26 February, 2013

Dairy Free, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, every once in a while I want something simple and sweet...and quick.  Cookies.  Toss all the ingredients into the Kitchenaid, turn it on and then I use my Pampered Chef medium scooper and BAM!  The longest part of baking the cookies is waiting on the oven...  It was snowing outside and our water heater broke on Sunday, so we weren't going to church.  What better thing to do with the Sprout than get in the kitchen and bake?  Nothing!

I picked a recipe that was no nonsense and reliable.  The Nestle Tollhouse recipe.  But I had a couple of choices if I wanted to make it dairy free.  Either "butter flavored" Crisco (dairy free...who knew!?) or my Earth Balance vegan buttery spread.  Because my Mister wanted a container of dough to eat with a spoon, I used Crisco.  The dairy free chocolate chips I use are made by "Enjoy Life!".  They are wonderful and NO one I know YET has been able to tell they were vegan, gluten free and nut free chocolate chips.  NO ONE.  I always skip nuts in cookies if I expect my Mister to help me eat them and the last thing I swapped out was using vanilla PASTE instead of vanilla extract.  Way better, deeper vanilla flavor to compliment and make the chocolate really pop.  I made these cookies "coffee house" sized, which really only means HUGE and thick.  

**To make them that large I had to reduce the baking temperature from 375 down to 325.  If you don't want to make huge cookies, don't.  Just remember to increase the temperature for smaller cookies.

Okay, let's get started.

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 c.  King Arthur's gluten free flour
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. vegan butter, softened OR "butter flavored" Crisco
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Enjoy Life! mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
Preheat oven to 325 F
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla paste in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts if you use them. Scoop with a Pampered Chef large scooper onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

*This recipe can be made into bars as well.  Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 15 x 10 in. jelly roll pan and spread the dough in.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

These are ooey, gooey and de-LISH right out of the oven.  They are just as awesome when they are completely cooled.  My Mister asked for a tub of this to be kept in dough form so he could eat it with a spoon.  I obliged, but he has been consistently eating these since I made them on Sunday...they are nearly gone.  He is one picky customer so, that is compliment and proof enough that these are some fabulous cookies!

*To make without being gluten free simply use regular all purpose flour (I use King Arthur's) and omit the baking POWDER and the xanthan gum.  I usually skip the nuts in this recipe whether I make it gluten free or not because my mister just doesn't go for nuts.  I make them normal size, simply use the medium sized Pampered Chef scoop rather than the large sized and bake them at 375 F instead of 325 F.

* To make with dairy, use whatever semi sweet chocolate chips you want that have dairy in them and switch the fats from 1 c. of vegan butter or Crisco to 1/2 a c. of Crisco and 1/2 c. unsalted butter.

22 February, 2013

Fresh and Fabulous

Yesterday I was down in Hintonburg lookin' for a donut place that someone recommended...found it!  But, I wasn't about to eat a half dozen donuts for lunch, even though I am sure the baby would have appreciated it.  I took a survey in my head of what I had eaten recently at home and what places were readily available in the area.  After driving by one lunch bistro and another...then an Italian place and a couple Thai places, I did a fast u-turn and headed for the flavors that my body was screaming for.  Thai.  I looked at Siam Bistro, sized it up and decided it was going to be able to fit the bill.  I mean what doesn't sound magical about the phrase "exotic Thai cuisine"??

I had picked up the Mister and neither one of us had much time to fiddle about.  He had a meeting later and I had an appointment to get to myself.  We walked in at 11:50.  We were able to be seated right away; the tables were only about half filled at this point, but I won't lie to you, they filled up VERY quickly after we were seated.  If you want to get in and get out quickly you should show up for your lunch AT 11:30.

