Gluten-Free Vegan Walnut-Pecan Thumbprints

kristine hinterkopf photographer gluten free vegan thumbprints

If you guys are anything like me then you might have gone a wee bit overboard on the sweets and drinking over the holiday season. And if you’re like me, that holiday season dragged on and lasted til way past the New Year (aka up until a few days ago). Now this isn’t something I say often, but my body needs a serious break from all that sugar. So while I’m all about trying to eat a little healthier this week, I still need some kind of treat. Cause let’s face it……this girl needs her cookies and going completely cold turkey from desserts is just not realistic.

When it comes to food, I’m a firm believer in moderation and not labeling things as “good” or “bad.” A healthy relationship with food is far more important than sticking to some crazy strict diet. So instead of feeling guilty about all the delicious, amazing desserts I ate over the past few weeks, I’m going to look at the holiday season for what it was. A fun time to indulge in baked goods and share them with loved ones. But now it’s time to get that balance back…..and still get my cookie fix.

That’s where these Walnut-Pecan Thumbprints are key. These cookies are as healthy as it gets when it comes to my baked goods. They’re vegan, gluten-free, and refined sugar free. The thumbprints are lightly sweetened with maple syrup with a beautiful, delicate warmth thanks to the toasted pecans and walnuts and addition of cinnamon. And the combination of gluten free oat flour and brown rice flour creates a cookie that is hearty, but still tender. They’re the ultimate healthy treat and are my go-to fuel for hiking season. The husband meanwhile loves to eat them for breakfast…..and who doesn’t love cookies for breakfast??

One quick note – if you want to keep the thumbprints refined sugar free, it’s important to find a fruit spread that has no added sugar.

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Why I’m Loving Paperless Post

Kristine Hinterkopf Paperless Post

Every year the husband and I take a holiday picture, but we’ve never actually sent out a holiday card. Weird…..I know. We always have the best intentions and say this year is going to be the year we send one out. Then we realize we don’t have everyone’s mailing addresses and start to think about how much time and effort it would take to actually make it happen. Which inevitably leads to us just posting the picture on Facebook and Instagram and calling it good.

So when Paperless Post reached out and asked if I’d like to try their customizable online stationary in exchange for an honest review, I immediately jumped at the chance and said yes. While I was familiar with Paperless Post’s gorgeous array of cards, I had never had the chance to test them out myself. I knew this was exactly the kind of motivation I needed to finally send out a holiday card.

When I went onto Paperless Post, I was instantly impressed by the quality and assortment of cards. There were so many crazy beautiful options that I had a hard time choosing one! Luckily, they have a nifty function where you can save your favorites, which made narrowing down the options a lot easier. Once I settled on a card, I went right into design mode and was seriously excited to see that I could customize everything on the card. I’m talking background, font, envelope color, the spacing between the letters and you can even add an additional card with text (which I used to share the recipe for my favorite holiday drink). For Type-A people like me that level of customization is pretty much the best thing ever and, to top it off, all the tools are super user friendly.

Kristine Hinterkopf Spiked Mulled Cider

By the end, I had my perfect holiday card designed and scheduled to arrive in the inboxes of all my friends and family the next morning…..which was key considering I waited till December 22nd to do this. And here’s the best part, all of this took less than 30 minutes to do. It’s that easy. A tasteful, gorgeous card that you can send out instantly – I mean what more could you want? My other favorite feature is that our friends and family were able to immediately reply to our card through Paperless Post. We received quite a few responses and loved reading them over a hot cup of tea that morning.

So if you guys are like me and have always wanted to send out a holiday card, but thought you didn’t have enough time or procrastinated and waited too long – then you NEED to check out Paperless Post. We’re still a few days out from New Year’s Eve, which means there’s plenty of time for you to send out a Happy New Year card. If you send one, let me know! I’d love to hear what you guys think.

Dark Chocolate Honey Truffles

 

Kristine Hinterkopf Photographer Dark Chocolate Honey Truffle

For those who don’t know, I am a full on holiday geek. I love this time of year. Christmas music? All about it. Twinkle lights on everything? Yes please. Two Christmas trees? Not yet…..but that’s the dream. If it wasn’t obvious, I fully embrace the holiday season. Especially the baking part. It’s the perfect excuse to go a little overboard and make a ridiculous amount of treats. And while I’m all for decadent cakes and cookies and breads, every once in a while it’s nice to make a treat that’s on the healthier side. That’s where these Dark Chocolate Honey Truffles come in.

