Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies

turkeygfcookiesAs I was reviewing the recipes I’d be making for Thanksgiving weekend gatherings this year, I realized that someone likely to eat at least one meal at my house is gluten intolerant and wouldn’t be able to share the best part of dinner: dessert!  Luckily I had a recipe that was easily converted to gluten free, whew, crisis averted!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Mix together in a bowl and set aside:

  • 3 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour (I use Krusteaz)
  • 2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder

In stand mixer cream until light and fluffy:

  • 2 Sticks (1 Cup) softened butter
  • 2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup  Brown Sugar (Light or Dark)  then add
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup Canned Pumpkin Puree

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On low speed slowly add the dry ingredients until well incorporated and dough forms a ball.

Divide the dough in half and put into 2 large Ziplock bags.  Flatten to a large disk and put both into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Once dough has chilled place first disk on a lightly floured surface (MAKE SURE YOU USE THE GLUTEN FREE FLOUR), roll out to about 1/4″ and cut into Turkeys, Leaves, Footballs or any other fall shape.  Place on a cookie sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper and then throw the pan in the freezer for a couple of minutes to help cookies keep their shape when you bake them.  Repeat process with what is left of first disk then the second disk until you have used all of the dough.

Bake for 9-12 minutes (until lightly browned on the bottoms and starting to brown on the tops) depending on your oven and the thickness of your cookies.  Remove cookies from the oven.  Allow to cool on pan about 1 minute then remove to wire racks to completely cool.  Do not leave on the pan too long or the cookies might start to lose their shape.

When completely cool ice with Royal Icing or pre-made cookie icing and enjoy.

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Zin-ful Cranberries

cannedcranberriesMy family never ate any cranberry sauce that was homemade.  In the preparations for Thanksgiving, someone was always assigned the task of bringing two cans of jellied and one of whole berry cranberry sauce.  And you couldn’t try and pull a fast one by buying store brand.  It had to be Ocean Spray on Grandma’s Thanksgiving table!

When I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my own family I automatically followed the same routine until I became obsessed with the Food Network a few years back and made my first foray into making cranberry sauce from scratch.

For the first few years, I stuck with the basic “back of the package” recipe:

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 – 12 oz bag of whole fresh cranberries

Boil sugar and water, add cranberries and cook 10 minutes over a slow boil until berries have popped, refrigerate until time to serve.  *If you wanted it jellied you strained out the berry solids and skins using a mesh strainer before refrigerating.

BORING!

cb3This year I put some time and creativity into the preparation and came up with a winner:

Zinful Cran-Blueberry Sauce

  • 1 & 1/3 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Zinfandel Wine (Best Quality you can afford – if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
  • 1 – 12 oz Package Ocean Spray Fresh Whole Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 1 Whole Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • Orange or Tangerine Zest

Bring sugar, wine and cinnamon stick to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes.  You may want to use a splatter shield to avoid splashing when cranberries pop. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.  Cool slightly then move sauce to serving dish.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours and serve cold.  Sauce will thicken up as it cools.  Garnish with a few cranberries, blueberries and curls of zest.

Tomorrow I am attacking the bird, the stuffing and the gravy!

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Time to Break Out the Fat Pants!

champagneWe are officially one week away from the start of “Holiday Season.”

Thanksgiving kicks off 5-6 weeks of excess in all things food and drink related:  Happy Hours, Office Parties, Open Houses, Secular Celebrations, End of Year and New Year’s Day blowouts that inevitably result in most people’s pants feeling a bit too snug.

I wouldn’t want to keep anyone, least of all myself, from indulging to the limits of their pants (and beyond), so it’s officially also the kickoff for all of the recipes for the rich, gooey, fattening, but oh so yummy foods I’ll be serving at celebrations from now through the end of the year.

Since Thanksgiving is the first holiday where I’ll be hosting a crowd, I’ll start with the side dish I prepare instead of the candied yams of my youth.

oldschoolcandiedyamsYou know the ones  am talking about:  A can or two of yam chunks mixed with an orange juice, brown sugar type concoction, chunks of butter, chopped pecans, and piled high with mini-marshmallows then baked until they are bubbly and the marshmallows are a delightful shade of brown.

