Friday, November 22, 2013

Spicy Brownies

Brownies are special. They are special because they can modified in a million different ways and none of them are disappointing. In fact they put a rumbly in the tumbly just looking at them. There are brownies with cheesecake, caramel, oreo cookies, nuts, marshmallow...the list goes on and on. The most important thing for me, or I should say, one of the things I like the most on any kind of brownie is a crackly top! And...I love crunchy tops with chewy soft centers. This brownie had both.

This recipe from the Baked boys attracted me because it said 'spicy' which means some form of chile powder. My interest was piqued and I just had to try it out.

I thought these were delicious. The heat, provided by some ancho chile, kicks in some time after you have eaten the first bite. It is indeed subtle and perfectly balanced. The chocolate and spice are complete complements to one another. My roommate couldn't sense the heat (defective palate) but it was clear to me and I loved it. It's not the first time I have baked a chocolate and spice recipe. I did a Mexican Hot Chocolate cookie recipe in 2012 for a Humane Society event, that I just loved as well.

For whatever reason, these brownies, which keep well, tasted better to me a few days later than on the day I made them.


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons freshly grated cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
9 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 -72%), coarsely chopped
2 ounces good-quality mile chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, chile powder, cinnamon, salt, and ginger, and set aside.

Place the chopped chocolates and the butter in the bowl of a double boiler over medium heat and stir occasionally until they are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler. Add both sugars and whisk until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the water and let the mixture come to room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove the brownies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting and serving.

The brownies can be stored at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.


Source: Baked Elements

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sticky Gingerbread

Every year I am on the search for my perfect molasses, gingery, kind of cookie or sweet bread.  Every year I feel disappointed and recipes miss the mark. Some come close and I fall in love occasionally but they aren't quite 'it'.  I thought maybe my expectations were too high. What exactly was I looking for? A certain smell, a certain taste ...there was something I have had in my past that I wanted to have again, only I didn't know what it was. My search ended when I made this bread for the first time.

This recipe is from a British baking book and has very English ingredients that can be found at specialty stores like Whole Foods or Fresh & Easy (west coast). I bought this recipe book because my nearest and dearest friend and roommate, Andy, is British and I wanted to make him his favorite treats from home, such as Bakewell Tarts. Andy has been here in the US for about 16 years and while he does go back to the U.K. from time to time, it's not the same having an occassional treat. I wanted to make him happy and do something special for him on a more frequent basis, bringing home to him.

This recipe calls for Black Treacle and Golden Syrup which were things I had never heard of. This happens often when I make recipes from this book and I have to go to him for translation from English to American. Their references for granulated sugar, fine sugar, and confectioners' sugar are different, not surprisingly, so I need to keep in mind to be careful when I read the ingredients to check if it's just a name difference or truly a different product.

On our trip to Fresh & Easy, when we found what I will call, the English section, he was like a kid reliving fond food memories. There were all kinds of things that reminded him of home, like clotted cream (used with jam on scones), the treacle and golden syrup, of course, and several other things I had no knowledge of. I stood there just listening to him as his eyes excitedly made their way around to all the goodies and he openly, and quite enthusiastically, shared memories of these things. It was fun!

Black Treacle is similar to molasses yet different. Molasses is much sweeter than black treacle. The Golden Syrup is sweet but lighter, maybe similar to a corn syrup, but better - tastier.

This cake was a surprise to my taste buds, so moist and flavorful, that I couldn't stop eating it. I wanted to taste it again and again. It was the first time I had really baked with both of these new ingredients in the same recipe and it was was different! It was a nice change and a very successful sweet bread that had all the markings of a wintery holiday cake. It was the kind of experience that when we both ate our first piece, said " That's Ridiculous"!