Kristine Hinterkopf Photographer Chocolate Honey Truffle-3

These truffles are like little tiny chocolate bombs. The bitterness of the dark chocolate is mellowed out by the sweetness of the honey while the subtle hint of cinnamon balances everything out. If you’re having a chocolate craving, these bad boys will take care of it. And despite being dairy-free and refined sugar free, they still have a rich, luscious texture.

Best of all, it’s quick and easy to whip up a big batch of them to keep on hand for those last minute chocolate emergencies. All you have to do is place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz them until they come together. The dipping part takes a little bit of time, but that’s when you enlist friends and family to help……or do what I do and go all Monica and not let people help cause they “don’t know the system” (if you understand that reference we are totally best friends now).

Kristine Hinterkopf Photographer Dark Chocolate Truffle

Dark Chocolate Honey Truffles
Makes approximately 35 truffles

For the truffle:
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup walnuts
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder 
3 tablespoons coconut oil (do not use extra virgin – it has too much of a coconut flavor)
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

For the chocolate coating:
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon coconut oil

Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Place all the ingredients for the truffle in a food processor. Pulse for about 20 seconds or until the pecans and walnuts are finely ground and the mixture starts to come together in a thick mass. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, take approximately 1 teaspoon worth of the truffle mixture and roll it into a small ball. Place on the lined baking sheet and continue shaping the rest of the truffles. Once they’re all shaped, place them in the freezer for about 20 – 30 minutes. This will help with the dipping part that comes next.

To make the chocolate coating, place the unsweetened chocolate and coconut oil in a small microwaveable bowl and microwave for about 20 seconds. Give the mixture a good stir, then microwave again for 20 seconds. Continue this process until the chocolate is all nice and smooth and shiny.

Using a fork, carefully dip each truffle into the melted chocolate to lightly coat (give a slight tap at the end to remove any excess chocolate) and then place the truffle back on the baking sheet. If the melted chocolate starts to get too cold, just zap it in the microwave for another 5 seconds. I find it super helpful to have cold, cold truffles and warm chocolate for the dipping process. You get a cleaner dip this way and the truffles are less likely to have a foot on the bottom. If desired, drizzle some of the melted chocolate on top of the coated truffles for a fancier look. Refrigerate coated truffles for about 20 minutes or until the outer coating is set.

These will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to a month.

Figgy Toffee Cookies

Kristine Hinterkopf Photographer Figgy Toffee Cookie

It’s full on cookie season and I, for one, am digging it. I mean who doesn’t love cookies?? And the holidays are the perfect excuse to bust out in the kitchen and bake allllllll of the cookies. Seriously, no one will judge you this time of year if you decide to bake like 100 or 200 cookies. In December, that’s a totally reasonable thing to do.

I’m on a bit of a cookie kick right now and have been working on a couple awesome recipes to share with you guys. First up are these Figgy Toffee Cookies. Made with dark muscovado sugar, dried figs, and crushed up bits of toffee (either store bought or homemade….totally your call) – they are the perfect holiday cookie. These ingredients play beautifully off each other with the  sweet, jammy figs complementing the subtle smokiness of the toffee and muscovado sugar. If you can’t find dark muscovado sugar, you can use dark brown sugar instead (if you do that – increase the molasses from 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon) but I highly recommend seeking out the muscovado sugar. It makes a big difference!

Hope you guys are getting your cookie on…..and, if you are, I hope you’ll add these to your rotation!

Kristine Hinterkopf Photographer Fig Toffee Cookie

Figgy Toffee Cookies
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into one-inch pieces
1 ¼ cups dark muscovado sugar
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons unsulphured molasses
½  teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 cup coarsely chopped toffee (you’ll want to use plain toffee aka one that’s not covered in chocolate)
1 cup stemmed and coarsely chopped California Dried Figs (such as Sun-Maid Mission Figs)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it smells nutty and fragrant and is a light brown color. Pour the browned butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and set aside to let cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder and salt.

