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Daring Bakers: Filipino Desserts (Chocolate Sans Rival)

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

I procrastinated, so of course, I was making my Sans Rival last night. I opted to keep the dessert-making to a minimum (seeing as how I already had 3 kinds of leftover pie in my fridge from Thanksgiving) and only made the Sans Rival. I loved that the recipe was already gluten-free (provided the cake pans were dusted with a gluten-free flour, of course) and I could easily adopt it to be dairy-free by substituting a vegan “butter” for the butter called for in the French buttercream. Which, by the way, if you’ve never had French buttercream, find an excuse to try it out. It’s incredibly rich, but also incredibly delicious. Definitely a treat to enjoy only once a year or so.

The same is with this Sans Rival. I opted to take Catherine’s suggested recipe, and make my Sans Rival a chocolate one. It wasn’t overly loaded with chocolate, and it wasn’t too sweet, but I promise you, this is still a rich dessert. That being said, it’s a lovely gluten-free option that would be perfect at a holiday table.

I’ll definitely be keeping this dessert in mind for future events, as I love a good meringue. However, it will definitely have to be an event where I don’t end up with leftovers – I certainly don’t need any more sweets lying around!

Ingredients
10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) cream of tartar
¼ cup (60 ml) (20 gm) (2/3 oz) Dutch processed cocoa (optional and not traditional)
2 cups (480 ml) (240 gm) (8½ oz) chopped, toasted cashews (chop half finely, and half coarsely)

Directions:
Note: You will need four layers which will mean that you might have to bake in two batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

1. Preheat oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.

2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well. (I used gluten-free cassava flour and olive oil instead of flour and butter here.)

3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form.  (about 7-10 mins.)

4. Fold in nuts, reserving enough to use for decoration.

5. Divide meringue into four equal parts. Spread in pans, evenly to edges. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.

7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

French Buttercream:

Ingredients
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz)  white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1¼ cup (300 ml) (2½ sticks) (285 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature (I used Earth Balance buttery sticks)
Optional Flavorings: 2 oz (55 gm) unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) almond extract, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) vanilla extract, or any flavor you like (I used unsweetened chocolate and vanilla extract)

Directions:

1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235°F/112°C (or thread stage).
3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins). Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring after you beat in the butter. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.
Assembly:
Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of  buttercream, meringue, thin layer of  buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.

Daring Bakers: Candylicious – Chocolate Coconut Candies and Peanut Butter Fudge

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! We were challenged to make one chocolate candy that required tempering the chocolate, and one non-chocolate candy.

I love to make candy. During the holidays, I tend to go wild making everything from nut truffles to chocolate pecan pralines to brittle. And while I take care to melt my chocolate in a double boiler (well, actually, a stainless bowl set over a small saucepan with simmering water, but it does the job), I’ve never actually tempered chocolate. But after reading instructions in our Daring Bakers’ Challenge, I was sure I was up to the task. And since I’ve been craving coconut, I thought it was high time I try to recreate one of my favorite candy bars – a Mounds bar. I already had a lot of various candy molds, since I purchased them to make peanut butter cups (the desire to make candy extends to other members of the family too), so I put them to work.

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to temper the chocolate properly, as you’re supposed to bring down the chocolate to around 80 degrees F to get it to temper properly. It’s been a miserable 100+ degrees F here for over 60 days so far this summer. This means our house is hot too – many times, the kitchen is around 80 in the afternoon. However, I happen to have a marble slab, and so I snuck it into the freezer for a bit so I could be sure my chocolate would cool down as needed. Worked like a charm. In fact, the heat had no real bearing on the whole project, except that in spite of the chocolate being tempered, during the photo shoot, I still managed to get fingerprints on it. Whoops. They’re tasty enough though, that I hope I’m forgiven.

If not, there’s always peanut butter fudge. I chose to adapt the recipe that our hostesses chose to be dairy-free and refined sugar-free. I have some co-workers that are peanut butter fans, so I thought this would go over well at the office. (Or else I’ll be in trouble for bringing too many treats…we’ll have to see!) Even though I used coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar and powdered sugar called for in the recipe, it still was quite sweet – a truly rich treat for a peanut butter lover.

