Category Archives: Desserts

RECIPE: Almendrados (Flourless Almond Cookies)

I found this cookie for Almendrados (Flourless Almond Cookies) in the December 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine and I was immediately intrigued. We don’t eat a lot of cookies in our house. It’s too much white flour and sugar usually and frankly we don’t need an excuse to snack but with these cookies we could snack guilt free really.

The ingredients are simple and for the most part really healthy. Sure there’s some sugar but compared to most cookie recipes this one goes really light on the sugar. I loved the idea that we could be enjoying a cookie with a cup of tea and getting more nuts in our diet at the same time.

The recipe itself is really easy to make. My blender (it’s a Ninja!) handled the task well but when it came to adding all the ingredients until it formed a ball my Ninja was having none of that. So I finished the mixing by hand which was no big deal. I shaped the almond dough into small balls a tablespoon at a time and the mixture made two more than the intended 24 cookies the recipe called for.

I added the cinnamon and pressed the balls down as I added the blanched almond on top and sent those bad boys to the oven. When they came out they were perfectly done and my house smelled like cinnamon, lemon and sweetness.

We loved these cookies and I will probably be making them on a regular basis now. I think it’s a great way to give into your sweet tooth’s need for cookies while providing your body with some extra nuts and nutrients. I would highly recommend these cookies! I also would imagine that this same recipe could be done with most any nut really so why not play and experiment with your favorites and then let me know what you’ve invented.

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RECIPE: Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies

This recipe I got from one of my favorite blogs called Cook.Bake.Eat.Love besides me loving the blog name (a homage no doubt to one of my favorite books Eat, Pray, Love) which I wish I would have thought of I love Kara’s recipes and writings. You should check her out sometime at http://cookbakeeatlove.wordpress.com/

I found her recipe for Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies here and I immediately had to try them because I too had left over pumpkin that I just didn’t know what to do with and also they were a cookie that I didn’t have to hid from my other half who just shouldn’t have anything with caffeine like chocolate and admittedly most of my deserts would be chocolate if I didn’t have someone like him to taper my use. 🙂

I made the cookies exactly as written (I know…call Guinness right?) EXCEPT for the fact that I used my own pumpkin that I had slaughtered myself rather than the canned variety. It’s fresh, healthy and was lurking in my freezer.

These cookies were delicious. They are a cakey cookie rather than crispy like a chocolate chip cookie or something of the like but it was really nice. You can’t even tell that there’s pumpkin in them at all. To me they just tasted like really good butterscotch cookies so those of you who are looking for ways to slip your children a vegetable ‘mickey’ this would be an acceptable way to do it. 🙂 They’ll never know what hit them.

So go ahead. You know you want to try them. See you next week!

RECIPE: The Great New Year’s Eve Raspberry-Lemon Souffle Disaster!

I thought about not even writing about this recipe because it went so wrong but the fact is that sometimes when we cook things don’t go as we hoped they would. In fact, sometimes they’re a down right disaster! This is one of those instances. This one actually made me cry. I kid you not! There are several reasons for this outburst and a few are obvious – it was New Year’s Eve and I wanted it to be perfect.

Other not so obvious reasons were the fact that I felt deep down that this was going to be the BEST souffle I’ve made all year plus there was the feeling that 2011 was just trying to kick me in the ass just ONE MORE TIME before New Year’s because personally in my family 2011 SUCKED! I am glad it’s gone but I really miss my sister who didn’t make it to 2012 with us all! With all that going through my little brain I think you can see where the outpouring of emotion came from. It wasn’t just a souffle. It was another cheap shot from 2011! At least that’s the way I saw it!

So anyway…on with the recipe. I found this recipe for Raspberry-Lemon Souffles at BonAppetit.com and my heart just started to sing. Man, those sound sooo good! I had to try it and it would be the BEST souffle ever made by moi! I was sure of it. I’ve mastered several different souffles this year so this would be a piece of cake…err…souffle!

