I don’t talk about it much here (because nowadays I eat everything), but I had quite a few food sensitivities at one point in my life. This was a while ago: back in my early 20s. Boy do I wish I’d had a book like Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free back then!

naturally sweet and gluten free

Ricki Heller was one of the very first bloggers I met (albeit virtually) when I started blogging. She’s an absolute sweetheart and I’ve always admired her incredible creativity when it comes to recipes. Ricki’s diet may be limited, but her recipe offerings are anything but…she’s an absolute whiz at coming up with innovative baked goods that don’t contain any animal products, gluten, or refined sugars.

Ricki sent me a copy of her book Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free: Allergy Friendly Vegan Desserts to review. It’s beautifully photographed and everything looks very delicious.

Most of the recipes in the book do require quite a few ingredients, some of which I do not keep on hand. Since I do not have dietary restrictions, I adapted one of the recipes so I could make it with ingredients I already had.

Chocolate Sesame Cookies | Healthy Green Kitchen

These Chocolate-Flecked Sesame Cookies are adapted from Ricki’s Chocolate-Flecked Pumpkin Seed Cookies. They are so yummy: I have been snacking on them all week. The coconut sugar gives them lovely flavor and a bit of crunch I just adore, but be warned: they are a little crumbly due to the almond flour (and the flax seed being the only “binder”).

Ricki’s recipe is below…my changes are in parentheses.

Be sure to follow Ricki on facebook and twitter for more news about her book!
Read more

With the lazy days of summer over and my kids’ school year very much back in full swing, I am reacquainting myself with things such as getting breakfast ready at 7 am and packing lunches in a flash. I am also trying to use my slow cooker more because it truly makes dinner preparation a snap.

My son plays football every day after school so by the time he gets home, waiting a while for me to make something just isn’t an option…he’s too hungry! I’m a hero if there’s something ready to eat in the crockpot when we walk in the door. I like being a hero.

Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs | Healthy Green Kitchen

We love short ribs and they are really perfect for the crockpot. You want the meat to be fall-off-the-bone tender and that’s a certainly when you use a slow cooker to make them. This recipe could not be simpler and makes quite a bit: I had enough of these slow cooker Asian short ribs left over to send with my son for lunch two days after we had this for dinner.

I served the meat alongside rice (I used a red rice, but any kind that floats your boat is great: white, brown, black, etc.) and we put some of both in lettuce wraps. A sprinkling of cilantro and some homemade hot sauce is a delicious touch. (I’ve been harvesting tons of chili peppers from my garden and I’ve made a number of sauces with them: this one from Jenny is a new favorite.)

Boston lettuce works well if you, too, want to make lettuce wraps with this recipe. If not, you can serve with rice and lots of veggies on the side. Kimchi makes a terrific accompaniment.

Thanks to Smith Bites for the inspiration!

Read more

I lift weights and/or do CrossFit most weekday mornings. I like to get some nourishing carbohydrates into my belly before I head to the gym: I just love this recipe for Chai Pumpkin Oatmeal.

Chai Pumpkin Oatmeal | Healthy Green Kitchen

This oatmeal is a wonderful autumn breakfast no matter what your morning routine is like; it comes from my friend Shelley Alexander‘s book Deliciously Holistic.

Shelley is a holistic chef. She specializes in preparing healthy foods that nourish, strengthen, and energize, and her cookbook contains more than 150 recipes that are as yummy as they are good for you. I have an extra copy of the book to give away…more details on that at the end of this post.

Chai Pumpkin Oatmeal | Healthy Green Kitchen

Read more

A local restaurant serves a pear and gorgonzola pizza that I love. It was the inspiration for this pear and gorgonzola salad, to which I’ve also added pistachios.

salad 2_text

I harbored an intense dislike for strong cheeses like gorgonzola for much of my life. Funny thing: now they are some of my favorites! You know how many times I have decided I did not like a food only to realize later on that I like it quite a lot? MANY.

