Thursday, July 19, 2018

Brownie Cookies (Gluten Free--but they don't have to be)

Brownie Cookies
Summer break means I have tons of time on my hands, and although I've been trying to bake (and eat) fewer breads and cookies, today I had to make these after seeing them on Instagram. Smittenkitchen.com calls them the Browniest Cookies. What they remind me of sort of are Grandma's Chocolate Brownie Cookies --you know, the big ones in the red package. 
These aren't as sweet as Grandma's, but that could probably be remedied by changing the 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate to dark chocolate, which I may try next time. 
Suffice it to say, though, these are what they are called: the browniest cookies. Very chocolately. Very satisfying. Just make sure you have enough milk on hand to drink alongside these guys.
Also, I used gluten free flour because I'm attempting to reduce the gluten in my diet, but the original recipe just calls for the same amount of regular all purpose flour. I use Better Batter because it's what works for me. I think this recipe could handle any cup-for-cup gf flour you might like to use.


Brownie Cookies
     --adapted from Smittenkitchen.com

Ingredients:
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped/broken into pieces
  • 1 stick butter (cut into tablespoon chunks)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (or other AP flour)
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)
Instructions:
  • In a microwave safe bowl, melt unsweetened chocolate and butter on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat microwaving at 50% power at 20-30 second intervals until the chocolate is almost melted completely. Continue stirring to completely melt and combine chocolate and butter. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the chocolate butter mixture and the brown and white sugars.
  • Whisk in the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated. 
  • Stir in vanilla.
  • Stir in baking soda and salt. 
  • Add the cocoa powder and flour, putting it through a sieve/sifter if either is lumpy. Stir to incorporate cocoa and flour.
  • Stir in chocolate chips (and nuts if you want them within the cookies).
  • Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.

At this point you can preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit OR you can get ready to form the dough into a log to freeze, and bake later.

Bake now: 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Scoop about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of dough onto lines cookie sheet leaving 1 1/2 inches or so between cookies. These don't spread much. 
  • If you want nuts, but did not stir them in, you can roll prepared mounds of dough in the nuts and return to the baking sheet.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes. Be careful not to over bake these. They're better if they're slightly under baked.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet before removing with a spatula to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Bake later: 
  • Tear off a sheet of parchment paper that will accommodate making a dough log.
  • Scoop out the chilled dough onto the sheet, and with clean or food-gloved hands, form the dough into a rough log.
  • When you have a rough log, fold over the parchment and use the edge of a cookie sheet to sort of push and squeeze the dough into a smoother log shape. (If you can't imagine what I'm talking about, watch this short video about shaping compound butter.)
  • The log should end up about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches in diameter. 
  • Place the dough in the freezer until it's frozen solid.
  • When frozen, you can cut the log so that the dough fits well into a zip top freezer bag.
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, line a cookie sheet with parchment, and cut 1/2 inch thick circles from the frozen log. 
  • Place dough circles onto the baking sheet (and press into chopped nuts if you want those on top--but you may need to wait a few minutes for the dough to soften slightly if you're doing this).
  • Bake cookies at 350 for 8-9 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet before removing with a spatula to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 
Frozen and cut cookie dough
Dough rolled and ready to be wrapped and frozen
This cookie was formed with a scoop. Just wanted you to see the inside.
These cookies were formed with a scoop.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Peanut Butter Granola


Perfect Peanut Butter Granola
Summer break. Every teacher's goal for 9 months of the year. I made it.
Honestly, though, I do love my job, and for perhaps the first time in my working history, I have not counted down impatiently for summer to come. I am blessed to have a job I love AND to get a loooong summer break as well.
Summer, to me, means that I get to cook and blog to my heart's content. Unfortunately, though, my oven is in need of repair, and I must endure another week or so of not having a working oven.
I do have a wonderful sister-in-law, though, who lives just down the street, so I baked up this tasty granola in her oven this afternoon.
If you've ever had Nature Valley Peanut Butter Granola Bars then you know what this granola tastes like. It is crunchy, toasty, and full of peanut butter goodness. It's very easy to make and it's much less expensive than buying ready-made granola. 
Seriously, so easy. You really must try making it on your own.