So I whipped up the recipe exactly as it read and I cut no corners. I was extra careful to whip the egg whites just right and incorporate them into the raspberry goodness as per proper souffle protocol. Now as is the usual challenge I never have exactly the right size souffle dish any given recipe is asking for. I mean HOW MANY different size souffle dishes are there? I’ve got three sizes already and NONE of them were the right size. The ones that I had closest to the 3/4 cup souffle dishes that they asked for were more like 1 cup souffle dishes. Just a little big so no big deal. I would just cook them a few minutes longer which I’ve done before with my other souffles.

I carefully put them in the oven and awaited the glorious rewards that would be my BEST souffle EVER!! I would show 2011 that I was not going to be beat down once and for all.

As per my usually souffle protocol I quietly turned on the oven light and began to film what was happening in the oven so that I could share my triumph with you all. Matt and I were quietly talking and laughing at the fact that they all appeared to be breathing in the oven. Inflating up with a deep breath and then gentle breathing out a little only to breathe in again and inflate. Oh what fun to watch! Then the horror began (watch the video to see it beginning with your own eyes! Oh the INHUMANITY!)

I told you it was horrible! Immediately after that I opened the oven to rescue what I could of the mangled souffle. As I picked up the cookie sheet with the four souffles on it I lost my grip because it was too heavy to pick up with one hand. Naturally I tried to grab it with my other hand (which was, by the way, NAKED) and proceeded to not only burn myself but also dropped the whole thing in the oven and the apparently practically uncooked souffles spread their guts all over my oven, the floor and anywhere else it could ooze to. Here is another video of the carnage:

And another photo:

There is no more documentation after this because the tears in my eyes were clouding the camera screen and I was in need of a really BIG glass of wine at this point. I shut the oven off and walked away. Matt cleaned up most of the excess and the rest I left for the morning.

What went wrong? I have no idea. I followed the recipe to a tee. I didn’t change anything. I followed the usual process for making souffles. All looked perfectly fine but yet everything was wrong. They collapsed on themselves and they were completely liquid inside still even after the allotted cooking time (which I adjusted a little longer being my dishes were bigger than the recipe called for). I haven’t a clue what went wrong. If any of you have experience in souffles and have an idea of where it all went wrong I am listening.

My mom told me not to cry over spilled souffles and suggested that I could try it again. I told her I thought I might be too scarred to try this recipe again. She admitted to me that a lemon meringue pie had inflicted the same scars on her years ago and she’s never tried to make one again. Maybe I will try this one again but not until I have some idea of what went so terribly wrong. Needless to say I can’t tell you how it tasted but I did lick a spoon before putting it in the oven and it tasted really nice. I can only assume the finished product would have too.

All I have left to say is ‘Goodbye 2011, don’t let the door kick you in the ass!’

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

RECIPE: Cranberry Bars

A little too gooey but still yummy!

Now there are several reasons why I picked this recipe. First off, I still have frozen cranberries in my freezer from last Thanksgiving when there was a buy one, get one free at my local grocery store so I naturally want to use them before they go bad and get freezer burn. Secondly, it’s Christmas and they’re red and sweet so it seemed as good a time as any to make them and thirdly, I found the recipe simply called ‘Cranberry Bars’ in my November issue of the Vegetarian Times and said ‘Looks good!’

It’s a fairly easy and straight forward recipe but, of course, I did change a few small things. The first thing is that I didn’t feel the need to strain the cranberry mixture through a sieve. It felt like an unnecessary step that would just create a big mess only to strain out some healthy cranberry stuff from the final recipe. It didn’t seem logical (Yes, I have a little bit of Spock in me) nor did it seem that it would improve the recipe. Frankly, I thought it would make the recipe less desirable. I mean why would you strain out something like cranberry bits from Cranberry Bars? I am baffled and I digress. I do that sometimes…

The second little thing that I changed was that I added a little more sweetened condensed milk than the recipe called for. I added probably 10 ounces rather than the 7 ounces that was specified. I did this because 1) I had extra condensed milk left over that I don’t know what I am going to do with and 2) the mixture is REALLY sour when you taste it. I question the need for the lemon juice in this recipe considering the fact that cranberries have their own natural sour bite to them. So my suggest would to be either to leave the lemon juice out or just add more condensed milk to the mixture until it gets to your desired taste. (I would suggest tasting the mixture BEFORE you put the egg yolks in it just so you don’t have to worry about any weird raw egg related sicknesses or anything).

