Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies

12 Days of Cookies
– Day 10 –

I will fully admit that I’m bad about finding healthy alternatives to baking, or rather, alternative ingredients for my baking. I don’t pay much attention to sugar-free, gluten-free, etc. as it’s admittedly not my forte. I found this recipe on Food52, though, and was curious because not many cookies can claim to be “gluten-free” unless they use a non-wheat flour. Much to my surprise, these don’t contain any flour at all!

These whip together in seconds and are held together by egg whites. I found the recipe fun and easy to alter as well, some variations of which I’ll include at the end of the recipe. They bake up quickly in 15 minutes flat, and they stay crunchy and chewy for days.

I do want to make note that people with a severe gluten intolerance need to be careful as powdered sugar does contain cornstarch, and to varying degrees, so if your body is super sensitive to gluten these still might affect your stomach. If you’re just trying to eat gluten-free, though, these will be a perfect cookie to try!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Food52
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen cookies (slightly heaping #50 scoop)

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (see note)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. Using an electric mixer, mix the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt on low until combined. Add the egg whites and vanilla, and mix on low for a few minutes until the batter comes together. Fold in the chocolate chips.

3. Scoop dough onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. If batter doesn’t flatten, press down with fingers to flatten a bit. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the surfaces are cracked.

4. Allow cookies to cool for 10 minutes on tray before removing to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Variations:

1. Chocolate Peanut Butter – Add 2 Tablespoons peanut butter to the batter before folding in the chips.

2. Orange Chocolate – Fold in 1/8 teaspoon Boyajian Orange Oil to the batter before folding in chips.

3. Chocolate Almond – Remove 1/2 cup chocolate chips and replace it with slivered or sliced almonds. For extra almond flavor, also fold in 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.

4. Chocolate Coconut – Remove 1/2 cup chocolate chips and replace it with shredded coconut.

5. Spiced Chocolate – Replace the cinnamon with 1/8 teaspoon cayenne.


Cook’s Notes

The original recipe calls for semisweet chocolate chips, but I found this to be very sweet since the batter is mainly composed of powdered sugar. I used half 60% chips and half semisweet chips and enjoyed that flavor balance. Feel free to play around with different chocolates until you have your desired taste!

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

Alright, here it is. The long-awaited recipe for the cinnamon rolls! I say long-awaited, but it’s only been 4 days since I first posted a picture on Facebook and Instagram. ;-) I received many comments and inquiries, though, so I know y’all are all excited! I know everyone will be spending Thanksgiving with their family tomorrow, and I can tell you one thing. THIS is the perfect breakfast item to make and it’ll impress all your family and friends!

The pumpkin dough is initially rolled out and cream cheese is spread all over. Then the dough is folded, rolled again and sprinkled with a browned butter, cinnamon and brown sugar mixture. Yes, you heard me correctly – browned butter. Yum! The baked rolls are then slathered with orange-flavored cream cheese icing. Mmm… it seriously doesn’t get better than this, folks.

I mean, just look at the picture…

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

And another…

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

I apologize because I unfortunately ran out of time and wasn’t able to get step-by-step pictures posted, so if you need to see some visuals please visit the original recipe on Food52’s site. The link is listed below in the recipe. If I’m able to snap some pictures of my own, I’ll upload them at a later point in time.

This will be my last post for about a week as I’m on vacation with family for the holidays. I, like many other Americans, find myself reflecting this time of the year on all the things I have to be thankful for. My list seems to increase every year, and for that alone I am both blessed and thankful. I want to thank you all – my family, friends and people I’ve never even met – for all your support with my blog. It’s only been 4 months, but it’s been an awesome 4 months so far! I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful, happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from Food52
Yield: 18-20 Rolls

Dough:
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, warmed
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened

Filling:
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Icing:
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 Tablespoons orange juice
Pinch of salt

1. Combine the yeast and warm milk and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, spices and salt. Add in the eggs, pumpkin puree and yeast mixture. Mix until just combined and then add the butter. Mix the dough until well combined and then knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. The dough will stick to the bottom of the bowl, but resist the temptation to add more flour.