The other special addition to the ingredients was dark brown muscavado, which is an unrefined, strong brown sugar that has a molasses kind of taste, and is stickier than normal brown sugar you find at local stores. Muscavado has a very distinct smell and flavor and is used sometimes in the making of rum (yum!). I happened to have some on hand already when I had spied it at Whole Foods one time, and curious, I bought it, not knowing what to do with it. Traditional recipes I work from do not ever mention muscavado.

Here is the recipe along with some fun background on it straight from the book.  Enjoy!

" A deliciously spicy, sticky dark ginger cake from Scotland and northern England, quickly made by melting and mixing. Nowadays the cake is usually left plain and un-iced, but in early medieval days it was a solid mixture of flour, honey and spices, baked until hard, then heavily decorated with cloves covered in gilt, gilded leaves and as much ornamentation as possible. The recipe has gradually evolved from a work of art to an edible delight. You can still add a decoration of edible gold leaf or white glace icing after baking, though, if you would like something a little fancier. It is excellent eaten with butter or a wedge of  Lancashire cheese. The flavour gets better as it matures, so plan to make this at least a day before cutting."



225 g self-rising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
115 g unsalted butter, chilled & diced
115 g black treacle
115g golden syrup
115g dark brown muscavado sugar
275 ml whole milk
1 medium free range egg, beaten

A 900 g loaf tin, about 26 x 13 x 7cm, greased with butter and lined with greaseproof paper.


Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and run into the flour mix, using the tips of your fingers, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

Spoon the treacle and golden syrup into a small pan and warm gently until melted and runny but not hot. Set aside until lukewarm. Put the sugar and milk into another pan and heat gently, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Leave to cool until lukewarm, then whisk the milk into the flour mixture, quickly followed by the treacle mixture and the egg, to make a smooth thick batter, the consistency of double cream.

Put the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake the gingerbread in the heated oven for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the loaf, then set the tin on a wire rack and leave the ginger-bread to cool completely before turning out. Wrap the loaf in foil and leave for at least a day before cutting; it will get stickier the longer it is kept. Store in an air tight container.


  • You could easily add whole ginger/chopped pieces to this recipe for an even more gingery taste. I am sure it would taste great, however, this bread is fantastic on its own.
  • Be Careful! when wrapping this bread to set. It is SO MOIST that foil or anything directly touching the top may peel off the breading of the top because it is 'sticky' gingerbread! Then you really will need a glace of sorts to cover up the damage. So you almost need to wrap it with the top tented up. I learned the hard way.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Orange-Pecan Biscotti

Whenever I think of biscotti I am transported to so many days in my past where busy holiday shopping, errands, and lists of things to do, found me stepping wearily into a coffee shop to treat myself to something hot (and caffeinated) to drink and a quick yummy snack. I find biscotti in just about every form to be attractive and tempting. You know its crunchy but there are so many variations and flavors that it would truly be a shame not to try them all. And its the perfect bite size, on the go snack, to curb hunger and restore a smile to your face.

I am a sucker for holiday flavors, smells, and essences and the smell of a fresh orange being zested triggers all of my emotional memories, in a good way. It is an annual holiday fruit that joyfully fills up the produce basket. It's a busy citrus fruit that makes it's appearance during hot summer days and again during winter using its zest and juice to bring great flavor to many dishes. It's a 'super' fruit in my opinion and has a million uses, even in and orange is my favorite!

So, no doubt when I saw Orange-Pecan biscotti in my holiday magazine, I fell for it. Okay! I will make you! The super fruit will be getting some help from its holiday partners, Pecan and Grand Marnier in its holiday transformation.


