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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Since I’ve been trying to go gluten-free these days, I’m looking up recipes from the pioneers that have gone before me into the world of gluten free baking. I’ve been finding some really great recipes. One of those I tried tonight – chocolate chip cookies. Uh huh.

I used this recipe from over at the Tropical Traditions recipe site, www.freecoconutrecipes.com.  Since I’m also avoiding white sugar, I substituted the 1/2 cup sugar it called for with 1/3 cup honey. Everything else I followed to the letter (other than accidently adding too much salt – 1/2 tsp instead of 1/8 teaspoon, which made no difference that I could tell). From reading the reviews, I decided to use my small-ish melon baller to scoop the dough into 30 small balls, then used the fork I mixed everything with to smush them down a little bit. (This had the added benefit of adding nifty texture to the top of the cookies – reminds me of the peanut butter cookies I made back in the day with Mom.)

Sweet Dreams

I baked for 12 minutes. Ok, the first batch I baked for longer than 12 minutes and the bottoms got a little burned. So the next batch got 12 minutes and they were golden brown and delicious. I was really suprised at how much the honey flavor came through, even more than the coconut even though I used coconut oil, flour and flakes. I think I could even make these sans the chocolate chips for like a tea cookie. Aside from being a bit dry, these were really fantastic cookies. Test subject Bill approved, and said that he even liked the dryness and told me not to try to fix it!

As an added note, these cookies were ridiculously easy. I had cleaned up everything I dirtied while they baked and was sitting there, waiting with my camera and a spatula when they came out of the oven. Total time from finding recipe to eating cookie was probably 30 minutes.

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In my transition to eating real food I’ve given up a lot of unhealthy, processed foods. Many of these are sweets. Oh, those cookies and frozen confections that once held me captive…no longer. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more! Honestly, since I’ve been feeding myself as God intended for us to eat, I no longer crave or even have any desire to eat the old junk I used to love. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t want an occasional treat!

Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Lucky for me, I’ve found some wonderful recipes to make delicious homemade real food sweets! I recently made the Chocolate Macaroons from the Heathy Home Economist.  They are a bit of a time investment, but not so much in labor. After you whip up the eggwhites and flavorings and actually bake the cookies, they need to continue to dry in the oven for several hours so it’s largely non-active time. It is worth it though – they are feather light and crunchy and delicious! I couldn’t find the chocolate extract her recipe calls for so I used almond extract and it turned out very nicely. The only problem I ran into is that my final product had random very small suuuuper crunchy (aka HARD) chunks that ended up in them. Perhaps I wasn’t vigorous enough when I folded in the dry ingredients, or maybe I should have sifted in the dry ingredients slowly. Or maybe I should go back and watch Sarah’s video again. Either way, I loved them and will definately make them again.

Maple Vanilla ice cream with a crunchy macaroon!

I also had the pleasure of stumbling upon Chef Emily Duff’s blog, Family2Table. In this post, she offers a variety of real food desserts, all of which look UH-maze-ing. I made the vanilla and maple syrup ice cream. Not only is the recipe very simple, it is the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever made (and I’ve made my fair share). I LOVE LOVE LOVE using the maple syrup as the sweetener. It is so sophisticated and is a gentle sweetness, not overpowering or harsh at all like some ice creams I’ve had. It reminds me a bit of French Vanilla, one of my all time favorite flavors. Maybe it’s the real vanilla bean, maybe it’s the mix of vanilla bean and maple syrup. All I know is that it is truly a thing of beauty and I recommend that everyone reading this run out and buy an ice cream maker if you don’t already have one and make this ice cream.

The cool thing about making these two recipes on the same day is that the ice cream calls for egg yolks only and the macaroons call for egg whites only. This way you don’t have to worry about wasting. You will end up with four extra yolks, but hey….you can save them for another batch of ice cream or make your morning scrambled eggs extra yolky!

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On January 8, 2011 I graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Gwinnett College with a degree in Business Administration, Finance concentration. To celebrate the event, I catered my own graduation party last Saturday night. As much as possible, I used local and/or organic food. It was a lot of work, but at the end of it all my exhausted foodie spirit was satisfied! Various food porn photos from the event are below! Click on the pics for the larger version.

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It’s summer in Georgia. Temps are in the 90’s (a little too early for this kind of heat). Sweet tea abounds. And of course, there’s the peaches. A neighbor of mine has a peach tree in her front yard. Every time I walk by I’m soooo tempted to just reach out and grab one. I guess it runs in the family; I heard my mom was well-known for pilfering fruit from neighbor’s trees as a child…

In addition to straight-up peach munching, I’ve been dicing them up and mixing them with my homemade yogurt. No additional sweetening needed – these things are sweet and juicy and totally delicious! But of course, I can’t stop there. So I looked up a peach muffin recipe and edited it a bit (of course) and made myself some peach bread.

