off the shelf: Danielle Walker’s Celebrations

celebrationsbook_zpsevsvpinjAgainst all Grain is my grain-free bible. Of all the paleo/grain-free/gluten-free/Whole30-esque cookbooks I’ve read, Danielle’s has been the best resource for home-style, every day recipes that I a) want to eat and b) can actually make (skill and ingredient-wise). When I learned that she was publishing a book of holiday menus and recipes, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Celebrations is a beautiful, inspiring collection of recipes for a delicious, grain-free holiday. The book is divided into holidays and features a full menu (including drinks, desserts, entrees, appetizers, and sides) for each event. Some of these include specialty flours, but these are regularly available at Whole Foods and similar markets. I’ve already marked my holiday menu and can’t wait to try the Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. 🙂

I received my copy of Celebrations from Blogging for Books.

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Recipe: Garlic Parmesan Croutons

My mom was about to throw away nearly an entire loaf of Italian bread, which I thought was quite a shame… so I decided to make a batch of croutons instead :). I looked up a basic how-to and added some of my favorite flavors to the mix. They turned out great! And made the house smell deliciously of pizza when they were in the oven.

Gricel’s Garlic Parmesan Croutons

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Ingredients

  • 4 slices stale, Italian style bread
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • 1-2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or any other light oil)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325°F.

  1. Slice the bread into even-sized cubes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the oil, spices, and parmesan cheese.
  3. Toss the bread to coat with the oil mixture. Try to coat all the pieces.
  4. On an ungreased baking pan or sheet, spread the bread pieces in a single layer (don’t crowd the pieces).
  5. Bake at 325°F for 10-15 minutes (depending on how toasty you like your croutons), turning the pieces about halfway through the baking time.

I also made more Dulce de Coco because it was such a hit with the family :).

Recipe: Dulce de Coco

I really do. Thanks to my grandpa and his friend, we have a lovely bunch of green coconuts to enjoy. So while the coconut water flows, we have an abundance of fresh coconut meat… I already made a batch of macaroons, but I wanted to try something different with some of the grated coconut. I thought there must be some way to make something similar to rice pudding but with coconut, but my searches turned up very few recipes that made use of fresh coconut rather than dried. Then, a stroke of genius… I decided to search in Spanish. After all, the best coconut deserts I’ve had are all Hispanic. Voila! I found the just what I was looking for on a forum for a Dominican recipe site: Dulce de Coco. A tasty treat, similar to rice pudding, but featuring delectable coconut goodness.

I adapted the recipe to suit my needs and it turned out wonderfully sweet and full of coconut flavor. A great treat if you have some fresh coconut.

Dulce de Coco

Adapted by Gricel from La Cocina de la Tía Clara, Cocina Dominicana

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups of 2% milk
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups fresh, grated coconut (I’m sure unsweetened baking coconut also works)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • ¼ cup raisins (optional)

Preparation

Mix the milk, coconut, sugar, cinnamon stick, and raisins (optional) in a medium pan, on low heat.

Stir occasionally to keep the coconut from sticking to the bottom and burning.

Allow to boil until the mixture thickens, the consistency should be similar to rice pudding.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. It will thicken further as it cools.

Note on the cooking time: I set it on medium-low heat for a little over an hour and a half. The original recipe said it would take 25 minutes, but I halved the recipe and it still took more than twice as long before it reached the desired consistency.

Recipes: Apple Cinnamon Banana Bread

I had a pair of over ripe bananas and decided to make some banana bread so I wouldn’t have to toss them. I used my go-to banana bread recipe, the one I have modified over time, and I added some cinnamon and apple chunks for variety. I realized that though I’ve blogged about this bread before, I’ve never actually posted the recipe… shame on me. So here it is in a handy, printable PDF with all my modifications and additions: Gricel’s go-to banana bread recipe

It’s been a hit every time I’ve made it, but I really think the apples and cinnamon made it extra special this time around. Plus, I finally got to try the mini-loaf pan my mom got me a few months ago 🙂

Apple Cinnamon Banana Bread

Recipes: Orange Brunch Muffins

My mom and grandma love orange-flavored baked goods, so I wanted to make something orangey for Mother’s Day breakfast 🙂 . I found several interesting recipes, but finally chose this one: Orange Brunch Muffins from the Very Best Baking site. This is a Nestle recipe that calls for white morsels, but my mom absolutely hates white chocolate, so I replaced them with dried cranberries to add some tartness to the mix. It also calls for baking mix as part of the dough… I’ve never used baking mix in a recipe before, so I was a bit ambivalent, but I didn’t want to try any complicated replacements. I just went with the rest of the recipe as is.

