Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Here's a dish that I hadn't even heard of until I met my husband. We used to make it pretty frequently our first few years of marriage, but then we got away from it. It's never been one of my favorites. I think that may be because I used a canned cream of chicken soup shortcut for the gravy, though. Tonight when my husband suggested we have it for dinner, I went the extra two steps and made a gravy from scratch. That was a good move, and we all--even my picky eater--really enjoyed this shepherd's pie. So there. 
My other kid said, "It's kind of an olde tyme (time-ee) kind of meal." Hmmmm. An interesting observation. This meal is warm, comforting, salty, and hearty. It's not fancy, although you can make it fancier by piping the potatoes on top. It's just a good meat and potatoes meal that made my husband happy. Maybe this shepherd's pie can make you happy too.

Shepherd's Pie

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (90/10)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots (I used baby carrots)
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour (I used Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth (I used 1 1/2 cup warm water and 1 1/2 teaspoons beef base)
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 3 medium russet potatoes*, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown the ground beef, making sure to leave some of it in larger bite-size chunks. When meat is basically cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat to a plate or bowl. Set aside. Continue to cook drippings until it sizzles because there is more fat than water. Add the butter, onion, carrots, and celery. Turn heat to medium low and cook veggies to desired tenderness (I cooked mine until the carrots were al dente). Add the garlic, parsley, thyme, and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the flour, stirring and cooking for about 1 more minute. Whisk in beef broth making sure to whisk away lumps. Bring gravy to a simmer, add half and half and return the ground beef to the pan with the gravy.  Turn heat off and set pan aside (or leave on the burner that's been turned off).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare mashed potatoes by cutting peeled potatoes into 1 1/2 to 2 inch chunks. Place in a large pot, cover potatoes with water, add salt, and cook on high for about 25 minutes, or until you can easily stick a fork in the potatoes with no resistance. Carefully drain off the water and return to the heat for about 1 minute to evaporate any remaining water. Heat the milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl or cup until hot. Beat potatoes with a mixer until potatoes are broken up. Add the hot milk & butter mixture and beat until smooth. Add sour cream and salt and pepper to taste, and beat to incorporate. If the potatoes seem too thick, add a little more milk and beat until smooth.
Place meat/gravy mixture in a medium baking dish. Top evenly with the mashed potatoes (I used a piping bag with a star tip just for the fun of it). 
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until gravy bubbles at the edges and the top begins to brown. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Makes about 6 servings

*You really want to end up with about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of mashed potatoes to put on top. The type of potato you use does not matter.

Gluten Free Krispy Kreme-ish Donuts

Gluten Free Krispy Kreme-ish Donut

I have two other gluten free donut recipes here on Food Pusher. Both were eaten pretty happily by my family, especially my gluten-limited son. (See Gluten Free Raised Donuts and Gluten Free Raised Donuts II.) The texture, to me, though, was still wrong. I really, really wanted to make a gluten free donut that would have a texture comparable to a Krispy Kreme donut. The texture of the other two recipes were dense and heavy. I wanted light and tender. Without going into too much tedious detail, the recipe below, which creates more of a batter than a dough, is just what I was going for. These may not be the most attractive donuts, but what they lack in appearance, they make up for in taste and texture. These have the soft, pillowy texture of a real Krispy Kreme donut. Sweet, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth fried dough goodness. 
Just like real Krispy Kremes, these taste best warm. It's harder to tell they're gluten free when they're warm, but they are still fabulous at room temperature.
Heads up: you will end up with a mess in your kitchen, but if you or a loved one needs to eat gluten free AND a Krispy Kreme fix is desired, these most likely will do the trick. 

Gluten Free Krispy Kreme-ish Donuts

  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cup Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Four, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 scant teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast*
  • canola oil for frying
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a microwave safe container, heat milk and butter for about 40 seconds in the microwave. Stir until butter is completely melted. Check to see if the mixture is too hot. If it feels HOT, let it cool down so it is only warm to the touch. Pour into a large mixing bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer).
Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, and the yeast.
When milk/butter mixture is warm to the touch, add the beaten egg. Mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low to incorporate ingredients. Once ingredients are incorporated, beat on high for 4-5 minutes.
Heavily dust two baking sheets with some flour. Scoop batter/dough into a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip, or if you don't have a piping bag, use a large zip top freezer bag. If going the freezer bag route, cut about 3/4 inch off one corner and pipe out of that.
Pipe 4 to 5 inch strips of batter/dough onto prepared sheets, leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inches between strips. I covered mine with plastic cookie sheet lids, but if you don't have those, I think they'll be okay uncovered. Allow to rise for 50 minutes.
When 50 minutes has passed, heat about 2-3 inches of canola oil in a heavy pot or high-rimmed saucepan. Heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (I use medium-high heat, and then usually turn it down to just above medium if donuts start to brown too quickly). 
While oil heats, mix the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a shallow dish or bowl. 
When oil is hot, carefully lift a dough strip with a thin metal spatula and gently let it roll off into the hot oil. Repeat with a few more dough strips, taking care not to put too many in the oil at a time. When one side is a nice dark golden brown, try to turn it over with metal tongs. Sometimes they become so cylindrical that they roll back to the original side. You'll just have to tend more closely to those ones to make sure they get golden brown on both sides.
When donuts are a nice deep golden brown, remove them to a paper towel lined cooling rack and then almost immediately place in the glaze, coating donuts all over. Place on a cooling rack to drain and set up. Continue frying donuts and glazing. 
Eat warm and store any leftovers in an airtight container.
Makes about 2 dozen donuts

