October 14, 2013

Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free: review, recipe and giveaway


Today's my day to host a stop on the blog tour for Ricki Heller's new cookbook, Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free. I just want to say before I begin, that you need this book. Whether or not you have food sensitivities, you probably have friends who do, and how great would it make you feel to be able to make your friends a fabulous dessert they can enjoy? Not to mention that you will love the desserts, too, because this isn't just a great gluten-free dessert book, it's a great dessert book. Period.

Seriously, Ricki is the wizard of healthy, allergy-free desserts — maybe because she's had lots of practice in dessert-making and-eating. With a monster sweet tooth, she's struggled all her life with sugar cravings. When health issues forced her to rethink her diet, she developed new recipes that were both indulgent yet suitable for her new way of life.

Ricki says, "As more and more of us seek a healthier diet and lifestyle, finding a dessert that tastes great without contributing in some way to ill health can seem like an impossible task. After all, isn't a 'healthy dessert' an oxymoron? We're left wondering: is it possible to enjoy authentic desserts without consuming any of these unhealthy foods? With this book, I hope to prove that you can have your cake and great health too!"

A pan of freshly baked butterscotch blondies, cooling.

There are 100 recipes for wonderful desserts that look and taste amazing. Everything from cheesecakes to cupcakes to butter tarts to bundt cakes, whoopie pies, cookies, ice cream and raw cookie dough bites have been perfected for your table. In addition to the recipes and lots of gorgeous photos, there are more than 30 pages of information covering topics like supplying the pantry, ingredients, tips and techniques, and kitchen equipment. Speaking of ingredients, it's true that if you are already cooking and baking to accommodate allergies or other health issues, your pantry may be stocked with foods many people have never heard of, but many of our pantries may be missing some of the less typical ingredients. If using recipes with unusual ingredients has you worried, fear not, Ricki provides loads of substitutions for less common items. Don't have coconut sugar on hand? It's OK to use regular sugar. You may even find that expanding your pantry to include a few new ingredients, can be a good thing.


One of my favorite recipes from Ricki's first cookbook was Butterscotch Blondies. (recipe to follow) In fact, I was so fixated on the blondies that I almost couldn't make anything else. (Click here to see the old recipe on her blog.) In her new book, Ricki has updated the recipe to make it gluten-free and allergy-friendly without compromising the yummy flavor and great chewy texture. Of course, the blondies were the first thing I made from Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free, and it took a lot of will-power to make myself try another recipe rather than making the blondies again and again. (I didn't have goji berries so I used dried cranberries, but next time I'm thinking of using dried bananas.)


But, in the interest of maintaining a balanced diet, ahem, I whipped up a batch of Easiest Almond Cookies. When I was a child, my family used to go to Philadelphia's Chinatown every Sunday night for dinner before visiting my aunt, uncle and cousin in West Philly. To complete the meal, I always ordered an almond cookie for dessert. When I saw Ricki's recipe, I was eager to revisit my childhood memory. Ricki doesn't place an almond in the center of her cookies, but I just had to press one into each cookie so they would look like the ones from the Dragon Gate restaurant. Ricki's cookies are chewier and a little less sweet, but just as delicious as the ones I remember.


When I first saw Ricki's recipe for Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, on her blog, I was skeptical, to put it mildly. Rather than being made with a stick of butter, it's made with sweet potato. Eewww, right? I was so surprised by the ingredients, I had to try it for myself, and now it doesn't even seem weird to me. The taste and texture are fabulous, and everyone I've served it to loves it as much as I do. Actually, no one has a clue the frosting contains sweet potatoes — and I don't always tell.

Sellers Publishing has given me permission to share Ricki's recipe for Butterscotch Blondies, and I've provided links to the other recipes mentioned in my post. In addition, the publisher will send a free copy of the cookbook to one of my readers, randomly selected from the commenters. If you want to be eligible to win, please be sure your comment is connected to an email address so I can contact you. The book drawing is limited to North America, but please don't let that stop you from leaving a comment. I love comments! If you live in North America and wish to be entered in the drawing, please type 'book' after your comment. The contest is open until midnight, Oct. 19.


