Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Around 2007 we had several exchange youths from the Lions Club stay with us. This was our second time having exchange youths. We did it three times and each time was a great and rewarding experience. That summer we had a three teens stay with us. Two were from the Czech Republic and one from Italy. The two from the Czech Republic made these awesome potato pancakes. I love potato pancakes, but even with a food processor they seem to take a lot of work for some reason. The girl from Italy made spaghetti alla carbonara for us. She even made it without dairy so I could have it. It was delicious. We’ve made it quite often since then. I’ve played with it a bit until I got it to be a little creamier. This simple dish with only a few ingredients: spaghetti, olive oil, pancetta (prosciutto or bacon), egg yolks, salt, and pepper. But don’t let the simplicity of this dish fool you it is quite rich. I was unable to get pancetta once, so I substituted prosciutto and we found that we preferred the prosciutto to the pancetta. You could also use bacon if that is what you have on hand. Also, if you can have dairy, you can always add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, as Mike likes to do from time to time.

1 lb box of spaghetti
1/3 lb sliced prosciutto (pancetta or bacon), cut into ¼-½ inch pieces
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 egg yolks
¼ cup pasta water
salt and pepper to taste

·      Bring a large pot of salted water to boil (a pot large enough to hold a whole box of spaghetti).
·      Cut up prosciutto.
·      In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of extra v
irgin olive oil.
·      Add prosciutto and cook until crispy. Turn off burner until right before you add the spaghetti.

·      Mix the egg yolks and the 2 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
·      Once the water is boiling, add the whole box of pasta to the pot. Set the timer for 6 minutes.
·      At minute 5 turn burner under the skillet back on to about medium.
·      After the time goes off, taste the pasta. It should be al dente.
·      Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water.
·      Transfer the pasta to the skillet.
·      Add the remaining olive oil to the pasta and toss with the prosciutto.
·      Cook for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat.
·      Turn off the heat and very slowly add a little bit of the egg yolk mixture at a time. Tossing in between each addition.
·      Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chocolate Chiffon Pie

I made my first test batch of thin mint cookies the other day. I ran into some issues with the melted chocolate then I ran out of the melted chocolate so I ended up with some leftover plain chocolate cookies. I decided to use them up by making a pie with a cookie crumb crust.  I went digging through my Mable Hoffman’s Chocolate Cookery cookbook for some inspiration. Here is my modified, dairy free version of her Chocolate Chiffon Pie (p. 206). This pie is light and airy, but still so very rich and creamy.

Pie Crust

1½ tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine Sticks, melted

·      Place the chocolate wafers and sugar into a food processor. Blitz until you get fine crumbs.
·      Add the melted margarine.
·      Mix just until combined.
·      Press cookie mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.
·      Refrigerate until the filling is ready.


1 pkg plain gelatin
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1¼ cups rice milk
6 oz. Scharffen Berger Semi Sweet Dark Chocolate*, broken into chunks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Kahlua (coffee flavored liqueur) or 1 tsp coffee extract
4 egg yolks
3 egg whites
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar

·      Combine gelatin, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.
·      Gradually stir in the rice milk.
·      Add the chocolate pieces.
·      Stir over low heat until the chocolate melts.
·      Remove from the heat.
·      Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl, then whisk a small amount of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.
·      Stir the yolk mixture into the chocolate mixture.
·      Return to low heat.
·      Stir until thickened.
·      Stir in vanilla extract and Kahlua (coffee extract).
·      Cool mixture until it’s very thick.

·      In a mixing bowl, beat the room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar.
·      Once the egg whites are foamy reduce the speed to medium and very slowly add the sugar.
·      Beat on high until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.
·      Stir ⅓ of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
·      Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
·      Pour into the piecrust.
·      Refrigerate.

*Most of their dark chocolates are dairy free. I’m saying most since I have not checked all of them.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dairy Free Chocolate Sauce

This a great dairy free chocolate sauce. It would be awesome on all sorts of desserts.

