Valerie Brownies – gluten-free, dairy-free, and awesomely yummy!!!

valerie brownies

This is the recipe that I’ve sent to a zillion potlucks and bake sales at my kids’ schools.

I put a lot of work into testing and perfecting this recipe — a process that was a LOT of fun!!!

Valerie Brownies in a ringThis recipe very reliably makes really wonderful brownies.

My theory of potlucks is that people see the words “gluten-free” and get scared off. So I counteract that by adding lots of good adjectives to the sign on my brownies, so that the good words outnumber the words “gluten-free.” So the labels that I put on my brownies for potlucks call them, “Valerie’s Amazing Awesome Gluten-Free Brownie.”

Wall to Wall Valerie Brownies - Yum!For potlucks, I keep a sheet of label images on my computer so that I can print them off on my printer. I keep snack-size ziplock bags on hand. To package up the brownies, I put each brownie into a snack-sized ziplock bag, zip it, then tape on a printed label. That way the brownies are protected from cross-contamination by other foods at the bake sale.

This recipe was long-ago based on a brownie recipe from an old edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook.

Yum!!!

Valerie Brownies - gluten-free, dairy-free, and awesomely yummy!!!
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This recipe very reliably makes awesome gluten-free, dairy-free brownies.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16 brownies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour (I like Arrowhead Mills brand) (if you are not gluten-free, replace this with regular flour)
  • 1/3 cup potato starch (I like Bob's Red Mill brand but would fervently like to find an organic gluten-free potato starch) (if you are not gluten-free, replace this with regular flour)
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa (I like NOW Foods brand)
  • 1 cup sugar (I like the big bags of organic sugar from Costco)
  • 1/3 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum (if you are not gluten-free, leave out this ingredient)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I like Equal Exchange semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 2 eggs (preferably free-range)
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract (I like Nielsen-Massey brand)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil (I like Spectrum organic)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Oil (with canola oil) and flour (with potato starch) an 8x8 inch square pan.
  3. Put all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix.
  4. Add all wet ingredients. Mix
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Let cool.
  8. Cut into 16 squares.
  9. Best served at refrigerator temperature.

 

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread – addictive, healthy, and gluten-free – great for pot lucks and Thanksgiving!

chocolate chip pumpkin bread

another view of chocolate chip pumpkin breadThe first time I encountered chocolate chip pumpkin bread was when the wife of a colleague brought a loaf of it when their family visited my house. I didn’t think it sounded very good. Chocolate and pumpkin didn’t seem like they would go together very well. So I set it aside and forgot about it. Then, a couple of days later, just to be polite, I tried a bit of it. OH MY GOODNESS!!! I found out how VERY WELL chocolate and pumpkin DO go together!!!

After that I was hooked. They kindly gave me a copy of the recipe. It was originally published in a newspaper recipe column with the name “Mrs. Dugin’s Harvest Loaf Cake.”

pureed dates, raisins and eggs

pureed dates, raisins and eggs

For many years I made chocolate chip pumpkin bread for pot lucks and work events. It got to be kind of synonymous with Valerie. You know, if there’s a pot luck, Valerie will bring chocolate chip pumpkin bread.

When my family went dairy-free and then gluten-free, I converted the recipe and kept right on making it. This recipe is way too good to lose!

One interesting thing about this recipe is that it is so yummy that you can add all kinds of additional healthy veggies to it and my kids will still eat it. Also, I’m a big fan of converting recipes to use fruit as the sweetener instead of refined sugar. So I’ll give you two versions of this recipe. The first version is classic chocolate chip pumpkin bread, with refined sugar as one of the ingredients, and no sneaky extra vegetables added in. The second version is the wild and woolly version that I make for my family when I want the kids to happily scarf down lots of nutritious delicious food. That version has no refined sugar and lots of added veggies.

chocolate chip pumpkin bread before bakingTravel tip: Frozen slices of CCPB make good freezer bricks that you can put in a lunchbox and take along on an airplane or other travel, to help keep your other food fresh. And then you can eat the CCPB for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, or a snack!) while you travel, or at your destination. Though one time I got stopped by the TSA’s scanners because they detected slices of frozen pumpkin bread in my luggage and incorrectly thought that they were liquids in more than a 3 ounce quantity. Oops. But once the TSA agent saw that it wasn’t a liquid, he let me right through.

Chocolate chip pumpkin bread is easiest to slice neatly and it tastes best once it has been refrigerated.

chocolate chip pumpkin bread after bakingIf you cook your own fresh pumpkin for this recipe, you can decide whether to puree it or leave it chunky. I like it chunky, but my picky kids prefer it pureed. Either way, the result is a really delicious loaf.

You can also bake the batter as muffins. Pour the batter into muffin cups and bake for about 19-20 minutes. Check for doneness the same as for a loaf.

I’ve also made a mug cake version, but I haven’t posted that recipe. If you’d like that recipe, please post a comment to let me know, and I’d be happy to post it!


