Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Basil Pesto Shrimp

Several weeks ago, my neighbor’s daughter brought us a large bag of basil from their garden. Naturally, I was excited. Unless you are growing your own basil, it can get expensive buying that much basil. What to make? There was no way I was going to make that much pasta sauce. Pesto! For those of us that are allergic to dairy, store bought pesto always has cheese it in. The pesto that I made for this dish is great and it’s quite flexible if you need to make changes. If you don’t have, don’t like, or allergic to pine nuts then use walnuts. If you don’t have any nuts or you’re allergic to all nuts, then double the amount of the diary free Parmesan cheese substitute. If you can have dairy, just use your favorite Parmesan or Parmesan/Reggiano cheese. Serve with a light salad and some garlic bread and you’re set! Also, the shrimp marinated in this pasta is great by itself and would be an awesome appetizer.

pesto divided
2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp
1 lb box of thin spaghetti

·      Mix 2 tbsp of pesto with the peeled and deveined shrimp.
·      Let sit for 5 minutes.
·      Heat a stovetop grill pan or a skillet on medium high heat.
·      Let the pan get really hot.
·      Brush the pan with some olive oil.
·      Place the shrimp in a single layer on the pan (if you’re pan isn’t large enough, then do the shrimp in batches).
·      Start your pasta water. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and make sure it’s well salted.
·      After about 2-3 minutes or after the bottoms are caramelized, turn the shrimp over.
·      Remove the shrimp to a bowl or plate.
·      Once you’re water is boiling add your pasta.
·      Cook pasta for 1 minute less than the suggested time. 5 minutes for the thin spaghetti.
·      Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. (save about ¼ cup pasta water).
·      Toss the pasta with the pesto.
·      Add the shrimp.


4 cups (3oz.) fresh basil, loosely put in cup. (don’t pack it down)
3 cloves of garlic
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp Go Veggie grated Parmesan style topping*
zest and juice of 1 lemon
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
⅛ tsp crushed red pepper (more if you want it spicier)

·      Rinse the basil and place in the food processor.
·      Add all the ingredients in the food processor EXCEPT the olive oil.
·      Pulse the food processor until the ingredients are smooth.
·      Very slowly pour the olive oil down the chute of the food processor lid until incorporated and smooth. Set aside.

~If you have leftovers, pour the reserved pasta water into the food processor to collect the residual pesto. Save and use when you reheat the pasta in a skillet.

* There are 2 kinds of Go Veggie Parmesan style topping. One is casein free and the other has casein in it. Here is a picture of the casein free one:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

One of the few recipes that I tried recently is a peanut butter swirled brownie. Chocolate and peanut butter are one of my favorite flavor combinations. I tried doing a peanut butter swirled brownie, but the peanut butter was completely overshadowed by the rich chocolate brownie. Tonight, I decided to keep the peanut butter and brownie separate by layering them and topping them off with a layer of chocolate. The result was truly like a merging of a brownie and a peanut butter cup. I highly recommend you try this brownie!

Brownie Base

4 ounces Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Dream
  cup regular olive oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coffee extract
Peanut Butter Filling
6 oz Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Dream, melted (for chocolate topping)

·      Preheat the oven to 350°F.
·      Grease and flour a square 8 inch cake pan.
·      In a medium bowl, combine and whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
·      Melt the chocolate with the oil over low heat.
·      Once melted, turn of the burner and add the sugar.
·      Quickly stir in the eggs.
·      Add vanilla and coffee extracts.
·      Gently add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.
·      Pour into the prepared pan.
·      Bake 23-25 minutes.
·      While the brownies are still hot, gently spread the peanut butter filling.
·      Melt 6oz. of chocolate and spread over the peanut butter layer.
·      Cool until the chocolate is firm.
·      Cut into 16 squares and remove from the pan.

Peanut Butter Filling

cup peanut butter
1 tbsp dairy free margarine (I use Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine Sticks)
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 tsp rice milk

·      Combine all the ingredients until smooth. It will be very thick.