The recipe at Allrecipes.com calls for 1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil. My heart stopped at the thought of using that much vegetable oil, or even that much of any kind of oil. But the reviews were so good. So I replaced the vegetable oil with coconut oil, which is actually good for you. It also calls for TWO CUPS of white sugar. Egads! I used one cup and felt like a bad girl.

The bread turned out super moist, thanks to the coconut oil and juicy peach bits. I didn’t need to even put butter on it, and I definately did not miss that extra cup of sugar. In fact, I think all that sugar would have made it too sweet and ruined it. America is over-sugared. Just a little sweet goes a long way once your taste buds have stopped being inundated with sweeteners.

Since I’m trying to drop a few pounds for my neice’s wedding in a few weeks I ended up freezing most of the bread so I can fatten up on it later 🙂 But it was a yummy and fun use of the peaches.

Ok, so I didn’t pie…I breaded. But the post title wouldn’t have been so snappy with “then you bread.” However, pie sounds wonderful. I’m thinking about this one. Or little individual pies that I can freeze. Oh, the endless peachy opportunities…

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Helping Mom bake bread or make cookies with a chair pulled up to the island so I could get tall enough to see. Getting my hand smacked by Mom when I tried to commit larceny of the crispy turkey skin on Thanksgiving day. Watching Mom think as she leaned up against the warm stove on a winter day. Everyone should have kitchen memories of Mom like that. While I couldn’t be with my mom on Mother’s Day, I decided to do some home cooking to honor her: bread, roast chicken and potatoes.

I found this great peasant bread recipe on Food Network. It sounded pretty easy – a no knead bread. Kneading really doesn’t bother me, I kind of like to pound the dough into submission. But I was ready to change it up so I mixed up the dough and left it to sit for its rise of eighteen hours. Doing good.

It was Sunday morning. I turned the dough out onto a floured counter and tucked the sides in like I was told to in the recipe. I put it on a floured piece of parchment paper. The recipe said to cover it with a kitchen towel, but after one experience where I was scraping gooey dough off of a towel I opted to lay a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with olive oil over it, then add the towel. It started to rise and all was well. It looked kind of pregnant on the counter. If my counter is pregnant, does that make me a mother or a grandmother?

Pregnant counter.

I was looking over the recipe to make sure I was good to go for the bread. Good thing…I failed to read the part about needing a dutch oven to do the baking in. Let’s just say it…I don’t learn. Shoot first and ask questions later. Someday I’ll grow up. But in the mean time, I needed a dutch oven and I needed one fast.

Options: a Lodge cast iron dutch oven. Reasonably priced, good looking and long lasting. Drawbacks: it needs to be seasoned and I don’t have that kind of time. (I don’t trust “pre-seasoned” and if I’m going to do enameled, well….see next.) Next: Le Creuset dutch oven. Expensive, but cool as heck and I’ve always wanted one. So the choice was made.

She is perfect...*sniff*

I had to wait for Williams-Sonoma to open before I could dash in and pick one up. Once I was there…more choices. What color? Round or oval? Luckily I knew what size I need from the recipe and was clearly looking at the 3 1/2 quart. Red would go with my kitchen and honor my mom (her favorite color is red). After some discussion with the clerk at WS, I opted for the oval. I was the proud mother of a Le Creuset baby.

I ran home, cleaned up my baby and stuck it in the oven. That sounds just awful.

In this recipe, you pull the hot dutch oven out of the oven and invert your risen bread dough into it. Carefully. This junk is hot. It sizzles and everything, so that’s kind of fun. Cover it and back into the oven it goes for 30 minutes. De-lid and let it go for another 15 to 30 minutes. Mine was done in 15.

The bread came out nice and crunchy on the outside – perfect! When I cut it open…oh, my. Chewy and moist. My baby can make some bread. I immediately shared with test subject Bill, who announced it far superior to my other bread efforts. Score!

(I made this bread again yesterday, this time doing the optional refrigerated rise of 12-24 hours prior to the 18 hour counter rise. It resulted in a bigger loaf, but didn’t really do much flavorwise. I’ll skip this step from now on. It doesn’t need it.)

While the chicken stuffed with my CSA herbs and surrounded by farmer’s market red potatoes roasted away in the oven, I munched on bread. It was true love.

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Last week I had a produce panic attack.