3. Transfer the dough to a clean, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in volume, 1 – 1 1/2 hours at a warm room temperature. When the dough is almost finished rising, prepare the filling by browning the butter in a skillet until it is golden and toasty. Let the butter cool slightly and then combine it with the brown sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. Generously grease 2 8- or 9-inch baking pans and set aside.

4. Transfer the risen dough to a well-floured surface and pat the dough into a 12-inch square. Break up the cream cheese and gently spread it on top of the dough, being careful not to tear the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, starting from the bottom so the cream cheese is completely sealed inside of the dough. Then, roll the dough into a 16-inch by 20-inch rectangle with the long side facing you. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the top.

5. Starting from the bottom, gently roll the dough into a log. Cut the log into generous 1-inch slices. Gently place the cut rolls into the prepared pans, cover and let rise until almost doubled in size, 1 – 1 1/2 hours. (See note)

6. When rolls are nearly doubled in size, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). Bake rolls until they are cooked through and lightly golden, approximately 20 – 25 minutes. While they are baking, prepare the glaze by whisking the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, orange juice and salt together until smooth. Let the rolls cool for about 5 minutes and then cover them with the glaze. I ended up doubling the recipe for the glaze and was glad I did. It’s a sweet roll, but I love a lot of icing. :)


Cook’s Notes

If you want to freeze the rolls in order to bake the following day, doing so before the 2nd rise is the perfect time. Wrap your pans in 2 layers of plastic wrap and a layer of foil; freeze. The following day, let the frozen rolls come to room temperature and complete their final rise before baking as directed.

Orange Spice Iced Coffee

Starbucks has a new beverage this summer – the Orange Spice Iced Coffee – which I’m completely addicted to. At $3-something a pop, though, it’s hard for me to justify what is essentially coffee grounds, water and flavoring. I get it, though. Going to coffee shops can be more of a social thing, and in that instance I’ll happily chalk up the money. For every day consumption, though, I’d prefer to just make something at home and save myself the money. I am so my father’s daughter. ;-)

So I decided to experiment a bit to see if I could nail down something comparable. While mine’s not perfect and I might likely discover new/better ways of improving it along the way, for now this is a decent replica and it satisfies my need for a cold beverage to get me going in the morning.

Orange Spice Iced Coffee

The first thing to note is the amount of coffee grounds I used for brewing. I’m pretty sure Starbucks (or any other major coffee brand) has a specific coffee that is to be used for cold brew. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m too lazy to have multiple bags of coffee in my cupboard. I’m far from a coffee snob, so I highly doubt I’d be able to taste the difference between cold-brew coffee beans and regular coffee beans. Who knows, though. So for this experiment I just grabbed what was in my cupboard which just so happened to be Starbucks Breakfast Blend. It’s a bit milder, so I was sure to brew a strong pot of coffee.

I filled my pot up with water to the 4-cup line. Since coffee pots are not designed to make “true” 8-oz. cups of coffee, this is actually only about 20 oz. of water. After brewing, it yields a bit over 2-8 oz. cups of coffee and so you might have a tad extra to pour on top. In order to make my coffee stronger, I used 4 heaping scoopfuls of coffee grounds for the 4 “cups” of coffee. My scoop is a standard 1/2 oz. coffee scoop. After brewing, cool the coffee to room temp and then place in the fridge until it’s chilled.

Coffee Grounds

The next step is to make the spiced syrup. I initially made a simple syrup out of sugar, water, cinnamon, allspice and whole cloves (see recipe below in Cook’s Notes). It was really tasty, but I’m really trying to cut out refined sugar (which hasn’t been a success due to all this baking I’ve been doing!). I decided to just make a quick syrup out of agave, cinnamon, allspice, orange oil and orange zest. You could easily double or triple this recipe and keep the leftovers in your fridge to be used when needed. My recipe yields just enough for 2 glasses according to my taste, so you’ll want to experiment with the sweetness. You might find that you want more or less syrup and so you’ll need to adjust the syrup recipe accordingly.

Spiced Syrup

Once your coffee is cold, you simply fill a 16 oz. tumbler up with ice, fill with 8 oz. of cold, brewed coffee, add the syrup to taste and a couple orange segments (mostly for aesthetics) and voila – you have orange spice iced coffee! I made a batch yesterday and had some leftovers in the fridge for today. I decided to throw in a splash of almond milk and it was really tasty.

