Tag Archives: coconut milk

Daring Cooks: Sri Lankan Beef Curry and Carrots with Tropical Flavors

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

I won’t go too much into Appam, as I didn’t make it. Right now, I am not eating grains or yeast, so I figured making a yeasted rice flatbread wasn’t in the cards. However, if you want to read about how to make these (and they look like the perfect accompaniment to a saucy curry!), check them out over at Mary Mary Culinary.

I did, however, jump right on some Sri Lankan curry! I love curries made with coconut milk. Spices + coconut milk = comfort food. (I’ve already mentioned this in my previous post about a Thai-inspired curry, but it’s really true!) This curry was different than most I’ve made; it used fresh curry leaves and tamarind pulp. Lucky for me, there is an Indian grocery not far from our house, and I was able to pick up the necessary ingredients.

As this curry simmered on the stove, the intoxicating aroma of spices filled the house. I could hardly wait until it was ready. I served it with spaghetti squash for me, brown rice for the hubby, and some amazing carrots with lime, peppers, shallots, and cilantro that was bright, fresh, and lightened up the heavier curry. It was a lovely meal. Next time, I think I might opt for a lower temperature when cooking the meat, and perhaps swap out the beef for a lamb or goat. The London Broil I used was a bit too lean, and ended up a tad dry for the dish. However, the flavors were sensuous and won me over.

Sri Lankan Beef Curry, adapted from Mangoes & Curry Leaves

1 lb boneless beef (I used London Broil)

1 T coconut oil

10 fresh or frozen curry leaves

1 green cayenne chili, finely chopped

generous 1 c  finely chopped onion

1 t turmeric

1 t salt

½ c coconut milk

1 T tamarind pulp (I had a jarred tamarind pulp with no seeds)

3 c water

1 T arrowroot powder

Dry Spice Mixture:

1 T coriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

one 1-inch piece cinnamon or cassia stick

seeds from 2 pods of green cardamom

1. Cut the beef into ½ inch cubes. Set aside.

2. In a small heavy skillet, roast the dry spice mixture over medium to medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continuously, until it smells amazing!

3. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind/pound to a powder. Set aside.

4. In a large, wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves, green chile, onion and turmeric and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the meat and salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so all surfaces of the meat get browned.

5. Add the reserved spice mixture and the coconut milk and stir to coat the meat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6.  Add the tamarind pulp to the 2 cups of water. Whisk in the arrowroot powder.

7. Add the tamarind/water mixture to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook uncovered at a strong simmer for about an hour, until the meat is tender and the flavors are well blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.

Carrots with Tropical Flavors, adapted from Mangoes & Curry Leaves

1 lb carrots, about 5 medium, peeled

1 T coconut oil

about 8 fresh curry leaves

2 T minced seeded green cayenne chiles

3 T minced shallots

2 t rice vinegar (I used lime juice)

1 t salt

¼ t honey

½ c coconut milk

¼ c water

coarse salt, optional

cilantro (coriander) leaves to garnish

1. Julienne or coarsely grate the carrots. Set aside.

2. Place a deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then add half of the curry leaves, the chiles and the shallots. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring.

3. Add the carrots, stir, and add the vinegar/lime juice, salt, honey and mix well. Increase the heat and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until they give off a bit of liquid.

4. Add the water and half of the coconut milk and bring to a fast boil. Stir, cover tightly and cook until just tender, 5 minutes or so, depending on size. Check to ensure the liquid has not boiled away and add a little more water if it is almost dry.

5. Add the remaining coconut milk and curry leaves. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired, and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

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Filed under Beef, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Raw Zucchini Noodles and a Thai-Inspired Chicken Curry

Do you know what this is?

It’s zucchini noodles!

What are zucchini noodles? Well, they’re not really noodles, but rather, they are very thin strips of raw zucchini. I have a spiral slicer, and thought I’d put it to use making noodles. I wanted something grain-free to eat with a chicken curry, and this was just the thing.

