Seed and Nut Cracker (grain free)

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Seed or nut based crackers are yummy I daresay even addictive. But the price for a girl on a tight budget, is rather prohibitive… 🙁 So after tinkering in my kitchen (batch one and two shown here) batch 3 was the winner, hands down.

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You can make them square or round, depending on your preference. Square is a bit less work, but takes a little longer to get to that perfect crunchy state. For either one, flatten or roll out on the prepared cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicon baking mat, that’s how I made them, if you don’t have one of those, at least use baking parchment) by covering with wax paper and rolling out, then peeling the paper layer gingerly from the top.

imagethe only downside? You could always eat more than there are left…

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 tbsp sun flower seeds, divided
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds (flax meal)
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds, natural not blanched
  • 1/4 cup quinoa flakes
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
  •  1 tbsp flax seeds, whole (golden or brown)
  • 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F
  2. Prepare baking sheet (if you are making these round, it will make two cookie sheets) by lining it with a silicone baking mat
  3. In a blender or a mini food processor, combine the cashew and 1 tbsp sun flower seeds, blend until it forms a coarse meal
  4. Add ground almonds, flax meal, and quinoa flakes and pulse until combined
  5. Add the water and salt, blend until well mixed
  6. If you have enough space in your mini processor, add the remaining ingredients and pulse 2-3 times, until mixed but not chopped.
  7. Round: drop onto prepared cookie sheet, 1 level teaspoon at a time, distancing about 1 12/” to 2″ apart, cover with waxpaper and roll out until less than 1/8″ thick, basically as thin as you can get it.
  8. Square: Scrape or drop dough onto cookie sheet, spread out, then cover with wax paper, and roll out super thin, (less than 1/8″ thick)
  9. Bake 30 minutes in the middle of the preheated oven, or until no longer soft and pliable. then finish baking another 5 minutes on the bottom rack
  10. Let cool before crunching away!

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Copyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

ZimtstÀrnli

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ZimtstĂ€rnli – ‘Cinnamon Stars’ – Swiss Christmas Cookies

Another one of my all time favorites are the ZimtstĂ€rnli (meaning little cinnamon stars). Besides being super yummy, and they are really not all that hard to make, I think the fact that they are grain free, gluten free and the only fat they contain is from the ground almonds doesn’t hurt either, plus cinnamon has been shown to have blood sugar lowering properties.

Yes, these are cut outs again. And you could really make them any shape you like. You’ll just have to call them cinnamon elephants or whatever 😉 Traditionally rolled out on granulated sugar instead of flour, I suggest you use more ground  almonds instead.

Please be aware that most confectioners sugar contains corn starch.

These really should be made in every American household, just look at what they look like!

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 Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 1/2/ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp Kirsch (optional, you could leave it out or use lemon juice instead)
  • 3 1/2 cups ground almonds (almond flour)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 480°F
  2. In a large clean bowl, beat egg white with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.
  3. Carefully fold in the sugar. Set aside a 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp ( a scant 1/2 cup) of the mixture, reserve
  4. Carefully fold almonds, Kirsch (if using) and cinnamon under the rest of the egg white mixture. Form to dough and place in the fridge. Chill for at least 3 hours.
  5. Roll out about 1/4″ thick on more ground almonds/almond flour. Then make cookies using star shaped cookie cutter, place on lines baking sheet and brush with a layer of the reserved egg white glaze.
  6. Bake 5-6 minutes with a wooden spatula in the door of the oven to keep the door cracked and prevent it from closing all the way. This is helping in keeping the tops of the cookies white. (They are perfectly done when the bottom is slightly golden brown but the tops stay a pristine white)
  7. Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to cooling rack.

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Check out the post on more Swiss Christmas Cookies to try other varieties
Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Basler Brunsli

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Basler Brunsli – ‘Basler Brownies’ – Swiss Christmas Cookies

Holidays are getting closer and no matter what your faith, we all like to celebrate and in line with that, prepare special foods and treats (Oh yeah!)  We share meals and we share time with family and friends.