This was a wonderful challenge – as always, I am up for candy making. Now, it’s time to promptly get rid of this evil, overly-tempting candy share the fruits of my labor before I indulge in any more though!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Coconut Candy (a.k.a. “Mounds” candy)

4 oz high-quality dark chocolate, chopped

2/3 c shredded unsweetened coconut

1/4 c coconut milk

1 T coconut oil

2 T raw agave nectar

1 t coconut manna (optional, but gives an additional punch of coconut-y deliciousness)

pinch of salt

Prepare a double boiler. Once water is simmering, add chocolate to the top bowl/pot. Allow to melt and come to about 113-120 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Scrape chocolate onto a cool marble slap, and using a bench scraper, smooth out the chocolate and move it around the slab to help it cool. Once it’s about 80 degrees F, scrape the chocolate back into the double boiler. Allow to come to about 90 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Chocolate is now ready for the mold.

Using a small paintbrush, paint chocolate into the molds of your choice. Allow to dry. (I had to place the molds into the fridge for 10 minutes or so to set) Meanwhile, prepare the coconut filling by stirring together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. When your molds are ready, spoon a small amount into each mold, being careful not to overfill. Your filling shouldn’t come all the way to the top. Paint more chocolate on top of the filling, making sure you “seal” the edges and smooth it out. Allow to dry (or stick in fridge again for 10-15 minutes). When ready, turn molds over and carefully pop each chocolate from the mold.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Fudge

1/2 c vegan buttery sticks

2 1/4 c coconut palm sugar

1/2 c coconut milk

3/4 c smooth peanut butter (natural, no sugar added)

1 t vanilla extract

3 1/2 c coconut palm sugar, powdered (you can find out how to powder coconut palm sugar at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free - I used tapioca starch instead of cornstarch)
Place buttery stick into a medium saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Add coconut palm sugar and coconut milk, stirring. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, then remove from heat. Mix in peanut butter and vanilla. Place powdered coconut palm sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pour hot peanut butter mixture over powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Pour fudge into an 8 by 8 inch pan. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Cut into 1-inch squares.

Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

A few weeks ago, my husband surprised me. Little did I know he’d been tucking away money, but he sat me down, whipped out some cash, and told me that it was for a new VitaMix. I nearly cried, I was so excited. I ordered it right away, and it arrived at my doorstep a few days later.

Of course, the first things I made with it were my morning smoothies. No real recipe there – often I toss a fruit or two, some spinach, some protein powder, and give it a whirl. But now, the smoothies are creamy. No more chewing bits of spinach! This Blueberry Spinach Mint Smoothie is even more of a delight in my new blender. Lately, I’ve been throwing fresh, ripe peaches in the blender and making creamy peachy concoctions. Delish.

But the VitaMix can do so much more than just make smoothies. You can actually “cook” soup in the blender – just blend on high speed for a few minutes, and I promise you, your soup will come out creamy, smooth, and HOT! It’s amazing. But it can also blend batters for baked goods. My first attempt? A chocolate zucchini muffin – without the addition of oils.

I wanted a little treat for breakfasts that wouldn’t be too rich, too sweet, or too indulgent. This muffin definitely delivers. You’d never know there was zucchini in the batter, as the VitaMix takes care of all of those little pieces. The muffin is denser than some, but I found it really enjoyable. Just the right amount of texture for a good, hearty muffin.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

1/4 c brown rice flour (30 grams)

1/4 c potato starch (35 grams)

1/2 c sorghum flour (60 grams)

1 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

2 T cocoa powder (12 grams)

1/4 t guar gum

1/4 t salt

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t allspice

1/4 c egg whites

1 t vanilla extract

2/3 c coconut palm sugar (100 grams)

2 c coarsely chopped zucchini (255 grams)

1/2 c chopped pecans

1/2 c raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with papers.

Combine brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, guar gum, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a large bowl. Whisk until completely blended.

Place egg whites, vanilla, coconut palm sugar, and zucchini into blender and secure lid. Select Variable 1, then turn machine on and quickly increase speed. Blend for 15 seconds or until everything looks uniform. Stop blender and add dry ingredients. Secure lid and continue to blend for 20 seconds or until everything is uniform. If necessary, use tamper to press any ingredients into the blades.

Stop machine and pour mixture into large bowl. Mix in nuts and raisins by hand. Spoon into muffin papers 2/3 of the way full. Bake 16-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 1 dozen.

This post is linked to Eggs, Cream and Honey and Gluten-Free Easily’s March Muffin Madness.