*If you only have regular dry yeast, not the instant kind, you can reduce the milk to 1 cup and sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons regular dry yeast over 1/3 cup warm water. When mixture is soft and bubbly, add it to the milk and butter mixture, and then proceed with the recipe.

Yeah. I know they look, um, weird. Fried up they're delish.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Buttery Toffee Croq Tele

Buttery Toffee Croq Tele

The little-known Croq Tele has become one of my very favorite cookies. After making them and having them enjoyed recently by my adult HiSET students, I got to thinking about how I could take these buttery chunks of shortbread yumminess to the next level. Having come off my Christmas toffee-making extravaganza just a few weeks ago, toffee is what popped into my head almost immediately. After tossing around in my head how I would incorporate the toffee into the little cookie nuggets, I decided to put in two forms of toffee: powder form to replace some of the sugar, and tiny bit form to give some crunch and extra toffee punch to them. 
Well, it worked incredibly well, in my opinion. What I ended up with was a tender shortbread nugget that is just sweet enough and with a deep, rich, nutty, buttery flavor. I guess I didn't quite get the crunch I was looking for in each and every little nugget. Only some of them have bits of toffee that ended up big enough for that. They also have a slight saltiness to them, so if you're a salty-sweet fan, you will probably enjoy these. I am hooked.
I did make my own toffee for these, because I'm the crazy person who does that sort of thing, but I think you could buy a bag of Heath Toffee Bits and they would work fine. Because I made my own, though, I have plenty of leftover toffee powder and bits to make these again. And I will.

Buttery Toffee Croq-Tele (TV Snacks)
     --adapted from At the Baker's Bench who adapted it from Field Guide to Cookies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, stir almond flour, toffee powder, toffee bits, sugar, and salt.
Beat flour and cold butter until mixture turns sandy in texture. Add almond/toffee/sugar/salt mixture and beat until small clumps form. (If you don't see clumps forming after a couple of minutes, stop the mixer and squeeze some of the sandy mixture in your hand. If it holds together, it's ready.)
Use a teaspoon to scoop out small balls of dough. Pinch the dough in your hand until it holds together. Place on prepared cookie sheet about an inch apart. 
Bake at 325 degrees for 15-16 minutes, or until tips/edges are browned.
Cool cookies on pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. 
Store in an airtight container or freeze for later consumption.

Makes about 9 dozen little cookies

English Toffee Powder and Bits
(Note: You can pulverize some Heath Toffee Bits [without chocolate] if you don't want to go to the trouble of making your own toffee.)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
1. Line a baking sheet or 9x13 glass dish with parchment paper or non-stick foil. 
2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone (not rubber) spatula. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 300° Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. Pour into prepared pan and evenly spread with a silicone spatula. Allow to cool completely.
3. Break toffee up into big chunks with your hands and place toffee into a food processor*. Pulse the processor until toffee reaches the texture of tiny pebbles or raw sugar. 

4. Using a medium mesh strainer/sifter, sift the toffee bits in batches. Sift the powder into one bowl, and then pour the larger bits into another bowl. Store what you don't use in airtight containers for later use.

Makes about 3/4 cup powder and 1 cup 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.

*If you do not have a food processor, you can place toffee in a gallon-size freezer bag and pound and roll toffee with a rolling pin until you reach the desired consistency. Be careful because the toffee will make tiny holes in the bag, so you will probably need to transfer the pulverized toffee bits and powder to a bowl before going through the sifting process.

