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  • Recipe: Double Chocolate Fudgy Spelt Brownies

    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    Not that brownies can ever count as a healthy food, but I’ve been wanting to try baking with spelt flour for a few months now – my plans just got derailed by summer vacation. I’d always thought of spelt as a “healthy” grain, and it seems to be somewhat healthier than wheat but not by a huge amount. It’s a whole grain, so it’s high in protein and fiber, and turns out to be a generally acceptable substitute for whole wheat flour in most recipes. It is a relative of wheat, so it’s not gluten-free.

    Being new to spelt, I was intimidated about using it but I had a Martha Stewart brownie recipe using spelt that I wanted to try (with my own adaptations, of course – because I can never leave well enough alone). The brownies came together like any other brownie recipe, and they were maybe the fudgiest brownies I’ve ever made. The true test, of course, was the kids – and they both liked the brownies a lot.

    So, not only will I make these brownies again, but I have a bag of spelt flour sitting in my pantry now, waiting to be used up. I’m going to substitute it for some regular flour in some of our favorite recipes to see how it goes. In the meantime, why not give these brownies a try?

    Fudgy Spelt Brownies | Chief Family Officer

    Double Chocolate Fudgy Spelt Brownies
    Adapted from Martha Stewart

    1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus additional butter for pan
    6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup sucanat (or light brown sugar)
    3 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus additional cocoa powder for pan
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    3/4 cup spelt flour

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8×8 pan and sprinkle some cocoa powder over the butter. Turn the pan around and spread the cocoa powder over the butter until the butter is thoroughly coated with a layer of cocoa. Dump out excess cocoa powder and set prepared pan aside.*

    2. Put the stick of butter and the chocolate chips into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for thirty seconds, then stir. Repeat as necessary until the chocolate melts and the mixture is a smooth consistency (do not microwave too long or the chocolate will clump up! you can also combine the chocolate and butter over a double boiler but I always think that’s too much hassle when the microwave can do the job).

    3. Stir the sugar and sucanat into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. (If using organic sugar and sucanat, as I did, the mixture will not become totally smooth, and that’s okay.) Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the cocoa powder and salt, then stir to thoroughly combined. Fold in the flour until well combined, being sure not to leave any streaks of flour (but don’t over-beat the mixture either).

    4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs. Let cool completely before cutting.**

    the fudgy center!

    *Alternatively, Martha recommends lining the pan with parchment paper with an overhang so you can lift the entire block out of the pan for cutting.

    **These brownies are so fudgy that cutting was difficult. I recommend oiling a pizza wheel and using that to cut your brownies, wiping off the wheel and re-oiling between cuts.

    Collage image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

    Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate - Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things

    One of my favorite discoveries this past year has been Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate:

    TJ Coffee Concentrate

    This coffee concentrate makes for the easiest iced coffee ever! The directions say to use one part of coffee concentrate to three parts of water or milk. However, I’ve been using about three parts of nonfat milk, a splash of heavy cream and a splash of maple syrup to make my iced coffee. If I’m not out and about to grab a chai tea latte at Starbucks, the iced coffee really hits the spot.

    Each bottle contains 32 ounces and costs $7.99 (at least here in LA – prices may be regional). Once opened, you can refrigerate the bottle for up to 30 days. (I write the date I opened it on the label with a Sharpie.) If you don’t use up the whole bottle, you can freeze what’s left in an ice cube tray. I’ve done this and used the frozen coffee cubes when a recipe called for coffee or when I wanted to keep my coffee cold in an insulated travel mug (these Contigo mugs are my favorite because they don’t leak and keep drinks hot or cold for hours).

    See all of Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things here.

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    This Week’s Healthy Dish: Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Feta and Shrimp

    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    As I mentioned previously, I’m making one new healthy dish per week this year to help me conquer my fear/reluctance to try new foods and techniques.

    One of those is quinoa. Well, it was, because I made it on Monday and it was great! I’ve actually had quinoa before, but I’ve just never liked it. Maybe it just wasn’t cooked well or something, because I was quite pleased with how it came out. I used one cup of uncooked quinoa, 3/4 cup of low-sodium chicken stock, and 1 cup of water. I combined them in a small saucepan, brought the mixture to a boil, and then left it to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. To be honest, I forgot about it until I smelled a slightly nutty odor and ran into the kitchen in a panic, convinced that I’d just burned the quinoa! But it was perfect – perfectly fluffy, that is.