One final note, you might start noticing that I enjoy using citrus oil to enhance recipes. For this recipe I used Boyajian Pure Orange Oil, and note that I did not use a lot! A little goes a LONG way with this stuff, so be careful when pouring. Sur La Table (there’s that name again!) sells a 3-pack assortment of flavored oils that’s pretty handy. I will warn you that since a little goes a long way, don’t be surprised if the oil expires before you can use it all. :-( Just be sure to check the packaging to ensure your oil doesn’t expire 3 months from the purchase date or essentially you’re just throwing money in the trash. I love, love these oils, though. I first discovered them when I was working in the bakeshop at The Mansion and I hope they never stop making this stuff. Their peppermint oil is AWESOME, too!

Orange Oil

Orange Spice Iced Coffee
Yields: 2-16 oz. glasses

4 heaping scoops ground coffee
4 “cups” water (read above for required amount)
4 orange slices
2 Tablespoons spiced syrup (recipe below)

Spiced Syrup:
2 Tablespoons agave
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch allspice (I literally used 1/16 tsp if you really need a measurement)
1/8 teaspoon orange oil
1/8 teaspoon orange zest

1. Brew the coffee, cool to room temp and place in fridge until chilled.

2. In a small bowl, stir together agave, cinnamon, allspice, orange oil and orange zest.

3. Fill glass with ice, top with 8 oz. cold, brewed coffee, flavor with spiced syrup and garnish with 2 orange slices. Enjoy!


Cook’s Notes

1. If you want to make a regular simple syrup, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, 3-4 whole cloves, 1/4 teaspoon orange oil and 1/4 teaspoon orange zest in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain mixture to remove cloves; use as needed. (This makes more syrup, but in my opinion it doesn’t sweeten as much as the agave syrup. You’ll likely need more than just 1 Tablespoon per glass.)

2. Starbucks advertises their 16 oz. drink as having 90 calories. Each serving of my recipe (when added with ice equals 16 oz.) is 64 calories. If you eat your orange slices, it’s closer to 80 calories. Juuust throwin’ that out there. ;-)

Pan Seared Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde

I subscribe to Food Network’s email distribution list, so when this recipe (courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis) appeared in my email recently I knew I had to try it! I really love salmon, and I’m constantly looking for new ways to eat it. I’m also trying to drop some lbs, and this recipe seemed to fit the bill of healthy, flavorful, fresh and summery. I did make some minor changes to her recipe, which I’ll make notations of in my cook’s notes.

One thing that is required of this recipe is segmenting oranges. I learned how to do this in culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC, which merged with the Norfolk, VA campus and is now located in Charlotte, NC (nice plug, right?!), but it quickly dawned on me that a lot of people might not know how to do this. Sure, you could visit YouTube for an instructional video, but I’d still like to provide my pics and instructions, which literally mimic every word in the video. ;-)

The first thing to note is that this recipe calls for orange and lemon zest, so before you start the process of segmenting the oranges be sure to zest your oranges first! I used a zester similar to this one (which then requires the strips of zest to be finely chopped), but you can also use a Microplane Zester. I love my Microplane Zester. It’s probably in my top 10 favorite kitchen tools (Can you say “future blog post?”), but sometimes I’m just not in the mood to deal with properly cleaning it. It’s a bit of a hassle honestly. So once you’ve zested your oranges, you can now start the segmenting process.

First, you’ll want to cut the ends of your orange off. This not only provides for a flat surface on which to cut, but it also reveals the edge of the pith where you’ll need to cut. Slice along the edge of the pith all the way from top to bottom. Be sure to cut close enough so you don’t lose too much of the fruit.