Pulverized toffee in food processor
Toffee separated into bits and powder with a strainer
Almond flour, toffee bits and powder, salt and sugar
See how it holds together when you squeeze the mixture?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Gluten Free Raised Donuts II

Gluten Free Raised Donut

I am ever on a quest to make a gluten free Krispy Kreme style raised donut. I haven't gotten there yet, even with this recipe, but I feel like I'm getting a little bit closer. Krispy Kreme donuts are so tender, light, and melt-in-your-mouth yummy. Maybe the gluten in them is the key to that fabulous sensory experience. Even though these donuts are no Krispy Kreme, my gluten-limited son has eaten about 6 from this batch, so I'd say they are a success. They are still just a little too dense for me to feel satisfied with this recipe, though. I do have another gluten free donut recipe that I got from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. These are slightly lighter than those, but not much. Sigh. I'll keep trying, but for now, if you are gluten free and craving a soft raised donut, simply glazed, this may work temporarily. 
Oh, and the reason the donuts are square is because I hate wasting ingredients. Cutting circles out means there will always be scraps that need to be thrown away. This gluten free flour is not cheap. I refuse to throw any away.

Update: I think I've achieved a gluten free Krispy Kreme donut. Click here to check it out.

Gluten Free Raised Donuts II

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a microwave safe container, heat milk and butter for about 40 seconds in the microwave. Stir until butter is completely melted. Check to see if the mixture is too hot. If it feels HOT, let it cool down so it is only warm to the touch. Pour into a large mixing bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer).
Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, and the yeast.
When milk/butter mixture is warm to the touch, add the beaten egg. Mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix until it forms a thick batter/soft dough.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll in the flour and then using your hands and/or a rolling pin, flatten dough into a rough rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut dough into 12 squares (or 8 squares, and four triangle-like shapes at the corners). 
Use a very small biscuit cutter (or other very small round item that will cut) to cut the middle out of each square/triangle. Cover all of the pieces of dough, donuts and holes, with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 50 minutes.
When 50 minutes has passed, heat about 2-3 inches of canola oil in a heavy pot or high-rimmed saucepan. Heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (I use medium-high heat, and then usually turn it down to just above medium if donuts start to brown too quickly). 
While oil heats, mix the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a shallow dish or bowl. 
When oil is hot, start by frying donut holes to make sure you have the right temperature. Fry until a deep golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined cooling rack and then almost immediately place in the glaze, coating donuts and holes all over. Place on a cooling rack to drain and set up. Continue frying donuts and donut holes and glazing. 
Eat warm and store any leftovers in an airtight container.
Makes 12 donuts and 12 holes

My gluten-limited son AND my non-gluten-limited son
both enjoyed the donuts. These remnants did
not last long. First time all GF donuts were eaten.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pizza Crust (by Tyler Florence)

Pizza crust with butter, garlic salt, and pepper
Make crusts any size you like. I made 8 mini crusts today.

I've got several pizza crust recipes on this blog, but this is the one I've used the most in the last year. Don't know why I'm only posting it now. Maybe because I use this for quick dinners on nights when I have no time for blogging.
My very favorite pizza crusts require a lot of time: Ciabatta Pizza Crust requires an overnight biga, and Thin Crust Pizza requires a 24-hour rise in the fridge. Most days I do not have that kind of time AND sadly, I need to avoid the ciabatta crust because my gluten-limited son loves it too much. To make that crust for the rest of us while he eats his gluten free crust would just be cruel.
So, this crust turns out a little bit thick, but not too thick, a little chewy, and a little bit crusty. It's a nice vehicle for any pizza, and actually, last night, I used it as the bread for meatball sandwiches, which were really meatball tacos in the end.
It also tastes great buttered with a little garlic salt and pepper on top. Mmm... one of my favorite ways to enjoy it.
So, if you're looking for a pizza crust that's ready in 2 hours or less (the "less" means that you bake and freeze crusts for later use), this is the recipe for you. Enjoy.

Pizza Crust
    --Adapted from Tyler Forence's Pizza Dough Recipe at

Place the warm water and olive oil in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.
Add the flour. Then add the sugar, salt, and instant yeast.
With the dough hook, mix on low until ingredients are incorporated. Turn speed up to medium and kneed dough on medium for about 4-5 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. (My dough sometimes separates into two pieces.)
Scrape dough off hook and out of bowl and form into a single ball. Return dough to bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. 
Allow dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. While dough rises, preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: Your oven should have a baking stone for optimal results.)
Scrape risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 3-8 pieces, depending on the size pizza (or pita) you want.
Form each piece of dough into a nice round ball. Cover dough balls with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes.
Line a semi-rimless baking sheet or a pizza peel with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll, stretch, pull, and press dough out to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Place on prepared baking sheet or pizza peel. If you're making 8 small crusts, you should be able to fit four of the crusts onto the baking sheet/pizza peel.
Before sliding crusts into the oven, tap all ten of your fingernails, like claws, into each crust about 3-4 times to perforate the dough (see below). If you skip this step, you will end up with puffy pita pockets instead of pizza crusts. 
(At this point, you can also top the pizza crust at this time and bake your pizzas for 5-6 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Either way, the crust is great.)
Slide parchment with dough on it onto the baking stone in the oven. Bake crusts for 3-4 minutes at 500 degrees, or until there are browned spots on the bottom of the crust.
Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Note: If for some reason one of your crusts puffed up like a balloon (pita bread), just set the other crusts on top of that one until it's flattened. Do not attempt to flatten it with your fingers or hand, or you'll get a steam burn.
At this point, you can either top the crusts with your favorite toppings and return to the oven for 4-5 minutes, or you can completely cool and freeze the crusts for later use. OR you can use them for meatball tacos (see final pic below).