    I then made this quinoa salad, although I skipped the carrot and added some sauteed shrimp. I sliced the cucumber pretty thin, and the salt from the feta pickled it slightly and gave it a marvelous crunch. I also added some Meyer lemon zest and lemon juice, since I wanted some acid to brighten the flavors.

    Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Feta and Shrimp - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I will definitely make this salad again, and am on the hunt for other quinoa recipes to try.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    New Cooking Strategy in 2015: A new, healthy dish each week

    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I’ve learned a lot about establishing new habits from James Clear, so instead of thinking in terms of goals and resolutions this year, I’m focused on changes and habits, and especially on changing habits.

    One change that I want to make this year is better eating habits – especially eating more produce and reducing my sugar consumption. However, I’ve noticed that I shy away from unfamiliar ingredients, or ingredients I’ve struggled with in the past even though they are supposed to be healthy.

    A good example is quinoa. I’ve never really liked quinoa, whether I’ve had it at a restaurant or made it myself. But a lot of people do like it and it’s healthy, and I’ve got a whole bag that I got for free at Ralphs sitting in my pantry. I’ve also got a bunch of beets from my CSA – I love eating them, but I’ve always been afraid to cook them. And, I just came across a recipe for Oven-Roasted Tofu, which is a way of eating tofu I’d never thought of.

    That got me thinking: Each week, I can plan to make a new “healthy” dish that makes me uncomfortable – whether it’s because of the ingredients and/or techniques, I will stretch my cooking abilities and knowledge, which is always a good thing, and my family and I can explore new foods. I know we may not like many of them (there’s always cereal to fall back on!), but I’m confident we’ll also discover some new favorites that will move out of the “uncomfortable” zone and into regular rotation.

    If you have beloved recipes for alternate grains, please leave them in the comments! Just keep in mind that we are a nut-free and seed-free house due to allergies (the only exception is sesame, for some odd reason). I’ll keep you updated in my weekly menu plans as to which recipes we are trying, and what we think of them.

    Spoiler alert: Since the beets are perishable, they’ll be the first new thing I try!

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: The Sneaky Chef’s No Nut Butter

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things: The Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter

    I have been meaning to write this post for quite a while now, because The Sneaky Chef Creamy No-Nut Butter has become a staple food in our house.

    It’s not the healthiest food, nor does it follow the “real food” rules of being minimally processed. The ingredients include powdered sugar with cornstarch, palm fruit oil, and mono and diglycerides from a vegetable source. But at least the main ingredients, golden peas and canola oil, are non-GMO.

    And it’s a great replacement product for us. Because where most families can use a 100% natural, organic, minimally processed nut butter like peanut butter or almond butter, or the popular alternative, sunflower butter, we eliminated those options when we discovered one of the boys is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, and most seeds, including sunflower. Thankfully, his allergy is not so bad that the tiniest whiff of one of these forbidden items produces a reaction. But I certainly wouldn’t risk having any of these things in my house.

    I stumbled across No-Nut Butter about six months ago while doing research for an article, and since peanuts and soybeans – like golden peas – are legumes, I wasn’t entirely sure that it would be safe for my son. But he’s been able to tolerate it without issue, and I’ve been delighted to discover that No-Nut Butter freezes and bakes well.

    In fact, I can prep ahead and make No-Nut Butter & Jam sandwiches to freeze for school lunches:

    Freezer-friendly No-Nut Butter Sandwiches - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I freeze half-sandwiches, since that’s what I pack for each boy. Each half goes into a plastic baggie, and then the baggies go into the bag the loaf of bread came in. When I’m getting lunch ready in the morning, I just pull a sandwich out of the freezer! {Making my own sandwich bread is one of my cooking dreams/goals, but I’ve yet to find a recipe that the kids like.}

    No-Nut Butter also served me well in a modified version of these Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies, and is great in smoothies as well.

    Of course, if you know of any other peanut-free, nut-free, seed-free alternatives, especially if they’re less processed/more natural, I’d love to try them, so let me know in the comments!

    Buy The Sneaky Chef Creamy No-Nut Butter for $7.49 at Amazon or Vitacost.

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