12 oz.  (2 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour; plus more for shaping
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges (To yield a scan 1/4 cup lightly packed)
4 1/2 oz. (1 cup)  coarsely chopped pecans
3 large eggs, at room temperature
5 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
1 Tbs. orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier


Position racks in the middle and top of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, baking powder, and salt to combine. Put a bit of the flour mixture into a small bowl, add the orange zest, and rub the zest into the flour to keep it from clumping. Stir the coated zest and the pecans into the rest of the flour mixture.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the olive oil, orange juice, and liqueur until well blended. Pour into the center of the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is blended. The dough will be very sticky.
Dump the dough onto a heavily floured work surface and portion into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a log that's 12 inches long, dusting with flour along the way to keep the dough from sticking.
Set the logs about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, and then press gently to flatten each log so that it's 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide.
Bake until the logs are golden and then tops are fairly firm near the center, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets and switching their positions after 10 minutes to ensure even baking.
Set the sheets on racks until the logs are cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Leave the oven set to 350 degrees.
Transfer the logs to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, saw them on a sharp diagonal into slices 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices on the baking sheets, laying them flat with a cut side down. Return the baking sheets to the oven and bake the biscotti for about 6 minutes. Turn the biscotti over, rotate the baking sheet positions, and bake until the biscotti are golden, another 8 - 10 minutes.
Let cool on the sheets on the racks for 5 minutes before transferring them off the sheets and onto the racks to cool completely (the biscotti will not get crisp until then). 
Store at room temperature or freeze in an airtight container, separating the layers with waxed paper.

Yield about 60 small biscotti



  • You can always make and drizzle a nice frosting over these (that will harden well) for an extra special sweet treat.
  • I made large cuts of biscotti as my personal preference. 
  • Easy & straightforward recipe that would be great for gift giving, gift wrapped in a cute container with embellishments like ribbon.

We couldn't stay out of these once they were cooled and ready for eating. I use biscotti, this recipe in particular, in my shipments to the military overseas as part of Operation Baking Gals. They keep very well and retain their crunch!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cranberry Scones

In the everlasting quest to incorporate very healthy - and tasty - foods into our everyday diet, it's important I chase after some of these healthy takes on yummy bakery classics. This is not your Mama's scone! Especially for Andy, my roommate (who is British), this is definitely not what he is used to. There will be no floury baked goodness, no clotted cream, and no sugary jam. Actually, when it comes to raw recipes, it's all in the head. The only thing familiar here to a traditional scone is that is has some dried cranberries and raisins in it, and was shaped to mimic a scone prior to going into the dehydrator.

This raw scone is so fresh, so healthy, so delicious, I actually feel proud of myself for eating it. If I had humans kids (as opposed to my furry ones), this is the exactly the kind of food I would be feeding them because it is made of the best stuff we can put into our bodies; all natural fruits and veggies. The stars in this scone are: apples, carrots, flaxseed and almond meal. It is low in sugar and high in fiber, rich in omega 3s and 6s, and beta-carotene! :-)

For the people on the fence about raw food, I will say that I am so glad I got a dehydrator in embarking on my quest to learn how to make raw foods. I know the initial cost might be off putting and the concept is different to what has become a traditional 'food' lifestyle, but honestly it it so cool and I am so excited that this adventure is changing my life for the better, that I highly recommend it. It's the kind of thing one should slowly incorporate. No need to culture shock your food world if this is way off the beaten path. But if you want to be kinder to your body, this is definitely one of many ways to do it.

The book I take this recipe from does offer recipes for raw and vegan creams, jam sauce, and miso coconut butter to go with these scones.  However, the scones are so good on their own, I didn't see a need to make them.


3 cups applesauce ( from 3 large apples or 4 small ones)
2 cups carrot pulp ( from 4- 5 large carrots)
2 cups almond meal
2 cups raisins
1 cup fresh or dried cranberries
1/2 liquid coconut oil
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 cup brown or tan flaxseed
1 cup filtered water


Combine the applesauce, carrot pulp, and almond meal in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add the raisins, cranberries, coconut oil, and agave syrup and stir until well.
Combine the flaxseed and water in the blender and blend until mixed well. Add to the applesauce mixture in the bowl and stir until well mixed.
On dehydrator trays line with Teflex or ParaFlexx sheets or parchment paper, measure about 1/2 cup dough and form into a triangular scone shape. Repeat with remaining dough. Dehydrate for 8 - 12 hours, or until dry or to desired consistency.
Will keep for a week or more in the fridge. The drier they are, the longer they will keep.