 

First, here is the more traditional version of the recipe, with refined sugar:

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread - the classic version
 
Prep time
15 mins
Cook time
80 mins
Total time
1 hour 35 mins
 
Warning: chocolate chips and pumpkin are a Seriously Addictive combination. This loaf may be habit-forming.
Author: Valerie Mates
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2 loaves
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sugar (see other version of recipe for refined-sugar-free version)
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (I use my gluten-free flour mix, plus 1 3/4 teaspoons xanthan gum or guar gum)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups pumpkin (either canned or fresh)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Oil and flour two 9x5 inch loaf pans. (Use rice flour for the flouring if you are gluten-free.)
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Smooth out the tops with a spatula.
  5. Bake for 75 to 80 minutes.
  6. Loaves are cooked when a knife comes out clean (except for some melted chocolate chips), or when a thermometer says it's 195 to 200 degrees inside.
3.2.2885


 

Now, here is the super-healthy version of the recipe. The refined sugar is replaced with ground up raisins and dates — which tastes sweet and not raisin-y or date-y. I’ve added a ton of blended veggies, more flour mix, and cut the spices in half because they taste much stronger when you’re not using refined sugar. Also I use ground flaxmeal to replace the xanthan or guar gum.

If you are feeding this recipe to picky kids, I suggest starting with the original recipe the first time that you serve it, then the next time you bake it add only a few tablespoons of additional pureed veggies, and increase the amount gradually from there. Don’t start out right away with six cups of kale for your supertaster kid.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread - the super-healthy version
 
Prep time
30 mins
Cook time
80 mins
Total time
1 hour 50 mins
 
Chocolate and pumpkin are an addictive combination. This loaf is super-healthy, with lots of added veggies and no refined sugar. My kids scarf this down!
Author: Valerie Mates
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3 loaves
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins (or dates)
  • 1 1/2 cups dates, with no pits or stem pieces (or raisins)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup quinoa flour (if you are not gluten-free, you can use regular flour for all the flour)
  • 1 cup teff flour
  • 1 cup garbanzo flour (if you like it, or replace with another flour if you're not sure)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup potato starch
  • 2 cups pumpkin (either canned or fresh)
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4-6 cups assorted veggies such as frozen broccoli, fresh or frozen berries, the flesh of a mango, a beet, and/or greens -- defrosted, drained of any liquid, and pureed smooth for several minutes in a food processor
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place raisins, dates, and eggs in a food processor. Blend until the raisins and dates are shredded into small bits.
  3. Add the baking soda and spices to the food processor, and blend again.
  4. Place the mixture from the food processor and all of the other ingredients in a big bowl. Stir until everything is mixed thoroughly.
  5. Oil and flour three 9x5 inch loaf pans. (Use rice flour for the flouring if you are gluten-free.)
  6. Divide mixture evenly between the three pans and smooth out the tops with a spatula.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 80 minutes.
  8. Loaves are done when a knife comes out clean (except for melted chocolate chips), or when a thermometer says the temperature inside each loaf is 195 to 200 degrees.
3.2.2885

 

Chocolates – quick, easy, dairy-free, vegan

Chocolates

chocolate daleksBack when my kids were eating dairy-free as well as gluten-free, most candy was off-limits for them. So for Halloween and Easter, we made our own chocolates. Even now that they can eat dairy, we still make our own chocolates. It is super easy!

The fun part is choosing candy molds to make the chocolates. I used to use plastic candy molds, but I worried about chemicals that might leach into the chocolate. So I replaced the plastic candy molds with silicone ice cube trays. There is an amazing variety of ice cube trays available. We have smiley faces, creepy Easter Island statues, peace signs — even Lego minifiguresDaleks, and Tardises (Tardii?) ! Also my local Meijer store sells seasonal silicone ice cube trays for about Minifigs and penguins$2 each. That’s where I got pumpkins, bats, musical notes, hearts, strawberry-shapes, and lots more.

I thought melted chocolate would be scary-hot, but actually if you think about it, chocolate melts at about body temperature, and that’s about as hot as you want to get it — so it is really more just warm than actually hot. To make chocolates, my kids and I melt allergy-safe chocolate chips in the microwave (some dairy-free vegan brands are Equal Exchange chocolate chips and EnjoyLife), pour into silicone ice cube trays, refrigerate for a few hours, and voila — adorable chocolates that were super easy to make.

Holiday Chocolates - quick, easy, dairy-free, vegan
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Cute, easy, homemade chocolates. Great for Halloween or Easter with allergic kids.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1 cup of chocolates
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Microwave the chocolate chips for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in a microwave-safe cup or bowl. (I use a Pyrex measuring cup.)
  2. Stir with a spoon.
  3. If the chocolate chips aren't fully melted, microwave for another 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until they are all melted.
  4. Pour into silicone ice cube trays.
  5. Gently tap the silicone trays, or vibrate them, or wiggle them, to get any bubbles out, and to get the chocolate into the farthest corners of the design.
  6. Refrigerate for a few hours.
  7. To unmold, spread out a dishtowel flat on a table or counter. Pop the chocolates out of the mold onto the dishtowel. The dish towel will catch any chocolate scraps.
  8. Tip: You can wrap the chocolates in aluminum foil, and maybe add a sticker for decoration. If you do that, I recommend that you tear the foil with your hands, not with scissors. Cutting foil with scissors will quickly dull and ruin the scissors -- I found this out the hard way!
  9. Tip: Some of the chocolate shapes (such as peace signs) break easily when you remove them from the mold. If you need a certain number of chocolates, make extra to account for breakage.
  10. Tip: If you have silicone trays that are very floppy or very wide, you may wish to put them on a cookie sheet to make it easier to get them into the refrigerator without spilling.