Kids In The Kitchen: Cutting Down Cross-Contamination in a Shared Kitchen (and Molten Chocolate Lava Cake)

Yes, this is wheat flour on my blog...but let me explain...

This weekend, Brittany wanted to make molten chocolate lava cake. She’d had a version of it at a restaurant for her birthday, and wanted to recreate it at home. I researched and found several gluten-free recipes and was confident we could make a tasty version. But during this past week, she stated that she wanted to make it “with gluten”. I explained to her that it’s very likely it would taste just as good gluten-free, and that since I had zero molten chocolate lava cake experience, gluten-free or not, that gluten would not necessarily guarantee good results any more than gluten-free. But it was her decision. She insisted this was what she wanted to do. I agreed. (After all, the reason for the kids in the kitchen is to teach them cooking skills. Since they are not gluten or dairy-free, it is their decision whether they want to make their recipe gluten-free and dairy-free or not.) I started to make plans.

Some background: our kitchen is not 100% gluten-free. I know there are varying opinions on this out there in the gluten-free community. However, I do imagine that there are as many people out there with celiac disease that have to share kitchens with gluten-eaters as there are people with entirely gluten-free kitchens, maybe even more. Regardless, those of us with sensitivities to gluten must take steps to ensure they remain healthy if there is a decision to keep gluten-containing ingredients in the home.

For those new to a gluten-free diet, the idea of cross-contamination is often overwhelming at first. Cross-contamination is a term usually reserved for things like keeping raw meat separate from other foods and the like, not gluten. But even residual amounts of gluten can wreak havoc on the health of someone sensitive to it. So in an effort to remain healthy, steps must be taken to reduce or eliminate the risk of cross-contamination of gluten in food.

One solution is to make the kitchen entirely gluten-free. If there are gluten-eaters, they can get their gluten “fix” outside the home in restaurants and such. On one hand, this is a simple solution from a cross-contamination perspective. But many times, not everyone in the family agrees this is the most feasible.

We opt to keep some “gluten-y” foods around the home, mostly in the form of packaged bread, the occasional cracker, and beer. It’s all kept on one shelf in the pantry (with nothing underneath, in case somehow crumbs were to fall into other food). There are separate condiments in the fridge for gluten foods (such as mayonnaise, peanut butter, etc.) and the gluten-free versions are clearly marked on the lids. (Why have separate condiment jars? Well, if you’re like most people, when spreading something such as mayonnaise on a slice of bread, you will dip the knife in the mayo, spread it on the bread, and stick the knife back in the mayo again to repeat. Once that knife touched the bread, it’s VERY likely crumbs were clinging to it, and you then put crumbs into the mayonnaise jar. Crumbs = gluten = bad! Hence, the separate jars.) While I have heard that some people have opted to dedicate a counter space for the gluten foods to be prepared, our kitchen is too small for me to give up any space. Instead, the counters are thoroughly cleaned, and gluten-free items are never laid directly on the counter unless I have cleaned the counter immediately beforehand. If something with gluten needs to be cooked (occasionally, someone makes a grilled cheese sandwich or a frozen pizza in our home), there is a drawer below the oven that contains the “gluten-only” cooking utensils, such as a frying pan, spatula, pizza cutter, etc. There is a separate sponge used exclusively for cleaning the “gluten” dishes so no residual gluten is transferred from one plate to another. 99% of the time, this works for us. Other than my husband’s beer, gluten isn’t even consumed more than about once a week in our home, so while this sounds like a lot, it’s rather routine for us and not something we have to deal with every day.

But when Brittany brought up the molten chocolate lava cake, I knew this was time for that additional 1%. While I knew I needed to take extra steps to ensure that there wasn’t flour everywhere in my kitchen (Flour can stay airborne for many hours, and could settle on just about any surface. Not to mention, I didn’t want to breathe flour for any length of time.), I will admit, I was stressing a bit on how to best accomplish this. I needed to get a game plan together, because I didn’t want to be overly stressed during the time we were baking – this was about teaching Brittany to cook (and enjoying each other’s company!), not “freak out” time for yours truly. So I reached out to some of my best gluten-free friends, and they gave me a wonderful idea. So great, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself.

What was the idea?

Just take it outside.