Making Carrot Pulp and Applesauce
To make carrot pulp, all you need to do is juice carrots and use what is left over. If you don't have a juicer, visit a local juice bar to order carrot juice and ask to receive the leftover pulp. The pulp gives the scones a lighter texture. Using shredded carrots won't work in the same way since they have more moisture and a different texture from the dry pulp. 
Applesauce is super easy to make: Just place cored apples (with or without skin) into the food processor and puree. It's that simple.


  • Okay- so not everyone will have a juicer and going to a local juice bar may be asking too much. Speaking for myself, that is way too much work. Luckily we have a juicer because it is just another item in our arsenal for better health (and I will be blogging recipes soon). I did juice my carrots and used the pulp as suggested. I removed the carrot pulp from the juicer, saved the carrot juice and pumped 2 apples into the juicer and later used the fresh carrot/apple juice with some vodka on ice for a cocktail (yum!). Of course, it is delicious on it own without the alcohol. Either way, don't let the juice go to waste.
  • REMEMBER- this is RAW food! You cannot make traditional applesauce- NO cooking! The apples puree up nicely as described above.
  • I added cinnamon to my apple puree.
  • Ani did not offer a temperature setting for the dehydrator in her book, but I dehydrated at 105F for the 12 hours. It is to be LIVE food so you cannot dehydrate over 140F and you want low and slow for a nice even dehydrated scone. It also allows you to monitor over time to see what you like and don't like. I picked at one scone and we tasted every few hours to test how moist or dry we liked it. In the end, we liked the 12 hour drying time.
  • If anyone is ho-hum about the drying time, first- the food assembly is fast and once you pop it in the dehydrator and move on to do chores or hobbies, you will forget about it and the time will fly. Second- the energy usage is minimal. Here is a site where this woman does an at home comparison of dehydrators in terms of effectiveness and also has done the math for electricity consumption. I am sure 12 hours sounds like a lot but you will find cost is minimal due to the wattage of the dehydrator. She even provides a link to explain how she arrived at her dollar figure.
  • You can modify this recipe. I used 1 cup purple and 1 cup golden raisins. I was going to add nuts but decided not to. I am sure you can add currants, or most kinds of dried fruit/nuts and it's going to taste fab!
  • Almond Meal (ground up almonds) is available at most stores. Click here to see what you are looking for. It can be tricky to make on your own at home (avoiding making a nut butter while getting it finely ground) but is doable in a pinch.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pear-Ginger Cheesecake

When you need a break from heavier desserts, this little beauty is the way to go. I may say that a lot when it comes to raw desserts but it is just so true. This raw 'cheesecake' recipe is satiny smooth, delicate yet spicy and has a subtle addition of chocolate with a light crunch from the crust.

Pear and ginger make the perfect relationship in this recipe. Pears have such a unique and light flavor that on its own, some people aren't in love with it. Some. However, add the spice and aromatics that ginger offers and this is quite the relationship duo striking the right balance! Actually I think these flavors would make a good martini.

When needing to live in my raw food moments, it's so nice to be able to go to a dessert that mimics the looks of a traditional cheesecake. A little trickery for the mind to make me think I am getting something from the bad side of town. The fun part is that the taste is usually so good that it is weird to stop and think, "Wow! There is no butter, no flour, no refined sugar, and no bad fats in this. Crazy!"... & no, it does not taste anything like a real cheesecake but gets its name based on look and preparation for setting up in the traditional cheesecake springform pan. Sometimes after eating these desserts both Andy and I will reflect on the ingredients and list them out and it's cool to think of raw food in this way; fruits, nuts, spices, healthy fats = dessert (what!).