When the browned butter is cool, add in both sugars and beat at medium-speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then add in the eggs and egg yolk and continue beating for another 3 – 5 minutes. Add in the espresso powder, vanilla, and molasses and mix until just incorporated.

Decrease the mixer speed to low and add in the dry ingredients.  Mix only until the flour is partially combined and then add in the figs and toffee and mix until the dough just comes together.

Using a cookie scoop or 2 spoons, take roughly 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball.  Place on your prepared baking sheet and then gently flatten the ball with the palm of your hand. Continue this process with the rest of the dough.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown.  Cool cookies on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Gluten-Free Almond Financiers

Gluten Free Financier

I usually try to keep things pretty light and not too crazy personal around here, but sometimes there are things going on in my life that end up seeping into my baking/blogging world. And this is definitely one of those things…….for the past couple of years I’ve been dealing with some stomach problems and this summer it finally got bad enough that I decided to go see a doctor and really figure out what was going on. At first, they thought I might have Celiac Disease…..which was definitely not what I was expecting or wanting to hear (all I kept thinking about was baking and how everything would have to change). Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case. But what they did discover was almost as surprising (mostly cause I had no idea this was even a thing)……turns out barley and me don’t get along so well. I guess the technical term is “allergic” or “intolerant” but the general gist is I can’t eat a lot of barley.

When they first told me, my mind immediately went to beer. Which I love……like capital L-O-V-E love. While I was wrapping my brain around having to give up beer (and trying to figure out what I was going to do with all my cellar beers), I googled “barley allergy” and discovered barley is in a ridiculous amount of things. We’re talking bourbon, malt, and, worst of all, most of the flour blends on the market. I’m not going to lie – giving up beer was tough, but the hardest adjustment by far has been the flour.

It turns out the all-purpose flour I previously used contained barley. It took me a while to find a blend that was 100% wheat, but I finally found one from Bob’s Red Mill and I cannot properly express how grateful I am to them for making this flour. It has totally saved me….and my baking. (And FYI they also have an Almond Flour that I used to make these financiers). I still have to be careful eating anything with flour that I don’t make myself, but having an option for my home kitchen is seriously amazing.

So what does this mean for you guys? Well, it means you’ll probably start seeing some more recipes that use non-traditional flours like whole-wheat pastry flour or rye flour on here and you might even see some gluten-free recipes pop up…..like these Gluten-Free Almond Financiers. Most of what I post will still use all-purpose flour, but this is a great excuse for me to start getting creative in the kitchen and I’m all for it!

These financiers were a staple menu item when I used to sell retail and were always one of my favorites. Don’t let the fact that they’re gluten-free scare you off. The recipe contains very little flour, so you won’t even notice – I promise! These crazy delicious, buttery little almond cakes are not too sweet and I’ve been known to eat them for breakfast. Top them with some sugared cranberries and rosemary like I did in the pictures and they even make the perfect holiday treat!

GF Almond Financier

Gluten-Free Almond Financiers
Makes 24 financiers

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
5 tablespoons white rice flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup slivered almonds
¾ cup almond meal
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Raspberries, blueberries, or cranberries (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a mini-muffin pan with butter.

Place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, until it smells nutty and fragrant and is a light brown color.  Pour the browned butter into a small bowl (making sure to scrape in all those tasty browned bits….that’s what gives the financiers their amazing flavor) and set aside to cool completely.

In a food processor, combine the granulated sugar, confectioner’s sugar, rice flour, salt, slivered almonds, and almond meal.  Process until the almonds are finely ground.

With the food processor running, slowly add in the egg whites.  Then turn off mixer and add in the browned butter. Pulse until the butter is completely incorporated into the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter between each muffin cup.  If desired, gently press the fruit of your choice onto the top of each financier.

