Friday, March 17, 2017

Gluten Free Almond Flour Pie Crust (& Chocolate Cream Pie)

Gluten Free Almond Flour Pie Crust
Chocolate Cream Pie with Almond Flour Pie Crust

I don't know what the deal is with wheat and gluten these days, but now I, personally, have to jump on the gluten free bandwagon because I've discovered that when I eat the yummy breads and rolls that I love to bake, I get this odd and uncomfortable pain in my right forearm, elbow, and shoulder. I'm assuming it's some sort of inflammation, and I've tested my hypothesis enough to know that it feels better when I don't eat wheat. Boooooo.
Fortunately, I do have some good gluten free recipes and resources up my sleeve, so it's not like I'm really suffering (#firstworldproblem). I found this recipe via Pinterest, and it's from All Day I Dream About Food--a gluten free low carb recipe blog.
I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of this crust--it's a little crumbly, but that's okay, because I was almost expecting a chewy texture. My husband thought it was a bit salty, and I did notice the salt a little bit, but I thought it was a nice complement to the chocolate filling I put in it. I don't think it tasted like almonds at all, just a nice crisp, crumbly crust for the delicious chocolate cream pie. Gluten free or not--it's great.
Note: The Bob's Red Mill Almond Four is pretty pricey--between $9 to $13 a pound in a regular grocery store. I've found it at Sam's Club, though, for something like $15 for 3 pounds. So, if you or a friend have a Sam's Club membership, you should definitely check to see if your local club carries it.

Gluten Free Almond Flour Pie Crust
     --adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour/meal
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted, but not hot
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a medium size bowl, mix the almond flour, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour mixture into a 9" glass pie pan and gently distribute evenly over the bottom of the pan. Go around the pan and press enough of the mixture up the sides of the pan to get within about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the top. Crust thickness should be about 1/8 inch, maybe slightly thicker, but definitely less than 1/4 inch. Spread remaining mixture over the bottom of the pan and press, taking care not to press too hard or break what you've already pressed.
  • Prick crust all over with a fork and bake at 325 degrees for about 20-21 minutes, or until evenly golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.
Ingredients mixed
Pressed into pan
Baked and cooling
Filled with chocolate cream pie filling and topped with whipped cream

Chocolate Cream Pie
     --Adapted from Once Upon a Chef


For Crust
  • see recipe above
For Filling
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 28 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped & chopped (or 8 oz. other kind of chopped dark chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For Topping

1. In a heavy medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk milk and egg yolks until combined.  Pour milk mixture into pan while whisking.  Whisk until smooth.  Place pan on burner set to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly (yes, constantly), making sure to scrape bottom and edges of the pan, until mixture starts to thicken, about 7-9 minutes.  Remove from heat and immediately whisk in chocolate, butter, and vanilla.  Transfer hot filling to a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap so that the wrap rests in contact with the filling so a skin does not form.  Refrigerate filling until cool,1-2 hours.

2. Once filling and crust are cooled, spoon filling into crust and spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly against surface of filling, and chill for at least 6 hours or up to one day.

3. Before serving, pipe or spread stabilized whipped cream over the top.  Using the small holes on a grater or a microplane grader, grate final Dove Dark Chocolate Promise all over the top of the pie. Refrigerate until ready to serve and then refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 1 whole pie

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mixed Nut Caramels

I'm back on a caramel making kick, and yesterday, I thought it would be fun to try using a mix of nuts rather than the usual straight almonds. Good call. You get a different flavor in each bite, and the caramel is dark, rich, and sweet as I like it to be. Mmm. 
I used unsalted almonds and pecans, but could only find salted macadamia nuts at Supertarget, so I reduced the salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon, and I think it worked. It's actually a nice contrast to bite into one of the macadamias, because you get a little burst of salt flavor with it. Very nice.
The caramel takes almost two hours to cook, but it's worth the time and effort. For me, it's a time to sit down and relax, stirring caramel and watching it go from cream colored to a deep golden brown. So satisfying to watch the transformation.
Give it a try.

