Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Healthier" Russian Tea Cakes

It's the holidays, and I'm 9 months pregnant.

Let's just say I haven't been up to my usual Christmastime antics this year, which has been somewhat frustrating. We've been so frantic trying to get things ready for the baby, and the bigger I get, the less productive I seem to become. Thankfully, my husband is done with school for the semester, and I finished things up at the office last week, so we've been able to work our way through the laundry list of things to do before January 12th rolls around.

However, the one thing has irritated me on an almost daily basis since the day after Thanksgiving. I really, really want some Christmas cookies! As in, I've been dreaming about them. Which, I suppose, for a pregnant woman, isn't too hard to believe ;)

One of my all-time favorite cookies is a Russian Tea Cake, or Mexican Wedding Cake, or Snowball cookie. It has been years since I've made these cookies, and I've been thinking about them for weeks now. Just haven't found the time or energy to actually make them. Until now. And boy, were they worth the wait!

I say these cookies are "healthier" simply because I made them gluten, dairy and grain free. There is definitely a lot of sugar in them, so they're not really healthy. But, for a more allergen-friendly recipe, they rock!

The first batch I made, I over-browned the bottoms a bit, which detracted from the taste a little. I also thought they needed more sugar and vanilla, especially since I didn't use anything that tasted like butter. So I added more sugar and vanilla to the second batch. I'm sure if I had more time to play around, I could come up with something that made up for that flavor...but I was satisfied with these. The almond flour actually worked really well in the recipe, which was just from my good ol' Betty Crocker cookbook. Give them a try!

"Healthier" Russian Tea Cakes
Gluten free, dairy free, grain free

1 c butter/dairy-free substitute (I used Spectrum shortening)
1/2-3/4 c powdered sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 c blanched almond flour
3/4 c finely chopped nuts (I prefer pecans)
1/4 tsp salt
Additional powdered sugar for rolling

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add almond flour, nuts and salt. Stir until well combined. Dough should hold together well (if it doesn't, I've read that adding a tsp or two of milk - or milk sub - to the dough will help it bind better).

Shape dough into 1/2-1 inch balls. Place an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 12-14 minutes. Cookies should be set, but not brown. They will still be really soft, and the bottoms brown fast, so keep an eye on them.

Once removed from the oven, transfer (carefully) to a wire rack to cool. After cooling for about 5 minutes, roll the cookies in the extra powdered sugar. Put back onto the rack, and cool another 5-10 minutes. Roll again in the powdered sugar. Let cool completely.

Oh! They taste even better the next day!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fave Pregnancy Drink

I've always enjoyed a hot cup of herbal tea when I've been sick, or to help de-stress. However, drinking tea while pregnant has been a challenge for me.

Before we tried to get pregnant, I was chugging red raspberry leaf tea, as I'd read that it is a uterine tonic, as well as a fertility booster. I don't know if I can chock up my quick success to the tea, but it sure didn't hurt our chances! I determined to continue drinking the tea throughout my pregnancy.

Red raspberry leaf tea consumption is widely recommended by midwives and natural health promoters to help during pregnancy, especially the last trimester, when the body is getting ready to evict that cute little baby.

During my first trimester, I went through a lemonade kick. One day it occurred to me that I could mix my RRL tea and lemonade, to create an awesome iced tea. It worked! I just brewed a few cups of tea, then subbed that in for some of the water when making the lemonade. It was delicious.

Currently, my favorite way to enjoy RRL is an iced tea brewed with Tazo Passion herbal tea, which has a wonderful, slightly tart and fruity flavor. I'll brew the two together, then mix in some honey, allow to cool, then add in some fresh-squeezed lemon or orange, and enjoy over ice.

If you want more information on the benefits of red raspberry leaf tea, check out this great blog post.