I burned my hand with some hot soup last night, so mixing was a bit of a problem and I just hoped that I wasn’t under-mixing, but despite a rough start, the muffins turned out very well. When I took them out of the oven, they looked a bit like biscuits, which I assumed was the result of using baking mix in the recipe (since biscuits are generally made with this mix). The texture is similar to that of a biscuit, slightly crusty outer layer and very soft doughy middle. The taste nice and orangey, and the cranberries and macadamias provided a nice balance of tart and crunchy. They are not overly sweet, but just right for a breakfast muffin.

muffins

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pumpkin bread to start the celebration

I decided that baking in batches is the way to go, so I made pumpkin bread today, will make pumpkin pie tomorrow, and the actual feast (Cornish hens, not turkey) on Thanksgiving Day. This will save a lot of time scrambling in the kitchen and will keep the house from spontaneously combusting as the heat from the oven becomes unbearable. All in all, a good plan 🙂

This is my first time making pumpkin bread and I wanted a recipe that featured oats, so I was more than pleased when I found this one on MyRecipes: Kim’s Best Pumpkin Bread Recipe (from Cooking Light).

I made a few adjustments to the original, so this is my version of the recipe:

Yield: 2 loaves, 12 servings per loaf (serving size: 1 slice)

Ingredients

  • 1/3  cup  fat-free milk
  • 2   tablespoons  vegetable oil *reduced the oil (next time I’ll try apple sauce, but I was all out)
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2  large egg whites
  • 1  (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  quick-cooking oats
  • 1  cup  brown sugar * replaced white with brown sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 2  teaspoons  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg * the original didn’t call for it, but I like the extra spice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  raisins
  • 1/4  cup  chopped pecans * no pecans, my gran can’t eat nuts
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in raisins and pecans.

Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on rack.

I haven’t had a slice yet–I’m waiting for breakfast–but it was wonderfully fragrant 🙂

This is what it looks like…

On a completely unrelated note, I bought a lovely spray of roses to dress up the table (and my room) on Thanksgiving.

pretty tea roses

sugary sweet

Yesterday was my b-chan’s birthday so I made him a batch of fresh-baked lemon sugar cookies as a sweet birthday treat 🙂 . It’s been a while since I’ve baked cookies and I wanted to try something different, so I look for a recipe with a lemon twist and found this one on myrecipes.com, lemon sugar cookies from Sunset magazine.

sugarcookies

I decided to make the dough a day in advance, so that I would have plenty of time to shape, bake, and ice the cookies before having to pack them up. At first, the recipe seemed simple enough… sugar, check, butter, check, eggs, check… until I got to the part where I had to mix the dry ingredients. This recipe calls for two cups of sugar (I used turbinado instead of refined), so I assumed there would need to be a lot of butter and flour to bring it all together. What I did not anticipate was the reality of 5 cups of flour. Have you seen what five cups of flour looks like? Apparently, I had not or I would not have had a mild panic attack wherein I jumped to the conclusion that I must have printed a faulty copy. Surely, the recipe could not call for 5 cups of flour? But it did. I double checked and forged ahead, hoping that I wouldn’t have to scrap the whole thing and buy a box of sugar cookie mix (for shame, think of all that wasted butter, sugar, and flour).

Mixing all that stuff proved to be harder than I thought it would be. I’m a poor baker, no fancy kitchenaid mixer here. I have to rely on my handheld and pray that the baking fairies are on my side (and that I won’t burn out the motor again, had that happen once). Well, my mixer couldn’t take it, this required physical labor to mix. I had to press my mom into mixing service, but between the two of us we managed to get something that resembled semi-solid concrete.

Wrapping it up, I waited til the next day.

This dough is dense. It’s hard and solid when chilled. Let’s not get into how hard it was to roll out.