Another thing that attracted me to this recipe was the use of graham flour in the recipe. I mean, who doesn’t like a nice, sweet graham cracker crust? After all graham crackers were invented by a vegetarian, what’s not to like? J

Okay, so how did they come out? Well, they tasted really good however my messing with the recipe created a thick, soupy cranberry bar. My thoughts on this are that I really don’t think you need the lemon juice in this recipe at all. Cranberries are really sour on their own so adding the lemon juice creates a huge need to sweeten it up a bit which is what I attempted to do with adding the extra sweetened condensed milk. My suggestion, and the one I’ll probably try next time I make these, is to eliminate the lemon juice all together and then you probably won’t have to sweeten it up any more than the recipe calls for.

So there they are…messy, soupy Cranberry Bars. Please try them yourself and play with the recipe and then let me know how yours turned out and what you did to make the recipe your own. See you next week!

RECIPE: Chocolate Souffle

I think this is about the fourth souffle I’ve done this year. What can I tell you? I’ve got the souffle dishes of all different sizes and I want to perfect my souffle making skills so what’s a woman to do.

When I heard that you could make a chocolate souffle I was all over it. So I did my research on the internet to find the perfect recipe to try. I found this Chocolate Souffle recipe at EatingWell.com. I was in love. Me, Chocolate, and a nice wine. Again I was in love. 🙂

I found this recipe extremely easy to make. I created it from start to finish in about 30 minutes with a eagerly waiting guest enjoying a nice glass of vino. Once everything was mixed and incorporated I was free to join my guest on the lanai while waiting for the time to beep.

Before the fall...

One thing I did do incorrectly was incorporating the egg whites into the rest of the mixture. If you’ve read my previous souffle posts you’ll know that this is the most important part of making a souffle that rises really well. I didn’t do that with this recipe not because I didn’t know how but because I wasn’t paying attention until it was too late. I was so enamored with the concept of chocolate souffles and enjoying them with my guest that I realized too late that I had just brutally mixed all the ingredients together. My bad!

The resulting souffles were outstandingly delicious but flat. The never rose to the heights that were expected of them but that was my fault. However, like I’ve said in my other souffle posts, even a souffle that turns out bad is still a great tasting souffle and this one was no exception. Coating the inside of the ramekins with Pam spray and sprinkling sugar around the edges gives these chocolate souffles some crunchy sweetness as does the sprinkling of powdered sugar on top. Do make these and let me know what you think. 🙂

RECIPE: Grand Marnier Souffle With White Chocolate Sauce And Raspberries

Bursting With Anticipation!

This was only my third attempt at making a souffle. My first one was a Cheese Souffle and my second one was a Chocolate dessert Souffle. It seemed only natural for me to continue on and see what other kinds of souffles there were and find one that my trusty other half would like. When I came across the recipe for this Hot Grand Marnier Souffles from MyRecipes.com I knew I had to try it. I wanted to do a vanilla souffle but everything that I read stated that the vanilla alone could not disguise the eggy flavor and most said that the answer to that dilemma was Grand Marnier! Who am I to argue?

If you’ve never done a souffle before don’t buy into the hype when it comes to how hard it is to make. Before embarking on my first Cheese Souffle I read up on it and everywhere it seemed that it was a daunting task but I assure you that there are a few simple things that you have to remember to do and it will come out fine. Don’t be intimidated. Even the worst executed souffle is still going to taste wonderful. You can’t mess up good, simple ingredients. If you keep that in mind you are free to have fun and give it a go.

The golden but still gooey Grand Marnier Souffle...

I did make one mistake when making this souffle and that was the fact that the recipe calls for making 6  8-ounce souffles. Upon realizing that my trusty individual ramekins were only 4 ounces each (note to self: get bigger individual ramekins) I decided that I would make one big souffle in my large ramekin. The only reason that this was a mistake is that when it came to baking time I didn’t adjust for the larger capacity. When I took the souffle out of the oven at 10 minutes as per the recipe it looked wonderfully golden on top but it hadn’t risen all the way and when I cut into it, it was still a bit gooey…oh okay it was still batter.