Duh. It seemed so obvious. There wouldn’t be any flour in the air in the kitchen, no flour on the counters, no obsessive-compulsive cleaning (although I did do a top-to-bottom cleaning of the kitchen the following day, but that was just because it needed it!). Best of all, no worrying. I could be calm and relaxed and enjoy our time together.

And so we did. After dinner last night, we gathered all of our “gluten-only” cooking utensils (measuring cups, spoons, wooden spoon, whisk, etc) and began. We started in the kitchen, melting butter and chocolate in the bowl, and stirring in powdered sugar and eggs. When it came time for the flour, though, we headed outside.

whisking the last bit of flour into the batter

(Forgive the less-than-ideal photos – it was 8 PM when we were working on this treat last night!) Only once we had the flour fully incorporated into the batter did we come back inside, where Brittany immediately washed her hands well to get the flour off. The ramekins were set on a piece of foil inside the “gluten-only” baking sheet, so that in the chance there were drips of batter, the batter wouldn’t be all over on the counters or in the oven.

The dishes were all washed with the “gluten-only” sponge, and the table outside washed down and cleaned. And as for the molten chocolate lava cakes? They were enjoyed by the gluten-eaters in the home – they were described as tasting brownie-like on the edges, and while different than the ones at the restaurant, they were delicious.

forgot to take a shot of the molten lava inside, but trust me, it was there!

One day soon, I’ll attempt a gluten-free version. (I do have this part of me that wants to prove that a gluten-free, dairy-free, even refined sugar-free version can be just as delicious!) But until then, I’ll share that we used this recipe over at Tasty Kitchen. It’s a really easy recipe, so it was perfect for Brittany.

What about you? If you have someone with food intolerances/allergies, do you eliminate that item entirely from the home? If not, what do you do to ensure cross-contamination issues don’t occur?

Kids In The Kitchen: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Matt wanted to make cinnamon rolls. This was what was decided on the weekend before last. I hadn’t perfected my “healthier” cinnamon roll recipe yet, and while I’ve bookmarked quite a few, I thought that perhaps Matt didn’t want to experiment with those. Instead, I made plans to make these from I Am Gluten Free (who is now Gluten-Free Diva), as I had made them before, early on in my gluten-free life, and they tasted very much like the original – light, fluffy, and deliciously cinnamon-y.

And then Matt changed his mind.

Normally we don’t do last-minute changes, particularly when things like live crabs were purchased. It’s just not that easy – someone still has to cook up perishible foods like that. But in this case, it was an easy switch. He wanted to make chocolate chip cookies instead. I thought, and realized I had all of the ingredients for some version of a chocolate chip cookie. But which recipe would I choose? I’m notorious for never making the same recipe more than once when it comes to baking – I love to experiment. I hadn’t yet perfected a relatively healthy, yet still chewy and delicious chocolate chip cookie. Elana’s recipe has been my favorite so far, but I was still on a quest. And while I love that cookie, it’s not exactly as familiar as a traditional gluten-y and sugary cookie. This time around, I wanted to allow Matt to make cookies like he was used to – the kind of cookies he loved.

So I scoured the internet a bit. It didn’t take long, because my favorite trustworthy TV “chef” had a solution – a gluten-free chewy cookie. That’s right, Alton Brown went gluten-free! (Okay, just for this recipe. Admit it though, I had you going for just a split second, right?) I made minor changes, making it also dairy-free, and we were on our way to making chocolate chip cookies.

To be straight, this is NOT a healthy cookie. Nope. Not at all. But was it chewy? Oh yes. Was it slightly soft in the center, with slightly crispy edges? Most definitely. Was it full of chocolatey goodness? Indeed.

I had to hide them from myself until the kids took them home, once I had my cookie. They were addictively good. Definitely a treat – not something I could keep around the house. But they also delighted the kids – so they were indeed a success!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Alton Brown

8 oz vegan butter, such as Earth Balance

11 oz brown rice flour (about 2 cups)

1 1/4 oz potato starch (about 1/4 cup)

1/2 oz tapioca flour (about 2 tablespoons)

1 t guar gum

1 t kosher salt

1 t baking soda

2 oz sugar (about 1/4 cup)

10 oz dark brown sugar (about 1 1/4 cups)

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

2 T non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious unsweetened coconut beverage)

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

12 oz non-dairy semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the vegan butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

In a medium bowl, add the brown rice flour, the potato starch, the tapioca flour, guar gum, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together and set aside.

