Monday, October 26, 2009

Good Fortune

You will be rewarded greatly for your efforts.

This is the fortune I would fold into a cookie for myself.  It’s hard for me to muster up a lot of effort for anything beyond my job.  I try to do it for my family and my friends, and heaven knows I do it for Matt, but on an everyday basis, I am a seriously lazy person.  Give me a bowl of leftover soup, plop me in front of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and I’ll happily slurp my way into a peaceful slumber.

But then there are these rare occasions when I put forth a burst of effort, and BOOM!  Things happen.  PhD theses get written, relocations to Texas happen, cornbread and roasted chickpeas happen.  It’s amazing what a little effort can do for a woman.

Today I woke up with a plan.  I like having a plan.  It makes me feel slightly less frazzled than I normally am.  I’m not an obsessive planner, but I just like to have some idea of what’s going to happen so I can brace myself for the inevitable output of energy that will be required of me.  Plans make me happy.  For breakfast, the plan was a sweet version of the almond crust pizza—a sort of Almond Cookie Pizza, if you will.  Following the same basic recipe, I swapped out the savory ingredients and swapped in a few sweet and spicy ones.  In a bowl, I mixed together 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. salt.  Into that mixture I whisked 1 tsp. coconut oil, 1 tbsp. honey, and 1 large egg.  I patted the mixture out on a parchment sheet-layered cookie sheet just like we discussed yesterday and topped it with thin slices of apple.  The Almond Cookie Pizza baked for about 18 min. at 325 degrees F while I pulled together my breakfast beverages.

I squeezed a few sweet Texas oranges for a glass of fresh orange juice and strained the grounds out of my mug of cold-brewed coffee, which I made using this recipe as a guide.  (When one lives in Texas, one needs a recipe for cold-brewed coffee.)  I sweetened the coffee with half a teaspoon of honey and with that, breakfast was served.

The Almond Cookie Pizza wasn’t bad!  The texture was lovely, but I think it was a touch too salty.  Next time I’ll cut the salt down to a pinch or two.  The apples were awesome—warm and starting to yield sweetly under the oven’s toasty influence.  I would love to try this dish with a honey-yogurt dipping sauce, perhaps spiked with a touch of lemon for flavor.

The orange juice was ambrosially delicious.  The coffee was certainly strong, but I really missed my milk this morning.  I almost never drink my coffee without milk or cream, but those are both off-limits for the week.  I may try to make a batch of nut milk later this week, and I am tempted to try it in my coffee.  Tempted and a little worried!

After a commute, a walk across campus in the rain, and a productive morning of work, I took my lunch break and luxuriated in the ease of eating my packed meal.  Sometimes it’s so nice to not have to cook a meal in order to eat well—you just feast on the efforts of your past labors.  Some days I am all about the packed lunch.

Lunch was simple: leftover Tomato Vegetable Soup, a piece of Organic Valley Cheese, and spoonfuls of yogurt dipped into a baggie of grain-free granola.  Nourishing and delicious.  I was satisfied for hours.  Often when I’m at work, I have trouble focusing because I am easily distracted or overwhelmed or annoyed.  But today I felt very focused and calm.  It’s always a great day at work when I feel focused and I’m able to get things done.  I worked steadily until about 5 PM, when I decided it was time for the afternoon snack.

The afternoon snack is a very important part of my day.  I think everyone should make time for an afternoon snack.  It keeps my energy at a steady level and lets me keep the evening hunger at bay until it’s time for dinner.  My snacks usually consist of fruit and something wholesome that contains fat and protein—something with a little nutritional oomph.  Today I ate my snack at my desk while I worked, nibbling on slices from half an apple, another slice of cheese, a carrot stick, and (best of all) a flourless peanut butter brownie.  The peanut butter brownie is something you need to put on your baking to-do list, so I’ll save my evangelizing for the end of this post.

Work work work, walk in rain, commute, walk in rain, and ahhhhh, finally home again!  I love that moment when I walk in my own front door and the evening stretches out in front of me.  I had half of dinner in the fridge already—yesterday’s leftover coconut-pumpkin soup—so I just needed to figure out something to eat with the soup.  I’d been eyeing a recipe for baked onion rings in Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet, musing to myself that it had been a long, long time since I’d had an onion ring.  Wasn’t it time to fix that?  Normally I stay away from fatty fast foods because they just aren’t good for me, but this recipe looked awfully promising. The onion rings were baked, not fried, and their coating was made of seasoned almond flour, which intrigued me.  They sounded delicious and wholesome, so I dragged out my mixing bowls and got to work.

