A Gluten Free Holiday III: Gifts of Good Taste

Welcome back to the third installment of A Gluten Free Holiday, created by Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, and this week hosted by Alta of Tasty Eats at Home! This week’s theme is “gifts of good taste,” and Alta has two delectable gluten-free offerings that can be used for gift-giving.  She’s giving away two cookbooks filled with very tasty recipes as well.  To enter the giveaway or contribute your own recipe to the roundup, click here.

Alta  made a smashing macadamia almond brittle as well as these pistachio coconut macaroons as possible gifts.  Swoon!

She’s also giving away FIVE copies of Jules E Dowler Sheperd’s book, Free for All Cooking: 150 Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly Recipes the Whole Family Can Enjoy. This just-published book offers recipes free of all the major allergens–but anyone can partake!  (recipes not vegan, but many adaptable).

And, TWO copies of Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski (also not vegan).  Peter was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007, and Kelli is a professional chef, which makes for some gorgeous gluten-free fare!

For my own contribution this week, I decided to re-create a holiday staple that’s often used for gift-giving–Almond (or any nut) Bark!

According to the media, we should all be making homemade gifts this year, what with the economy as bad as it is.  True, many of us may find ourselves frugally filling jars with mom’s granola recipe; mixing up homemade hot chocolate and bagging it with ribbons; placing shortbread and gingersnaps toe to toe in cellophane-lined boxes; steeping vanilla beans in vodka in tall, pretty bottles; or wrapping our own version of almond bark in glittery gift bags. But I’ve always loved making gifts of food for friends and family (and using a lot of “F”s in one sentence, too, apparently).

A gift of food is more than an inexpensive way to fulfill the need for a present.  It represents time spent thinking about what the person might like, as well as time spent carefully preparing, baking (or soaking, or drying, or stirring, or whatever), and then carefully packaging the gift. It’s the personal dimension that makes it so special–and so cherished.

Well, having been on the ACD for almost 2 years now (I know, time flies when you’re fighting fungus), I thought about those of us who can’t enjoy the tradtional almond bark.  I knew that an all-chocolate version (unsweetened chocolate with added stevia) could be bitter tasting, so I almost abandoned the idea.  Then, about a month ago, I stopped in to the local health food store on my way home from work.  I’d forgotten to bring a lunch with me (bad, bad) and was ravenous.  I posed my usual enquiry:  “Do you have any snack-like foods that are vegan, unprocessed, gluten free, without sweeteners of any kind except stevia, with no yeasts. . .  etc.?”

“On a candida protocol?” the clerk asked.  Smart cookie, that one (though, inevitably, one likely containing gluten, sweetener, or yeast).

“Why yes!  Yes I am!” I responded.  As expected, she led me to the bags of Mary’s Sticks and Twigs.  Snack-like, yes, but not sweet.

“Oh, wait!” she went on, heading toward the bulk section.  “We just got these carob-covered almonds.  They’re vegan, with no added sugars.  Just carob coating.  I actually tried them and they’re not bad at all. . . ”

Well, desperate times call for desperate measures.  “You’re sure they’re vegan?”  I insisted.  “Yep,” she replied.  “Just carob and almonds.”

Perhaps it was my near-blinding hunger,* or perhaps just that they looked so much like chocolate-covered almonds.  Either way, I managed to consume the entire portion on the way home.  While perhaps not the most ACD-friendly snack (I’m sure the oils used weren’t top quality), at least there were no sweeteners to spike my blood sugar, I reasoned.

Sadly, the next time I visited the same store, they had posted the ingredient list for the almonds–and the second from the top was “whey powder.”  A DAIRY PRODUCT!!!  Never mind that dairy is a hidden source of natural sugars not recommended for the ACD; but whey is most definitely NOT vegan.  I really hate it when I find out, after the fact, that I’ve eaten something I don’t want to eat.  Grrrr.

[Freshly made nut bark still in the pan, just set.]

That made me more determined to create my own version. I decided to combine the concept of barely-sweet carob coating with various nuts to create a carob-based stevia-sweetened nut bark! After playing with proportions of carob vs. chocolate, I came up with a very appealing variation that uses very little stevia, retains a smooth, chocolatey consistency, and offers up a tiny hint of peppermint in reverence to the season. It would make a perfect gift for anyone who’s on an anti-candida regimen, Type II diabetics, or anyone concerned with blood sugar levels (which would be everyone around the holidays, I’m guessing).

Of course, if your dietary habits allow, you can make this the old-fashioned way, with semisweet chocolate instead of the carob; omit the stevia in that case.