So does it come as a surprise that coming from Switzerland, I would have treats involving chocolate? Probably not. But maybe it will stun you to known that these contain absolutely no butter, (and no, I did not replace it with margarine or some other fake stuff), are gluten and even grain free, and that the only fat in them comes from the ground almonds (and cocoa)? How is that for a healthy treat? (Now that said, it still IS a treat, almonds though containing healthy fats, still are fatty)

A “FĂ€hri” (small passenger ferry) setting across the Rhine opposite the MĂŒnster Cathedral in Basel

Basel, on the cross roads of Europe, has long been a center of trade from exotic spices and tea to more mundane items, and having a traditional cookie involving chocolate and other luxury goods, isn’t surprising. So here adapted for the american kitchen: Basler Brunsli

Did you know?

  •  “Dark chocolate”, also called “plain chocolate” or “black chocolate”, is produced by adding fat and sugar to cocoa. It is chocolate with zero or much less milk than milk chocolate. The U.S. has no official definition for dark chocolate but European rules specify a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.[2] Dark chocolate can be eaten as is, or used in cooking, for which thicker, more expensive baking bars with higher cocoa percentages ranging from 70% to 99% are sold. Dark is synonymous with semisweet, and extra dark with bittersweet, although the ratio of cocoa butter to solids may vary
  • “Hershey process” milk chocolate is popular in North America. It was invented by Milton S. Hershey, founder of The Hershey Company, and can be produced more cheaply than other processes since it is less sensitive to the freshness of the milk. The process is a trade secret, but experts speculate that the milk is partially lipolyzed, producing butyric acid, which stabilizes the milk from further fermentation. This compound gives the product a particular sour, “tangy” taste, to which the American public has become accustomed, to the point that other manufacturers now simply add butyric acid to their milk chocolates.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 c ground almonds/almond flour, unblanched
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3 1/2 oz extra dark or cooking chocolate, melted (use Lindt chocolate if available)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp Kirsch (optional; a clear Cherry Brandy)

Directions

  1. In  a big bowl, mix the first four ingredients.
  2. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (being careful not to overwork, you can only do this once)
  3. Add to the bowl with the almond mixture. Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites.
  4. In the meantime, melt the chocolate: Break into smallish pieces and either melt in a double boiler with a tablespoon water or (and this is the easier way) place in a bowl, cover with warm water and microwave at 30 second increments until the chocolate is soft and molten, then carefully pour off the water and stir smooth. Let cool slightly (so as not to cook the egg whites) then mix into the ingredients in the bowl.
  5. Refrigerate overnight or at least for several hours to firm and chill the dough
  6. Roll out on sugar (or sugar mixed with ground almonds) to about 1/2″ to 1/4″ thick.
  7. Cut out shapes using your favorite cookie cutter, place on lined baking  sheet and bake at 480°F  for 4-6 minutes (mine were perfect at 5) (if you bake them too long, they will get rock solid when cold)

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Check out the post on more Swiss Christmas Cookies to try other varieties

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Traditional Swiss Christmas Cookies

It’s not Christmas without traditions and for me going without the cookies I grew up with is unthinkable. When I first moved to this country, I was suddenly faced with the challenge of making cookies that before I would just be able to buy at the local bakery, cookies I had never made before. yeah, I did not always make everything myself. But I needed them, I mean Christmas was NOT going to come without, so I was going to find a way and I was going to learn how to make them, whipped egg whites and all. Over the years I tried different substitutes for ingredients that are not readily available in the US, and have refined and tweaked the recipes to reproduce the flavors of my home without having to fly back and what not 😉

I grew up in Basel, a city on the Rhine that had extensive trade with spices, sugar and tea long before the rest of secluded Switzerland had ready access to such luxuries, and there is extensive use of (former) exotic spices. A lot of times the recipes also have a couple of tablespoons of local cherry brandy on the ingredient list (which can be left out without altering the result significantly)

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Over the years ground almond meal (aka almond flour) has become more readily available and my cookies turn out much better than when I tried blending the almonds in my food processor. Yeah, not a grinder, should have known, but driven by desperation (I wanted to have Christmas, after all) I sifted through the result and picking out most of the large remaining almond chunks.