The spiral slicer does make this super-easy, but if you don’t have one, you can use a vegetable peeler to make wide, flat noodles. Just peel the zucchini lengthwise into long strips, rotating as you go, until you get to the seeds. If you want, you can saute the noodles really briefly (like for a minute, tops), but I even enjoy them totally raw. They make the perfect base for any saucy dish. While I enjoy spaghetti squash as well, zucchini is a lovely change. (and since zucchini is in season, why not?)

So how about that curry?

This is definitely an easy weeknight curry. I didn’t make the curry paste from scratch. (shocker, I know) I used Thai Kitchen red curry paste. This made the whole dish come together much more quickly. While it’s not a traditional Thai curry (I haven’t seen many Thai curries with red cabbage and yellow squash…I just threw them in there because I had a ton of vegetables in the house that needed to be eaten, and it sounded tasty to me.), the flavors still worked well together. It was warm, slightly spicy, and comforting – all great attributes in a curry. (Aren’t saucy curries like, the ultimate comfort food? They are to me – and it doesn’t matter if it’s an Indian curry, a Thai curry, a Jamaican curry, or a totally-new-invention curry. They all make my belly happy.) And those zucchini noodles? They kept it from feeling heavy. In the summer, that’s a definite plus.

Thai-Inspired Chicken Curry

2 T coconut oil, divided

1 T Thai Kitchen red curry paste

1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c coconut milk

1 5-inch piece lemongrass, smashed with side of knife (you can find this at Whole Foods or an Asian grocery, or omit)

3 Kaffir lime leaves (you can find this at Whole Foods or an Asian grocery, or sub a bit of lime zest)

1 medium yellow squash, sliced

1 ½ c sliced red cabbage

1 tomato, chopped

2-3 T cilantro, chopped

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Swirl to heat, and add curry paste. Stir the paste around for a few seconds to get it sizzling. Season the chicken with a bit of salt and pepper, and add to the skillet. Stir until the paste is evenly coating the chicken, and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lemongrass, and Kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened well and flavors have melded. Adjust seasoning to taste.

While the curry is simmering, heat another skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining coconut oil and swirl. Add the squash and cabbage and saute, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until the squash is lightly browned and the cabbage is starting to wilt. Add the tomatoes and stir for a moment. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables to the curry and stir. Serve on top of zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or steamed rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serves 3-4.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Vegetables

A Birthday Cake for Iris (Vanilla Cake with Carob “Buttercream” Frosting)

A few weeks ago, Iris over at The Daily Dietribe posted a Gluten-Free Birthday Cake challenge. My interest was immediately piqued. While birthday cake isn’t really one of my most favorite of desserts, I realize that for some, it’s practically a food group. There is a special place in Iris’s heart for birthday cake, and it’s my belief that no matter what food intolerances or allergies someone has, they should be able to enjoy those foods they love the most. For a special occasion such as a birthday, Iris ought to be able to enjoy a cake that doesn’t cause pain afterwards. I wanted to give her that cake.

So I started in my kitchen, experimenting. At first I tried to bake with stevia as the only sweetener. The first cake was terribly dense, and not sweet at all. I then attempted to increase egg whites in the batter, almost like an angel food cake, but the cake ended up so rubbery and chewy it was destined for the garbage can as well. The third cake showed promise, as I incorporated coconut nectar as a sweetener, but it was still rather coarse and tough in texture. The final cake, the one I’m showing you here, was the best gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free cake I made to date. The texture was still a wee bit more coarse than a traditional white birthday cake – I used coconut palm sugar, and I believe that had something to do with it – but it tasted good. The 100% fruit black cherry jam filling and carob “buttercream” frosting sealed the deal. Four tries later, I finally had something that would truly be considered “birthday cake”.

Like any cake, this still isn’t health food – the flours are refined, and it’s still sweet, but it’s a treat. (Especially the frosting, which I could have eaten by itself, by the spoonful…) I hope Iris likes it, and has a wonderfully happy birthday. (I wanted to ship a slice to her, but I imagine cake doesn’t travel well.)