1 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp coffee extract

·      Combine and whisk the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a pot.
·      Whisk in the water.
·      Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3-5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved.
·      Remove from the heat.
·      Stir in the vanilla and coffee extracts.
·      Cool and store in an airtight container.

Homemade Dairy Free Bailey's Irish Cream

Kylemore Abbey
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Ireland is my favorite places that I have ever visited. It’s such a beautiful country. It was a strange experience to see so many redheads walking around, but Mike and I loved every moment we spent there and we hope to go back one day. Here a recipe for a rich and creamy dairy free Irish Cream liqueur. I’ll also include a link to the recipe for the dairy free chocolate sauce, which is quite delicious on its own.

26 oz  SO Delicious Coconut original creamer
2 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
1½ cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp instant espresso (or coffee) granules
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup Irish whiskey (I used Jameson’s Irish Whiskey)

·      Add the cornstarch to the cold SO Delicious coconut creamer. Stir until the cornstarch is dissolved.
·      Combine the creamer and cornstarch mixture with the sugar, chocolate syrup, and instant espresso in a pot.
·      Bring to a boil.
·      Cook until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens.
·      Remove from heat.
·      Add vanilla extract and whiskey.
·      Mix and enjoy.

A couple more pictures of our trip to Ireland.



Killary Fjord

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff with Noodles
Here is a great recipe for dairy free Beef Stroganoff. If you can have dairy then just use regular sour cream in place of the dairy free sour cream substitute. The first night we had the stroganoff, we had it with egg noodles. My daughter had a bit of trouble with the noodles, so the next night we had it short grain brown rice. It was great with the brown rice. I’m sure that it would be just as good with white rice if you don’t’ care for brown. If you do want to try brown rice, make sure that you use short grain brown rice. It has a nice firm texture and a bit of a nutty flavor to it. It holds it’s own with the Beef Stroganoff.  If you are short on time, it should be done after simmering for 20 minutes, but it’s better if you can let it simmer for the full hour.

Beef Stroganoff with Short Grain Brown Rice
2.5 lbs chuck roast cut into strips (fat and gristle removed) OR 2 lbs stir fry beef
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
            ½ tsp salt
            ½ tsp pepper
            ½ tsp dried dill
            ⅛ tsp paprika
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 green onions, sliced (white and green parts)
1 16oz container of button mushrooms, quartered
1⅓ cups beef broth
1 tsp Dijon mustard
⅓ cup white wine
⅓ cup Tofutti Better than Sour Cream*
1 tsp salt
½-1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried dill
¼ tsp paprika
1 tsp minced garlic
¼ tsp lemon juice
Cooked short grain brown rice or cooked egg noodles

·      In a large plastic zip top bag, combine and mix the all purpose flour, salt, pepper, dill, and paprika. Reserve ⅓ the flour.
·      Add the strips of roast or the stir fry beef to the bag. Close and coat all the pieces of meat with the flour mixture.
·      In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the beef in oil.
·      Push beef to the side and add the onions and green onions, cook for 5 minutes or until translucent and tender.
·      Push the onions to the side and add the mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes or until they start to brown.
·      On the empty side of the pan, stir the reserved flour into the empty side of the pan.
·      Slowly add stir the beef broth into the flour.
·      Add the remaining 8 ingredients from the Dijon mustard to the lemon juice.
·      Mix everything together.
·      Bring to a boil.
·      Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
·      Serve over rice or noodles.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Random Thoughts: Part 3

I started to write a ‘Happy Holidays/Happy New Years’ post at the first of the month and I basically ended up typing a few line and then I would just stare at the screen with my mind blank. So, I’m going to ramble a bit. I hope that everyone had a great holiday season. However 2013 ended for you, I hope 2014 brings you happiness and good health.