Add to the melted butter the sugar and brown sugar. Cream together on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the egg, egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture gradually until well combined. Add in chocolate chips and stir.

Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Shape the dough into 2-ounce balls and place on parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheets, no more than 6 to a sheet. Place oven racks on the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and place one baking sheet on each. Bake for 7 minutes, and then swap the baking sheets and bake for an additional 7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Makes about 2 dozen LARGE cookies.

Daring Bakers: Dairy-Free Panna Cotta with Peach Thyme Gelee, and Gluten-Free Florentine Cookies

 

 The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Panna Cotta. That simple, yet oh-so-satisfying cream-based dessert. It stands the test of time. It’s a go-to recipe for anyone who wants to delight their dinner guests, and it’s relatively uncomplicated…until you go and throw that whole dairy-free thing in there.

But alas, this is why I joined Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks – to not only take on the challenge of making something new, but also to make it gluten and dairy-free. It hasn’t always been a complete success, but sometimes, it’s that whole “thrill of the chase” thing that keeps me coming back for more. And honestly, the panna cotta was not any more difficult to make non-dairy.

This month, I opted to take a risk and share the (hopefully) successful fruits of my challenge with my sister and her husband. They arrived on a Saturday afternoon, twin girls in tow, ready for an evening filled with grilled pork chops topped with sauteed apples, onions, and melty colby-jack cheese (made by my brother-in-law, with Daiya on mine instead of cheese – sweet-and-savory deliciousness!), a simple spinach salad, mashed sweet potatoes, and this roasted cauliflower dish. Glasses of inexpensive zinfandel were filled, and filled again. Warm, comfortable conversation was made in between baby feedings, rounds of Mario Bros. on the Wii with Brittany (who decided to spend the weekend with us), the debut of a new little video camera, and an occasional attempt at distracting a slightly grumpy, teething baby. And dessert.

Charlie and Zoe, 7 1/2 months old

 We sweetened the end of the meal with creamy, rich, dairy-free panna cotta with a peach-thyme gelee, and an overabundance of gluten-free, dairy-free florentine cookies. The panna cotta was made with coconut milk and almond milk instead of cream and milk. The gelee was inspired partly by the lonely bag of frozen peaches leftover from last summer, and this jam recipe. It was a lovely blend of rich and sweet, but not overly so – the fact that I kept it refined sugar-free definitely helped to keep the sweetness at a more natural level.

The florentine cookies, on the other hand, were definitely sweet. In spite of my use of dark chocolate, they still were still plenty sweet – although not cloying. While I’d never enjoyed this cookie before – a lovely oat-y sandwich, filled with chocolate – I knew it would be a favorite.  It was definitely well-received by my sister and brother-in-law. As I know my limitations on self-control around good cookies, and they were both so excited about them,  I sent them home with the rest.

It was a good day.

These two recipes were lovely – and I was excited to finally get around to making panna cotta. The cookie stole the show, however. A big thanks to Mallory for this month’s challenge!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Panna Cotta with Peach Thyme Gelee

1 c unsweetened almond milk (I made my own using this recipe - it’s really easy!)

1 T (1 packet) unflavored gelatin powder

2 cans coconut milk (not light)

1/3 c honey

pinch of salt

1 vanilla bean

Pour the almond milk into a bowl and sprinkle gelatin over evenly. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.

Pour the almond milk into a saucepan and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat until hot, but not boiling. Whisk a few times during this process. Next, add the coconut milk, honey, and pinch of salt. With a small knife, carefully cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds into the saucepan. Making sure the mixture doesn’t boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the honey has dissolved, 5-7 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Then pour into glasses or ramekins. (I used 5, but you could easily make this a 6-serving recipe.) Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

(If you want to layer the gelee on top, allow the panna cotta to firm up for a few hours in the fridge first. If you wish to top with another layer of panna cotta, as I did, you have to reserve some of the panna cotta, and wait for the gelee to firm up before carefully layering the remaining panna cotta on top.)