Their lunch menu was short and sweet, which made my normal nightmare of inability to choose what to eat SO much easier.  I am a sucker for the red curry and coconut milk combination.  I tend to lean towards Pa Nang when I eat Thai because it has everything I want, but they didn't have it on the lunch menu.  I spent a couple minutes reading through every single choice and settled on Kao Gang Garee Gai; a chicken dish with potatoes prepared with a light red curry and coconut milk and served with steamed rice.  I went back and forth about whether or not to order some soup and spring rolls.  These days I can't fit much in my stomach because the baby is taking over in there.  I skipped the soup order and we decided to get an order of Poa Pia Tood, vegetable spring rolls.  Shortly after putting in our order, our waitress brought some soup to the table lol...  Apparently soup comes with lunch...who knew!?

Tom Yum Mushroom Soup

It was wonderfully fragrant and I could tell by looking at my soup that it was made with the freshest ingredients possible.  I could taste lemongrass (my Mister insisted it was lime...) and the mushrooms were so meaty.  I ate my soup so quickly, I'm not sure it looked very lady like.  Shortly after finishing our soup, the bowls were cleared and our spring rolls showed up at the table.

Poa Pia Tood

They were piping hot, so I cut mine in half to cool them down quickly.  My Mister and I both agreed they were some of the best spring rolls we've had since we've been in town.  The sweet sauce caught me off guard, it was SUPER sweet.  But it complemented the rolls very well.  Everything inside was cooked perfectly and warm all the way through.  Sometimes spring rolls can be a hit or miss in that department.  (SUPER hot oil will end up cooking the outside too quickly, so to avoid burning they will remove them from the oil before the middle of the rolls have even started to warm.These spring rolls were a total hit AND, I have to mention I was surprised at the portion.  Typically when we order a plate of rolls somewhere in town we're lucky if we get 2 or 3...this plate was a whopping 5 rolls.  Very nice!

As soon as we finished the rolls, our waitress brought us our main entrees.  I was ready, and I still had room!

 Kao Gang Garee Gai

My first order of business was to take a huge whiff of my food...for me, dining has always begun with my nose.  It smelled SO wonderful!  I dipped my spoon into the sauce to give it a try and I knew from that moment, I was about to have a beautiful love affair with Siam Bistro's food.  Everything was fresh and fabulously prepared.  The pepper was still tender crisp, the chicken was so moist and was just bursting with flavor.  Even the potatoes were a bite of Heaven!  The rice was perfectly cooked, still firm and flowery in flavor.  If I had been alone, I most likely would have been talking to my food, telling it how much I loved it and how scrumptious it was.

I had to snap out of my dreamland and back to reality.  I had to get to my appointment and my Mister had to get to his meeting.  We asked for to go containers for our leftovers and the bill.  Every single table was full and people were waiting in the lobby...  Now I knew why it was constantly packed and I was eager to let them so they could experience some of what I had.  The owner, Montha, used to teach Thai cooking....  I wish she still did.  If I was a gajillionaire, I'd hire her to be my personal chef in a heartbeat! 

For great Thai in a cozy, kind atmosphere Siam Bistro is THE place to go down in Wellington West.  I promise you'll be glad you went!

  Siam Bistro on Urbanspoon

17 February, 2013

Dairy Free Calico Banana Bread Pudding

Every once in a while I get on a baking kick that my family and friends just can't keep up with.  Sounds unlikely right?  Wrong.  One week I baked a loaf of regular dairy free banana bread, dairy free double chocolate chip banana bread, 6 HUGE strawberry scones and a dozen cinnamon rolls with frosting.  Needless to say, a bunch of that went to work with the Mister and some of it got parceled out to folks I know down at the Embassy.  But, I STILL had most of the banana breads left.  

But...what the heck do you do with that much banana bread when one person can't POSSIBLY consume it and is kinda sick of the same old, same old...no matter how wonderful it tastes??  

You make calico bread pudding out of it of course!!