Even though this is a completely natural and raw dessert, it is (as a lot are), made with generous amounts of nuts which can carry a high calorie count and some healthy fats. Even these desserts must be eaten in small portions. This is not a license to pig out because it's essentially a healthy dessert...and that is your warning. It will be tempting with this recipe and others like it because the filling is so smooth and delicate it's almost like eating a beautiful mousse that you want to experience over and over.


Chocolate-Almond Crust
1 3/4 cups dry almonds
5 tablespoons cacao powder
3 1/2 ounces date paste (weight)
1 teaspoon liquid vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Pear-Ginger Filling
3 cups soaked cashews
3 cups chopped pears ( about 16 ounces weight)
3/4 cup agave syrup
3/4 cup ginger juice
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon liquid vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon lecithin
1 cup coconut oil


Chocolate-Almond Crust
  1. Add to food processor the nuts, salt, vanilla, and half the amount of date paste, and any other ingredients the recipe may call for.
  2. Process all ingredients until the crust starts to rise on the sides of the food processor bowl. Stop the machine and mix with a spatula or spoon.
  3. Repeat a few times until the nuts are well broken down. Add remaining date paste and continue processing until mixture is consistent. The final result of the crust should be a mixture that can hold together with a gentle pressure and can be broken apart with a clean break.
  4. Assemble a 10-inch cheesecake pan with the bottom up (opposite the way it would normally be used with lip facing down). This makes it much easier to serve. Lightly grease the entire inside of the pan with coconut oil.
  5. Distribute crust evenly on the bottom of the cheesecake pan and lightly compact by hand. Set aside until ready to be filled.

If the nuts are too chunky, try sharpening your blade. You can also lightly process the nuts and salt by themselves before adding the other ingredients. Adding all of the date paste at once will not allow the nuts to break down properly. Some chunky nuts are okay if this is a preference but must be broken down enough to make the crust to come together.
When pressing the crust into pan, be careful not to use too much pressure, as this will result in the crust sticking to the pan and making the serving process challenging. On the other hand, if you are not pressing firmly enough the crust will be crumbly and messy. If crust is not sticking together and breaking apart cleanly, you need to add a small splash (1/2 - 1 teaspoon) of liquid vanilla and process a bit longer.

Making the cheesecake filling

  1. Add to the blender all ingredients except the coconut oil and lecithin.
  2. Blend well until smooth and creamy ( 3 - 5 minutes).
  3. Stop blending and add the lecithin and melted coconut oil.
  4. Resume blending until oil and lecithin are well incorporated
  5. Pour filling into springform pan with prepared crust. Recipe may call for a swirling decoration (instructions below). If you want to, or are asked to, make a swirl reserve 1 cup of filling and add:
    1. 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
    2. 3-4 vanilla beans (scraped insides only)
  6. Place in freezer to set for 1 - 2 hours or until middle of cheesecake is firm to the touch.
  7. Remove springform ring by inserting a non-serrated paring knife along the inside edge of the pan. Open springform, remove cheesecake and decorate to your liking.

Swirling (optional)
Swirling is a decorating technique that is a quick and easy way to make a dessert look elegant and delicious. Swirling always requires two or more contrasting colors. The stronger the contrast, the more beautiful the swirl will be.
The basic rule to creating a beautiful swirl is to have each of the fillings as close to same consistency as possible. This causes them to smoothly and easily flow and glide into each other. The process is simple, although requires practice over time to perfect, and these general rules apply to the 10 inch cheesecake recipes.