Butterscotch Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Goji Berries                Makes 16
These are a favorite dessert in our house. They are rich tasting and chewy, and the combination of lucuma with coconut sugar and coconut nectar is, I think, very reminiscent of butterscotch. I love using dried, super-healthy goji berries in these bars, but dried cherries or cranberries work just as well. In fact, feel free to stir in any additions you like, as long as you keep the same proportions. For instance, one alternative I really enjoy is pistachios and chopped dried apricots. ~ Ricki
  • 1 cup (135 g) Ricki's All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix (see page 22)*
  • ¾ cup (75 g) whole oat flour (to make your own, see page 35)
  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) lucuma powder
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) xanthan gum (use only Bob’s Red Mill brand if you are concerned about a corn allergy)
  • ⅓ cup (25 g) coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water
  • ½ cup (120 ml) coconut nectar
  • ⅛ tsp (.5 ml) pure stevia powder or
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) pure plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste
  • ⅓ cup (90 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
  • 1 Tbsp (30 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) rum, butterscotch, or brandy flavoring (optional)
  • ½ cup (100 g) unsweetened carob chips or dairy-free dark chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) dried goji berries, cherries, cranberries, or dried fruit of your choice
  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F (170˚C). Line an 8-inch (20-cm) square pan with parchment paper, or spray well with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, lucuma powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. 
  3. In a large bowl, mix the coconut sugar and water until the sugar begins to dissolve. Add the coconut nectar, stevia, oil, vanilla, and flavoring, if using, until well blended. Gently stir in the chips and gojis.
  4. Pour the dry mixture over the wet ingredients and stir to blend. You will have a thick and sticky batter. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through baking, until a tester inserted in the center comes out just barely clean (a moist crumb or two is fine). Take care not to overbake, as these will dry out! The top may fall a little as it cools; this is fine. Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting into squares. May be frozen. 
*You can use your favorite GF flour mix, Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix, etc.

This material is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce without the publishers permission.
Full disclosure: I received the cookbook without cost. All opinions are my own. I was not paid for my review.

    51 comments:

    1. Those blondies look amazing! I would love to try out this cookbook since we're vegan and my husband has Celiac disease. book

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      Replies
      1. This would be the perfect book for you — everything is gluten-free!

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    2. Oh my gosh, Andrea, I'm all ferklempt!! Thank you so much for this amazing review. I do remember when you first tried that frosting and were skeptical--and then how much you cheered for it after that! I love that you put an almond on each almond cookie (why did I never think of that??) and so glad you can still enjoy the blondies--gluten free!! Yours look incredibly gooey and yummy, too.

      Thank you for being part of the blog tour, too--it would not have been the same without you. Hope Miss E got some of that cake! :D xo

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      1. You're welcome! I really do think everyone needs a copy of your book. As for the almonds, I was just copying the cookies I used to eat. You should be more surprised that I could remember it!

        Rest assured that Miss E has sampled and given her approval to everything in the post, as have her parents.

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    3. I would love to try out these scrumptious blondies.

      book. :)

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    4. I love Ricki's recipes she is such a wonderful cook! Book.

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    5. pick me pick me!! need a cookbook that's gluten-free and vegan - needing to bake with healthy alternatives

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    6. Yum! I used to love Butterscotch—I will have to give these a try!

      book!

      sarah@frieddandelions.com

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    7. I just love Chocolate Buttercream Frosting on Brownies - book

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    8. I love Ricki's website. I would love to win her book! I'm a vegan that's allergic to wheat Ricki is a sanity saver!

      BeccaMFerguson@aim.com

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    9. My grandma used to make blondies when I was a kid...they looked just like these! I'd love the liqueur-spiked version now that I'm grown up. ;)
      Thanks for the links to the other recipes, especially the buttercream frosting...yum!
      book

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      1. The first time I had blondies was when I made Ricki's recipe, but I've had them so many times since then that it FEELS like I've had them since I was a kid!

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    10. Just saw the giveaway post on Richa's blog! All of Ricki's desserts look wonderful especially the butterscotch blondies with chocolate chips & goji berries, yum! Thank you for the awesome review, Andrea!

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      Replies
      1. Ricki has a knack for making desserts both healthy and decadent. How does she do it?

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    11. Darn it - another fab giveaway for the book I can't enter as I'm on the wrong continent! I guess I'll just have to comfort myself my making some blondies!

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      Replies
      1. Joey, a UK giveaway is coming up, I believe! Check the general book page on my blog periodically for updates. :)

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      2. If I see one, I'll let you know!