Happy Birthday, Iris!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Vanilla Cake

2 eggs

1/3 c coconut milk

1 t vanilla extract

1/4 t almond extract

6 T virgin coconut oil or palm shortening

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/3 c plus 1 T tapioca starch

1/3 c potato starch

1/4 t xanthan gum

3/4 c coconut palm sugar

1/2 t salt

1 1/2 t baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan and lightly dust with gluten-free flour. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, extracts, and coconut oil. (warm the coconut oil slightly, if it’s solid, by microwaving for 10 seconds in the microwave.) In a large bowl, combine the sweet white rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, xanthan gum, coconut palm sugar, salt, and baking powder. Mix together the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined. Spoon batter into prepared cake pan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan and frosting.

(This recipe makes 1 layer. For a layered cake, double the recipe.)

Carob “Buttercream” Frosting

1/4 c Earth Balance buttery spread or other vegan butter

2 c powdered coconut palm sugar (you can make this by following a recipe from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green – page 180)

2 T coconut milk

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 T carob powder

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, add the buttery spread, half of the powdered coconut palm sugar, the coconut milk, the vanilla, and the carob powder. Turn the mixer on medium speed and beat for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides, until well blended. Add the rest of the powdered coconut palm sugar in batches, whisking in each addition, until the frosting is stiff enough to hold its shape. Frost cake as desired.

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Filed under Baked goods, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian

Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger: Gluten-Free Goodness

This month for Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger I chose to adopt Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness. Cheryl’s a relatively new bloggy friend of mine; I “met” her through Carrie at Ginger Lemon Girl. Cheryl is a Registered Dietitian and nutritionist, as well as a health and wellness coach. She helps a lot of people enjoy a healthy, gluten-free diet. Cheryl has several food allergies, and while that might frustrate some in the kitchen, Cheryl handles it with grace and innovation. She is always coming up with something delicious, healthy, and allergen-free. It definitely makes choosing just a few recipes to try that much more difficult!

Somehow, I managed. I had to choose one of her dessert recipes, and came across these amazing Brazil Nut Chip Cookies. Brazil nuts, however, are not something I adore, so I improvised a bit. (Okay, more than a little bit…but I wanted to use what was on hand.)I used almond butter instead of the brazil nut butter, substituted raisins for the chocolate chips, and used 1 whole banana instead of the avocado. My gluten-free flour blend was 1 part teff flour, 1 part millet flour, and 1 part coconut flour. These came out of the oven tasting like banana-y oatmeal raisin cookies – one of my favorite cookies of all time. I’m definitely making these again and again. They were superb.

Another recipe I have tried (more than once) from Cheryl is her coconut curried greens recipe. I opted to use canned coconut milk, and did not add chicken, as I made this a side dish. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the ingredients here – these greens are craveably delicious. I had to make them twice – after the first time, the flavors haunted me. It’s a good thing collard greens are arriving in my CSA box in large amounts lately!

While this is all I’ve made so far, I definitely found more recipes I want to make in the future. Cheryl has a Nana Skillet Bread that looks comforting and delicious. I can imagine it as tasty breakfast treat. Her Sniffle Stew looks like a go-to recipe, especially in the winter. (I don’t think you need the sniffles in order to eat it – I can imagine it’s the perfect lunchtime soup as well!) And who could pass up her Chocolate Raspberry Pie? That looks killer.

Need some healthy, easy recipe inspiration? Check out more of Cheryl’s recipes here. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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Filed under Baked goods, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Side Dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

My Version of Kerala Chicken Curry

When it’s cold out, I love warming dishes. Don’t we all? Comfort food is definitely in order when the wind is howling and the mercury is falling. Mention comfort foods, and a lot of people imagine a lot of different things. Macaroni and cheese, lasagna, or pizza, perhaps? My husband would probably list chili or enchiladas as some of his comfort foods. Me? When it’s cold outside, I love Indian spices. Specifically, I love curries.