I’m certainly not knocking this old school family treat, but I like the opportunity the availability of fresh ingredients gives me to keep the flavor while cutting some of the fat and calories.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Gingersnap Streusel

  • 6 Large Sweet Potatoes (or Yams)
  • 1/2 Cup Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Butter (Melted)
  • 1/2 Cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 to 2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (to taste)

Streusel

  • 2 TBLS All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Butter, Cut into Pieces
  • 32 Coarsely Crushed Gingersnap Cookies (Not too fine)
  • Additional 1/4 Cup Butter (Melted)

sweet-potatoes-oh-1677905-lPeel sweet potatoes, cut into slices and cook in boiling water to cover over medium heat 25 – 30 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and put into large bowl then mash (leave some chunks).

Combine mashed sweet potato, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and next 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer. Spoon into a greased 2 1/2-quart or 13″ x 9″ baking dish.

To make the streusel:  Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and flour. Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter with a pastry blender (or two forks at opposite directions) until crumbly. Stir in crushed gingersnaps. Sprinkle streusel over sweet potatoes. Drizzle the additional ¼ cup butter over the top of the streusel. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25 – 30 minutes or until streusel is lightly browned.

Make Ahead: Prepare sweet potato filling, and spoon into a greased 2 1/2-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover and chill overnight. Microwave on HIGH 10 minutes or until hot. Prepare streusel, and sprinkle over filling. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20 minutes or until streusel is lightly browned.

My family  become such big fans of this recipe that I get asked, even on non-holidays, to bring it to dinner.  🙂   Tomorrow, Let’s talk turkey!

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Apple Roasted Frenched Pork Chops

Although I love a piece of thick crispy bacon and can’t get enough Honeybaked ham, I am not a huge fan of pork chops.

It could be that my mom only served them one of two ways:

  • In the crockpot swimming in cream of mushroom soup or
  • In the oven, which meant they were usually overcooked and dried out “Shake and Bake” style.

My brother-in-law cooks a pork loin in a cream lime sauce that everyone else raves about.  I don’t know why, because he’s a great cook, but it’s never really appealed to me.  My husband and son love Shake and Bake and the pork chops have to be paper thin.  Nope, not for me!

So, in an effort to give pork another try, I’m experimenting on a rather expensive (for pork) preparation of the loin chop: Frenched double cut pork chop.

frenchporkchopsApple Roasted Frenched Pork Chops

Heat a large skillet (one that has a lid) with about 2 TBLS Olive Oil over a high flame.  Liberally salt and pepper both sides and the fatty edge (I prefer freshly ground for both and I use sea salt) of 2 French Cut inch to inch and a half double cut bone in pork chops (I get mine at Trader Joe’s).  When the oil is hot, sear the chops on both sides and on the fatty edge for 2-3 minutes per area.

Remove the chops from the pan and lower the heat to Medium.  Add 1 thinly sliced small granny smith apple (peel on), about 1/2 Cup thinly sliced and separated sweet yellow onion, and 4-6 bulbs pre-roasted and cooled garlic to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes, until garlic is thoroughly incorporated (use a fork to break up the bulbs), onions are opaque and apples begin to soften.  Add about 1 Cup apple juice, apple cider or white wine (if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it!) and stir up the brown pieces while deglazing the pan cook 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add 1 Cup low-sodium chicken broth to the pan and simmer for 2 more minutes.

Return the pork chops to the pan, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-22 minutes depending on the thickness of your chops.  Turn the chops over at about 10 minutes.

Remove the chops from the pan and add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of heavy cream and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper to the pan.  Increase heat to medium and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring continuously to scrape up browned bits and thicken the sauce.  Evenly distribute the apple, onion and sauce over the chops and serve immediately

I serve these atop a bed of mashed potatoes or with yesterday’s recipe: Roasted Garlic Cheesy Cauliflower and a crisp green salad.

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Roasted Garlic Cheesy Cauliflower

roastedgarliccheesycauliflowerI bought a couple of heads of cauliflower at the farmer’s market, but wasn’t excited to serve it steamed with cheese, as make-believe rice, wannabe mashed potatoes, or even spiced up and roasted whole.

A trip to Trader Joe’s later, I had some inspiration for a main dish casserole I could serve with a salad.  Later this week it will be a great side dish for smoked sausage or, if I’m feeling inspired, Roasted Frenched Pork Chops.

If you don’t eat, or don’t like pork products, you can easily substitute shredded chicken (grocery store rotisserie or home prepared) for the ham and either leave the bacon out or substitute turkey bacon.  Another option is to cut leftover steak or prime rib into cubes as a substitute for the ham and leave in the bacon.  If you are vegetarian you can leave the meat out completely and add more bell pepper (red, yellow, orange or green). It’s a recipe that’s easy to get creative with.

