Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dark Chocolate Almond & Toffee Clusters

Dark Chocolate Almond & Toffee Cluster

In August I went back to work full time since becoming a mom seventeen years ago. I’d worked part time for about 12 years, but full time teaching requires a LOT more time than part-time. Makes sense.

At any rate, I’ve not had the time, energy, or inclination to blog very much lately. I mostly blog just to keep the recipes I do make/write in a location where I can access them easily. The fact that other people still use my blog and that I still make about $30 a month via AdSense is just icing on the cake.

So today was my first snow day as a full time teacher, and I have to say, it’s been awesome. I woke up at my usual 5:00 AM and went through my morning routine, pretty much expecting a snow day to be called—which it was.

I went back to bed and slept a couple more hours, made pancakes for breakfast, focaccia for future lunches, worked on some actual work on the computer, and made these chocolate almond clusters.

Yes, it’s been a great day.

After I posted a pic of these on Instagram, a friend said she’d like to see the recipe on my blog. I don't know if she realized how involved I'd make the recipe...

Well, it’s a throw-together kind of recipe, and I’m the crazy person who has homemade toffee and the other ingredients on-hand, so what you see below may not be super accurate.

But considering the fact that the three ingredients are chocolate, almonds, and toffee, whatever you end up with will likely be delicious no matter what.

If you prefer milk chocolate to dark, you can use that. Just be aware that if you’ve never tempered chocolate before, milk chocolate is a little fussier than dark.

So here you go, Mindy. I know you're going to get going on making these immediately.


Dark Chocolate Almond & Toffee Clusters

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag (8.87 ounces) Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped
  • 1 ½ cups roasted unsalted almonds
  • 1/3 cup toffee bits (packaged or homemade—see *recipe below)

Instructions:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and set aside.
  • Put a medium pot half filled with water over a medium flame, and bring the water to a simmer.
  • Place all but four of the Dove Dark Chocolate Promises in a medium size metal or glass bowl.
  • Place the bowl containing the chocolate on top of the simmering water.
  • When the chocolate appears about 2/3 melted, remove from the heat and stir with a silicone spatula. Keep stirring until the chocolate is completely melted. If, after 3-4 minutes of stirring, the remaining solid chocolate is still in pretty large chunks, return the bowl to the simmering water and stir over the heat for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn the heat off, but leave the pot of water there. You may need it later.
  • Remove and continue stirring.
  • This is where it gets a little complicated: If the chocolate melted quickly as you stirred it off the heat, and the bowl feels warm, add 3 pieces of the reserved chocolate. If the chocolate melted slowly off the heat, only add 1-2 pieces of the reserved chocolate.
  • The idea is to stir until the added chocolate stops melting into the rest of the chocolate. This is how chocolate gets into temper and will have that nice shiny exterior after it solidifies. Plus, it won’t melt immediately when you touch it, and it will have more of a snap when you bite into it. This is what you want.
  • When chocolate is in temper, and the added chocolate is still a chunk, remove the chunk to the prepared parchment/wax paper. You can eat it later.
  • Add the almonds and toffee; stir with silicone spatula to incorporate.
  • Using a small spoon, scoop out 2-3 almonds at a time. Use the silicone spatula or another spoon to scrape the chocolate and almonds off onto the parchment/wax paper. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used.
  • If you’ve tempered your chocolate correctly, about halfway through the scooping and dropping process, the chocolate in the bowl will begin to solidify. Return the bowl to the pot with the hot water and stir until the chocolate is liquefied enough for you to continue scooping and dropping. Repeat as needed if chocolate firms up in the bowl.
  • Allow clusters to set before eating. If the chocolate has been tempered well, this should only take about 10-20 minutes.

Makes about 2 ½ cups almond clusters


*English Toffee Bits

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup packed C & H Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup C & H White Sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter Directions
Instructions:
1. Line a square Pyrex pan (8X8) with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 300° on a candy thermometer. Pour into prepared pan and evenly spread with a silicone (not rubber) spatula. Allow to cool completely.
3. Break toffee up into big chunks with your hands and then on a clean cutting board, chop into smaller bits. Be sure to taste some to see if it's good.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of toffee bits. Use the extra to make some toffee chocolate chip cookies or use as an ice cream topping. They'll keep in a zip top bag for a few weeks as long as you keep them in a cool, dry place.



Saturday, December 30, 2017

Gluten Free Coconut Pecan and Toffee Cookies

Gluten Free Coconut Pecan and Toffee Cookie

Here's another favorite recipe of mine that I've turned gluten free. I really just took my Coconutty Cookie recipe ans swapped out the King Arthur flour for Better Batter GF flour. And I just stuck with pecans instead of my three-nut mixture.
The main difference I've noticed so far is that these cookies baked up lighter and fluffier than the other. That's probably because I baked them a little longer than I should have. 
I'll be sure to slightly underbake the next sheet to go into the oven.
For now, these are still great: sweet, nutty, and satisfying. You'd really never know they were gluten free.