Bake for 16 – 19 minutes or until the financiers are lightly golden brown. Be sure to rotate the pan halfway through baking.  Cool the financiers in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then remove them from the pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

Peanut Butter Meringue Brownies

Peanut Butter Meringue Brownie

Can we all agree that Costco has the best/most unnecessary stuff ever? I mean, yes, there are tons of necessary things like screaming deals on bulk butter, nuts, and even lobster. But they also have things that you don’t really need, but REALLY want once you see them. Take for example the 3 lb tub of Reese’s Pieces I recently bought. Did I technically need 3 lbs worth of peanut butter goodness?? Probably not. Did buying it totally make my day and maybe even life infinitely better?? That’s debatable, but I’m leaning towards yes.

So now you’re probably wondering, “What do you do with 3 lbs worth of Reese’s?” Well, I’m glad you asked. First, you eat it….like a lot of it. Then you hide it from your husband cause he’s eating it faster than you and you’ll be damned if he gets to eat more of it than you (I have candy sharing issues). Then you realize you still have an insane amount of Reese’s Pieces left and should probably figure out a way to use it up. That’s where this recipe comes in.

Lately, I’ve been drooling over all the meringue topped brownies on Instagram and have been wanting to create my own version. Thankfully, my crazy amount of Reese’s Pieces gave me the perfect excuse to do so. Since chocolate and peanut butter is one of the greatest combos of all time, I decided to make a dark chocolate brownie with Reese’s Pieces folded in. And to take the peanut butter flavor up a bit and take the brownies up a notch, I topped them with a peanut butter Swiss meringue.

You guys, I’m not kidding when I say this meringue is legit. It’s the fluffiest, silkiest, most delicious meringue ever. It’s so good that I ate an embarrassing amount straight out of the bowl. And it’s also super easy to make and super stable – which were the two most important things to me when developing the recipe.

So if you have any leftover Reese’s Pieces hanging around after Halloween…..or just need a good excuse to buy that giant 3 lb tub of Reese’s from Costco then this is the recipe for you!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars

A quick update on one of the first recipes I ever posted. These Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars come together super fast (even faster than the original cookie recipe), but look way more impressive. I upped the chocolate in them and used oats that I lightly toasted in the oven. Toasting them is an optional step, but one that I highly recommend. It adds more flavor to the oats and gives the bars a really nice base for the chocolate and peanut butter to play off.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars
Makes 16 bars

½ cup milk (any percentage will work)

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder

½ cup unsalted butter

2 teaspoons non-fat dry milk powder

¼ cup dark chocolate chips

1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt – cut back to ½ teaspoon)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chunky peanut butter

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats, lightly toasted

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

In a large heavy saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cocoa powder, non-fat milk powder, and butter. Over medium heat, stir the mixture together until the butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it is at a boil, stop stirring and let boil for a full 90 seconds.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate chips. When the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. Then add in the peanut butter and mix until it is completely incorporated. Finally, fold in the oats.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and spread into a relatively even layer. Let the bars cool and set up for at least one hour. You can do this either on your counter top or in the fridge. Once the bars have set, cut into 16 pieces. If you want to add a little extra flair, drizzle the bars with some melted dark chocolate and top with coarsely chopped salted peanuts!

Blueberry Cheesecake Trifles

Blueberry Cheesecake Trifle

There’s a running joke on the husband’s side of the family that I can be a bit of a “purist” when it comes to food in the sense that I want to make EVERYTHING from scratch. And, I hate to admit, they’re not exactly wrong. But it’s not my fault!

Okay…..it’s kind of my fault, but it goes back to when I was a kid. My Dad is an insane chef and baker. He makes the most incredible pizzas, cinnamon rolls, pies, bread and pretty much everything. Growing up, he wasn’t stoked on me using boxed mixes to bake. His argument was it’s not that much harder to just make it yourself. Which is true! So that meant if I wanted something sweet (which was all the time) I had to make it myself…..from scratch.

These days, this make it from scratch philosophy has kind of taken on a life of itself. My Dad may have even created a bit of a monster……like I wouldn’t let him buy pre-shredded parmesan once because I said it’s better to shred your own. When he complained I told him, “This is your fault! You created this!” It might have been an over the top reaction to have in a grocery store, but I’m cool with it.

The recipe I’m sharing today originally comes from my husband’s Grandma. It’s a dessert so legendary in their family that it’s simply referred to as The Blueberry Dessert. I had been hearing about this icon of treat for a while and was so excited when I finally got try some. And, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It’s crazy delicious and addicting. My Mother-in-law was kind enough to share the recipe with me a few years back and, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to change it up a bit.