A side note to those of you not familiar with curries – curry is not a spice. Curry is not a “flavor” – there is not a specific ingredient that makes something a “curry”. What is curry, then? “Curry” is the generic term Westerners give to a variety of spiced dishes – most of which originate from India and Southeast Asia. (There are also curries in the Caribbean, South Africa, and Ethiopia, as well as other areas.) A “curry” can be wet (with a liquid sauce) or dry (without). In my mind, a curry is very often just a stew of some sort – a highly flavorful sauce that envelops any number of ingredients. There are literally thousands of ways that a curry dish can be made, and even if a dish is comprised of the same main ingredients, the mixture of spices can be so different that each curry is unique. I can’t choose a favorite, honestly. I am not an expert, and I love exploring all of the blends of spices and flavors that make up such amazing cuisine. I based this dish on the cuisine of Kerala, a state in Southern India. Kerala cuisine frequently features coconut milk, as well as cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, and more. What I love about South Indian cuisines is that a) there is usually a good amount of heat in the spice, and b) a great many are naturally gluten and dairy-free!

I did use garam masala in order to shorten my spice list in this recipe. Garam masala is a spice blend used quite frequently in our household, and I love how it gives such a full flavor and warmth to everything it seasons. I also used Kashmiri chili powder. This is not to be confused with the ordinary, everyday chili powder that is likely in your spice cabinet. Kashmiri chili powder is much hotter. If you’re heat-averse, I suggest you dial down the measurement of this powder and add more as you see fit. I did make this dish pretty spicy, so don’t say I didn’t warn you! You can find these spices in many grocery stores, although I suggest visiting an Indian grocery if you have one nearby. The spices are fresher and much less expensive. I love making special trips to the grocery near me – they often have great deals on other wonderful ingredients, many times fresher than what you can find in the supermarkets. If you don’t have such a grocery near you, you can always order online at Penzey’s or My Spice Sage, or any number of other online retailers.

I made this dish for the boys and my husband Saturday night. (Brittany was off on a belated birthday celebration with family) My husband and I adored it, going back for seconds. The boys, on the other hand, were not fans. I think perhaps I need to try a recipe that is a bit more familiar to their taste buds – after all, when they’re not at our house, they’re more likely to eat spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, tacos, burgers, hot dogs, pizza…the same stuff most American teenagers eat. (I assumed since there were no chunks of offending vegetables in the curry, that this might be an easier win, but I suppose not.) I plan on continuing to expose them to new flavors, of course, but I also realize that I was likely not much different than they are at that age – I filled up on Taco Bell when I was in high school, and one of my favorite snacks (in the morning at school, no less!) was Cheetos with a Dr. Pepper. If my tastes can expand and improve, I have hope that they will one day embrace a great many cuisines and choose a healthy, balanced diet. That being said, my husband and I weren’t all that sorry that there was more left over for us!

Kerala Chicken Curry

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch dice

1 t coriander powder

1 1 1/2 t Kashmiri chili powder

1/2 t turmeric powder

pinch ground cloves

1/4 t dry mustard

1/2 t ground black pepper

1/2 t kosher salt

1 c onion, roughly chopped

3 Thai red bird chiles, stemmed (or you can substitute 1-2 serrano chiles if the Thai chiles are hard to find)

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled

2 T tomato paste

2 t grapeseed oil or ghee

2 bay leaves

1 t garam masala

1 T cilantro, chopped (can substitute a few fresh curry leaves) plus additional for garnish

1 c coconut milk

1/2 c water

Salt to taste

Toss chicken pieces in coriander, chili powder, turmeric, cloves, mustard, pepper and salt. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes. Place onion, chiles, ginger, and garlic in a food processor. Blend until it is a paste. Add the tomato paste and pulse once or twice more to blend.

Add oil to a large saute pan and heat to medium heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring often, until paste dries somewhat and onion is softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the bay leaves and garam masala and saute another 30 seconds. Add the chicken and turn heat to medium-high. Fry chicken until nearly cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cilantro, coconut milk, and water and stir. Bring to boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, giving it a stir once in a while. Taste and adjust salt as needed, and garnish with more cilantro. Serve over steamed basmati rice.