Random Thoughts Pt. 5

Hi there! I’m back. I didn’t mean to be MIA, but life happens. I really haven’t done much new baking/cooking since the last time I posted. My attention has been focused more in other areas.

We are very fortunate to have our daughter in a Montessori school. It’s a small, but amazing school. We love it and more importantly, so does she! I’m not going to get on my soapbox, but I truly wish more, if not all, schools were set up this way.  It’s amazing how much Maddie has learned since she started school there. She is already doing addition and subtraction using 4 digit numbers. . The last I time I spoke with her teacher, I was told that she is also doing division! Maddie has always loved reading and her reading skills have exploded. She’s in kindergarten! The amazing this is that none of this is forced. They learn their lessons when they are ready and they can take their time learning something if they need to. When her afternoon teacher found out about my science background, she invited me to come to class and do experiments with the kids, so I started coming Wednesday afternoon to do a variety of fun science experiments.  I also went on their first field trip to the Nature Museum. They are a great group of kids. It’s hard to believe that her first official year of school is almost over. She’s growing up so quickly.

Maddie has been taking gymnastics since the summer of 2012. From the moment that she saw the US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team on the Today Show, she has been hooked. And that’s putting it mildly. She would beg to watch the Olympic gymnastics on YouTube over and over again. She would study it and then “try” to do what she saw. After that initial summer, she has been going twice a week. This year she really started talking about being on team and competing. She auditioned for team and made it! We are so proud of her. This summer will be busy with gymnastics camps and lessons. She keeps talking about winning a gold medal and with her focus and determination; I won’t be surprised if she meets that goal head on.

I have also been trying to purge and organize my house. For some reason, this year, it has descended into chaos and it’s been difficult to focus on the things that I wasn’t to do. Sometimes it is difficult to let go of stuff that I don’t use or need. The hard part is the question what if I need it some day? keeps popping into my head. This time I have been forcing myself to ignore that little voice in the back of my head and I am getting rid a lot of stuff. 

I never did post about Maddie’s birthday this past December/January. One of the things I love about her is that she doesn’t pay attention the typical gender stereotypes. She loves both “girl” and “boy” stuff. Personally, I HATE how so much is categorized into gender stereotypes. Toys, books, interests, and even colors are divided into girl and boy categories. Anyway, back to the birthday party. This year she wanted a pirate ship birthday cake, specifically Bucky the Pirate Ship from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And she wanted it to be a 3 dimensional cake. YIKES!  I have never done anything like that before.  I decided to challenge myself and see if I could do it. I used her toy Bucky as my model and mold for some pieces. I also decided to use just buttercream icing and only parts of it were fondant/gum paste. I am quite proud of how it turned out. Most importantly, she loved it!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Random Thoughts Pt. 4

Last weekend, we had some very good friends over for dinner. I made the Lahori Chicken and Potato Curry with rice and a lemon almond tart (recipe to come). I had a major moment of panic while cooking the chicken.  My nose was lightly stuffy, so I really couldn’t smell very well. Once I put the spices in the with the onions the smell usually envelopes me. It did this time and I was worried that there was something wrong. Then I did something that I have never done with this dish, I tasted the sauce right after I pureed it, but before it was finished BIG mistake! It did NOT taste anything like it was suppose to taste like. It was so very bitter, not exactly what you want to serve dinner guests. Thank goodness I didn’t throw it out. By the time it was done, it was just as it was suppose to be.  Yay! More importantly we had a great time with great friends.

This winter has been a crazy winter for being sick in our family. Maddie got some nasty respiratory bug that lasted for several weeks and then something else. Then I came down with the same damn virus. It lasted for 6 weeks. It just lingered on and on. Then I got another bug, then Mike, then Maddie and then back to me. I’ve spent the first 3 days of last week with a fever over 100F. Not fun! I am so ready for all of this sickness to be over with.  I think I am finally on the mend.

I have been working on my photography and teaching myself Photoshop via YouTube.  I have some photographic projects planned. As soon I they are done, I will share them with you all. 