Gluten Free Coconut Pecan and Toffee Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup toffee bits (use Heath Toffee bits or recipe below)
Instructions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Cream butter, shortening and sugars.  Beat in baking soda and salt.  Beat in vanilla extract and eggs.  
3.  Mix in flour just until blended.  Then stir in coconut, nuts and toffee bits.
4.  Scoop by tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving two inches between cookies.  (If you want a flatter cookie, like the one in the bottom pic, flatten the tops of the dough balls so you have a dough disk that's about a half-inch thick.)
5.  Bake at 350 for 10-11 minutes, or until cookies are puffed and start to brown around the edges.
6.  Allow to cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies
 






Sunday, November 26, 2017

Chex Mix--Classic Gluten Free

Gluten Free Classic Chex Mix
This is the third time I've made this mix in the last three weeks. 
There's really not that much to tell, except that it's an easy, delicious, versatile, and gluten free version of a classic.
The main reason I'm blogging about it is because I want to have the recipe handy for myself since I seem to be currently addicted to it.

Gluten Free Classic Chex Mix
     --adapted from BettyCrocker.com and LandOLakes.com

Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
  • 4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
  • 2 cups gluten free pretzels (I like Glutino GF Pretzel Twists)
  • 4 tablespoons margarine
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt 
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (not onion salt)
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Measure Rice Chex, Corn Chex, and gluten free pretzels into a large roasting pan and gently mix.
  • Place margarine in a medium sized microwave safe bowl, cover, and microwave on high for about 20-35 seconds, or until margarine is melted.
  • Add vegetable oil, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder to the melted margarine and stir.
  • Drizzle the seasoned liquid all over the Chex and pretzels, stirring the mix every once in a while.
  • When all of the liquid has been drizzled, stir the mix completely.
  • Bake the mix for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. 
  • Allow mix to cool completely before placing in an airtight container or zip top bag.
  • You can also enjoy it warm.
Makes about 11 cups of Chex mix



Saturday, October 28, 2017

Granola with Honey & Almonds

 
Granola with Honey & Almonds


It finally happened. After several (four? five?) years of eating popcorn and a fruit smoothie for breakfast almost every work day, I felt it was time for a change. I don't know how long I can sustain this change, but for now, my breakfast involves homemade granola and yogurt. (If you want to know the truth, the yogurt and granola will be my lunch tomorrow and the popcorn and smoothie will probably be my breakfast. I know--I'm a weirdo.)
Of course, I can't allow myself to eat store-bought granola, so I turned to my good friend Pinterest, and got a recipe. But not this one. I can't find the first recipe I used because I neglected to use Pinterest in the way it was actually intended and did not pin the recipe.
So I combined what I remembered from that recipe with my friend Christie's Cranberry and Walnut Granola recipe and got this.
It's a good, basic granola with a good hearty crunch and just enough sweetness. There are some larger chunks and some bits of chia seeds and individual oats that are on the bottom of the bag, but it's all delicious mixed up with some yogurt and berries.
Good stuff. I think I'll keep on having it for breakfast for a little while.
 
Granola with Honey & Almonds

Ingredients:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a sturdy rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, canola oil, honey, vanilla extract, kosher salt, and brown sugar.
  • Add the oats, almond meal, chopped almonds, and chia seeds. Stir to combine.
  • Pour mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheet and spread evenly. Press down slightly with a silicone spatula.
  • Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour, removing from oven and stirring every 15 minutes. After each stir, press down slightly again to evenly distribute the granola.
  • When done, remove from oven and allow to cool completely before eating or storing. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or large zip-top bag. 
  • Try to enjoy within about two weeks.
Makes about 5 cups


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

 
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies


These are the best gluten free chocolate chip cookies I've made so far. I made them crisp, because that's what I like--so I can't say that I know how these taste when baked to a soft consistency. These just tasted like great chocolate chip cookies: sweet, buttery, chocolatey--perfect.
I used  Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, and that's important to note, because all gluten free flour is different. Better Batter is the brand I use most, as it contains xanthan gum, which is something I've had to add when using other brands. It is what worked for this recipe. 
Feel free to use whichever brand of GF flour you like, but know that you may get different results. 
This recipe also uses a unique mixing method that I discovered when I found my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I think that the mixing method makes a difference too.
So, there you go. Another gluten free recipe that's not healthy at all, but at least it doesn't have any gluten!


Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine, softened
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips (I like Nestle Dark Chocolate Morsels)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Mix the four, sugars, baking soda, salt, and baking powder with a whisk in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the margarine, butter, egg, and vanilla. It may take a few minutes for the mixture to come together and emulsify, but mix until this happens.
Stir in the dry ingredient mix until completely incorporated with the creamed mixture.
Add the chocolate chips and nuts. Stir to combine.
Scoop dough by the tablespoon and place on parchment-lined pan, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes for soft cookies, 12-14 minutes for crisp cookies. 
Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan for about 3-4 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies



Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gluten Free Cheese Crackers

Gluten Free Cheese Crackers
I'm trying to delete gluten from my diet as much as possible because of inflammation issues I seem to be having as a result of eating wheat products. I love crackers--all kinds--and today I finally took the time to make some gluten free cheese crackers. 
I'm glad I did. I looked at several recipes, and decided to go with one of my favorite recipe sources: King Arthur Flour. They never let me down, even if I am trying to give up most of their products.
The original recipe called for 8 tablespoons of butter, but with the cheese I thought that would be too much butter and result in greasy crackers. I do enjoy greasy crackers sometimes, but knew I didn't want to make that today. So I cut the butter in half, and the crackers turned out fabulous anyway. 
They have great flavor and crispness, and I think they sort of taste like Goldfish Crackers. My boys think they taste like Cheese-Its. Either way, they're a success. I strongly recommend you use a sharp cheddar, as opposed to medium or mild, and you'll get a better cheesy taste from these.
Enjoy! (Gluten free!)


