Sweet Freedom with Ricki Heller

Since going sugar free I am so grateful to find Ricki Heller’s book Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love Without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar. First of all, Ricki Heller PhD, RHN wears many hats: educator, writer, cookbook author, natural nutritionist and lover of all things canine. Her blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs has many healthy recipes, plus commentary from her dogs. I don’t know how much help her dogs gave her in creating these yummy vegan recipes but if they do I hope they keep up the good work.

Ricki “walks her talk” and has followed an Anti-Candida Diet (ACD) for well over a year. Sweet Freedom has more than 100 original recipes for amazing treats made with whole, natural ingredients, nothing artificial, and without additives, chemicals, or artificial colorings. Personally, with my multiple allergies I have a hard time using some of the more popular allergy free cookbooks. If one book is gluten-free then it’s not also dairy free. If one book is dairy-free then it’s not soy-free. While not every single recipe is soy, nut or gluten free, I found many recipes I could use or adapt. I give two enthusiastic thumbs up to her Spiced Pumpkin Millet Pudding and Carrot Snack Cake (which I now often eat for breakfast being that I just can’t wait till “dessert”).

What I also like about Sweet Freedom is how well the substitute ingredients are explained in the beginning of the book so you know what and why you are using what you are using; if that makes any sense? Even I learned a new trick, I never thought about using flax seeds as an alternative to eggs!
Ricki is sharing one of her best recipes with us: Butterscotch Blondies with Dried Cherries and Chocolate Chips: These are a favorite dessert in our house. They are rich-tasting, chewy, and the combination of rice syrup and maple syrup mimics a butterscotch flavor extremely well. I love the combination of cherries and chocolate, but you could stir in any additions you like as long as you keep the same proportions. One alternative that I enjoy is pistachios and dried cranberries, for instance.
1 cup (140 g) light spelt flour
3/4 cup (90 g) barley flour
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1/3 cup (90 ml) brown rice syrup
1/3 cup (90 ml) pure maple syrup
1/3 cup (90 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (30 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp (1 ml) rum or butterscotch flavoring (optional)
1/2 cup (100 g) non-dairy chocolate chips
1/3 cup dried tart cherries (45 g) or cranberries (40 g)

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line an 8″ (20 cm) square pan with parchment paper, or grease well and flour the pan (flouring is essential, as the blondies tend to stick to the bottom of the pan without the parchment).
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In a medium bowl, sift together the spelt flour, barley flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the brown rice syrup, maple syrup, oil, vanilla and flavoring (if using) until well blended. Gently stir in the chips and cherries.
Pour the dry mixture over the wet and stir to blend. You will have a fairly thick and sticky batter. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until a tester inserted in the center comes out just barely clean (a moist crumb or two is fine). Take care not to over bake, or these will dry out! The batter will fall a little as it cools; this is as it should be. Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting into squares. Makes 16 squares. May be frozen.
Additionally on Ricki’s blog you will find some other sweet favorites including Chocolate Pate, two words I like a lot together. “This pate tastes incredibly rich, but is actually good for you. A little goes a long way, so I’d advise cutting into thin slices . . . otherwise, I can’t be responsible for what happens.” Agreed!

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  • Thanks so much for this lovely review, Patricia! I'm glad the book has been of good use (and the millet pudding is one of my favorites, too) ;)

    If anyone is interested in winning a free copy of the book (and seeing a GF adaptation of this blondie recipe), they can head over to Sally's blog, where she's hosting a giveaway! Just go to http://bit.ly/99o1Ie !

  • Wow. This sounds delicious! Any tips on how to make this gluten-free? Could I replace the spelt flour with buckwheat? That would be great (since I already have that in my kitchen). Any tips you can provide will be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Hi Maya, You sure could. What I have done to adapt many of Ricki's recipes is use Garbanzo bean flour which is also GF (since that is what I had around as well). Plus it is not as dry tasting as let's say the rice flours are. Jule's Gluten free flours are excellent too, she has combined many flours together to make one great tasting flour.

    http://www.julesglutenfree.com

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