There are loads of goodness coming in from the local farms, and I think half of it ended up in my kitchen. Between my CSA box and my inability to stay away from the Suwanee farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, my fridge and counter tops were bursting with produce. It was time to freak out.

What do I do with all this bounty??

So I got to work. I froze a ton of green beans and some raspberries (I can get a few raspberries down here and they are great, but they are just not the powerhouses like the ones I got back on the farm in Iowa). I felt better after that, but still…all that squash…

Zucchini bread and squash muffins

Zucchini bread and squash muffins

So I got to work making squash muffins courtesy of a recipe from my CSA newsletter. Sounds weird, but they really do taste good. (Especially with butter and a little honey!) I made two dozen of those, put some in the freezer and some in bags to give to friends. Then I made a loaf of zucchini bread from my How to Cook Everything book. I’ll have to tell you how that tastes later because it’s in my freezer right now, which is just about to explode.

Last night I made a tomato and cucumber salad with Vidalia onions, with just a little salt and pepper, fresh parsley and a drizzle

Tomato and cucumber salad

Tomato and cucumber salad

of olive oil. Super yum.

I also found a recipe for squash fritters so I thought I would give that a try for a little appetizer. You grate the squash, strain and squeeze out the moisture, then combine with flour (recipe calls for almond flour but I had none, so I used arrowroot flour…anyone know if that makes a big difference?), seasonings, and egg. They ended up looking grate and tasting good (test subject Bill had four or five of them) but they were a bit soggy. I think I wasn’t aggressive enough in

Squash Fritters

Squash Fritters

squeezing out the liquid. Next time those squash won’t know what hit them. They were fun to make, though, and it was actually my first time using coconut oil. Tasty stuff!

For a main course I made a beef and eggplant stir fry with red bell pepper, green bell pepper, misc hot peppers and those light green not-hot peppers that grow around here that I have no idea what they’re called. For the seasoning, I coated the beef strips in this Chinese 10-spice I got at the farmer’s market, then made a

Scratch and sniff

Scratch and sniff

sauce with a little water and cornstarch to thicken it up. The beef was a sirloin steak from Nature’s Harmony Farm. I used the leftover coconut oil from the fritters to do the frying.

It was SO GOOD. The beef was tender, the veggies were slightly crunchy, the sauce was phenomenal. Truely, I wish this was a scratch and sniff blog with a taster option because I can’t even explain how great this smelled and tasted. And all I really did was throw stuff together. A smart cook uses good ingredients so they don’t have to work as hard 🙂 Test subject Bill went back for seconds.

Wheaties, hit the road.

Wheaties, hit the road.

When I woke up this morning there was still work left to do on the produce barrel. I stirred some of the sweet and hot peppers into my morning eggs, tossed in some chopped tomato and topped it with a dallop of sour cream for a southwestern southeastern egg dish. I cut up a baby cantelopue (those things are so darn cute) and used the raspberries I didn’t freeze to make a dessert for my breakfast. (Who says breakfast can’t have dessert?) Add some toast made from Ezekiel bread from the farmer’s market, a cup of tea and a glass of real milk and that’s what I call the breakfast of champions. Wheaties is for chumps.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

Finally, and this has nothing to do with produce, but after all that effort I needed a sweet treat. A couple eons ago I had this Care Bear cookbook. It was filled with ridiculously sweet treats for kids to make, but the one thing I made over and over again was the Nutty Shake. It has been probably 20 years since I made one. I was due.

I used some of my homemade vanilla ice cream, some organic peanut butter, milk and replaced the white sugar that the original recipe called for with honey and let it rip in the blender. I think I used a tad too much milk because it didn’t come out as thick as I wanted, but it didn’t matter. I sucked it down and was grateful.

I know this all sounds like a ton of work, but I am so relaxed right now. We ate well and there’s more in the freezer for later. There’s just something about real food that makes me smile.

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Blueberry goodness

Blueberry goodness

After Sunday’s muffin disaster, I was bound and determined to conquer the blueberry muffin. I used the same recipe from How to Cook Everything, but made some changes to my technique. First, I got some baking powder that was NOT EXPIRED (recommended). Second, I made sure I did less stirring. Third, I did all regular sized muffins and ditched the paper baking cups because I was afraid the paper was sucking too much moisture out of the muffins.

 

Blueberry goodness x 11

Blueberry goodness x 11

I’m pleased to say that this time around the batch turned out MUCH better. You actually want to eat these ones. Immediately after tasting the new ones I tossed the old #&@* muffins into the trash. Even though I count this as a success, I feel like there’s still work to be done to make truely spectacular blueberry muffins. I may try a different recipe next time. However, I feel like I did right by the fresh blueberries I got today in my CSA box!

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