* Who am I kidding?  I’ve never experienced “near-blinding hunger” in my life. . . I always make sure to eat long before that!

[. . . and revealing the nutty goodness inside.]

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Previous “A Gluten Free Holiday” Posts (with recipes):

I. Staying Healthy Over the Holidays (Diet, Dessert and Dogs)

II. Thanksgiving Favorites (Gluten Free Easily)

You Might Also Like: Mostly Raw Chocolate Truffles (ACD maintenance)

Two Years Ago: Let Them Eat (Eggplant) Caviar (ACD Stage 2 and beyond)

Three Years Ago: Back to Baking: Orange-Oatmeal Muffins  (ACD maintenance; not GF)

©  Ricki Heller

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Comments

  1. bark looks delicious! i can’t get over how cute your dogs are!

  2. Ooh I love nut bark! I made one with pistachios last year and it was delicious. I think I’ll have to make some again soon. Yours looks delicious!

    • I’d love to make mine with pistachios, too (and dried cranberries, for color), but I’m not allowed pistachios. Maybe just the cranberries. . . !

  3. I’m still recovering from my laughing fit over your offhand comment “I know, time flies when you’re fighting fungus”.

    Thanks for the laugh and a great recipe for Almond Bark. We are being frugal this year over the holidays and counting ourselves lucky and blessed to have good health and good laughs and good books and a somewhat good pet to tide us over to better economic times. Thanks Ricki!

    • Glad you enjoyed it (the line, not the fungus!). And I liked your “somewhat good” pet line as well! ;) I’m being frugal this year as well. . . partly to save the money, but partly because I just think it’s fun. I’m weird that way. :)

  4. How annoying when people don’t give accurate ingredient info. If I had those I would have had a bad tummyache. He hee near-blinding hunger, been there!

  5. This looks great! I love making food gifts. And chocolate made with coconut oil is one of my favourite treats ever.
    I also hate when people assure me that there is no (fill in the blank) in something, and I later find out that there is! I usually find out the hard way (meaning, I get sick) and it is incredibly frustrating. I just try to be as cautious as possible, without being SO strict that it interferes with my life.

  6. Argh–I am so sorry about the dairy in the carob almonds. That is SO annoying. At first I was super impressed with the employee–to know about candida!??!? That is amazing! But to give out misinformation on one of their products? That is unacceptable! Grrrr.

    Courtney

    • That particular store tries to hire holistic nutritionists as clerks, so they do know their food stuff most of the time. I think she may not have really known and was just “bluffing”–once the ingredients were posted, though, she acknowledged that they weren’t vegan. DUH!

  7. Oh my gosh, I want some NOW! I am a sucker for almond bark and this looks perfect! Thanks Ricki!

  8. PS Did you notice a reaction to the little bit of dairy in the chocolate? I hope not!

    • No, I actually didn’t notice a reaction. . . that day. But with candida, it could have happened a day later. I’ve had little flareups here and there, and the past week hasn’t been great. . . maybe that’s why!

  9. MMm, both the cookies and the bark look delicious! I too am thinking of doing some goodie making for gifts this year (although my original plan of quick breads in these cute little mini loaf pans that Michaels has for my coworkers at dance seemed like it might not end up being that frugal after all- 13 pans means I need to start stalking their sales! :D).
    Also I am so sorry to have been MIA re: the iHerb giveaway; I feel like I have been a bit of a pain in the butt for you the past few months (I had better shape up if I want more than coal in my stocking this year, eh? ;)) but I have sent off my email, plus apologies, to Abby, and hopefully remedied the situation.
    -K

  10. This is jumping right off the page into my mouth. Looks mouth-wateringly delicious!

  11. That bark looks wonderful! Would there be a good sub for the soy milk powder?

    • I used the soymilk powder to replace the whey and milk ingredients in the original, and to add a bit more creaminess to the final texture. You could try a bit less of coconut flour, though it might be gritty. . . I think I’d just leave it out, in that case, and go with a more conventional (harder) chocolate texture. :)

      • If it is a creaminess thing, I wonder if maybe 1/2 to 1 TBS coconut milk might work. I’m not opposed to keeping chocolate in the fridge.

  12. You crack me up as usual! Hey, even though you used a lot of “F” words, you didn’t use any bad ones. LOL

    Bummer on being misinformed by the otherwise helpful salesperson, but bravo on this bark! I’m in except for the soy powder. Will have to think of something else to use in place of that.