Dairy Free Calico Banana Bread Pudding
2 c. regular banana bread cubes, dried
2 c. double chocolate chip banana bread cubes, dried
2 c. unsweetened soy milk
5 eggs
1 c. organic cane sugar
1 T. Madagascar bourbon vanilla paste
1 c. unsweetened coconut
3 T. coconut milk powder
1/2 c. crushed pecans, optional

Pudding Topping
1/4 c. toasted unsweetened coconut
1/4 c. organic dark brown cane sugar 

Pudding Sauce
1/2 c. vegan butter
1/2 c. organic dark brown cane sugar
1/2 c. organic cane sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. Madagascar bourbon vanilla paste
1/4 c. unsweetened apple juice OR bourbon

The very first thing you need to do is cube up the loaves and get them dried out.  This can be accomplished by cubing it up and putting it on a pan lined with foil and let it just sit on your counter or stove top and dry out 12 hours or over night.  Either way, they only need to be sorta dried out.  Banana bread's density changes the regular game on bread pudding.  If the cubes are TOO dry, it will take a whole day of soaking to get the goop to absorb.  You don't wanna mess with that!

To assemble the pudding, beat the eggs in a large bowl with the sugar.  When they are well blended add in your vanilla paste, sift in the coconut milk powder and blend it well.  Toss in your unsweetened coconut and crushed pecans and incorporate completely.  After all the goop is mixed together pour it over the dried cubes and foldLet it sit for 20 minutes, fold again.  Repeat this 2 more times (stir a total of 3 times in an hour).

*If you make this with regular bread, no matter how dry your cubes are it will only take about 10-20 minutes for it to soak up the goop.  You should also increase the sugar content from 1 cup to 2 cups.  Quick breads are MUCH more dense and much more sweet than yeast breads.  Also, because there is a TON of flavor in the banana breads already I didn't add any cinnamon or nutmeg to this goop.  If you use plain dry bread or croissants or even dried up cake donuts (which is FABULOUS by the way!!) you'll want more flavor.  Add what you know you love.

On a foil lined cookie sheet, with your broiler on low, toast your 1/4 c. of unsweetened coconut.  When it is lightly toasted, remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely.  After it has cooled, mix it with the 1/4 c. of brown sugar and set aside.

Preheat oven for 350 F

After the cubes have soaked, turn cubes into a WELL greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan and bake for 35-45 minutes.

While the pudding is baking, in a small saucepan begin to make your sauce.  Start by melting the butter.  When it has melted most of the way, remove it from the heat and whisk in your sugars.  When the sugar is completely mixed with the butter add in your egg and vanilla paste.  Put the saucepan back on the heat at medium-low heat and stir constantly while the sugar melts completely.  Don't let the sugar scorch.  When the sugar has melted and it doesn't look granulated anymore, stir in the juice or bourbon.  Put it back on the heat and stir constantly until it JUST begins to boil.  Then take it off of the heat.  Pour through a sieve into a glass dish so it can cool into a syrup quickly.  Set the sauce aside.

Remove the pudding from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Serve in a bowl with a nice, liberal drizzle of the sauce.  If you like, you can serve it with a small scoop of ice cream on topWith or without the ice cream, this pudding is TO DIE FOR!! 

12 February, 2013

Etouffee Anyone?? More Mardi Gras Scrummliness!!

You can't just go through a Fat Tuesday without at LEAST trying to get a LITTLE more fat.  I thought of all the things I love MOST about Mardi Gras and that is how the King Cake recipe from yesterday came about.  But, for dinner, it simply wouldn't be Mardi Gras without a gumbo, jambalaya or an etouffee on the table.  I've already done jambalaya on my site and the Sprout is a bit soured on soups these days, what with all the winter comfort cooking I have done in the past couple of months.  But, something with rice...heck yeah!  He'll go for rice any time, any day, any where...just like the old days!

I didn't have to think hard about what my favorite etouffee was it has TWO of my favorite creole meats in it...shrimp and crab!!  As luck would have it, Southern Living magazine had a wonderful recipe for it that I could EASILY turn into an organic, dairy free delight!  Let's get started, shall we?