  1. Pour all but 1 - 2 cups of the finished filling into the pan (onto prepared crust).
  2. Blend the reserved cups with the ingredients the recipe calls for. This should be a brief blend phase as you just need to combine the added ingredients. Often the recipe will call for some additional liquid (like vanilla) to compensate for any added dry ingredients.
  3. Now, confidently begin to pour into the pan (only pour 3/4 of the reserve mixture). Do not pour lightly. You want some of the colored mixture to pierce the surface of the filling, moving around to evenly distribute throughout the cheesecake, which will be visible on the individual slices.
  4. After you have poured 3/4 of the reserve mixture, start to pour lightly the remaining mixture, letting a ribbon of the filling to fall onto the surface. Once you pour lightly, the filling should sit directly on top the surface of the rest of the filling. Make sure to get near the edges, but not touching.
  5. Now, grab a chopstick or something similar, and insert it just below the surface and begin to move it around, swirling the fillings into each other. Try to make it as balanced as possible, meaning both colors will be equally visible. It is important to know when to stop as too much swirling will blend everything together and there will no longer be a contrast of colors. Actual swirling time is minimal and the effect is achieved quickly.

Cheesecakes will keep for at least four days. Store covered in the fridge.


  • Date Paste - you can make this by pitting and chopping dates, then boiling them in a heavy bottomed pan with 1 3/4 cups water. After bringing to a boil, let simmer for 1 minute.  Drain and cool. Then puree in a blender. I added a splash of whiskey to my dates while they were cooling just prior to blending.
  • Ginger Juice - Using ginger root from the store ( required 2 very large pieces) shave off the skin with a knife and juice in an electric juicer. You can also use a garlic press to squeeze juice out of the ginger root, although I think that would take forever. You can online search other options but it can be a do-it-yourself process.
  • Coconut-Oil - has a low melting point. You do not need a high flame to melt this and I recommend a low and slow melt. Coconut oil can be sensitive and if you heat it too high, too long it can go rancid. It's a delicate and beautiful oil.
  • Lecithin- what the hell is that? I didn't know, have never used it, and had to look it up.  Our Vons, who rarely has what we need, didn't have this either. You can sub vegetable oil or canola oil.
  • I botched my swirling because, well, I didn't read #5 :) . But it still looks nice and gave it some unique aesthetic appeal.
  • My garnish for the cheesecake is pear slices that have been dusted with cinnamon and dehydrated.


Source:Sweet Gratitude

Monday, January 21, 2013

Strawberry Galette

I have wanted to do a galette for probably at least two years...just never got around to it. I specifically wanted to do a peach galette which is what I have mostly seen in food portraits of galette's. Although various types of fruit can be substituted, it never occurred to me to use strawberries! And it's never been in the suggested list of fruits for galette's. Strawberries don't strike me as the kind of fruit I would put into a recipe and pop in the oven unless it was a strawberry rhubarb pie.

However, we had strawberries, that as most people know, head very quickly to their unusable state and I decided that I have had enough of throwing strawberries out, and would make something of them. It was a mission! I searched online recipes, found some great frozen desserts but guess what? There is literally no room to squeeze one more thing in the freezer. I did see someone had made a looked good, however, how would the strawberries really fair (taste) baked in a galette? I had some concerns.

Getting a good dough recipe was no problem as there was a galette recipe in a CIA book that I have been looking at for some time. Galette recipes that I have seen just have the fruit rolled around in spices and then piled in the middle, roll up the dough for the crust and done. Aside from dusting with sugar, strawberries don't really need spicing up (in my opinion)...but it just wasn't enough or quite right. I thought, what would taste good to me? Hmmm...thinking. Got it! Cream Cheese! Oh yea... a bit of strawberries with a crunchy sweet crust, with dollops of sweet and tangy warm cream cheese. now I had my preferred ingredients, now to focus (or not so much) on execution.

I will be honest and say I pretty much just whipped this out without really taking time to focus on perfecting things or thinking them through. I had the concept and then the rest is history and I made it up as I went along...and... it totally worked out!