Gluten Free Cheese Crackers
     Adapted from KingArthurFlour.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can add more if you want a stronger bite)
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder (regular garlic powder will work)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Gather two baking sheets.
Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
Add the butter and process until butter is incorporated. Add the cheese and process until mixture looks like cornmeal.
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk the egg and vinegar until frothy. Add the water to the egg & vinegar, and mix. 
Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Process until you have a cohesive dough. If it seems very dry, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it is cohesive.
Place a sheet of parchment on a flat surface, sprinkle with some flour. Divide dough in half; set one half aside.
Try to form the dough into a rectangle and flatten slightly with an open hand. Sprinkle with a little flour and top with a piece of plastic wrap. 
Roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness.
Remove plastic wrap and then using a pizza cutter, cut dough into 1 to 1 1/2 inch squares. Either pierce squares with a fork, or make a slight imprint with a very small cookie cutter.
Slide parchment sheet with unbaked crackers onto a baking sheet, and try to separate pieces a bit if you can.
Repeat with the other half of dough.
Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 16 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Remove from oven and remove the ones that are done on the edges. Spread remaining crackers evenly over their pans and place back in the oven to bake until browned to your liking, about 3-5 more minutes probably. Keep an eye on them.
When crackers are all baked, cool completely on the pans or a wire rack. When completely cooled, move to an airtight container or zip top bags to store.

Makes quite a few crackers. 
(Sorry I forgot to count--they filled a gallon size bag about 2/3 full. I ate so many though, perhaps it would have been up to 3/4 full if I'd restrained myself more.)

Dry ingredients with butter and cheese processed in
After wet ingredients have been incorporated
Dough has been rolled, cut, and semi pierced with that little cookie cutter.
I removed the dark ones from the bottom after 13 minutes in the oven. Then I baked the rest for 4 more minutes.
Many different sizes and shapes, all equally tasty
Hey! It looks like a cracker inside there!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Individual Cheese and Egg Puffs




I got this recipe ages and ages ago from my friend Kim's mom. I rarely make them because it's one of those brunch items that you take to events, and I guess I don't go to that many brunch events. 
Today, though, I got to make them for the Wilsons, as they were here for their bi-annual drive through Des Moines. Gosh, I love that family. Not only are they fun and awesome, but they love eating just as much as I do. 
The egg-eaters in our two families thoroughly enjoyed these yummy little puffs. They're tender, and somewhat light-tasting, with only a hint of the green chile flavor. They're salty, cheesy, soft, and very satisfying.
I have a few left that I'm going to try freezing, and I'll try to remember to put an update on here of how that goes.

Individual Cheese and Egg Puffs

Ingredients:
  • 10 large eggs
  • 12 oz. small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 pound jack cheese, grated
  • 4 to 5 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 can diced green chilies 
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour (I used Better Batter Gluten Free AP Flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
Instructions:
  • Prepare the day/night before.
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs until lemon colored. 
  • Blend in cottage cheese, jack cheese, Gruyere cheese, and diced chilies. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients and the melted butter to the egg mixture, and mix well.
  • Generously grease 24 medium size (2 to 2 1/2 inch) muffin cups (original recipe says 30, but mine only yielded 24). 
  • Divide egg mixture evenly among muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, or until tops are golden and feel firm. 
  • Let stand 10 minutes, and then run a knife around each muffin cup to loosen the egg puff.
  • Gently lift puffs out. 
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes about 24 puffs
Right after mixing the eggs, cheese, and chilis

After the addition of the dry ingredients the next day


Pan is ready to go into the oven

Hello, delicious cheesy, salty, eggy goodness.

I may have eaten a couple more after these two.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Roasted Broccoli


Delicious roasted broccoli



I needed a new way to prepare broccoli tonight, and Pinterest did not let me down. Everyone loved this, and now I'm wondering why we all tolerated simply steamed broccoli for so long.
The broccoli turned out mostly cooked, but still crunchy, and very flavorful. I may like broccoli again.

Roasted Broccoli
       Adapted from A Spicy Perspective

Ingredients:
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix the garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Wash, trim, and cut broccoli into bite-size pieces. Cut and peel stalk as well, if desired.
Pile broccoli onto the prepared baking sheet.
Drizzle olive oil over broccoli, and then sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper mix. Toss with hands and spread evenly over the surface of the pan.
Roast at 475 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until edges start to look a bit charred.
Makes about 3-4 servings


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