Mixed Nut Caramels
     --Adapted from

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup butter, cut into one-inch chunks
  • 2 cups half and half (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk)
  • 2 heaping cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt*
  • 1/2 cup (dry) roasted unsalted* macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup (dry) roasted unsalted* almonds
  • 1/2 cup (dry) roasted unsalted* pecans
*For each nut you use that is salted (as opposed to unsalted), reduce the amount of salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Line a  9x13 inch pan with parchment and place nuts in the pan. Mix nuts so they're evenly distributed. Place parchment in another small dish, like an 8x8 inch pan or a pie plate--this is where you will pour the caramel you scrape from the pan. Place on a heat proof surface, like stove burners set to "off" or on a cooling rack. Also make sure you've measured your vanilla and set it aside where you can grab it once the caramel reaches temperature. 
  • Gather things you need to entertain you for the next hour and a half to two hours and/or make sure someone is home to spell you in case you need to use the restroom or just take a little break. You've been told.
  • Into a large heavy-bottomed stock pot (like an eight-quart stock pot), put the sugars, butter, half and half, corn syrup and salt. Place the pot on a burner set to low/medium-low heat (once it simmers you want it to remain simmering at the lowest temperature possible). Stir with a silicone spatula taking care not to splash it around. When butter is melted clip a candy thermometer on the side and pull up a tall chair or stool.
  • Keep stirring gently for the next hour and a half to two hours until the caramel reaches exactly 246 degrees** Fahrenheit on the candy thermometer. Remove the thermometer, and then remove the pot from the heat and stir in vanilla extract. Carefully pour the screaming hot caramel over the nuts, which I need to tell you may shift at this time. Once most of the caramel has been poured from the pan, pour the last bit and scrape out the pan into the smaller parchment-lined pan you have ready.
  • Use your silicone spatula to make sure caramel gets to all corners of the pan. With oven-mitted hands, carefully lift and tap the pan of hot caramel to force air bubbles up and out. 
  • Allow caramel to cool completely, which will take anywhere from 3 hours to overnight. You could speed it up by cooling it for 30 minutes on the counter and then refrigerating it for two hours. You'll have to let it come back to room temperature before cutting if you go the refrigerator route. I think it's easier to let it sit at room temperature.
  • When caramel has completely set up and is firm, cut it up and wrap caramels individually in small pieces of wax paper.
  • I cut my caramels into 1 1/2 x 1/2 inch sticks, and that gave me 108 pieces.
 Makes about 9 dozen caramels

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cinnamon Orange Scones

Cinnamon Orange Scones

There's just something dear to my heart and stomach about cinnamon orange baked goods. It started years ago when my husband first introduced me to Pillsbury Orange Rolls with Orange Icing. That magical cinnamon orange poppin' fresh dough seriously enchanted my taste buds. 
My first, and probably still favorite attempt to recreate that enchantment in my own kitchen was with Orange Cinnamon Pull Apart Loaf. Since I didn't want to spend that much time on a yeast dough this morning, though, it made sense to get my Cranberry Orange Scones and my newer Cinnamon Streusel Scones together, and this is the baby they made.
The orange flavor in these scones is outstanding: bright, fresh, sweet; and then the cinnamon flavor just plays a supporting role. The scones are buttery and not super sweet, but still very satisfying. These will surely be made again around here.

Cinnamon Orange Scones

Streusel Ingredients:
Scone Ingredients:

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar (rounded)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract 
Glaze Ingredients (Glaze is optional.) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2  tablespoons orange juice
Instructions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. (Parchment isn’t necessary, but it helps.) 
Make the streusel first: Place sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the butter and then with your fingers, kneed the butter into the dry ingredients until it is evenly distributed and streusel starts to form small clumps. Set aside.
Now make the scone dough: Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large bowl. (By "sift" I mean put the ingredients in a large bowl and stir well with a whisk.)   Stir in the orange zest with a whisk to incorporate (Note: if you plan to do the glaze, reserve about 1/2 teaspoon zest for the glaze). Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. It's fine to still have some visible chunks of butter about the size of a used pencil eraser.

Stir the orange extract into the half and half & then add to the dry ingredients, folding with a silicone/rubber spatula until moist clumps form. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, about 4 turns.  Cut ball of dough in half.   
Form dough into two 1/2-inch-thick circles. Spread about half of the streusel onto the surface of one of the circles. Press down lightly. Top with the other circle and press lightly to smoosh them together. Don't press too much though. 
Cut the stacked circle into 6 wedges. Then cut each wedge into four somewhat equal triangles by cutting off the tip and then cutting the back side into three triangles, like so...
Carefully transfer wedges to prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.* Sprinkle each with some streusel. Bake at 375°F until scones are golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. (If you're baking one pan at a time, place the waiting pan in the fridge while the first bakes. If you're baking both pans at the same time, swap oven rack levels about 10 minutes into baking. ) Let baked scones stand on baking sheet 10 minutes. Then with a spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool more. If glazing, stir glaze ingredients together and drizzle a small amount over each scone. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

*At this point you can transfer cut scones to a plate or small baking sheet covered with wax paper and freeze. When scones are completely frozen, carefully place in a zip top freezer bag and place in freezer until ready to bake at a later date. Just be careful about the layers separating. You may want to consider wrapping the frozen scone dough in groups of 2 or three in wax paper and then placing in the freezer bag. Save streusel in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
When you do bake them, top with streusel and follow baking instructions above, adding about 3-5 minutes to the baking time.