I will break down my experimentation in the recipe and instruction.  The end result was awesome ( I can't think of a better word, it really was awesome). I was waiting to get some pictures taken so I could finally taste it. Looking at those golden mounds of  baked cream cheese sitting like pillow-y goodness on top of the strawberries through the camera lens was so tempting it made me borderline miserable to have to wait. It was worth it though. The flavors and textures together were so scrumptious, it was a perfect breakfast treat and I was in heaven.
In usual fashion, the rest of it went to work with my roommate Andy, who safely deposited it in the office kitchen and it was gone within the hour, saving us from the reckless task of eating with wild abandon and consuming unmitigated calories. To reflect on the bumper sticker my Mom and I saw traveling to Palm Springs; "Love people. Cook them tasty food"...damn right! Although, I learned later that evening that Andy had gone back to the office kitchen for a # 2  piece (insert pouty face). It's okay, I was a little bummed, but I am little person and can't afford the extra calories, but good for him. And think of how many people had a wonderful surprise when they went for coffee or tea. The smiles are worth sharing any day of the week.


Galette Pie Dough
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, lard, or vegetable shortening, diced ( or a combination of butter and shortening equal to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup ice water, or as needed

Cream Cheese
1, 8-oz package of cream cheese, at room temp or close to
1 cup of confectioner's sugar

2-3 cups strawberries, rinsed, tops cut off, and sliced
1 cup ground lady fingers, or vanilla wafers
1 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling on strawberries
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for final dusting

Egg Wash
Whole egg
2 tablespoons whole milk
2-3 tablespoons coarse sugar


Galette Pie Dough
Sift together the flour and salt with a fork to blend. Cut the fat into the flour using a food processor, pastry blender, or 2 knives. (For pies to be filled with fruit or another non-liquid filling, leave some
bits of fat in larger pieces, about the size of a small pea, for a crisp and flaky texture in the baked crust.)

Drizzle a few tablespoons of the ice water over the surface of the flour mixture and quickly rub the water into the flour. Continue to add the water, a tablespoon or so at a time, just until it holds together when you press a handful of it into a ball. The dough should be evenly moist, not wet, and shaggy or rough in appearance.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gather and press the dough into a ball. Pat into an even disk, wrap well, and let chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Cream Cheese Filling
While the dough is chilling, take the cream cheese ( at room temp) and put into a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Add one cup of confectioner's sugar and beat until creamy and well blended. Set aside.

Take vanilla wafers or lady fingers and in a food processor pulse until the cookies are a fine ground powder. It's okay if the mixture is a little coarse, but you don't want chunks of cookie in it. Put ground powder into a bowl (or a measuring cup with pour spout) and set aside.

Take rinse and topped strawberries and slice long ways into medium-thick slices. If the are too thin, they will burn easily (if on top) during the baking process. Set aside.

Egg wash
Take egg and milk and lightly beat. set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Roll the pie dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10-inch round.

Transfer the dough round to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle with the cookie crumbs leaving a 2-inch border free of crumbs. Sprinkle to your liking (you can add extra as the crumbs will absorb the strawberry juice during baking), leaving a couple tablespoons reserve for sprinkling on top later.

Add a few tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture in dollops around the circumference of the crumbs, making sure to keep them on the crumbs and not in the 2 inch border.  You should have a circle of crumbs, with a circle of cream cheese dollops ontop of the crumbs.

Now, start to pile on your strawberries in the middle. You can choose to just lay them on in handfulls or neatly organize them, it doesn't matter. As you are layering the strawberries, however, add a few more dollops of cream cheese in between the layers. Once all the strawberries are layered on, place 3-4 more dollops of cream cheese on top, leaving the 2-inch border unfilled and clear of any ingredients. You will have leftover cream cheese, set aside/refrigerate for use as a spread later.

Brush a 1 inch perimeter of the dough round lightly with egg wash. Fold the dough edges in toward the center, over the fruit, pinching and folding it to seal the edge and create a pleated border.

Brush the pleated edge of the pastry lightly but thoroughly with egg wash and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar.