The original recipe calls for Cool Whip and canned blueberry pie filing, but since I feel the burning desire to make everything from scratch I swapped both of those out for homemade versions. A bright and jammy blueberry sauce took the place of the canned stuff and a stabilized whipped cream was an easy replacement for Cool Whip. And since I was already changing up the recipe, I decided to make it as a layered trifle instead of in a 9 x 13 pan.

While my version of the dessert is slightly more complicated than the original, the intent and spirit behind it remains the same. This is the dessert I make for the husband on his birthday or when his family comes to visit and will even be on our Thanksgiving table this year. It’s a dessert that reminds him of home and makes me feel more closely connected to his family. Being able to put my own spin on a dessert so rich in their family’s history feels like a melding of our two pasts. Me and my make it from scratch mentality passed down from my Dad and their beautiful family dessert steeped in lots of love. It’s one hell of a combo!

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S’mores Cookie Cups

S'mores Cookie Cup

So I might be way too excited to share this post. How excited, you ask. Well, so excited that I’m legit typing this on my phone while camping. Thank goodness for 4Gs and awesome cell service….because you guys NEED these for your Labor Day weekend.

Every once in a while I come up with a seriously over the top idea. Something so decadent and indulgent that it makes even me pause….and that’s saying a lot. These S’mores Cookie Cups are one of those recipes. The general idea come about in a rather simple way. I love cookie cups (anyone else remember getting the frosted ones from Mrs. Field’s at the mall??) and wanted to create a summery twist on them. And, to me, nothing says summer more than s’mores.

Orginally these were just going to be chocolate chip cookie cups topped with a torched marshmallow and Ghirardelli caramel filled chocolate square. But then I thought, why stop there?? I needed some kind of graham cracker component and also wanted to incorporate more chocolate into the recipe (cause more chocolate is always a good thing). That’s when the over the top idea hit me – what if I made a graham cracker infused milk chocolate truffle and stuffed it INSIDE the cookie cups?! I immediately got to work on this idea and it was exactly what the cookie cups needed.

This recipe takes a little bit of time to make, but you can break it up and make and freeze the truffles ahead of time. You’ll also have some cookie dough and truffles leftover as well….which is never a bad thing. So trust me when I say you need to make these. Everyone who has tried them has flipped when they bite in and discover the surprise hidden chocolate truffle. They just can’t enough! There’s something about the combo of the chocolate stuffed cookie cup, the faint smokiness of the torched marshmallow, and the salty/sweet Ghirardelli caramel filled chocolate square that people can’t get enough of.

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Salted Oatmeal Tahini Cookies with Boozy Cherries and White Chocolate

Tahini Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, since I promised to have this recipe up last week and then totally dropped the ball (I’m the worst…..I know) – I’m going to keep today’s post short and simple. These Salted Oatmeal Tahini Cookies are quite possibly my new favorite cookie. First of all, they help fuel my out of control tahini addiction (I seriously cannot get enough of it!) and second of all, the flavor combo is AMAZING. There’s just something magical about the combination of tahini and cherries. They play off each other beautifully with the tart, sweetness of the cherries being the perfect balance to the nuttiness and earthiness of the tahini. And the white chocolate just adds a little extra sweetness to bring everything together.

There are a couple keys to this recipe. One is the bourbon soaked cherries. It takes a little extra forethought to soak them ahead of time, but trust me – it is sooooo worth it. It plumps up the cherries and adds a nice depth to the cookie. And you’re left over with some cherry infused bourbon, which is never a bad thing! The second key is using the best tahini you can find. It’s the star and base ingredient in this recipe, so please do not skimp. I’m partial to Soom and highly recommend seeking a jar out. It’s by far the best tahini I’ve ever had and is like 99.99% responsible for my newfound tahini addiction…..most of the time you can find me eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon (don’t judge me til you’ve tried it).

Alright, I promised a short post – so let’s get on to the recipe. Make them, love them, and PLEASE tell me all about it so I can eat vicariously through you…..cause I can’t have sugar or barley for another week and that makes me sad.

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