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    12. I'd love to win this! I'm gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free. Always looking for healthy alternatives and these look SOooo good.
      Book.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. The book would really be a great resource for desserts that would work for you.

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    13. The blondies from the first book were my absolute favorite thing from the book! They are amazing. I even took them into work and people begged me to make them again and for the recipe. SO good! All of Ricki's recipes are great, but those are probably my absolute favorite :-) Book

      Courtney

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      Replies
      1. Yes, my favorite recipe, too. The GF ones are a little different, but still great.

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    14. Awesome review! I totally remember almond cookies from my childhood too! The ones from Chinatown always had the almond in the middle. I would get the cookbook just for that recipe. Although everything else you made looks super yummy too. :-)
      book

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. The almond cookies I remember were big and shiny — the only dessert I ever ordered.

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    15. I love how food items that hold such sentimentality can be veganized :-)

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      Replies
      1. Are there sentimental vegan food items that omnivores un-veganize? I wonder.

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    16. Oh, thanks for this giveaway! It sounds like a wonderful to book to have on hand. You did a great review for it, too. I'm pretty sure you have my e-mail...:-) Oh, and "BOOK."

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      Replies
      1. Hey, you got here in time to enter! I think it IS a wonderful book and I'm sure I'll use it often. Not only do I have your email, I know your real name. Don't worry, I'll never tell :)

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    17. There has been so much great buzz about this book! I am new to gluten-free baking but it's something I definitely want to improve on.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. All the buzz is well-deserved!

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    18. Great review! I would love to get a copy of this book as I'm vegan and gluten-free and trying to cut down on traditional sweets. It looks like this book would satisfy my cravings! book

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Thank you. I think you'd find the book very useful!

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    19. Replies
      1. Hi Donna! Thanks. I'm starting to get the hang of GF desserts, but Ricki is a true master.

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    20. Your pictures are gorgeous Andrea! I'm a big Ricki fan and have just got my copy of the book. Struggling to decide which recipe to start with though!

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      Replies
      1. Thank you! It's always hard to pick a recipe when there are so many gorgeous photos and everything sounds so good. I think my next one might be cinnamon crumb coffee cake.

        Delete
    21. Those blondies look so good! And thanks for the vote of confidence on the frosting too, I am a little scared of veggies in frosting. I would love a copy of this!

      BOOK

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    22. I'm so excited about this book! Love love love powerful women who share their passion! I'm a gluten free vegan looking for more sweetness in my life :) Please submit my name for your draw!

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    23. I keep trying to win this book. The recipes I have seen are fantastic. Book

      ReplyDelete
    24. This book sounds like a must have. Love treats but try so hard to avoid white sugar. Thank you for the opportunity! :) book.

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    25. I can't remember the last time I had a brownie/blondie. That's just sad :( You're right, Ricki is a wizard and thank you Sellers Publishing for the book giveaway. (dede12812 at hotmail dot com) book

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    26. I have really tried to lessen my sugar addiction the past year or so. I would love to give this book a try and am very intrigued about the sweet potato frosting! (book)

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    27. I've been looking for guidance in cooking more healthfully... especially desserts which I love to make, but don't really need to eat all the butter, refined flower and sugar of traditional recipes.

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    28. Yay! I love Ricki and her amazing recipes! What an awesome review of an awesome cookbook. I am working on one of my humongous cookbook-review posts for this one, but it's going to take a while because I just don't know when to stop baking!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I can just imagine what you're up to!

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    29. Awesome giveaway! Those blondies look incredible!

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    30. I've been curious to try that chocolate buttercream frosting ever since I've seen it, as I really love the idea of using a sweet potato to make it. I've got to bake a cake to have something to put it on! Also, even though I had seen the recipe for those blondies before, your pics truly make it clear that these are a must-bake-soon too!
      Such a terrific collection of vegan and gluten-free sweet recipes would be a most welcome addition to my bookshelf. Thank you for giving us a chance at winning it! (book)

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    31. those brownies look awesome!!!

      fruitcrmble AT Comcast DOT net

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    32. I'm so intrigued by that sweet potato frosting! Book

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    33. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! Book

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      1. I've added this book to my Christmas list for my daughter as I've heard so many good things about it. Ricki is awesome and shares so many good recipes. Linda

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    34. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

      ReplyDelete

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