I think our tastes have the capacity to expand and to change if we keep challenging ourselves to try new things (and to give things we previously eschewed another go). Of course this goes for ideas and experiences, as well: it’s good to be open minded about those, too.

salad 3

This salad is super adaptable. For an equally delicious fall salad, apples can stand in for the pears. Roasted squash would also be delicious. Raw or toasted pecans, walnuts, or other nuts/seeds may be used in place of the pistachios. If assertive cheeses such as gorgonzola are not your thing at the moment, give this a try with a mild, soft cheese (crumbled goat cheese or feta sounds good to me). But don’t swear off gorgonzola for good…you may find that you’ll come to love it some day in the future, too.

Read more

I mentioned the possibility of homemade fig newtons on my facebook page the other day and everyone went a little gaga over the idea. I was a little surprised, to be honest.

Homemade Fig Newtons | Healthy Green Kitchen

I figured nobody really liked fig newtons, you see. When I was a kid, they were the cookie you got in your lunchbox because your parents didn’t want you to eat way-more-yummy-but-not-as-healthy chocolate chip cookies, right? Well, turns out fig newtons didn’t need my sympathies. Plenty of people really do like them after all.

I looked at a bunch of homemade fig bars on various blogs. They were all made with dried figs because actual fig newtons have a dried fig filling. I hope you don’t mind but I made an executive decision to use fresh figs in my filling since I wasn’t hung up on recreating an authentic “newton experience”. I just wanted some great fig bars.

fresh figs | Healthy Green Kitchen

The fig jam on its own is simple to make, and pretty freaking fabulous. If these cookies do not appeal to you, you can just make the jam and use it how you like! I actually made a double batch of the jam a few weeks before I made the cookies, and I’ve been loving it. If you make the recipe as written below, you should have enough for the cookies, plus a little extra.

I made the dough for these bars with Jovial Organic Einkorn Flour. I am a big fan of this flour for baking: it makes delicious treats and I feel really good about using it because it is nutrient dense, has not been hybridized like modern wheat, and contains less gluten. Feel free to use unbleached, all-purpose flour instead, if you like.

A couple of notes about the method for making these cookies:

- You’ll want the dough to chill in the refrigerator before you roll it out. If you don’t refrigerate it, it will be too soft and you’ll end up with a mess. On the other hand, you don’t want it to be too stiff because then it may “break” when you work with it…one hour should be enough time for chilling.

dough ready for fridge

- I added quite a bit of extra flour while I was rolling out the dough because I did find it to be a pretty sticky. Flour is your friend: make sure to use it on the rolling pin, too. You may have an easier time rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment, but I didn’t. I did keep a piece of parchment under the dough while I was rolling it, but I flipped the dough and added more flour a few times as I was rolling so that the dough wouldn’t stick. If you have a plastic dough scraper, it will probably come in handy. If your dough end ups sticking/tearing, don’t worry- just patch it up with a little scrap of extra dough trimmed off from the edge. You don’t want the dough too think, but you don’t want it too thin, either (1/8 inch thick is just about right).

dough rolled

- Watch out for adding more filling than your dough can accommodate. The dough is pretty sturdy but you don’t want the jam to bust out during baking…the amount of jam I added down the center of each strip of dough was perfect.

Making Fig Bars | Healthy Green Kitchen

- You will want to use your fingers to gently seal the edges of the dough together after you add the jam. If you don’t seal the dough well enough, the jam will ooze out.

Making Fig Bars | Healthy Green Kitchen

- You will want to roll the dough over so the seam is on the bottom before you slice these into bars. This will help to keep the jam in place.

Making Fig Bars | Healthy Green Kitchen

If you want to make your fig jam without sugar, try this recipe for Honey Fig Jam from Tasty Yummies. If you want to try these cookies with a dried fig jam, here’s a recipe from The Kitchn. For a gluten-free version of fig cookies, try this recipe from The Free People Blog.

Read more