Crab & Shrimp Etouffee
2 lbs peeled, deveined, medium-size raw shrimp
1/4 c. vegan butter
2 T. olive oil
1/3 c. flour 

2/3 c. onion, finely chopped or grated
1/4 c. green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. celery, finely chopped or pulverized 
3 garlic cloves, minced
14-oz unsalted chicken broth
1/3 c. dry white wine

1/4 c. green onions, chopped
1 T. Creole seasoning (I used Wildtree Cajun seasoning)
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. fresh flat leafed parsley, chopped
2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
16-oz. fresh crab meat, flaked
5 c. hot cooked long-grain rice
garnish with more chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Melt butter with oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; stir in flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until caramel colored. Add chopped onion, green pepper, and celery; cook, stirring constantly, 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add minced garlic, and sauté 1 minute.

Stir in chicken broth, white wine, and next 6 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Add shrimp. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Stir in crab meat; cook, stirring often, until thoroughly heated.

Spoon shrimp mixture into individual serving bowls. Spoon hot cooked rice on top of shrimp mixture. Garnish, if desired.

The consistency of etouffee is supposed to be near to a stew, and this recipe takes you there.  You taste EVERYthing that was on the ingredient list and the tiny bit of heat from the hot sauce and the cajun seasoning doesn't overpower the dish.  Even the Sprout was diggin' this dinner.  It is no surprise after seeing how he attacks his jambalaya when I serve that.  It is a crowd pleaser and sure to make your Mardi Gras feast guests ask for more!  Laissez les bons temps rouller!!!

11 February, 2013

Mardi Gras!!!

Okay, okay...so I am not from New Orleans.  I've only been there once in my life and it was after it was ripped apart by Katrina and it hadn't been put back together yet.  My Mister's family was stationed there for a couple years when he was a young toddler...but, I have no real connection to the place.  But I sure love FOOD and if there is ANYthing that is celebrated as much as life during this time, it is FOOD.  In fact, one of the alternative names aside from "Shrove Tuesday" for Mardi Gras is in fact FAT Tuesday.  With fabulous gumbos, jambalaya, remoulade sauces, crab & shrimp etouffee, beignets and king cake...you are sure to be having a great feast!  I am a dessert gal though...I LIVE for the dessert course of any event.  So, I am going to make some King Cake for our celebration.  

Traditional King Cake isn't really how people "roll" anymore though.  It started out as a simple ring shaped yeasty cake roll with a light glaze and purple, green and yellow sugar sprinkled on it.  Sure, you will get some New Orleans folk that find ANY kind of filling at all to be a total perversion of tradition but, these days people look for a little more "bang" in their cake.  Chocolate, fillings, praline style and all sorts of add ons have become normal for King Cake now.  I chose a recipe I saw at King Arthur Flour's website with filling, glaze, sugar sprinkles AND cherries on top and was able to easily turn it into a dairy free version.  Are you drooling yet?  Good!   

**When you see the ginormous list of ingredients DO NOT BE intimidated!!  It is literally just a sweet bread dough with filling rolled up in it.  Then you drizzle icing and decorate...it is no more complicated than making jam filled thumbprint cookies at Christmas.  Be brave!  It is worth the effort!

King Cake

1/2 c. butter, melted
3/4 c. lukewarm soy milk
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
3 1/2 c. flour 

 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. soy milk powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. lemon oil or 1 tsp. grated lemon zest

8-oz. pkg. soy cream cheese
1/2 c. sugar
3 T. flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla or 1/8 tsp. lemon oil


reserved egg white
1 T. water

2 c. powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

2 T. + 1-2 tsp. soy milk

yellow, purple, and green organic sugars
organic candied red cherries

Lightly grease a 10", 4-c. capacity bakeable stoneware ring mold, or a baking sheet.

To prepare the dough, using a stand mixer, electric hand mixer, or bread machine, mix and knead all of the dough ingredients together to form a smooth, very silky dough. You may try kneading this dough with your hands, if desired; but be advised it's very sticky and soft. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 hour. It'll become puffy, though it probably won't double in size.