Another challenge is the measurements. All my recipes are not only metric, but in grams, kilograms, deciliters and so forth. We measure ingredients by weight not volume, which I still believe gives you more accurate results in most cases, specially if you have to divide or multiply a recipe. But  for convenience in the American kitchen, I have converted all of the ingredients into imperial measurements, cups and so forth. So, worry not, no need to run out and get a food scale (although I do think it’s a good thing to have, just sayin’)

Many of the recipes that I will be sharing here are considerably healthier than your average cookie recipe. What usually happens when I bring them somewhere is this: people marvel at the different looks and how pretty it is, then they try one and are amazed that there is so much  flavor and not just plain sugary sweetness, and then they completely lose it when they learn that many of the cookies they just tried use no butter or oil and the only fat content is  natural oils from the ground almonds, many are gluten and even grain free ( a thing I never realized until this year)

There are four that absolutely HAVE to be on my list for a real Swiss Christmas,

Links will be updated as I update the recipes

Basler Brunsli (our local version of Brownies)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

MailÀnderli (delicately scented with lemon, these were always the first ones my Mom would bake each year)

 

 

ZimtstĂ€rnli (Cinnamon Stars, I think this one has great potential to become a American Favorite, given it’s shape, taste and color, not to mention taste)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

Änisbrötli (Anis breads/cookies )

fat free besides the eggs

 

And of course there are several other that are just as good and I try to make them too, but without those four, I don’t even care if it snows or not!

 

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 Chocolate Balls

Almonds and chocolate, what more could you want?

   Hazelnut Squares

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Spitzbuebe (Sablé like, translates to Rascals, I have heard them called Linzer Cookies in the US)

Orange Hearts

And I could go on and on

What is one thing that is absolutely essential to your holidays?

 

 

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Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade & Simone Kereit. All rights reserved

Grain Free Lasagna

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Ahhh Lasagna! The whole house smells good after you make one of those…

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Earlier this year, when I was plagued by seasonal allergies, I had been experimenting with a gluten free diet, at the time, I made some Lasagna using rice pasta, you could not even tell the difference!But I was ready for something new, so when I picked up some fantastic looking eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms, at the farmers market and walked past various types of squash, including spaghetti squash, (not ready for that one yet), inspiration hit me, a light came on and I heard a voice. Nonono no, not quite, but I said to myself, “what happens, if I just plain and simply leave out the pasta completely, replace it with thin slivers of veggie instead?” The result is not only gluten free, it is also almost Paleo 😉 (There is cheese, milk and potato starch in it, sorry folks) BUT it’s 100% grain free.

For a vegetarian version, replace the meat with diced zucchini, eggplant and shredded carrot. Adjusting the skillet time accordingly.

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First I made a meat sauce, using homemade tomato sauce, ground bison and mushrooms…
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Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 small zucchini
  • olive oil
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups homemade tomato sauce (or good quality store bought)
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 lb ground meat (I used bison, but beef or turkey would work as well)
  • 1 med onion, diced finely
  • oregano  and basil(dry or fresh)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp potato starch/flour
  • 2 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

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Directions

  1. Using a mandolin slicer, slice eggplant and zucchini into lengthwise thin ribbons (this is what you will be using instead of the pasta sheets). Set aside
  2. In a large skillet, heat a tbsp olive oil, add onion and cook over medium until softened, not browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sliced mushrooms, cover and cook on medium low until the mushrooms are starting to soften.
  4. Then add meat to skillet and cook, breaking up pieces with a fork until not pink anymore.
  5. Add tomato sauce and oregano and basil (depending on the sauce you choose, you might need less or more, suggestion for dried spices is 1 tsp oregano and about a tbsp basil), stir until mixed well and heated through. Set aside
  6. To make the Béchamel Sauce:  Heat 2 tbsp butter in a medium sauce pan over medium low until melted, add in 2 tbsp potato starch, stir until incorporated
  7. Whisk in milk and salt, and stirring continuously, bring sauce to a simmer (don’t turn up the heat, this should be done slowly), and simmer for 3-5 minutes until thickened. (Use when still warm/hot)
  8. Assembling the Lasagna: Using either one 9×13″ glass dish or several smaller ones ( I like to use dishes that are 2-4 servings and freeze several, for a quick week night dinner or lunch) start by spreading some meat sauce over the bottom of the dish, then a layer of eggplant or zucchini, followed by 3/4 cup of BĂ©chamel sauce, a handful of mozzarella, another layer of vegetables (either zucchini or eggplant, I kept doing one layer zucchini, one layer eggplant, but you could mix and match), repeating the meat sauce and BĂ©chamel/cheese layers, finishing with a layer of BĂ©chamel and the rest of the mozzarella.
  9. Store in the fridge until ready to bake for dinner or bake right away: Preheat oven to 350F, bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and the eggplant and zucchini are soft, when pierced with a knife. (Adjust baking time, if not storing in the fridge first)

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Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved.