Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats PLUS Homemade Hemp Seed Butter

Every cook book promises a miracle. No gluten, all flavor! Less dietary options, but more variety! Or, my favorite teaser: turning a microwave queen into a 5 star, allergy-friendly chef!

And then there is Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats. It features allergy-free and vegan recipes from Debbie Adler's Los Angeles Bakery. When Debbie contacted me and offered a free sample of her newest recipe book, I couldn't turn down the chance at whipping up some kitchen magic minus gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, sugar and nuts!

The book!

As she explains in her introduction, Debbie wasn't born into the world of allergy-friendly baking. She tinkered with alternative ingredients first to improve her own health, and then to provide safe treats for her son, who was diagnosed with several severe food allergies. Her bakery, Sweet Debbie's Organic Cupcakes, is now known as a safe and delicious spot for anyone with a sweet tooth and picky stomach! (Los Angeles - so close, yet so far from this college celiac!)

My favorite part of her recipe book is the way Debbie walks her readers through every step of the baking process. Before even revealing the recipes, Debbie lists her main ingredients and explains the health benefits of each one. I admit to being jaded over whether alternative flours like teff or millet are worth the hole in my wallet, but Debbie made me reconsider. I also love how Debbie gives a "Sweet Truth" for nearly every recipe. This novice baker will take any help offered, and I'll never turn down some genuine tricks of the trade!

Sometimes she even gives two tips!

Even better than Debbie's instruction, though, is Debbie herself. No matter what part of the book, Debbie's sense of humor shines through. When I read her description of quinoa flour - "Quinoa flour is queen in the gluten-free fiefdom because quinoa is a protein unto herself and thus doesn't need some gassy bean dude to complete her." - I laughed out loud.

And then I laughed again when she described the euphoria of tasting her fake caramel sauce for the first time because, as a celiac with dietary restrictions, I could totally relate. The fact is, baking is intimidating. Baking with allergy alternative ingredients? Intimidating times five. By stamping a bit of humor on every page and sharing the personal stories behind her recipes (lack of supplies + cookie craving = Quinoa Cranberry Cookies!), Debbie makes every baking adventure that much more fun! 

Cookies: the common language

Now, onto the recipes! Debbie divides her book into muffins, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, bars, donut wholes, and bread. My first impression? Yum! After a few reads, my taste buds craved her Blondies, Chocolate Chia Power Bars and Oatmeal Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies. Beyond remaking old favorites, though, Debbie plays with unexpected ingredients like parsnip and Matcha tea to create unique, delicious treats. Highlights include her Saffron and Cardamom Donut Holes, Caramel Glazed Fakin' Bacon Brownies (using shitake mushrooms in place of bacon), and Lemon Parsnipannies. 

Unfortunately, my pantry isn't Mary Poppin's purse and I couldn't make most of her recipes with what I had on hand. The only challenge of Debbie's book is that nearly all the recipes require her special "gluten free flour mix," which is a combo of 5 different flours. All of Debbie's recipes do need multiple alternative ingredients, but when I have the room and the money to stock up on flours, I'm taking this book to the supermarket!

This'll be me!

The fact is, quality allergy-friendly desserts usually boast more complicated recipes than traditional baked goods. And, as Debbie promises throughout the book, the health benefits of her "clean" desserts are worth the pain (monetary or otherwise) of the original buys. After swooning over my first spoonful of hemp seed butter (per Debbie's recipe), I have to agree.

Recently, I've been trying to nail down the cause to some skin rashes, and nuts may be the culprit. While setting aside the almonds and walnuts was easy, I hated turning down my nut butter every morning at breakfast! So, when I saw Debbie's recipe for hemp seed butter, I was sold! 

Debbie's recipe is simple: 2 cups of hemp seeds and 4-5 tablespoons of grape seed oil. Since I didn't have grape seed oil on hand, I replaced it with coconut oil and my butter still turned out fantastic!

Late night cooking!

As Debbie suggested, I first toasted my hemp seeds over medium-low heat for about 4 minutes. I managed to burn the first batch (a baker by blood, I am not!), but the second turned out perfect! And it had the house smelling deliciously nutty as a bonus. 

After letting them cool (by tossing them in the freezer - impatient as always), I ground them in my coffee grinder. As I stared down at my bowl of fine brown granules, I'll admit to being cynical that slowly adding the oil would create anything but wet dust. Wrong! A lot of stirring and a smooth, slightly grainy bowl of nut-less nut butter was born. To make a slightly sweeter butter, I did add a bit of honey and cacao powder to Debbie's recipe. As I devour the spread on my smoothies and overnight quinoa flakes, though, my taste buds are sending thanks Debbie's way!

A spoonful of YUM!

Overall, I give Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats a strong 9/10 and recommend it to anyone in search of recipes full of flavor, but free of gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, sugar, and nuts. Compared to other books on the market, Debbie's is full of personality and a delight to read. It also offers a variety of baked goods that, once stocked up with the right ingredients, are simple to make. 

And, as I dive deeper into my kitchen with Debbie's book in-hand, I will keep you updated on the masterpieces I (hopefully) create!

*** Debbie was kind enough to contact me and offer a free copy of her book in return for an honest review. I was not paid for this review, and all ideas and opinions within it are my own.

*This post can also be found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What is your favorite cook book? What is your favorite dessert? Comment below!


6 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to get Debbie's cookbook! Even though I never actually make someone elsre recipes, I love collecting cookbooks and even just reading them! Haha I'm a totally foodie, but I love the inspiration and just the beauty of food!

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    1. That's hilarious! We all have our quirks. I agree with you on the foodie thing though - I spend WAY too much time looking at and drooling over food! :)

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  2. your review > my review! as usual, love your style of writing! AND to your above comment, it's called "food porn" and I used to look at it every night before I went to bed :P

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    1. Not even close! I was so intimidated to write this review because yours was so good! Yep, foodporn is definitely addicting (Instagram, you know I'm talking about!). Maybe I have a problem ;)

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  3. I love quirky and creative cookbooks that are allergy friendly! While I don't have to avoid gluten, dairy, or eggs, nuts can definitely cause me a bit more trouble, so I can always appreciate them being left out of the mix ;)

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    1. Definitely! They are the best - and they definitely make you look at ingredients in a new way!

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