My dough hook gives me two lumps of dough sometimes.
Pizza dough: pre-rise
Pizza dough: after about 1 1/2 hours of rising
I cut dough in eighths today.
Dough balls resting
Four little crusts fit on one pan.
Fingernails are a cheap and reliable dough docking tool.
Crusts ready to go into the oven
Four crusts; one dressed up
One of my favorite ways to enjoy pizza crust: buttered, with garlic salt and pepper
I forgot to take a pic before I'd eaten the other 3 slices of my mini pizza.
See? Just slightly thick
And this one became the shell of a meatball taco.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Vegan Mushroom Chili

Vegan Mushroom Chili

I am no vegan, but sometimes vegans come into my life. The recipient of this vegan chili is one of my husband's co-workers. She has a very unfortunate condition that prevents her from eating ANY animal products. My husband volunteered me to make Cheesecake Factory White Chicken Chili for his school's administrative staff holiday dinner... yadda, yadda, yadda... vegan mushroom chili. When I tasted the chili I thought it tasted decent, but not something I would want for a meal. Kristy, on the other hand, loved the chili. She told me during dinner that she loved it, but I knew for sure when I found her later on in the kitchen eating bites of the chili with some Fritos Scoops. Yay! I love it when that happens. It just does my heart good to know that I can make something yummy for someone who's diet is so restricted.
Since I'm not a vegan, and I'm really not a huge fan of vegetables, you may have some better ideas for the veggies to add to this chili. The key to the flavor is really the spices I think.  
At any rate, if you or someone you care about is vegan, and enjoys spicy food, give this a go. I think you'll like it. And if you do, please let me know because it makes me happy.

Vegan Mushroom Chili
  --adapted from CookEatShare
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 portobello mushrooms cooked and sliced/cubed (I grilled them)
  • 1 small to medium eggplant, cooked and diced (I grilled them)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Spread
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow or white onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted poblano pepper*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely diced green chili pepper (I used a serrano**)
  • 1/3 cup Better Batter Gluten Free Flour (all-purpose works too, but Better Batter IS better)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth/stock
  • 2 tablespoons salsa verde
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili garlic paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon chipotle Tobasco
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 can 15.8 oz. white beans 
  • white rice
  • pico de gallo (garnish)
  • 3 green onions, sliced (garnish)

Combine cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.

Heat canola oil and Earth Balance Spread in a large sauté pan or a dutch oven (dutch oven if you're doubling the recipe for sure) over medium heat.

Add onions and saute until translucent.

Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the poblanos and green chilis.

Add the spice mix and the flour, stir to incorporate, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously.

Add the vegetable stock a little at a time, whisking to smooth out any lumps.

Add the salsa verde, chili garlic paste, and chipotle tabasco.

Allow to come to a simmer over medium heat, and then add the mushrooms and eggplant into pan/pot.

Simmer for 5 minutes and add the coconut milk and white beans. Stir to incorporate.

Serve and with rice and garnish with pico de gallo and green onions.

Makes about 5 servings.

*To roast the poblano, you do it over a gas burner on low-medium or a grill on high heat (that's what I did). If you don't have either of those options, I've heard you can do this in a cast iron skillet, but that's just one more pan you'll have to clean later. Put it directly on the grate and turn every now and then to evenly scorch it all over. Once it's bubbled and burned all over, you place it either in a zip top bag or seal tightly in aluminum foil (which is what I did). Let sit for about 15 minutes to steam. Then you peel off all the blackness, cut it open, scrape out the seeds, stem, and any "ribs" inside. Then chop. (I had to google this one.)

**For the green chili pepper, I really just went to the grocery store down the street, stood in front of the section of chiles in the produce section, and found a small pepper that said said "green chili" (turns out it was a serrano pepper--see Visual Guide to Peppers). Okay, actually, I looked "green chili pepper" up on google images first, and saw that they were on the small side, so I used one of those small, thin green peppers that's about 3-4 inches long. I put on some plastic gloves (food service type) and chopped off the top of the pepper, quartered it, scraped out the seeds and ribs, julienned, and diced it.

For more information about peppers, see this visual guide to peppers: Visual Guide to Peppers.

Four portobellos was too much, and I think this eggplant
was not the best. My experiment seemed to work
despite these things, though.

01 09