Makes 4 servings.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy

Daring Bakers: Piece Montee or Croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

When I read that challenge for this month, my first reaction was fear. Croquembouche is a grand treat, worthy of elegant parties, and as it is commonly seen in France, at weddings. Many times, a croquembouche can tower over other pastries as a tall, commanding pyramid of cream puffs, covered with caramel, chocolate and sometimes, decorative candies or spun sugar. I’d never made cream puffs. I can barely make a layer cake, and I haven’t even tried anything so daunting since going gluten-free. And right now, I’m currently dairy and corn-free, so I had to consider making those adjustments as well.

But once I had some time to absorb the details, my next reaction was one of excitement. Despite my hectic schedule, I had to make room for this challenge. If I could pull it off, I’d feel so accomplished. I would grow. I would step outside that box. And after all, isn’t that what Daring Bakers is all about?

So I made plans to make it. Only…time escaped me. I wanted to make it this past weekend, but other activities trumped it. So I finally told my husband that he’d have to fend for himself for dinner Monday night – I was dedicating the evening to croquembouche. Little did I know just how much of the evening I would be dedicating.

Four and a half hours. Now, normally, that isn’t anything for me to complain about. I love to spend Sundays in the kitchen all day, preparing various dishes and baking. Time flies when I’m in the kitchen, and I couldn’t be happier. The reason it took me four and a half hours to make the croquembouche was only because I failed. My first pate a choux dough was so thin that when I piped it to bake, it spread out like pancake batter. Batch two, following a different recipe, was nearly as thin, but in a desperate attempt, I baked it, only to end up with flat disks. Finally, I tried one more recipe. Obviously, it was the recipe I should have started with – the puffs “puffed” beautifully, and were nice and light. Just like the gluten-y, buttery ones. I was encouraged, and so I pressed on with the caramel glaze. And it failed – it siezed up and was grainy. But with such perfect puffs, I had to try again. My next glaze was great, and I assembled the croquembouche. This process started to become fun!

Then, finally, I wanted to decorate the croquembouche with spun sugar. Only the first time I tried to make it, I used the same pan that siezed up my caramel glaze (I think it was too small). It siezed up the caramel for the spun sugar. So I went to the “successful” pan, and for the first time ever, I made spun sugar. It was so fun, I can’t wait to think of new things to decorate with it!

In any case, I was so excited that I stuck with this challenge. I was pretty pleased with how the croquembouche looked. But the taste? Oh – it was evil! (Evilly divine, that is…) When you bite into a piece, it crunches with caramel on the outside, with a delicate puff, and then you get the burst of a lovely, not-too-rich almond cream. Heaven. My husband, not one for sweets or pastries, upon seeing it, said “Baby, that’s really cool.” and when he ate some, there was a lot of “nom nom nom” going on. (Okay, there was “nom nom nom” from both of us!)

This has been my favorite challenge so far. While I doubt Memorial Day is the perfect day to make one of these for guests, (Croquembouche and burgers? Nah, not so much.) I do want to make it for a special event sometime! A big thanks to Cat for challenging us!

Dairy Free Pastry Cream, adapted from Simply…Gluten Free

2 c coconut milk

1/4 t kosher salt

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1/2 c granulated sugar

3 T tapioca starch or potato starch (I used a mixture of both)

1 t vanilla extract

1 t almond extract

Combine the coconut milk and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks with the sugar on medium high speed until the mixture is light yellow and thick, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and add the starches. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer back to low and slowly add the hot coconut milk to the egg mixture in a thin stream. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over medium heat until thick and it just starts to come back up to a boil, stirring constantly with a spoon or whisk. Continue cooking for 1 – 2 minutes. (Do not cook more than 2 minutes or the starches will lose effectiveness.) Remove from heat and stir in the extracts. Strain into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, placing the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 – 3 hours. Whisk the pastry cream well before filling the puffs.

Dairy Free “Cream” Puffs, adapted from Simply…Gluten Free

1/2 c organic palm shortening

1 c coconut milk

1 pinch kosher salt

1 c sweet rice flour

4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.

In a medium saucepan, combine the shortening, coconut milk, and salt and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Stir to try to incorporate the oil with the coconut milk – it won’t completely blend, but that’s okay. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove from heat and dump in the flour all at once. With a wooden spoon, stir quickly and in one direction. The liquid will start absorbing and form a ball. Some of the oil will remain at the bottom of the pan – that’s okay. Continue to cook and stir for 1-2 minutes.