The recipe was easy and messy.  You mix together an egg and a bit of mustard in one bowl.  In another, you stir together almond flour, grated Parmesan, a touch of cayenne, and salt.  You slice an onion into rings (not too thin, not too thick—mine were between a quarter and half an inch) and you set up your breading station: onion rings get dipped in the mustardy egg, breaded with seasoned almond flour, then placed on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes and oh, my, yes, those gorgeous, golden-brown rings studded with almond flour, THOSE are your onion rings.  Mmm-hmm.

I sat down at the dinner table and took a few deep breaths to center myself.  Then I ate.  The soup seemed to have grown more delicious overnight because its flavor was richer and more layered than it was last night.  Maybe that recipe is a keeper after all!  But the onion rings—wow.  They knocked my socks off.  They’re crunchy and a little spicy outside, like a really tasty cracker, and inside, that ring of onion has grown tangy and sweet inside its nubbly casing.  The recipe calls for making onion and bell pepper rings, and drizzling them with olive oil before baking.  I made only onion rings and skipped the extra oil because I was hungry, and I don’t regret a thing.  In fact, I might recommend that you make just half a batch of the egg and almond mixtures because the almond mixture starts to get a little goopy with egg dribbles after you’ve dipped and breaded a half dozen rings.  A half batch keeps things a little cleaner.

It was my good fortune to be rewarded with very tasty onion rings tonight.  I want to send my future self a memo: remember tonight and try not to be so damn lazy!

* * *

Flourless Peanut Butter Brownies

Adapted from Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet

Makes 16 fantastically rich brownies

I don’t mean to switch gears so rapidly on you, hopping from onion rings to brownies, but I’ve got to share this recipe with you before the day is over.  I’ve been keeping it to myself for over a week now, and that’s just not right.  You deserve a peanut butter brownie!

This is peanut butter, amped up to the nth degree.  The recipe could not be simpler—just five ingredients!—but the results are rich and complex.  This brownie has no chocolate or cocoa, so the taste is pure peanut butter but made sweeter with a pour of honey.  The texture reminds me of cheesecake with its velvety smoothness.  The edge pieces get a little cakier, and that’s a very good thing too.

The way to make these is to bake a batch and tuck most of them in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed in a plastic bag.  They are a little addictive, so it’s good to pace yourself with the ritual of retrieving them from the freezer, unwrapping a brownie, and thawing it on the counter.

2 cups peanut butter (I used smooth)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup honey

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1)  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.  It’s okay if the paper has some overhang—in fact, I recommend it because then you can lift the brownies out of the pan with the parchment paper.

2)  Mix together all the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  The batter will be very thick here.

3)  Scrape the peanut butter mixture into the prepared baking pan, smoothing it out as best you can with a spoon or your fingers.

4)  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  The brownies will still be soft in the middle.  I think a longer baking time probably makes your brownies a little cakier (drier), while a shorter baking time makes them fudgier (moister).

5)  Remove brownies from the oven and let them cool completely.

6)  Run a knife along the edges and then use the parchment paper “handles” to lift the brownies onto a cutting board.  Slice the brownies into 16 squares—four brownies per row.

7)  Store in an airtight container or wrap well and freeze.  Thank your lucky stars for the SCD and its sweet, delicious brownies. 


Shannon said...

this almost sounds like fudge! my my, dangerous :)

Rosiecat said...

Indeed, Shannon. It is fudge--the easiest fudge you'll ever make ;-)

ammie said...

Why are you so concerned about nut milk in your coffee? i used almond milk for about six months this year and mostly it was fine :)
And I am in desperate need of gluten-free cookie recipes that don't use ten flours I don't yet own, so I'm totally making these next week!
We're all lucky. Life is good. (Hopefully.)

Rosiecat said...

Oh, Ammie, that's good to know about nut milk in coffee! I think I'm just worried it will taste "off" to me. I'm too picky, I know.

Yes, I totally agree with you about gluten-free baking! If you make a vegan version of these brownies, you should report back with your results! I bet they'd be delicious with pureed bananas instead of eggs...they might be a little more fragile, but I think they would still hold together.

We are lucky. Life IS good! And I miss you.