Suffice it to say, the cookies were more work than a cake would have been.

Regardless, they taste great, though not as lemony as I would have liked. No matter, half the dough was enough to make 18 shaped cookies and 5 sample drop cookies for taste testing. I’ve frozen the rest of the dough for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This recipe can certainly go a long way.

Next time, I’ll add more lemon… and take over auntie Em’s mixer.

Recipe: Sugar and Spice Pumpkin seeds

pumpkinseedsThey’re done! And they taste fantastic! I wish I had more seeds to roast, but this was an incidental sort of experiment, so that’s it for this batch.

I reviewed a bunch of recipes and just combined what I liked from each of them to come up with this one.

Here is my take on this fall classic:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds (our pumpkin yielded about 3/4 of a cup.) Note: these should be washed and dried beforehand. I let them dry overnight after getting all the pumpkin goo off.
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted.
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice
  • a dash of cinnamon (if you like it as much as I do 🙂 )

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, and spices until well-coated.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread seeds in a single layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring the seeds about halfway.

That’s it. Quick and easy.

recipe: meat and vegetable lasagna

Meat and Vegetable Lasagna – Created September 4, 2009

I asked my b-chan if he would like to have something different for Friday dinner, (I’ve been trying to save money by eating in and I like having control over what goes into my meals) and he suggested lasagna. I’ve watched my mom make lasagna countless times and I love the result, but I had never attempted to make on myself, so I took this as a sort of personal cooking challenge. I wanted to not just make my first lasagna, I wanted it to be a recipe of my own devising.

Based on the different lasagnas I have tried in the past, I picked my favorite ingredients and a few of my own choosing—flavors that I felt would go well together and enhance the simplicity of the usual layers. I also wanted it to be “lighter” than the ones I’ve tried in the past. Obviously, a dish that comes in layers will never be light, but I tried to balance it a bit. I also wanted to make it smaller than the giant 9” x 13” casserole that my mom usually makes, so I used an 8” x 8” dish so that it could be divided into 9 modest portions (enough for seconds for four people). I reduced some of the fat content by using lean ground beef and fat free Ricotta cheese (ground turkey or chicken can be substituted for lighter options, but I was serving a meat-loving crowd).

I wrote the steps down as I prepared the meal, but the measurements are approximations as I usually combine ingredients based on visual measurements (meaning I just toss things in according to my own taste). I’m not as brave with baking—I don’t want to end up with gigantic cookies or flat cake—but I feel more experimental with meals.

Continue reading for the recipe and images.

Continue reading “recipe: meat and vegetable lasagna”

lots of doughy goodness

I’m fairly broke at the moment, so I decided to treat my mom and gran to a home-cooked dinner rather than take them out to eat. I’m in for a long day of cooking, having started with dessert early this morning and some fresh breakfast treats for tomorrow.

Dinner is still a few hours away, so I’m taking a break 🙂 .

I started the day by making Mostaciolli, an Italian chocolate spice cookie that I found on Delish. The picture reminded me of the German spice cookies that my mom’s cousin sends us every Christmas, so I thought it’d be a treat to make these. The cookies wer easy to make, but the steps involved are very specific. It’s one of those recipes that you really have to read beforehand if you’re going to mix things properly. The dough also gets very thick and dense, so it can be a bit difficult if you don’t have a powerful mixer (and I do not have a powerful mixer, which is why I now owe my mom a new one 😳 ). The cookies smell lovely, though I replaced cloves with nutmeg as my mom does not like the taste of cloves, and they look wonderfully chocolatey–like bonbons.

Fresh out of the oven

mostaccioli1

covered with chocolate glaze

mostaccioli2

I also decided to take a risk and try my hand at making english muffins based on a recipe that I found on Annie’s Eats. Annie’s recipes tend to be very easy to follow and always turn out great, so I took a chance and finally got to use that Whole Wheat flour that I bought by mistake during the last baking extravaganza (re: Christmas baked gift giving week).

Again, the steps are the most involved part of this recipe… unless you don’t have that mixer… I ended up hand kneading these, but they still managed to turn out  as they should.

Browning on the skillet

engmuff1

Piping fresh 🙂

engmuff2