Makes 2 dozen little scones

the streusel
orange zest

butter cut in--still some larger bits of butter

Dough is still a bit dry when you turn it out.

ready to be layered


panned and streuseled

Some sliding occurred with this batch. Oops.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Food for Guests

These are pics of a fabulous dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's home in Georgia. Heidi's an amazing cook and hostess. I've eaten many, many yummy things from her kitchens--several kitchens.
It's almost as if my nephew Tanner knew I'd be posting these pics on the internet. Hmm.

My good friend Sherri read my recent post about college student cooking, and she made a request for my list of top recipes to make for guests. 
Sherri, on occasion, has called me out on how involved some of my recipes get, so be sure to read through the whole recipe before going for it. You've been warned. 
What follows is a starter list of my favorite dishes to serve to my guests, and some of them have sides mentioned and linked. They are in no particular order, and like I said, some are pretty involved, but several are very easy
Have fun.

1. Tacos al Pastor-- This is a current favorite of mine. Think Mexican teriyaki on this one. It's pork marinated sweet garlicky marinade. Mmm.

2. Grilled Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin--Yeah, pork again. Pork tenderloin just seems like a good thing to serve guests. This is a slightly sweet, and very flavorful easy grilled meat. I think it goes great with Au Gratin Potatoes.

3. Beef Barbacoa--You'll see that a lot of my go-to recipes are for Mexican dishes. This is a tender, flavorful slow-cooked chuck roast smothered in spices. I like serving with Homemade Flour Tortillas and Mexican Rice

4. Burger Sliders--Mini burgers grilled and served on dinner rolls. So cute and tasty. 

5. Beef Brisket--This is a pricier piece of meat, but as you'll see in the linked blog post, it's a tasty meat that you can serve several different ways--the first time around or as leftovers. Brisket is just good. 

6. Deep Pan Pizza--For when you want to make homemade pizza for your friends.  This pizza is delicious and not very fussy.

7. Grilled Mexican Chicken--Can be served in chicken tacos,  burritos, quesadillas, or nachos. For guests, I'd probably make it tacos. 

8. Kalbi Korean Beef BBQ--A super tender and nicely sweet grilled beef. I like to serve it with Bacon Fried Rice.

9. Bacon Fried Rice--Okay, not really a main dish for guests, but so deliciously satisfying it deserves to be on the main dish list. I like eating the leftovers for breakfast.

10. Grilled (Teriyaki)Tri-Tip Chunks--Sweet and savory beefy goodness. And you can just use a bottled teriyaki sauce for this one. Easy peasy and also fabulous with that bacon fried rice.

11. Marinated Tri-Tip Chunks--Tri tip is just a great meat to grill. This recipe has various spices from your spice rack and grills up savory and perfect. So good.

12. Enchiladas Suisas--Not spicy at all. These are creamy, cheesy, chickeny comfort food. I like to use rotisserie chicken when I want to make it even easier than it already is. 

13. Carne Asada--I really need to get a better pic for this dish. I like to use my standard tri-tip for my carne asada, but this pic shows flank steak. This is a slightly spicy, very satisfying beef dish. The recipe has the spice mix I like to make, and you can make a lot of the spice mix to save for another day. 

14. The Best Meatloaf Ever--I'll tell you up front: this is an involved recipe, but it makes a meatloaf well worth serving to guests. Most delicious when served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

15. Chile Colorado Burritos--Super easy and very tasty. For best results, use the stovetop or oven method over the crock pot. Just saying. This is beefy, salty, cheesy Mexican food goodness. It's the most viewed post on my blog.

16. Brined and Grilled Pork Chops--Juicy and flavorful, and really quite simple. These taste best when served with those Au Gratin Potatoes.


17. Chicken Egg Rolls--Great for a casual dinner with friends. They ARE a lot of work, but fun to make and eat. The leftovers are great too. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Easy Meal Ideas for College Students

Our college student friend Gavin asked if I could send him a list of ideas/recipes for foods he can make for himself. He makes omelettes, so clearly he's up to the task of cooking.
I figured I may as well make a blog post out of it, so he and others can find the list any time.
This is my brainstormed list of things Gavin can make, and links to recipes where I could find them.