Roasted Garlic Cheesy Cauliflower

  • 2 Heads of Cauliflower
  • 2 Cups Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 2 Cups Shredded Aged Gouda (or Trader Joe’s Gouda/Parmesan Blend) Cheese
  • 4 TBLS Butter
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper Diced
  • 3 Chopped Green Onions
  • 6 Slices Cooked Bacon
  • 2 Cups Diced Cooked Ham
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Roasted
  • 3 Shallots, Roasted
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • About 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 2 TBLS Gluten Free Flour
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 Pyrex baking dish and set aside.

roastedgarlicPeel away the papery skin and cut off the top of the garlic clove.  Place inside a square of foil, drizzle with olive oil, close up the foil package, and place in a shallow pan in the oven.  Do the same for the shallots.  Bake 30-40 minutes and remove from oven.  Set aside for a few minutes then open up foil pouch to let cool.

Break apart cauliflower heads, discard the stem and steam in a steamer in a large pot until tender but not mushy (about 20 minutes per head – you may have to do it in 2 batches).  Transfer cauliflower to Vitamix Container or Food Processor and pulse until florets break apart but do not pulverize.  Remove the cauliflower and put into a large mixing bowl.  Add diced bell pepper, ham, half of the chopped green onions, and half of the crumbled bacon.  Toss to combine.

In heavy saucepan squeeze the roasted garlic and shallots out of their skins and add 3 TBLS butter.  Cook over medium heat until butter melts.  Using a fork or an immersion blender stir/blend until the garlic and shallots are crushed and well combined.  Add a generous amount of pepper, the cream (or 1/2 & 1/2) and bring just to a boil.  Combine the last 1 TBLS of butter (melted) with 2 TBLS of the Gluten Free flour (all purpose if GF isn’t a concern for you) and blend or whisk into the mixture in the pan until the mixture begins to thicken.  Add the cream cheese then 1 Cup of the pepper jack and 1 Cup of the gouda, stirring constantly until melted.  It may not be a flowing sauce, but resemble a big melted blob – that’s ok.  Remove from heat and pour into the cauliflower mixture in a large bowl.  Use a large rubber spatula to stir together until well mixed.

Spread into prepared 9 x 13 pan, sprinkle remaining bacon, green onion and cheeses over the top, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is brown and bubbly.  Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes. I serve with a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot for those who like more spice.

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Guilt-Free Skinny Coleslaw

chicken-ready-to-go-in-the-oven1I’m just getting ready to throw a whole chicken into the oven for tonight’s dinner.  I’m going to serve it atop a pile of fresh spinach sautéed in a splash of olive oil and some minced garlic and alongside one of my favorite recipe creations: Skinny Coleslaw.

I can eat it by itself as a healthy mid-day snack, pile it inside a wrap with leftover chicken, serve it alongside grilled bratwursts, and, if I decide to spoil/treat my family, it’s even great piled inside a pastrami or corned beef sandwich.  The longer the leftovers are in the refrigerator the better it tastes, so if you can make it a day ahead you are really going to taste all of the flavors at their best.  Nutrition information per 1/2 cup serving of this homemade pleasure makes it something that I can eat all week and feel no guilt about at all!

Calories:  75   Fat & Cholesterol: 0    Sodium:  15mg    Protein:  1g    Carbohydrates:  13g     Fiber:  2g    Sugar:  8.5g

skinnycoleslaw

Salad:  ½ Head Medium Red Cabbage; ¼ Head Large Green Cabbage; 1 Can Crushed Pineapple Un-drained; 2 Large Granny Smith Apples Grated; 3 Medium Carrots Peeled & Grated

Dressing:  3 TBLS Light Olive Oil; 1/3 Cup Honey; ½ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar; ½ tsp Dry Mustard; ½ tsp Celery Seed; ½ tsp Garlic Powder; ½ tsp Freshly Ground Pepper; ½ tsp Cracked Sea Salt

  1. Chop the Cabbage, Grate the Carrots & Apples into bowl with a lid.  Add the can of Crushed Pineapple & the Celery Seed and toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the Oil, Honey, Vinegar, Mustard, Garlic Powder, Salt & Pepper.  Over medium heat bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove sauce from pan, put into a shallow bowl and put into the refrigerator to cool (about 30 minutes).
  4. Once dressing is cooled, combine with the cabbage mixture and toss to combine.  Cover and return to the refrigerator to chill until serving.