    Great job per usual, dear! I’ve got to get my post up later today (got delayed … arrrgh), but I think you’ve already tipped everyone off on most of the gift ideas it will contain. ;-)

    Hugs,
    Shirley

    • Well, I did use “fungus,” too, which is most definitely a “bad” F-word to me! ;) Re: soymilk, see my comment above–not sure what might work! If you think of something, though, let me know. . . !

  13. Yikes, if I add any more desserts to my Thanksgiving menu I’m going to have to invite more people! The nut bark sure is tempting, though.

  14. oh my i LOVE carob covered almonds. and i’m with you, as soon as i think i’m hungry i have a hard time staying away :) unless i’m really busy at work!

  15. I’m sorry about the whey powder – so annoying. But it got you making your own, so that’s cool. I almost always give homemade gifts at the holidays (cookies, chocolate barks, etc.) mostly because I just think homemade/handmade means more/is special. I hope I don’t make Guppy think I’m a nerd when she grows up.

    • I agree totally–homemade is always better! And it really is the thought that counts: I always appreciate a handmade gift whatever it is. :) And are you kidding? Guppy will be SO proud! :)

  16. how frustrating on the carob-covered almonds, Ricki. grrrrrrrrr…..but soooo awesome on your dark “chocolate” nut bark! it looks ooooh-soooo delicious! i never thought i’d like carob having so many people talk about their dislike for it. i tried it (finally!) about a year ago and absolutely loooooooved it. i think i’ll make your bark with hazelnuts and almonds – oooh, or maybe brazils nuts. i could add in goji berries, or dried cherries…..zomg, mmmmmmmmm! the possibilities are endless. yay!

    “time flies when you’re fighting fungus” made me laugh out loud. i love your attitude, Ricki! makes me most happyfaced. making delicious treats and eats is a wonderful idea for holiday gifts, and one i am gonna have to partake in. w00t!

    • So glad you love carob! I don’t think of it as a chocolate substitute, really, but just something delicious in its own right. And I am always happy to make anybody laugh! :)

  17. Yeah, that “near-blinding hunger” thing . . . there was a time when a totally oblivious date took me way past my hunger limit even when I kept insisting on lunch. I finally grabbed a Coke with real sugar and then made him take me home. It wasn’t pretty. He asked his Dad, a doctor, WTF? To which his Dad replied ‘next time feed her’. Stuff happens.

  18. This looks so great! I love nuts+chocolate, but alas, I can see how frustrating it’d be to fill that craving without the sugar. Great job on this, and this would be such a great gift!

  19. I love, love, love nut bark!! I have a recipe for it on my site, but given that it’s made with coconut oil and cocoa powder, it gets melty outside the fridge for too long. I am going to try this one soon — my mom would love it, too. She’s a freak for almond bark as well. As always, thanks for being an inspiration!! : )

  20. Oh, and for awhile I was getting this arepa at a local restaurant that had cheese melted into it. The menu failed to list the cheese as one of the fillings, so I would eat it thinking, “wow, this is pretty amazing for not having any cheese!” Finally I inquired, and sure enough, they had to update their menu to add white cheese, which had accidentally been omitted. Your experience is a lot more justifiably than mine, as it’s a TAD harder to detect hidden whey than it is CHEESE. Oh, the power of denial… Of course, this was all before I went vegan, just couldn’t have the cheese because of my dairy sensitivity. Now I know better — curiosity is a good thing!! : )

    • Wow, you’re right–cheese is definitely more easily detectable than whey!! Makes me want to scream sometimes. . . but glad you like the bark recipe (which has no hidden whey) ;)

  21. Ricki,
    this looks great, but I’ve never seen a carob chips that are vegan AND sugar free AND gluten free. What brand do you use?

    • I get them wholesale from a natural foods supplier. . . they come in a huge bag with no label. I have been assured by the company that they’re okay for me. . . now you’ve got me worried! I will call and ask them tomorrow–would hate to be consuming yet more stuff that I shouldn’t and don’t want to be eating! Argh! ;)

  22. Hi Ricki~ I just stumbled across your post above and was wondering if you can reviel the carob chips that you get?? I need something that is all the above, also a good dark chocolate chip that is sugar, gluten free and vegan.:)
    BTW~ I love your recipes!!

    • Thanks so much, Becky! I just looked at the label of my box and it says they contain carob, palm kernel oil and soy lecithin. They are made by Kargher Corporation from Hatfield, PA. I looked them up and they don’t seem to have a website, but they’re on Google Plus! Re: chips, if you find a vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free version, please let me know. I tend to just use the carob in cookies or bars, and if I need melted chocolate, I use unsweetened and add my own coconut sugar and/or stevia. I know a lot of bloggers make their own, too, but I’ve never tried that.

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