1. Quesadillas
Heat a pan over medium to medium high heat. Place a tortilla (corn or flour) in the pan, sprinkle a thin layer of shredded cheese (I like pepper-jack), add cooked meat or cooked veggies on top of the cheese, sprinkle on more cheese and place another tortilla on top.
When cheese is melty on the bottom, use a spatula to carefully turn the quesadilla over and cook until the other layer of cheese is melted.
You can also fold the tortilla over, but you'll want to place your cheese and fillings on only one side of the tortilla if you're doing that.
Make as many of these as you need to in order to fill you up.
Here's a link to a recipe that also includes how to make an easy Mexican flavored chicken to put in your quesadillas: Chicken Soft Tacos and Quesadillas

2. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Here's a link to my favorite version: My Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich

3. Hamburgers
Buy a pound of hamburger (I recommend 85/15 or 90/10 meat to fat ratio ground beef).
Divide it into four equal pieces. Shape each fourth into a ball, and then on a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper, flatten the ball to about a half-inch disc.
Heat a pan over medium-high heat, place a patty or two onto the pan, sprinkle patty with garlic salt and some black pepper.
When burger starts to brown on the edges (about 3-4 minutes), flip it over and cook on the other side until browned.
This one will probably take some practice to get it the way you like it--I mean, you'll go through several patties before you realize how to cook it the way you like it.
Serve on a store-bought burger bun with the toppings you like.
Now, when you buy buns, they usually come in an eight pack. You probably won't use them all before they go bad. You can freeze them, probably only for a couple three months. When you want one, heat it in the microwave on 50% power for about 30-36 seconds.
You should freeze leftover patties. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place in a zip top freezer bag.

4. Meatballs
Buy a bag of frozen meatballs. Heat meatballs in a pan over low heat along with a half a jar or so of jarred pizza sauce (I like Classico). Serve with spaghetti noodles, or make an open face meatball sandwich by cutting some french bread, putting it on a foil-lined baking sheet, placing halved meatballs with sauce over the top, cover with mozzarella cheese, and broil in the oven for about 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Eat with a fork.

5. Chili Colorado Burritos
Recipe is here: Chili Colorado Burritos and use the crock pot option that so many people seem to love.
Leftovers can be put into quesadillas.
Make this if you're having people over and you want to impress them with your cooking skills. The meat can be pricey, so I don't know if you'll really want to do this one.

6. Chili Baked Potatoes
Make your own chili with one of those easy prepared spice packets at the grocery store, or buy a can of chili. Easy, yummy, and relatively inexpensive. Here's a recipe that will tell you how to bake a potato: Chili Baked Potatoes

7. Baked Chicken Thighs
Remove the skin if you want less fat. These chicken thighs are tender,  yummy, and super easy. Chicken thighs are relatively inexpensive. You just put bbq or teriyaki sauce over the chicken in a baking dish, cover, and bake. Recipe is here: Baked Chicken Thighs
Serve with whatever: mashed potatoes, rice, salad... 

8. April's Spaghetti
Noodles, tomato sauce, butter, garlic salt, and Parmesan cheese, if you'd like. Super easy and super tasty. Heavy on the carbs, but you're young--and you were just going to eat ramen noodles anyway, right? Here's the recipe: April's Spaghetti
Add some meatballs if you have 'em in the freezer.

9. Chicken Nachos
If cooking the chicken seems like too much work, buy a rotisserie chicken and heat it up in salsa for a little bit before using it on the nachos. Here's the recipe: Chicken Nachos

10. Easy Baked Pasta
This recipe makes enough to feed two. Easy, cheesy, and tasty. Here's the recipe: Easy Baked Pasta for Two

11. Leftover Steak Tacos
I don't know if college students ever have leftover steak on hand, but if you do, try this recipe: Leftover Steak Tacos

12. Chicken Soft Tacos and Quesadillas
Very few ingredients, not too unhealthy, filling, and yummy. Here's the recipe: Chicken Soft Tacos and Quesadillas

13. Tacos
Just buy one of those Taco Bell Meal Kits and some ground beef, and voila! Dinner!

14. Egg Toast
Basically a soft-boiled egg on toast. You can make this on regular toast, but what's even better is using Jimmy John's bread that you can get day-old for $.50 per loaf. I cut it into individual portions (1/4 of a loaf) and freeze in zip top freezer bags what I don't use that first day. Cheap and yummy. You can even just use the Jimmy John's bread to make your own sandwiches at home. Here's the recipe: Six Minute Egg on Jimmy John's Bread

15. Baked Oatmeal
This is a sweet and satisfying kind of oatmeal--not pasty and gross. This one takes a little more effort, but you'll have leftovers that you can refrigerate or freeze. Here's the recipe: Baked Oatmeal

So there you go. That's what I have for starters. Hopefully this has been helpful for my adopted nephew Gavin.

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