Dump the contents of the saucepan into the bowl of a stand mixer, oil and all, fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the dough for a minute on medium speed to cool it down slightly. Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, waiting until one incorporates into the dough fully before adding the next. The dough will look like a gloopy mess at first, but then it will start to blend and look kind of like buttery mashed potatoes. Continue mixing the dough until it is uniformly smooth and thick.

Place dough into a pastry bag fitted with a plain large tip (or no tip at all) and pipe into silver-dollar-sized circles on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and allow to sit for another 20 minutes to dry out.

Hard Caramel Glaze (and Spun Sugar)

1 c sugar
½ t lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water for just a moment to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée/Croquembouche

You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. You can use toothpicks if needed.

Spun Sugar

Use the recipe for the caramel glaze, and when sugar is melted, remove from heat and start stirring with a fork. Once the sugar starts to cool enough to create strands, take the fork and swirl the sugar strands around the piece montee. Repeat until the desired amount of sugar is all over your piece montee.

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Filed under Baked goods, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free

30 Days to a Food Revolution – Get Creative!

Over at one of my favorite gluten-free blogs, The W.H.O.L.E. Gang, a revolution is occurring. That’s right, a Food Revolution! Every day for 30 days, a different guest blogger is posting tips and a recipe using REAL food, in an attempt to further the Food Revolution brought about by Jamie Oliver. I’ve been following along eagerly, and I’m learning so much. Now, it’s my turn. If you visit The W.H.O.L.E. Gang here, you can check out my post about getting creative in the kitchen and where I share my quinoa salad recipe.

Of course, as I mention in my post, eating healthy isn’t all lettuce, all the time. It’s not even all about salads, although I love salads. Eating healthy also includes treats, and even ice cream! Of course, I’m not talking about the corn syrup-laden stuff found in a cardboard carton, full of preservatives and stabilizers. That’s not real food. And ice cream is so easy to make at home (and it can be economical!), that it should become part of your regular summer routine! (Your kids will love you for it.) This ice cream recipe came about as a result of too many avocados. You see, I belong to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, and recently was lucky enough to receive a supply of California Avocados. I was excited, but when they arrived, I found that I had 13 perfectly ripe avocados. I knew I had to do something fast in order to use them at their prime – and making guacamole alone wasn’t going to cut it. Then I remembered an episode of Top Chef Masters, where Rick Bayless made an avocado ice cream. It was an “a-ha!” moment for me – I saw avocado ice cream in our future.

I surveyed what I had on hand. I didn’t have all of the ingredients that Rick used in his recipe, so I had to improvise. I grabbed a can of coconut milk, some honey, some almonds, and almond extract. Avocados, honey, almonds…sounded good to me! I toasted the almonds and chopped them, blitzed all of the other ingredients in the food processor (which took all of about a minute), and threw everything but the almonds in the ice cream maker. After folding the almonds in, and placing the ice cream in the freezer, all that I had left to do was wait. (And wash a few dishes, but hey, everything comes with a price.)

A few hours later, what emerged from the freezer was the creamiest, silkiest ice cream I’d ever eaten. While it didn’t really taste of avocados, it was gorgeously green and so good. It was a healthier treat (avocados are a great source of fiber, vitamin K, and potassium), but rich enough that it would be hard to over-indulge. In my mind, that’s a great combination.

Almond-Honey Avocado Ice Cream, adapted from Rick Bayless

1/3 c whole almonds, toasted

2 c avocado puree (4-5 Haas avocados)

1 c coconut milk

1 c honey

1 T tequila or other alcohol (can be optional, but your ice cream will set harder without it)

1 t almond extract

Chop almonds coarsely and set aside. Place avocado, coconut milk, honey, tequila, and almond extract in a food processor or blender and puree until well combined and silky smooth. Transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Eat immediately for soft-serve, or freeze for a few hours. (No ice cream maker? Check out how to make ice cream without it!)

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Vegetables, Vegetarian