Rising to the occassion!

It was my better half that suggested I put it back in the oven for a bit more time and that’s when it really began to rise. At one point I was afraid it was going to touch the coils in the oven (it didn’t though). Once we decided that it was ready to come out we took a moment to look at it in awe. The thing that I am CERTAIN I did right this time (that I forgot to do correctly with my Chocolate Souffle) is follow the method necessary to incorporate the whipped egg whites with the rest of the ingredients. Doing that one step correctly is the difference between a souffle that rises to the occasion and one that falls flat. Other than that it will still taste the same in my opinion.

I will warn you that once the souffle is out of the oven you have a very limited time for pomp and circumstance because as it cools down it also deflates and once you put the knife into it to serve it, it will deflate so rapidly it’s really sad. At least I was sad…I mean it just LOOKED sad.

But all sadness aside, I topped the individual pieces of souffle with a White Chocolate Sauce from Epicurious.com and some raspberries. The resulting dessert was flavorful, sweet but not too sweet and the sides of the souffle had just the right crunch due to the sugar coating along the sides of the ramekins. Overall a wonderful dessert but I would probably do individual souffles next time in order to have a reduced cooking time and a slower deflating presentation. 🙂 Go ahead, make a souffle! You’ll love it!

RECIPE: Creme Brulee

Torturing The Creme Brulee

I have a confession! I love Creme Brulee! There! I’ve said it! However I never thought that making something so good was so easy. It all started when my brother, Tommy, told me he was coming to visit my mom and wanted to know if I wanted to make a dinner with him. I jump at the chance to cook with another passionate cook and my brother is one of those people who loves to cook (he really knows wine too). So we decided on a menu and then he asked what we should have for desert. I immediately mentioned that I loved Creme Brulee. He responded with ‘I have the perfect Creme Brulee recipe and I’ll bring my torch’. Cool! Fire too!

So when my brother came he taught me how to make Creme Brulee and French Bread as well as a recipe called Chicken Veronique. It was all just heavenly! He also had the recipes printed out for me so that I could try them on my own at home.

Jump ahead a couple of months later and I decided that for Valentine’s dinner with my love, Matt, I was going to make a wonderful dinner (Spaghetti Carbonara) and pull out my newly bought torch and make Creme Brulee. However when I went to look for the recipe that my brother had given me I couldn’t find it. Isn’t that always the case? So I searched the internet for a recipe that looked to be close or the same as that one. After extensive searching I found a Creme Brulee recipe from Alton Brown at Food Network.com that seemed to come really close. I know my brother likes Alton Brown’s stuff so I figured he may have actually used this recipe.

The hardest part when making Creme Brulee is waiting for it to come out of the oven. The rest of the process is really fun and smells great! The ingredients are simple: heavy cream, a beautifully fragrant vanilla bean, sugar, egg yolks and hot water. Most of which you’ve probably already got hanging around your kitchen. The biggest thing I had to do to prepare for this was buy ramekins, a torch (which both came in a nice little kit from Bed, Bath, and Beyond for under $30), some butane fluid for the aforementioned torch, and finding vanilla beans that wouldn’t break the bank.

The Ingredients

Now you don’t want to cheap out on the vanilla beans and reach for vanilla extract when making Creme Brulee. I am pretty sure doing that is a crime so be careful. The fact is that Creme Brulee although a simple dessert to make is a decadent, indulgent treat and every effort should be made to make sure you honor that. Suck it up and buy real vanilla beans. I originally went to the supermarket and laid down a hefty $7 for one vanilla bean the first time I made this treat (Yes, I’ve made it more than once now…can you blame me?) but I soon discovered that my town had a really great spice shop and there I found vanilla beans priced at 3 for $5.00. I immediately bought 6 and drove smiling home with my treasures. So look around your town for specialty shops who get vanilla beans in bulk. They will be cheaper there.

After splitting the vanilla bean and dropping all those wonderful smelling seeds into the pot of heavy cream I took special care to warm the combination up on the stove and stir frequently. You might want to be aware that you really need to be attentive to your vanilla bean/heavy cream combo because heavy cream loves to burn and boil over if given the chance.

