Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Cookbook Release: Sweet Freedom

As I'm sure many of you know, the wonderful Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs has just released her first cookbook Sweet Freedom! Sweet Freedom is a baking book that doesn't use wheat, eggs or refined sugar - but believe me that you won't feel like anything is missing. Ricki's recipes have really opened my eyes to this world of delicious healthier baking that makes me not even miss baking with eggs, dairy and wheat (and I think you guys know how much I love baking!) I'm already seriously addicted to the orange raisin tea cakes and the cocoa nibbles.

Chocolate shortbread.

The recipes are divided up into Breakfast Baking, Cookies Bars and Squares, Cakes Cupcakes Toppings and Frostings, Cheesecakes Pies and Baked Puddings, and Raw and No Bake Treats. The recipes are coded to indicate which are corn free, gluten free (or gluten free option), nut free (or nut free option), and soy free (or soy free option). Ricki also included a section on the ingredients she uses, including some awesome tips on how to convert conventional recipes to wheat free, dairy free and refined sugar free. And one thing I also love about the book is the amazing index - honestly so many cookbooks don't take the time to prepare a careful index or sometimes list things incorrectly or just not at all. But Ricki's is superb - you can look up both ingredients (like coconut oil) and categories (like cookies and bars).

Pecan coconut chews (raw).

You can check out some of the yummy recipes from this book that I had the opportunity to try while helping Ricki test the recipes here - including the previously mentioned addictive orange raisin tea biscuits, old fashioned spice cake, peanut butter cookies, sunshine breakfast loaf (oh how I love that one), and crispy fruit chews. I wanted to try out a couple more recipes for this post so I made the chocolate shortbread and the pecan coconut chews (tried both the raw and baked versions). The chocolate shortbread cookies were sandy, as promised, and quite addictive. The pecan coconut chews were good both raw and baked, but on the first day that they're baked OH WOW. Delicious crispy edges and nice soft insides. I can't wait to work my way through all of the recipes.

Pecan coconut chews (baked).

I thought it would be fun to ask Ricki a few questions and share them with you guys. Check out Shellyfish, Vegyogini and for more interview questions and stuff about the book. Check out Ricki's page to see how you can order the book (, through the publishing company, or as an e-book). Alright, on with the interview!

What inspired you to start creating baked goods made without wheat, dairy and refined sugars?

I've been a baker all my life (well, since age 6), and when I had to change my diet because of health issues about ten years ago, I just couldn't imagine giving up baking. I had done some catering in my 30s and after studying nutrition, I began to create new recipes for baked goods I could still eat. When I shared these with cooking class participants, people began to ask me if my desserts were for sale anywhere in the city. That led me to start my bakery, Bake It Healthy, which I ran for 3 years. By the time I wrote the book, I already had quite a number of the recipes completed because I'd been selling them through Bake It Healthy. All I had to do with those was convert them for the home baker. But it wasn’t until the company closed and customers still kept asking me if I’d bake a birthday cake for them, or supply treats for a baby shower or anniversary party, even though I wasn’t technically doing catering any more, that I realized there was a real need for this type of recipe. I wanted all those people to be able to reproduce the desserts in their own homes.

What are your five must make items from your cookbook and why?

Ooh! Like any proud mother, I love all my "babies," but I'd say these are the ones of which I'm most fond:

Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies--my "go-to" cookie because it's foolproof, easy, fudgy and chocolately (and how can you beat "chocolate"??). And it's a hit with vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike!

Easiest Almond Cookies--another quick and easy cookie, that has the advantage of being gluten-free (and grain-free), too!

Orange Raisin Tea Cakes: a quick and simple scone-like cake that was a big hit with the cookbook testers. They're perfect for breakfast or afternoon snack.

Sweet Harvest Muffins: this was one of the first recipes I created, and it was the best selling muffin at Bake It Healthy. Moist, chocolatey and containing three types of hidden vegetables--it's a great way to start your day.

Raw Fig and Cherry Bars--these are a great raw bar that offer a high calcium and protein content. They are the perfect take-along energy bar or snack.

What's your favourite ingredient to work with?

I am inclined to say agave nectar, because it's sweeter than sugar, natural, and has a very mild flavor that goes with anything. I love baking with it. But coconut milk has become a close second these days... it adds richness and creaminess, yet is cholesterol free and considered a "healthy" form of fat.

What's your favourite type of thing to bake (ex. muffins, cookies, cakes, etc)?

As I'm always saying on my blog, I'm basically a lazy cook--so bars, brownies or cakes are a big favorite. Just mix once, pour, bake and cut--easy and quick!

What's your husband's favourite thing for you to bake?

My husband loves coconut, so he's a fan of coconut cream pie. I hadn't perfected the pie in time for the cookbook, but the whipped cream topping did make it into the book! He also loves the Coconut Macaroons.

How do you go about creating recipes? Do you have base recipes that you modify or just start throwing things together?

If there's a recipe from my files or old cookbooks that I used to love and wish I could eat now, then I'll go about adapting it with natural sweeteners and alternative flours. The rest of the time, though, I just play with ideas or may create a recipe based on something I ate in a restaurant or heard about on a radio show, for instance. Recently, for example, a friend of mine who lives in Ecuador emailed and I remembered that she enjoyed coffee with cinnamon in it. So I created a muffin with those two flavors.

Is there going to be another baking book coming? ;)

I'd love to do an entirely gluten-free baking book, or perhaps one that uses only stevia, which would be great for anyone with diabetes or candida. I've got lots of ideas for different types of recipes--just not enough time!

Thanks Ricki!
Check out how you can order the book here. (And I definitely do recommend you check it out!)


S S said...

Oooh. That chocoalte shortbread looks good. No comment on the pecan coconut chews though ;)

Johanna said...

Great post ashley - those chocolate shortbreads look excellent - I haven't ordered the cookbook yet but the post makes me look forward to it

Ricki said...

Ashley, thanks so much for this wonderful review! As always, your photos are just incredible. I love that you rolled the raw Pecan Coconut Chews into balls! And thanks for the fun interview. :)

CookiePie said...

Those desserts look great! What a fabulous idea for a book - I have a friend whose daughter has so many food allergies -- this would be perfect for her. Thanks for sharing!

Deborah said...

This sounds like a great cookbook - I could use some healthier baked goods!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to get Ricki's book and try those pecan-coconut chews!

Anonymous said...

What a great review - and photos!!! I purchased the Sweet Freedom pdf this week and can't wait to try out some of these recipes!!! Thanks for the review/interview.

Lisa said...

I recently received my copy of Ricki's book in the mail and I am excited to try some of the recipes when I get some time. I have made the cocoa nibbles (just awesome) and other recipes from her blog. I have never been disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Both of those look good, but the pecan coconut chews really appeal to the taste buds.

Juliana said...

This cookbook looks very interesting...yours pecan coconut chews look delicious, even the raw ones I would like to try! Yummie!

Elyse said...

I can't wait to check out this book! It's so intriguing. I love the idea of a healthier baked good--especially when it doesn't necessarily taste "healthier." All of these cookies, etc. look great!

Pam said...

Great post - the coconut pecan chews look amazing!

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Ashley! I wanted to let you know we started a Sweet Freedom flickr group if you want to add your stuff!