Peach Thyme Gelee

3 T water

2 T (2 packets) unflavored gelatin powder

1 lb peach slices (can use frozen), chopped finely

1/4 t fresh thyme leaves

2 T honey

pinch of salt

Sprinkle gelatin over water. Place fruit and honey in a small saucepan and simmer until honey has dissolved. Mix the gelatin mixture into the fruit and stir until gelatin has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree in a blender. Once panna cotta is sufficiently gelled, carefully spoon gelee over top. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Florentine Cookies

2/3 c vegan buttery sticks (I used Earth Balance)

2 c gluten-free quick oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 c granulated sugar

2/3 c gluten-free flour mixture (3.5 oz – I used 1 oz teff flour, 1 oz potato starch, and 1.5 oz sorghum flour)

1 T combination of chia seed meal and flax meal, plus 1 T boiling water, mixed into a slurry

1/4 c agave nectar

1/4 c almond milk

1 t vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 1/2 c dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat. Melt vegan buttery sticks in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Add oats, sugar, flours, chia/flax slurry, agave nectar, almond milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop by the tablespoonful, three inches apart, on the baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your spoon. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (I use a stainless steel bowl large enough to sit on top of a small saucepan with an inch or so of simmering water) until smooth. Place the cookies upside down and spoon a bit of chocolate into the middle of each, and place another cookie on top to make a sandwich.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Kids in the Kitchen: Dairy-Free Fudge (and Peanut Butter Fudge!)

Christmas is obviously in full swing around here. Brittany wanted to go all out with chocolate this past weekend – she wanted to make brownies and fudge. Not just plain fudge, either – she wanted to make peanut butter fudge too! So I stocked up on chocolate, experimented with my tried-and-true gluten-free brownie recipe (making it dairy-free by substituting 7 tablespoons of palm shortening for the 8 tablespoons of butter – easy peasy!), and located my soon-to-be favorite fudge recipe over at Go Dairy Free.

I opted to lower the sugar just a tad (not that it’s a low-sugar recipe by any stretch!), but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely, making improvisations for the peanut butter variety. What resulted was an intense, rich, creamy, dreamy fudge. The peanut butter variety was even more crave-inducing, and was the favorite of all three kids (and John, who savored his piece.) It was a breeze to make, and will definitely be a recipe I’ll turn to time and time again. If you’re looking for a last-minute holiday candy to bring to a party, give as a gift, or just to set out for the family to enjoy, this is definitely one to consider!

Dairy-Free Fudge (adapted from Go Dairy Free)

1 c dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 c confectioner’s sugar

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 T dairy-free margarine (I used Earth Balance)

1/2 c regular coconut milk

1/2 t vanilla extract

Lightly grease an 8X8 inch square baking pan. Set aside.

Set a stainless steel bowl over a small saucepan with an inch or so of simmering water. Place chocolate chips, margarine, and coconut milk and melt, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and cocoa powder  and stir to incorporate. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Pour everything into your prepared pan and spread out evenly. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Fudge

1 c dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 c confectioner’s sugar plus 1 T more (for peanut butter)

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 T dairy-free margarine (I used Earth Balance)

1/2 c regular coconut milk

1/2 c smooth peanut butter

Lightly grease an 8X8 inch square baking pan. Set aside.

Set a stainless steel bowl over a small saucepan with an inch or so of simmering water. Place chocolate chips, margarine, and coconut milk and melt, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and cocoa powder  and stir to incorporate. In a microwave safe bowl, heat peanut butter until softened, about 30 seconds. Stir in remaining tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar. Remove fudge mixture from heat and pour everything into your prepared pan and spread out evenly. Scoop the peanut butter and place on top of fudge mixture in spoonfuls. With a butter knife, drag the peanut butter around the fudge to make swirls. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

Gluten-Free Holiday: Chocolate Dipped Dates with Spiced Nuts

This is the final week of Gluten-Free Holiday, and we’re ending it as we should end any holiday event – with dessert! Special holiday treats are often the highlight this time of year – many people love to make holiday goodies, cakes, cookies, pies, and candies. This gives those of us on a special diet some wonderful dessert ideas that meet our needs, or the needs of our loved ones. It’s always wonderful to make a special treat that a loved one that usually goes without can eat!

But before I get to my recipe for chocolate-dipped dates with spiced nuts (which you should TOTALLY check out!), let me share with you the fun giveaways for this week! Amy over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free is hosting this week, and has some wonderful giveaways – two books that you could win before anyone else gets them!

Amy is giving away 3 copies of Stephanie O’Dea’s More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. The release date for this book is December 28th. (If you wish, pre-order it now and get the special pre-sale price!)