 

Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake

chocolate decadence mug cake

chocolate decadence mug cakeMany years ago, after eating dinner at Seva restaurant, I ordered a dessert that was the most dense and chocolatey confection that I had ever tasted. I loved it — but didn’t remember its name! After that, I spent ten years ordering desserts at Seva, wondering what it was, hoping to some day solve the mystery of what the amazing dessert had been. Finally, it did come up again. I found out that the amazing dessert was called Chocolate Decadence.

Later, I found the recipe for Narsai’s Chocolate Decadence on the Internet and tried making it myself.  (Tip: If you make the original recipe, “bake” it in a glass pie plate in the microwave for six minutes, rather than in the oven, to cook it fully without risking any burned bits.) It came out wonderfully and is a birthday favorite at my house.

Last year my partner gave me the very much fun cookbook Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth. I enjoyed baking the creative, original, tiny cake ideas from that cookbook.  When you are making a cake the size of a coffee mug, it is easier to take risks and bake something that you might not want to try a full-sized version of, such as a Sesame Ginger mug cake — which, by the way, came out great!

Anyway, I came up with the idea to try making a Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake.  This recipe is the result.  It mixes up in about five minutes, then needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight, and voila!

The night before the first day of school after a long break, I make each of my older two kids a Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake. The next morning, if they get ready for school expeditiously, they can have it. It’s a fun way to motivate them to get moving in the morning. They each stretch out their mug cake to last all week. My son Arlo says that high school is way too early in the morning, and that the only thing that keeps him awake through his classes is Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake!

Anyway, this is a really wonderful recipe, and very easy to make. I hope you will try it!

Some notes on the recipe:

If you mix up the batter in the mug, it is hard to get all of the ingredients stirred through evenly.  It works better to mix it up in something bigger, such as a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and then pour the batter into a coffee mug for baking.

I like Equal Exchange semi-sweet chocolate chips in this recipe, because they are organic, fair-trade, and vegan.  (The link goes to a 12-pack of chocolate chips on Amazon.)

Use at least a 12-ounce mug. The batter gets a lot taller during baking, then sinks back down again, so the recipe needs the full twelve ounces of space to expand into. American coffee mugs are usually twelve ounces.

You can also divide up the batter into ceramic ramekins and bake it in there.

 

Chocolate Decadence Mug Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An incredible chocolate cake, adapted to coffee-mug size.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1 mug cake
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch or flour
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Put the chocolate chips and canola oil into a two-cup microwaveable bowl or cup, such as a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup.
  2. Microwave for 1 minute.
  3. Stir.
  4. Microwave another 30 seconds.
  5. Stir until all the chocolate is melted.
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients. Use the fork to stir thoroughly. Be detail-oriented with the stirring, so that the egg gets blended very thoroughly with everything else.
  7. Pour into a 12-ounce coffee mug.
  8. Microwave for 90 seconds.
  9. Let sit until cool.
  10. Refrigerate overnight.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies – no gluten, dairy, or refined sugar!

chocolate chip cookie with a bite taken out of it

I searched far and wide for my perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe — and I have found it! This recipe has no gluten — indeed no grain or flour of any kind — and it is sweetened with dates instead of refined sugar. It makes delicious chocolate chip cookies that start out soft and stay that way.

cookie doughThis recipe is based on the Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from the blog Cooking a la Mel. But I’ve modified the recipe to use nuts instead of quinoa flour, replaced coconut oil with canola oil, and left out the refrigeration stage.

dough before bakingFor making blobs of cookie dough, I use an OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop that I bought on Amazon. It makes it easy to turn out a zillion perfect blobs of cookie dough in no time flat — although you can also use a tablespoon to scoop the dough and another one to scrape it off the first one, and that will work fine too.

baked cookiesYou can make these cookies vegan by replacing the egg with a flax egg instead.

My pick for chocolate chips is Equal Exchange, because they are dairy-free, organic, and fair trade.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Awesome gluten-free chocolate chip cookies: made from healthy ingredients, stays soft, and tastes fabulous!
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 18-22 cookies
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pumpkin seeds (without hulls)
  • 1 cup dates, with no pits
  • optional: 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg (or replace with a flax egg to make it vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips, such as Equal Exchange semisweet
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients except for the chocolate chips into a food processor.
  3. Blend for several minutes, until the mixture looks someplace between dough and wet sand. The largest pieces should be the size of the head of a pin.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Place blobs of 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough on a cookie sheet. Flatten the blobs into round cookie shapes. You can put them close together -- they don't expand much during baking.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Tastes best after cooling. Yum!