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One of the first things newly gluten-free people learn how to bake is flourless peanut butter cookies. They’re easy, taste familiar, and comfort you that just because you can’t eat gluten anymore doesn’t mean that you’ll never enjoy homemade cookies again. However, since I was taking dessert to a party that was going to be attended by several hot-stuff bakers, I didn’t want to show up with plain old peanut butter cookies. I needed something with a little wow and a lot of decadence. There needed to be crunch, sparkle, a hit of salt. There needed to be chocolate.

Peanut Butter Cookies

3 cups crunchy peanut butter
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup any GF flour mix
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs

Cream together peanut butter and sugars, stir in baking powder and flour until incorporated. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Refrigerate dough for an hour.

Scoop dough up by rounded tablespoons full, roll in white sugar, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Criss-cross with a fork. Bake at 325° for about 8 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool the rest of the way.

Chocolate Frosting

This chocolate frosting recipe is right off the side of a Hershey’s cocoa box.

1 4-oz stick of butter
2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt butter and stir in cocoa until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, alternating with milk, until desired texture is reached. Beat in vanilla and salt.

Assemble cookie sandwiches:

Place about a tablespoon of frosting on the flat side of one cookie. Put another cookie on top and gently press down until the frosting comes nearly to all edges. Place on a cookie sheet. When all sandwiches are made, refrigerate for about 30 minutes to set frosting. Before serving, sprinkle a little coarse kosher salt over each sandwich.

Stand back and watch fisticuffs ensue. Makes about 2 dozen cookie sandwiches.

 

 

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If you are like me (and I think you probably are),  your tomatoes haven’t been very good this year.  In fact they probably haven’t ripened at all, and here you are at the beginning of October with a bunch of green tomatoes to dispose of and a distinct lack of options.

I have always been vaguely disdainful of the whole fried green tomatoes idea. Anything tastes good when you coat it in eggs and breadcrumbs and fry it 1/2 an inch of oil.  That does not impress anyone. This will. Read the rest of this entry »

A surfeit of fruit

It’s that time of year, when the U-Pik signs go up along roadsides, advertising cheap berries for the effort of crouching in the fields over low strawberry bushes, sticking your hands into god knows what…. Sorry. Bad childhood experience.

Did you know? Most U-Pick places also have some already-picked flats for purchase. And the cost is not that much more. There are better ways to earn your Janie Dollaz. Like, say, making jam!

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Ever had a garlic spear? No? Well, what’s keepin’ ya? The immature head of elephant garlic, they have a mild, sweet garlic flavor when roasted or grilled. I hear they’re great sauteed as well. Anything you can do with asparagus, you can do with the spear. Serve them alongside grilled meat or fish! Toss them in pasta! Pull them off the grill and nom them up one at a time until you have to figure out another side dish for the rest of your guests!

Here’s what I did!

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Me + dessert generally = epic disaster, but this was a dinner party, dammit.  It was the right thing to do.

Kheer 1

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So you know what’s awesome after you’ve had the longest work week on record, and maybe possibly just the tiniest bit too much to drink on Friday night, to celebrate the end of the longest work week on record?

Quiche.

Hear me out. I know it’s got this reputation as effete Fronch foofoo, but seriously. It’s got everything your hangover needs – salt, grease, carbs, protein. Plus bacon. 

Start with a pie crust. Make your own, if you’re up to it. (There’s a gluten-free one here for those so inclined.) Press it into your pie plate, and preheat the oven to 400°.

What’s in your refrigerator? Veggies, cheese, proteins – all good in quiche. I coarsely chopped some bacon and fried it until it was right on the cusp between chewy and crispy, then sauteed some chopped zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes in the bacon fat until the zukes gave up their water and the veggies started to caramelize. Then I dumped the bacon, the veggies (drained of fat), and some crumbled feta into the pie crust.

Work in progress

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So I took a few days off recently and spent my time eating pastry and gelato.  I’ve never been a huge cheesecake fan.  I’ve always found cheesecake to be heavy and cloying and, well, overly creamy and not cakey enough.  Well, that all changed when I walked into a little Pâtisserie where they had this gorgeous golden brown cheesecake begging for me to buy it.  I don’t think I was three steps out the door before I had devoured the whole thing.  Since then I’ve been on a quest to recreate it all by myself.  This is a pretty damn fine start.

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking: Ricotta Cheesecake.

16 ounces fresh whole milk ricotta, drained (They said 20 ounces, but I had only made 16 ounces)

12 ounce cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese) (They said 8 ounces, but I put in 4 more to make up for the ricotta short fall)

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch (Beff, I think you can skip this.  I’ve seen other recipes without any corn starch)

4 large eggs, room temperature

They also said to add the zest of 1 lemon and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, but I left both of these out because the cheesecake I was trying to match did’t have any vanilla and the ricotta already had a slightly lemony flavor so I didn’t need this.

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If you have milk you do.

From Thirty Great Cheeses to Make at Home:

Ingredients
1/2 gal whole milk
1 c heavy cream
7 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 t salt

1. Squeeze the lemons. It took 3 small lemons to make 7 Tablespoons

2. Put all the ingredients into a pan over medium low heat.   Allow mixture to heat for 45 to 50 minutes until temperature reaches 165 to 170 degrees.  Stir the mixture once or twice to avoid sticking.  But don’t stir too much otherwise the ricotta curds will be too small.

3. Increase heat slightly for another 7 to 8 minutes or until it reaches 200 to 205 degrees on the edges and in the middle.

4. Remove ricotta from the heat and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.  Line a colander with a double thickness of damp cheesecloth.  Pour the curds into the colander.

5.  Allow the ricotta to drain for 20 minutes

Makes 16 ounces of yummy light slightly lemony ricotta.  Perfect for pasta, salads or even cheesecake.

I’m mostly good with the whole gluten-free thing. My health has so improved since I de-glutened my life that I hardly ever cast sad eyes on crusty French baguettes or Canadian Oreos* or puff pastry.

Except. 

Once upon a time, if my day had been full of printer errors and cranky clients and buck-passing coworkers, I would console myself with an order of Zip’s chicken strips. Crunchy, salty, fried to a dark golden brown – whether my crisis was occupational or hormonal, an order of chicken strips would always make me feel better. 

*Random fact! Canadian Oreos are actually ten poobley times better than American Oreos. Perhaps it is the magic Mountie dust? Or the fact that they use real sugar instead of corn syrup? Either way, hand over your Oreos, Canadians, and no one gets hurt!

ZOMG Fried Chickens

(Recipe after break. For chicken. Recipe for Oreos: Drive to Canada. The End.)

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steaksalad

When I was first learning to cook –really cook, not heat up Steakums like I did in college — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was my bible. It’s just a really good book for beginners. Bittman’s recipes aren’t fussy and his instructions always leave room for improvisation. These days I don’t have much time to try out new recipes, but there a couple of favorites from How to Cook …. that I still turn to regularly. One of my favorites, especially when I have leftover steak (yes, that happens even in our ridiculously carnivorous household) is the Beef Salad with Mint.

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