Egg Yolk/Sugar DuoWhile you’re keeping one eye on your vanilla bean/heavy cream duo you can begin to whip up the egg yolks with the sugar until it reaches the right consistency. Once that task is done you can slowly add the vanilla bean/heavy cream combo into the egg yolk/sugar combo remembering to continuously stir.

You then pour the wonderfully fragrant yellow concoction into your waiting ramekins and place the ramekins in a large cake pan or some such and fill pour enough hot water to come half way up the outside of the ramekins thus creating a nice hot sauna effect for your Creme Brulee. Place in your preheated oven and wait with delightful anticipation for about 45 minutes. The whole time the beautiful smell of vanilla fills your home with joy! 🙂

Once the time is up I took the masterpieces out of the oven and placed them in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Now the real fun begins! Fire away! It was time to use my new torch! After sugaring each of the Creme Brulee tops I lit my torch and let the flames caramelize the tops. We had fun taking pictures of this process so those are the pictures you’re going to see here.Pre-sugar/torch time

Flames in the dark!

Once done with the flame thrower…err…I mean torch let the Creme Brulee rest for a moment in the refrigerator so that the top gets that wonderful characteristic glassy composure. Then take them out and enjoy! I’ve made this several times now and I really think it’s as good if not better than any Creme Brulee I’ve had at expensive restaurants. It’s easy and pretty inexpensive to make as well. Definitely one of my all time favorites. We enjoyed this dessert after our Spaghetti Carbonara dinner served with a wonderful Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2008. Wonderful!

RECIPE: Dairy Free Vanilla Bean Pudding

I was searching for a nice dessert that would be just sweet enough and not so decadent that I would have to add three hours to my workout routine. After a little looking around the internet and a little tweaking of the original recipe (which wasn’t dairy free) I came up with this lovely, simply little dessert. I originally found the recipe on http://www.myrecipes.com and then proceed to change it. Honestly I don’t think any of the changes I made would even be noticeable to someone seeking a dairy treat at all.

The original recipe was simply called Vanilla Bean Pudding (you can find it here). Here is my revised ingredient list:

2 1/2 cups of Almond milk (soy, coconut or any other milk will most likely work too)

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (don’t skimp on this it’s worth it)

1/2 cup sugar

3 Tbsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup soy french vanilla creamer

2 Large egg yolks

4 tsp butter

1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon

I added the almond milk to a medium, heavy saucepan and carefully made sure I scraped every last little seed from the vanilla bean and added them to the almond milk. I then placed the whole vanilla bean pod in the pot with the milk too and brought it to a boil.

After that I followed the directions and added the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stirred it in well. I combined the vanilla creamer and the egg yolks and stirred well. Once that was done I stirred that egg yolk mixture into the sugar mixture and blended well. I then slowly added half of the hot milk mixture into that sugary, yolky mixture and stirred constantly while I was doing it. You don’t want to cook the yolks whole. Then you pour that mixture back into the remaining hot milk in the saucepan and bring to a boil. It’s really important that you constantly whisk this mixture while it’s coming to a boil.

After about a minute remove it from the heat and add the butter and stir it until it’s well mixed in. Make sure to remove the vanilla bean pod and throw it out.

The recipe calls for you to pour the pudding into a big bowl and sit that bowl in an ice bath until the pudding is cooled down enough to put in the refrigerator. I did that and continued to whisk the pudding while it cooled but I would suspect if you needed it to be quicker you could stick it directly into the refrigerator with not much of a problem. It would probably get a bit of a skin on top. If that doesn’t bother you then go for it. 🙂 Chill the pudding for an hour or two and then serve. I topped each pudding with a few raspberries and served.

Matt and I LOVED this pudding and I suspect it will become a regular dessert recipe in this house. It was very creamy and just sweet enough to make you feel like you were being decadent without feeling like you went overboard. The cinnamon was a great addition and I really feel it took this already great recipe up a notch.

This recipe yields six 1/2 cup servings. Enough for two people to go back and have seconds or thirds…not that we did or anything like that. I am just saying… 😉

Louis Bouillot Grand Reserve Sparkling Wine – St. Georges, France & My First Ever Cheese Souffle!