Peanut Butter Granola

Ingredients:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup or honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • In a medium or large bowl, completely mix the egg whites, corn syrup (or honey), vegetable oil, brown sugar, peanut butter, kosher salt, and vanilla.
  • Stir in the rolled oats until everything is incorporated.
  • Spread mixture evenly over the prepared pan.
  • Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the granola in there for another 15 minutes. 
  • Then remove from the oven and stir. Allow to cool completely before eating or placing in a gallon sized zip top bag.
  • Try to enjoy it within two weeks for best flavor.

Makes about 5 cups of granola.



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fettuccine Alfredo

I didn't have quite enough fettuccine noodles, so I used some rotini as well.
This delicious and super simple recipe comes from my 10th grade son's Foods and Nutrition class. It's become a somewhat regular treat for the two of us, as we are the only two in the family who will eat such things.

Truly, this dish is so easy to make. I think it doesn't take much more effort that opening a blue box of Kraft Mac & Cheese--which IS a treat in itself, if I'm honest. This has way more fat in it than the blue box, but I tell ya, it's much creamier and more satisfying in my opinion.

Since I'm reducing my gluten these days, I use the Barilla gluten free fettuccine noodles, and the only difference I notice between them and the wheat-based noodles is that these are slightly more fragile. Still have a great texture and taste, though.

If you've never made your own fettuccine Alfredo, but you like to eat it, give this one a try.

Fettuccine Alfredo
    Adapted from Mrs. Smith's Foods & Nutrition class recipe binder

Ingredients:
  • 16 oz. fettuccine pasta (I used Barilla gluten free fettuccine noodles)
  • 1 stick butter (salted)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
  • pinch of chopped or dried parsley for garnish, if desired
Instructions:
  1. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and garlic until butter is melted.
  3. Add cream to the saucepan, burn heat up to slightly over medium, and stir. 
  4. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture has thickened a bit (4-7 minutes).
  5. Stir in nutmeg, pepper, and salt; and then add the cheese. Stir until smooth and thick.
  6. Add the cooked and drained noodles.
  7. Toss the noodles in the creamy sauce. 
  8. Plate the fettuccine Alfredo and sprinkle with a little parsley, if desired.
Makes about 4-6 servings, depending on how hungry you are

  • Note: Add some cooked chicken and broccoli and make it a whole meal.
  • Also, I usually halve this recipe for my son and myself. Leftover fettuccine Alfredo isn't as appetizing as fresh.


Barilla makes some good gluten-free pasta.

Any Italian blend cheese will do.

The sauce, right before adding the noodles

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Almond Flour Coconutty Cookies

Almond Flour Coconutty Cookies
When I decided to adapt my coconutty cookies to replace almond flour for the regular or gluten free flour, I didn't realize which direction these would go in. They were much flatter than I thought they'd be, and they were also packed with way more flavor that I thought they'd have. 

They don't look all that impressive, and I can't put into words exactly what makes them special. Just know that when they're just underbaked, they have an incredibly chewy texture and a fabulous buttery caramel flavor. Mmm. So good.

My husband took two downstairs to snack on, and when he'd finished the second one, he was actually a little bit sad when they were gone. 

So, all that to say, if you like coconut and nuts at all--even if you are not gluten free--you should try these cookies. I'm pretty sure you'll love them.

Almond Flour Coconutty Cookies

Ingredients
  • 14 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspooon baking soda
  • 1 teaspooon salt
  • 2 teaspooons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups almond meal/almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (I lightly toasted mine)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (also lightly toasted)
Instructions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.  Cream butter and sugars.  Beat in baking soda and salt.  Beat in vanilla extract and eggs.  
3.  Mix in almond flour. Then stir in coconut and nuts.
4.  Scoop by tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving two inches between cookies. 
5.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are mostly baked and starting to brown at the edges. Bake them less for chewy cookies, and longer for crisp cookies.
6.  Allow to cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I like to keep my cookie dough in the fridge, or make and freeze dough balls.  These cookies withstood the freezing of the dough very nicely.

Makes about 4 dozen 4-inch diameter cookies, I think.