Coming soon: Chocolate Pillow Brownies, Lemon Almond Tart, Dairy Free Cheesecake

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Russian Tea Cakes

Russian tea cakes (aka Mexican wedding cookies) are dense cookies with chopped walnuts rolled in confectioners’ sugar that look like little snowballs.  It has become a staple cookie in our home during the holidays. While this cookie is rolled in confectioners’ sugar, it’s not overly sweet and almost a little salty even though there is very little salt. They are guaranteed to have you licking the powdered sugar off your fingers.


1 cup (2 sticks) Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine sticks
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

·      Finely chop walnuts to equal 1 cup when chopped. Use your food processer if you have one. Set aside
·      Whisk the flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
·      In your mixing bowl, combine the margarine, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.
·      Mix in the flour and salt.
·      Add the nuts.
·      Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

·      Preheat oven to 400°F.
·      Roll into ½ inch balls (or 1 inch if you prefer a larger cookie).
·      Place on a lined, ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
·      Bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies should be set, but not brown.
·      Gently roll in sifted confectioners’ sugar.
·      Cool completely on a wire rack.
·      Once cool, roll the cookies in sifted confectioners’ sugar again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

These gluten free sugar cookies are quite good. They have a light crunchy texture. The dough cannot be rolled like regular cookie dough. If you try to roll it out like you would with regular sugar cookie dough, it will crack. You need to press the dough out with the rolling pin first and then very gently roll it out in small sections. Be very careful when transferring the cookies to the cookie sheet. They break easily. They are sturdier after they come out of the oven and are cooled.

Make the following flour blend before making the cookies.

2 cups superfine white rice flour (I use Authentic Foods White Rice Flour Superfine)
1  cups potato starch
⅔ cup tapioca flour
3 tsp xanthan gum

Whisk the ingredients together.

1 cup Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine sticks
½ cup confectioners’ sugar (sifted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
2 ¼ cups gluten free flour blend
1 tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt

·      Preheat the oven to 400F.
·      Combine the flour blend, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk.
·      In a mixing bowl, combine and mix the margarine, confectioners’ sugar, almond and vanilla extracts. Start slowly so you do not end up wearing the sugar.
·      Mix in the flour mixture.
·      Refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours or over night.
·      On a lightly floured surface, press out the dough and then gently roll out the dough in sections and cut with your favorite cookie cutter(s).
·      Place on a lined cookie sheet.
·      Bake for 6-8 minutes.
·      Cool completely on a wire rack.


3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2-3 tsp almond extract (or vanilla extract)
5-6 tblsp rice milk

·      Dip the tops of the cooled cookies in the frosting, one at a time.
·      Sprinkled with your favorite colored sugar.
·      Let the frosting dry.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Streusel Cake

Here is a gluten free version of the Pumpkin Streusel Cake. It is important to use the Authentic Foods White Rice Flour Superfine, if possible. Their flour minimizes the grittiness that you get with regular rice flour or sweet rice flour. Make sure you use potato starch, not flour.

1 cup superfine white rice flour
1 cup potato starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
2½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
tsp ground allspice
½ cup dairy free margarine (I use Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine sticks)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (I use Libby’s Pure Pumpkin)
1 cup rice milk (soy, almond or coconut will work too)

·      Preheat oven to 350°F.
·      Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
·      In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice.
·      Beat margarine and sugars together until combined.
·      Add eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin.
·      Mix until smooth.
·      Add dry ingredients alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
·      Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb topping. It will seem like a lot, but some of it sinks into the top of the cake.
·      Bake 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Crumb Topping

4 tbsp cold dairy free margarine
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup superfine white rice flour
¾ cup potato starch
½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
½ tsp cinnamon

·      Mix together the superfine white rice flour, potato starch, salt, and cinnamon.
·      Add the brown sugar and blend until thoroughly combined.
·      Cut in the cold margarine with a pastry cutter, forks, or your fingers.
·      Add the pecans.
·      Sprinkle on top of the cake.