This salad is Gluten and Paleo friendly and won’t break your diet if you’re just watching calorie and sugar intake.  Yum

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My Family Demanded Meat For Dinner

I tried to slip my planned Meatless Monday dinner menu past my husband and son as they left for work this morning and was met with a groan.  When your child (whether he’s a grown ass man or not) whines like he’s being starved, Mom caves.

plank-steak1My Ralph’s Fresh Fare (AKA Kroeger’s) is too expensive to shop at for every day groceries, but I can’t pass up their meat department.  It is head and shoulders above my local Albertson’s in quality, selection of available cuts of meat and variety of wild caught fish.  They frequently have meat specials so I stock up and load the freezer when I can.  I headed to the garage, dug through the icy depths and came across a perfectly trimmed, vacuum packaged Flat Iron steak.

I still had a couple of ripe avocados off my tree, a couple of jalapenos that needed to be used up, 3 green onions nearing their toss time, and 1/2 a lemon that was destined for freshening the garbage disposal if I didn’t use it soon.  I had already tossed the wilted cilantro, so no Chimichurri.  The basil in the drawer was well beyond it’s crispy best, so no Pesto.  But, have no fear, with some pepper, olive oil and garlic salt a sauce was beginning to take shape in my head.

Pan Fried Flat Iron Steak with Spicy Avocado Sauce and Asparagus Risotto

flatironsteakAdd about 2 TBLS Olive Oil to a 10″ skillet and heat over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking.  Liberally season a 2 LB Flat Iron Steak (trimmed of all visible fat) with Pepper and Garlic Salt and place in pan.  Sear each side until browned (about 5 minutes per side) lower heat to medium-low and cook another 5 to 8 minutes per side for medium rare; 8 to 10 minutes per side for medium; 10 to 12 minutes per side for Medium-Well to Well.  Time is estimated – adjust based on thickness of your meat.

While the steak is cooking prepare the sauce.  In my Vitamix container I combined 1 and 1/2 ripe avocados, 1 large seeded jalapeno, 3 cleaned green onions, 2 TBLS Olive Oil and juice from 1/2 of a small ripe lemon.  Process until it becomes a smooth, medium-thick sauce.  Add garlic salt and pepper to taste and set sauce aside.

When steak reaches desired degree of doneness, leave in pan and remove from the heat to seal in the juices before slicing.

asparagusrisottolbagI found a bag of Trader Joe’s Asparagus Risotto in the freezer so I stir fried it in a dry non-stick skillet for about 8 minutes, then divided it among the three plates.

After thinly slicing the steak across the grain at an angle and resting it atop the risotto, I spooned a generous amount of the avocado sauce onto the meat and served it to my salivating family.

Dinner took about 30 minutes from stove top to plate and the cavemen in my household were satisfied & stuffed.

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A Chocolate Twist on Thanksgiving Tradition

I’m starting with the admission that this post is totally stolen from a recipe that comes direct from the Food Network Kitchen! It can be seen in this month’s Food Network Magazine article Thanksgiving Desserts: Pies and Beyond.

Since I was very young, I have been a sucker for the smell and taste of pumpkin pie.  My Aunt Lisa would bake them and the family would devour them.  That was a family tradition.  Since I’ve had to make them (or buy them from Marie Callender’s) myself, pumpkin pie just hasn’t been the same.

FNM_110114-Pumpkin-Brownie-Swirl-Pie-RecipeThat was still the case until I saw this picture and fell in lust with Pumpkin-Brownie Swirl Pie.

This pie will definitely grace my holiday table. Ok, I’ll really be keeping it all to myself to eat with day after leftovers brought home from someone else’s house, but WHATEVER.

I must make this pie.  I may even drizzle some hot caramel sauce over the pie AND the mandatory Vanilla ice cream.  To Hell with Tradition!!

Pumpkin-Brownie Swirl Pie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and side of a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate.

Make the brownie filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 stick unsalted butter, 1 – 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar, whisking occasionally until melted and combined thoroughly.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in 2 large eggs, one at a time and then 1 teaspoon vanilla, whisking until smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined.

Pour about one-third of the brownie batter into the prepared pie plate; set aside the remaining batter. Bake until just starting to set and the top is shiny, about 20 minutes.

Make the pumpkin filling:  In a medium mixing bowl combine 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 large egg, 1/4 cup sugar,1/4 cup flour, 12 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and 1/4 tsp salt whisking until smooth.

Pour the pumpkin filling over the warm brownie layer. Stir 1 tablespoon water into the remaining brownie batter, then spoon the batter (in about 6 scoops) onto the pumpkin filling. Use the back of the spoon to pull the brownie batter into the pumpkin filling and create a swirled pattern. Bake until the pie is set, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

I only have one word for the way my mouth is watering in anticipation: Yum!

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