Amy is also giving away 3 autographed copies of her new book, Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free. The release date for this book is mid-January. Same story with this one – pre-order and save! (I am pre-ordering RIGHT NOW!)

Definitely head on over to Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free and share your favorite gluten-free dessert and check out these giveaways! Also check out her cranberry swirl cheesecake – it looks sinful!

Now, to my gluten-free holiday dessert. This is a little treat that is easy to make beforehand and set out at any holiday party or dinner as part of a dessert tray, or even all by itself! I found the recipe in Bon Appetit’s magazine and modified it just barely. The recipe was naturally gluten-free already (a plus!). When you bite into these, they taste so rich and complex – their flavor far exceeds the effort, and compared to a lot of desserts, they’re really not all that unhealthy. Definitely traits I look for when choosing what treats to make!

Chocolate-Dipped Dates with Spiced Nuts, adapted from Bon Appetit

54 roasted, salted almonds, divided

3 t freshly grated orange peel, divided

2 t honey

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t allspice

18 medjool dates, pitted

1 c dairy-free chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)

Toss 36 almonds, half of the orange peel, honey, cinnamon, and allspice in a small bowl.

Cut a slit down each of the dates and stuff with 2 spice-coated almonds. Close the date as much as possible.

Line a small baking sheet with foil. Heat a small saucepan with about 2 inches of water to a simmer and place a stainless steel bowl over the water (make sure your bowl is large enough to sit on top of the saucepan, or else use a double boiler). Place the chocolate chips in the bowl and stir occasionally until melted through. Grasp one end of each date, dip into chocolate, shaking off excess, and place on the foil. Repeat with each date. Then with the remaining almonds, press one on top of each of the chocolate-covered dates. Sprinkle with remaining orange peel and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until set.

Makes 18 dates.

Kids in the Kitchen: Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut butter cups rank pretty high up there in terms of favorite candy, when it comes to our kids. I can’t blame them – I long for those creamy, sweet, delicious treats myself, but because of my dairy “issues”, most store-bought candies are off of the list. So when Matt said he wanted to make these, I was excited. Not only would we be rewarded with delicious candy treats, the process was relatively simple and fun!

This would be a great project if you happen to be home with your kids during the holiday break. Candy molds are relatively inexpensive, and if you use the paint brushes, it’s almost like going back to kindergarten – and who doesn’t love that every once in a while? And when you’re getting to eat your project when you’re finished, then it’s the best kind of project available!

If you are looking to make this dairy-free, be sure you find dairy-free chocolate chips. I used Enjoy Life brand, but I’ve found some other brands also are dairy-free. And of course, if you or someone in your family can’t do peanut butter, then almond butter or even sunbutter would work! You can even try to use a bit of jam (I’ve used raspberry jam in the past) and make fancy bon-bons!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Cups

1 1/2 c dairy-free chocolate chips

about 1/2 c peanut butter (I used creamy)

In a double boiler (or you can use a small saucepan with a bit of water in the bottom, and place a stainless steel bowl on top), bring water to low boil and add chocolate chips in top. Stir slowly until melted. Turn heat down to low.

Using a paint brush (I used a cheap one – no need to get fancy), paint chocolate in the inside of the mold, making sure to coat evenly and thoroughly. Place mold in freezer for a few minutes. Remove from freezer, and scoop small amounts of peanut butter into each mold. Freeze again for about 10 minutes. Remove from freezer, and paint chocolate over the top of the peanut butter, making sure you have enough to “seal” the filling inside the candy. Freeze again for 30 minutes, and remove from freezer. Turn mold over and pop the candies from the mold.

Chocolate Cherry Nut Truffles and a Month of Unprocessed Foods

So maybe I’m a little ahead of myself here. Nut truffles are something I usually think of when the holidays are nearing. But they’ll be here all too soon, won’t they? This year, I’ll be more than prepared. (And now, perhaps, so will you.)

Truffles aren’t a new treat. They’ve been around for a long time; given as gifts during the holidays, gracing a dessert table, or made as a decadent treat. What’s so great about these nut truffles? They’re not sugar-laden, diabetic coma-inducing, nutritionally-deficient treats. These truffles are a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and fiber. But don’t tell that to your taste buds – because as far as they’re concerned, these are chocolate. And chocolate is an indulgence. Something to be savored. So savor these truffles. You deserve it, and your body will thank you.