Segmenting an Orange
Segmenting an Orange

 

Once you’ve done that, you end up with this! Isn’t it pretty?
Segmenting an Orange

Working carefully, slice along the membrane to remove each segment. Do this over a bowl so it will catch the juices. At the end, give the orange a good squeeze to extract the rest of the juices (watch out for seeds!).
Segmenting an Orange

To that same bowl, add in the rest of your salsa verde ingredients and then you’ll have this:

Citrus Salsa Verde

I decided to pan sear my salmon because I just love the crust you get when you sear it. I might try grilling it in my cast iron grill pan next time, but the pan searing was a total success for the first try. I also used the agave per her instructions when I cooked the salmon on Friday night, but when I made it again Saturday night (I bought a pound of salmon!) I decided to forego the agave and just stick with simple salt and pepper. While I liked the flavor of the agave, it got a little too charred before I felt the fish had time to develop a nice sear. Either way, both results were equally good!

Here are the results from Friday (please excuse the iPhone photo!):

Salmon w/ Citrus Salsa Verde

Here are the results from Saturday with no agave (again, please excuse the iPhone photo!):

Salmon w/ Citrus Salsa Verde

On a side note and for those of you who may be interested in knowing, the salad from Friday was a really simple combination of mixed greens, red cherub tomatoes, yellow sunburst tomatoes, nectarine (or peach), bell pepper, feta, balsamic vinegar and EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil). My best friend, Meghan, who was dining with me raved about how food at other people’s houses always tastes better, which I completely agree with! Thanks for the compliment, too! ;-)

This has been my “go to” salad all summer long. I’ll sometimes throw in spinach or arugula, and I’ll mix it up with different berries, such as raspberry, blueberries or strawberries. I’ll often use goat cheese instead of feta, and sometimes I’ll shred carrots and add that in as well. Plus, if I’m making it into a main dish I’ll toss in grilled chicken. You get the idea – it’s pretty versatile! Saturday night my eyes were much bigger than my stomach, so I ended up with at least half of that cooked salmon leftover. So on Sunday I simply broke it into pieces and tossed it into my salad for a very tasty (and healthy) dinner!

Pan Seared Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe on foodnetwork.com

Serves: 4

Salsa:
2 large oranges
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil*
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped*
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salmon:
4 (4-ounce) center cut salmon fillets*
2 tablespoons amber agave nectar*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine orange segments and reserved orange juice, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, scallions, mint, capers, orange zest, lemon zest and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Toss lightly and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

2. Get pan real nice and hot over high heat. Add a Tablespoon of EVOO and place the salmon flesh side down (skin side up) in the pan. Be sure to face the pan away from you in order to avoid oil from splattering on you. Shake the pan for a few seconds and cook for about 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Flip salmon over so the skin side is down and cook for another 2-5 minutes, depending on your desired doneness. I like my salmon medium, so it took about 4 minutes on the first side and another 3 on the other. I also had nice, thick filets. :-) Transfer salmon to a plate and allow to rest for a few minutes. Garnish with salsa verde.


Cook’s Notes

1. Giada’s recipe called for 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) olive oil in the salsa verde, but I’m trying to cut down on calories and EVOO is pretty high in calories. I didn’t think it needed that extra Tablespoon at all.

2. I personally dislike capers, but I decided to be true to the recipe and keep them in. I’ll leave them out next time, but that’s just my preference.

3. If you watch the accompanying video on foodnetwork.com, Giada adds “a pinch” of red pepper flakes, despite the recipe saying a teaspoon (which is far from a pinch!). I personally liked it a little spicy, and I definitely didn’t think it was too spicy for those who don’t like spicy foods. It was kind of an aftertaste and didn’t overpower the dish at all.

4. Giada’s recipe states to have the skin removed from the salmon since you’re grilling, but if you pan sear I think it’s best to keep the skin on. It makes it nice and crispy, plus it helps to keep the fish together. You can easily peel it off after cooking if you have picky eaters, but the salmon flaked away perfectly from the skin and wasn’t a bother at all.

5. See my comments above regarding the agave nectar. I liked the flavor it gave the fish, but you’ll also probably see a bit of a color difference from Friday to Saturday. If you use the agave, just be careful not to overcook it because it does caramelize and can burn.

Nutritional Information:
Serving Size: 4-oz. fillet and accompanying salsa verde; Calories: 329; Fat: 17.7g; Saturated Fat: 2.5g; Cholesterol: 55mg; Sodium: 274mg; Carbs: 20.6g; Dietary Fiber: 2.4g; Sugars 15.1g; Protein: 22.1g

*Please note the nutritional information is only an estimate.*