic. Every time I looked at the table, more were gone- and yet I hadn’t seen anyone take them! Truly, it was mysterious. Not that I wanted to hoard them for myself, of course. I also made a cashew cream “frosting” for them, but it wasn’t really necessary. Of course my husband said he wanted cream cheese frosting on them. That rebel. Since that post-Thanksgiving potluck, I’ve made them once more, and I see another batch in my future. This is the perfect bar, in my opinion. Not too sweet, but yet not too healthy tasting either. Low in guilt and high in satisfaction. A 10 out of 10. I’ll be making this many times in the years to come. It makes the requirements of Elana’s recipes- that expensive blanched almond flour and agave nectar- entirely worth it.
Since I’m currently not eating rice, I was intrigued to find this recipe for cauliflower rice on Elana’s blog. I loved the idea and thought it had lots of possibilities. I have to admit, I came up with my own version. Since I’d been so careful to follow her recipes exactly and I made so many of them, I was creative. I may share in upcoming days. But anyway, this recipe was a brilliant idea and it has lots of potential. Delicious as written, and delicious with changes too. Love it!
Somehow I forgot to take a picture of Elana’s Chocolate Chip cookies, which is ironic considering they are the recipe that inspired me to go on this journey. Whoops! I have to admit, I didn’t pack down my almond flour enough the first time around, and so my first batch of cookies spread out and were thin and soft. My mother-in-law liked them best this way, but I thought they were better when I packed down the flour more. Anyway, this is a brilliant recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies and Elana’s favorite chocolate chips make them extra-special. I have to admit, I just used the dairy-free chocolate chips in my pantry.
And now, for a review of some recipes from her cookbook! Speaking of Elana’s cookbook, at the last Blogher conference she gave me a copy for a reader giveaway. Yes, I have not one but TWO copies of Elana’s book! I’ll be keeping mine, but should you like a free copy of her book, enter by simply comment on this post and tell me what your favorite recipe from her blog (or cookbook) is and why. I’ll use some random number generator thingy to pick a winner and announce it on December 18th. For additional entries, you can
*UPDATE ON DEC 18 2010- the winner was Renee of Beyond Rice and Tofu. Congratulations, Renee!
*Since I’m paying out of pocket for postage, I’m afraid the contest is only open to those with a US mailing address. Sorry my dear international readers…
Chocolate Chip Scones
The first recipe I made from Elana’s cookbook were her Chocolate Chip Scones, on the recommendation of my fellow gluten-free blogger friends. I like scones, and I like chocolate chips. This recipe satisfied on both accounts. The scone was light, the chocolate chips were rich, and my dairy-free, low-carb Mother gave them a big thumbs up. We ate the batch so fast I was lucky to get a photo of any of them. I’ll be making this recipe again!
Apricot Orange Scones
This apricot orange scone recipe was a delightful surprise, and one that everyone enjoyed, even family members used to eating dairy and gluten. I liked the sophisticated flavor, reminiscent of biscotti, and the great texture characteristic of her baked goods. My lack of a blender was unfortunate, as my food processor left me with larger pieces of dried apricot than I think Elana’s original would have had. However, they tasted great and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I substituted maple syrup for part of the agave nectar because I ran out of agave halfway through making the recipe, and the maple syrup made them slightly sweet for my taste, but that is no fault of the recipe! I would make this for a fancy brunch or holiday treat any time!
These biscuits are an extremely versatile recipe, and I appreciated that they could be either made savory with vegan gravy or sandwich fillings, or sweet by topping them with jam. Elana even suggests using them for strawberry shortcake, which sounds delightful. This could be an everyday sandwich bread-type recipe. As always, the texture was perfect and the flavor was excellent. I’ll be making them again!
In short, every single recipe I tried from Elana’s blog or cookbook was delicious. I hadn’t been certain of whether I would like baked goods with only one flour in them, based in almond flour, eggs, agave nectar, and grapeseed oil. But when I tried them, I was very impressed with the texture and flavor. This cookbook simply won’t work if you have to avoid almonds (obviously) but eggs also play a very important role, so if you are allergic to eggs, it probably isn’t the cookbook for you. Now that I’m eating both almonds and eggs again, I enjoyed the cookbook immensely and I can’t wait to try more recipes! For those who are torn about agave, you can substitute a simple sugar syrup, palm sugar syrup, or maple syrup. For myself, I don’t worry too much as long as I have it in moderation. I have to admit, moderation becomes tough when her recipes are so tasty! Her blog is more accessible to multiple intolerances, as she has some gorgeous vegetable recipes that are gluten, dairy, and egg-free. I loved her savory dishes just as much as her sweet recipes, if not more, and I will be spending more quality time with her blog in the future. I’m so glad that I was inspired by Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger to get to know this quality Rock Star gluten-free blogger! And thank you, Elana, for sharing your unique culinary vision with your readers. You have opened my mind to new styles of baking and I have been inspired! I suspect we will see some original almond flour recipes at the Book of Yum here shortly.