Chocolate Cherry Nut Truffles

1/2 c raw cashews

1/2 c raw almonds

1/2 c pitted dates

1/4 c all-natural almond butter (I make my own)

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1 T agave nectar

1/2 T vanilla extract

3/4 c dried cherries

1/4 c dairy-free chocolate chips

Additional cocoa powder for dusting 

Place the cashews and almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade. Process until nuts are finely ground. Add dates and process until no large chunks remain. Add almond butter, cocoa powder, agave and vanilla and process to combine. Add dried cherries and chocolate chips and process until no large chunks remain.

Spread out a bit of cocoa powder on a plate. Using a teaspoon, scoop out some of the truffle mixture and form into a ball by rolling gently in your hands. Roll the truffle in the cocoa powder and shake off any excess. Set aside and repeat with remaining truffle mixture. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until ready to serve. Can be made several days ahead.

Makes about 35-40 truffles.

 

Can you imagine going for an entire month without eating processed foods? For most average Americans, eating processed foods is a standard way of life. We all know that the added preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, and refined sugars and flours aren’t good for our bodies. But it’s become so common, so everyday, so normal to eat these foods, that for most, going without eating processed foods for a month is a real challenge. But it’s a challenge worth taking. Over at Eating Rules, you can sign up to take the challenge, and forgo eating processed foods for the entire month of October. I’ve signed up. Don’t worry that October has already started – you can still join in. But you won’t be left in the cold, wondering how to go about this process. There are daily posts sharing recipes and ideas on how to eat without resorting to those plastic-wrapped, boxed, or fast food meals. I encourage you to check it out. Even if you can’t wrap your head around the idea of going totally unprocessed, then make a goal of going unprocessed for one meal a day. Or one day a week. Whatever works for you. The idea is to make an effort to become more aware of what you eat.

I began eating less and less processed foods around the time I went gluten-free. When you eat a gluten-free diet, you already have to scrutinize labels of every packaged food in order to ensure you are eating safely. Consequentially, it increases awareness. I suddenly started becoming really aware of all the crap I was eating. Yes, crap. I couldn’t tell you what a lot of those ingredients listed on the packages were, or what they did. Most labels sound more like a science experiment than actual food. I began learning more and more in the kitchen, and realized that with a little planning, I could simply do without the junk, and instead focus on whole, natural, unprocessed foods. I would make my own (healthier) version if I had a craving.

So, what do I eat? I get this question a lot from people when they find out that I eat gluten-free and dairy-free. Well, I eat a wide variety of foods, and I promise you, I don’t feel deprived. (With chocolate cherry truffles lying around, it’s actually quite the opposite!) Here are a few typical meals that I eat fairly regularly:

Breakfast: cup of black coffee (maybe two)

 2 eggs scrambled with spinach and shiitake mushrooms (made the night before and reheated)

OR

2 hard-boiled eggs with a green smoothie (something like this or this)

Morning snack, if I’m hungry: handful of almonds, pumpkin seeds, or other nuts, gRAWnola, or sometimes, homemade beef jerky (yes, recipe coming soon!)

Lunch: leftovers from the night before

OR a sardine and avocado salad (my new favorite lunch!)

OR any other variety of salad consisting of greens, fresh veggies, a bit of chicken, and possibly some olives or pickled peppers, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Afternoon snack, if I’m hungry: a piece of fruit, carrot and celery sticks, a handful of nuts, or beef jerky

Dinner: Lamb chops, a baked sweet potato, and steamed broccoli

OR Italian-style spaghetti squash

OR some type of chicken curry, like this recipe

What do I drink? Water. Lots of water. I also drink herbal teas, coffee, and black and green teas on occasion. And once in a while, a glass of wine or a gluten-free beer.

Most of the time, I cook in bulk for meals other than dinner. Sunday nights are usually my prepare-for-the-week nights. I make hard-boiled eggs. I cut up vegetables and place them in baggies. I cook chicken for salads. And then every night, as I’m making dinner, I organize our lunches (I pack lunches for my husband and myself) at the same time or afterwards. This makes it easy in the morning, and ensures we have enough nutritious, tasty food for the day.

Sure, it takes planning to eat unprocessed foods. It takes a bit of time, and it takes getting used to, if this isn’t your normal routine. But once you get in the habit, it becomes second nature. But if you make a commitment, you just could start a new habit worth keeping!