Ever since I was 9 or 10 years old, I have wanted a telescope. Several years ago, Mike got me one of the most awesome Christmas gifts that I have ever received. He got me a telescope. It wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas, so he got me a book on the history of the telescope with a picture of my telescope taped on the inside of the cover. From the picture, I thought it was your average telescope and I was quite excited. Fast-forward several weeks.  UPS rang the doorbell and there were two very large boxes with the name of the telescope company on them. Oh my! 

Needless to say, I was even more surprised. I couldn’t wait for Mike to get home and opened the boxes to take a peak. There was one very large telescope waiting for me to play with it.   

My telescope all put together!
The first object we observed was the full moon and even though we have seen all sorts of close up photos of the moon, there is nothing like looking at it in real time through a telescope. Then there was Jupiter and the 4 Galilean moons, Saturn, and the Orion Nebula. 

Maddie's first view of the moon through my telescope last March.
Jupiter and the Galilean moons. Mike took this pic with this iPhone by holding up to the lens of my telescope.
It was awe-inspiring. Mike surprised me with a few higher-powered lenses for my telescope for Christmas this year. Since then we’ve braved the unusually cold weather to take advantage of the clear winter nights to observe the stars and planets with stronger lenses. All I can say is, “WOW!” What a difference the stronger lenses made. Santa also brought Maddie a telescope of her own. 
Maddie looking at the moon through her new telescope.

A partial view of the moon through Maddie's telescope. I held my iPhone up to the lens to get this pic.

It’s been so much fun showing her the night sky

After all the cooking and baking that I did during the holidays, I have been kind of burnt out. And I’ve been burnt not just with doing stuff in the kitchen, but just in general. I did make vegan chocolate cupcakes for Maddie’s school birthday party. Everyone seemed to like them.  

 Maddie was emphatic about having a chocolate cake with green frosting and green flowers for her party. Green is her favorite color. So, that is what she got. I had a specific color of green in mind, so it took me a bit longer than I had planned. A beautiful white cake with frosting rosettes in place of actual flowers inspired me. The original cake has a simple elegance to it and while I like it, I wanted something a little more fun for a 5 year old girl. So, I piped stripes down the side and added tiny matching dots on either side to make it look like ribbon. I decided to add green dots to the ribbon for fun.

I spent this past weekend with one of my oldest and dearest friends. It was a quiet girls’ weekend in. We mostly just sat around her house and talked. We did throw together a quick, easy, and awesome vegetable beef soup with crouton from some leftover roast she had on hand. It was the perfect dinner for a lazy winter’s day. We just sautéed some sliced carrots, celery and cut up green beans in some olive oil. Added a can of diced tomatoes, some chicken broth and then the left over roast cut into large chunks (it broke up more as it simmered). We added salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme, and a bay leaf.  It simmered for about 30-45 minutes. My friend then cut up some of my homemade bread into cubes, drizzled them with olive oil and crisped them up in her skillet. The croutons were crispy, but the almost dissolved in the soup. It was delicious!

I have done some cooking and I really found it difficult to sit down and write, so I do have some recipes coming your way. And I have a few more floating in my brain and I’ll post those once I’ve tried them out.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Quick and Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

Here is quick and easy recipe for peanut butter fudge.  It’s great for a last minute treat or gift. I originally planned to make peanut butter cup fudge, but I was doing too many things at one time and messed up the chocolate topping. So, it’s just peanut butter fudge now. If you want, you can swirl the Peanut Butter Fudge with the Dark Chocolate Fudge for an extra special treat. Be care not to over heat the peanut butter, but all is not lost if you do. It will just be a little more difficult to stir, but it’s still good.

1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-5 tbsp rice milk

·      Line a 9-inch square cake pan with foil and spray very lightly with cooking spray.
·      Heat the peanut butter in a large microwave safe bowl for 2 minutes on high.
·      Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and rice milk (starting with 3 tbsp). It will be thick and difficult to stir.
·      Press the peanut butter mixture into the prepared pan with your fingers.
·      Smooth the top with the bottom of a measuring up or glass.
·      Cool completely.
·      Cut into ½ -1 inch squares.