They kind of look like oatmeal cookies
Cookie dough balls ready for the freezer






Sunday, February 11, 2018

Homemade Chocolate Pudding



Homemade Chocolate Pudding: Sweet, simple, and satisfying


I've been on a chocolate pudding kick the last couple of weeks. I modified a chocolate cream pie filling recipe, and since this is the third time in two weeks I've made this pudding, I figured it was time to commit to putting it in a blog post here. 

This pudding probably tastes similar to what you could buy at the store in those little plastic cups, or what you could make with Jell-O pudding powder, but this feels healthier because I know and can pronounce every ingredient I put into it.

It's just a simple, relatively easy to prepare sweet treat that makes me happy. Try it and see if it makes you happy too.

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients:
  • 1/6 cup (about 2 3/4 tablespoons) white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk (2% is best, I think)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup Dark Chocolate Chips (I like Nestle's Dark Chocolate Chips)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipped cream, optional
Instructions:
  • Place 6 glass cups on a plate or small tray. (Each serving will be a little less than half a cup, so pick your size accordingly. I used my Pampered Chef 1-Cup Prep Bowls)
  • Place sugar, cornstarch, and salt into a medium size heavy bottomed saucepan.
  • Whisk together the milk and the egg yolks, and then whisk the liquid into the saucepan with the dry ingredients.
  • Turn the heat to medium, and cook until liquid has thickened, stirring constantly with the whisk. It will take about 3-5 minutes to thicken to a gravy-like consistency. 
  • Turn off the heat, add the chocolate chips and unsalted butter. Whisk to melt chips and butter, and add the vanilla. Continue whisking until smooth.
  • Use a silicone spatula to stir/scrape the corners to make sure everything is incorporated.
  • Carefully pour about a scant half cup of pudding into each dish.
  • Cover each dish with a bit of plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is in direct contact with the pudding.
  • Place in refrigerator until completely chilled (at least two hours).
  • Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Makes 6 servings
Recipe is easily doubled 

Just poured--a little messy
Ready to go into the fridge



Gluten Free Cinnamon Muffins

Gluten Free Almond Flour Cinnamon Muffins


This is a complete experiment, as I am still attempting to go mostly gluten free and still bake delicious things. 

As I was looking for muffin recipes using almond flour, I really just wanted a rich, sweet muffin without the gluten, but all I could find were paleo recipes that called for stevia, honey, and almond milk. I don't want a healthy muffin--I want a delicious gluten free muffin.

So, I found a basic recipe on Allrecipes.com, and made some modifications.

At first I used a mixture of almond flour and gluten free all purpose flour for the muffin, and it was fine. Then I tried all almond flour, and it was great--but I'd forgotten the sugar. Sigh.

Next I tried all almond flour again, but the topping turned out weird, so I threw those out and changed the amount of butter in the topping...

After two tries on one Sunday, I have settled on the recipe you see below.

Did I end up with a delicious gluten free muffin? Well, yes. Yes, I did. 

They are just sweet enough for me--the crumb topping makes up for the sugar I omitted from the batter. These muffins are very moist and crumbly when warm, and you'd never know they're made with almond flour. 

Alright. There you go: a delicious, not-so-healthy almond flour gluten free muffin. Well worth the effort and anguish I put into them. Enjoy.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Muffins
    adapted from AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour/meal
  • 1/3 cup sugar (original recipe calls for 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cold and sliced thin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line or grease about 8 muffin cups (the original recipe says it makes 6 muffins; reviews say it makes 12; I got 8).
  • In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Whisk together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla.
  • Combine the wet with the dry ingredients and spoon or otherwise distribute batter into the muffin cups.
  • With your fingers, mix the 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup gluten free flour, and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl with the butter until butter is evenly distributed and you have crumbles.
  • Place as much of the crumble mixture over each muffin as you can (I had abut 2 tablespoons left over).
  • Bake muffins at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 16-18 minutes*.

Makes about 8 regular size muffins







*I may try baking them longer at a lower temperature, or maybe in a darker pan, as come of them were a little underdone in the middle. I thought they tasted fine, but my husband did not care for the underbaked center. They were just a little moist and dense toward the middle, but they were cooked all the way through.

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
 






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