Transfer the soft dough to a lightly greased work surface. Pat and stretch it into a 24" x 6" rectangle. This won't be hard at all; it's very stretchy. Let the dough rest while you prepare the filling.

To prepare the filling, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and flour till smooth, scraping the bowl once. Add the egg and flavor, again beating until smooth.

Dollop the filling down the center of the long strip of dough. Then fold each edge up and over the filling till they meet at the top; roll and pinch the edges together, to seal the filling inside as much as possible. Don't worry about making the seal look perfect; it'll eventually be hidden by the icing and sugar.


Place the log of dough into the prepared ring mold, seam down or to the side (just not on top), or onto the baking sheet. The dough will be very extensible, i.e., it'll stretch as you handle it. So pick it up and position it in the pan quickly and gently. Pinch the ends together. Cover and let rise for about an hour, until it's puffy. Preheat the oven to 350°F while the dough rises.  Whisk the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon water, and brush it over the risen loaf. 

Bake the cake for 20 minutes, then tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Bake it for an additional 30 minutes, until it's a rich golden brown. Remove the cake from the oven, and after 5 minutes gently loosen its edges from the pan, if you've baked it in a ring mold. After an additional 10 minutes, turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool (or transfer it from the baking sheet to a rack to cool).

To make the icing, beat together all of the icing ingredients, dribbling in the final 2 teaspoons milk till the icing is thick yet pourable.

Pour the icing over the completely cooled cake. While it's still sticky, sprinkle with alternating bands of yellow, purple, and green sugars. Space candied cherries in a ring around the top.  (
My "purple" sugar turned out blackish, so I didn't use it.)

This is the MOST moist king cake I've ever had in my life.  The whopping 4 eggs in this dough really give it a flaky texture as well.  All of that being said....as the filling in this beauty bakes it kind of morphs into a super soft, bread-like consistency.  So, my Mister and I agree that next time I make this beautiful ring, we'll just skip the filling, it really wasn't necessary and the cake will be just as wonderful without it.  The lemon oil in the dough really gave it a fabulous, but light flavor boost that I've never experienced with king cake before and I feel like I can confidently say that even after a huge Mardi Gras feast this would be a welcomed end to the meal.  Something people will save room for year after year!

*Don't worry about that gap you see there, only 3 pieces of the ring ended up like that.  All of the rest of the slices the gap closed.  Watch this recipe page for pictures of king cake withOUT the filling.  It will be braided but, the same dough, wash, icing and decorating ingredients.  Only the filling will be omitted!

To make the braid, follow dough directions with ingredients listed above.  Allow dough to rise 1 hour, then roll out and cut into three strips

Carefully and tightly roll each strip of dough up into a roll.

 Taking all 3 strips in hand, join them together, fold under and squeeze TIGHT.  Then start braiding, with the SEAM SIDE of the rolls DOWN.  Most folks know how to braid, if you don't, see picture below...

 After braiding, leave on a parchment lined cookie sheet to rise in a warm place (I heat my oven to 200F and right before putting in the dough to rise, I turn the oven OFFIf you do this DON'T FORGET TO TURN THE OVEN OFF!!) for another hour...

After rising remove from the oven, preheat oven to 350F and brush it with the egg wash mixture.  

When you've finished brushing it down and the oven is up to temperature, put it in to bake for the first 20 minutes, then tent it with the foil and bake another 30 minutes.  Then, continue on with the directions for cooling, icing and decorating your King Cake.

After baking...beautiful.  Almost too beautiful to ice & decorate!

Decorated and ready to eat!!

King Cake

This is just an awesome recipe whether you go ahead with the filling or not.  I liked them both, but the unfilled braid the best.  I am in love with this dough recipe!  It honestly tastes like a beautiful, gigantic donut!  You can see the gorgeous layering in there...  This is not your average King Cake, but it is the best King Cake you'll ever make in your life!