Take some of the excess ground cookie mixture and sprinkle generously on top of the strawberries and cream cheese (granulated sugar optional).

Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the strawberries hot and juicy. The book recommends 25 minutes but it took me 40+ minutes of cooking time. I suggest you start at 25 and assess it from there. After 25 minutes, I checked back in 15 minute increments until finished. You can use your crust as an indicator of doneness. When your crust is beautifully golden with touches of brown all the way around, it is done. It would be a great idea to rotate your sheet halfway through for an even cooking.

Remove the tart from the oven and cool on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before slicing. Dust generously with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.. Use left over cream cheese as a wonderful spread for those wanting to add more to each bite :)


  • Not everything is exact here because as I said, I made it up as I went along and results may vary. However, this is a recipe that has flexibility so feel free to experiment. The dough is exact and my experimentation was with the berries and cream cheese.
  • The crust was great! It was crusty and crunchy on the outside and along the bottom. The interior bottom had some moisture from the strawberries but was NOT soggy.
  • You can substitute apples, sour cherries, apricots, peaches, or pears.
  • If you are sugar sensitive you can add more or less. I am not sensitive, so additionally, I sprinkled the strawberries with granulated sugar and the cookie crumbs before popping in the oven...and finished once baked and cooled, with powdered sugar. This was not too sweet, the baking process can change the flavor of the berries to have a little tartness, combine the tangy and sweet cream cheese, with the granulated sugar and crust and it is well balanced.
  • I use the middle rack for cooking, moving up to the top for the last 15 minutes.
  • I used vanilla wafers in my recipe since I had it on hand.
  • Reminder that fruit really cooks down so don't fear the large pile of fruit, it will get smaller.


Source: Baking at Home, Culinary Institute of America (dough)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lemon Zuccherini

I first saw these little delights on food blog La Bella Vita , hosted by a charming Italian lady named Roz. During a trip back to Italy she took the time to blog and post all the beautiful foods she was coming across in her journey visiting restaurants, cafe's, and shops, and with pictures of beautiful scenery that made me wish I was there with her. It was around this same time that I had just received my DNA results from that revealed 20% of my bloodline is from the region of Spain and/or Italy. Both cuisines suit me, so that was good news, although for every time someone has asked me if I was Italian, my money is on Italy! So, it was a lot of fun to see what Roz was going to post next; where she was at, what she was looking at, and most importantly, what she was eating! I couldn't help wondering where my own distant ancestors had been, perhaps on the very same ground she was walking (or maybe somewhere in Spain)!

Lemon Zuccherini are considered an Italian biscotti and are commonly available in Italian shops. They are in the shape of a wedding ring and as she states on her site, are given out at weddings. What a lovely tradition!  Visit her site and you will see the pictures she took of them during her trip. Now, while mine do not look like what the Italians make, I can say that it was my first time doing the recipe, and regardless of how they look, they taste delicious.

I really like the simple flour pastry with the sweet but zingy coating of the lemon glaze. Due to an emergency we had at the house while I was just taking these out of the oven, they did not get glazed until the were already cooled. After the glaze had dried, I added a dusting of powdered sugar. Needless to say, I kept going back to the container for 'just one more'. And they are a great accompaniment to a cup of hot tea (and a book). What I find nice about these simple ingredients is that if I find myself in the middle of an unexpected cold blustery day, I can just whip up a batch from what we generally already have in the house. No special trips to the store!


4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (sea salt is recommended)
*5 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp anise seeds or extract
2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 cup powdered sugar
*2- 3 Tbsp lemon juice


- Prepare a large bowl coated with oil

- Prepare greased and floured cookie sheets, or alternatively use cookie sheets with parchment paper

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt onto a large cutting board. Shape it into the form of a large well (or use a very large bowl).Into the middle of the well, add the eggs, olive oil, anise seeds/extract, and lemon zest.Incorporate all of the ingredients together to form a dough, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Place the dough into the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the dough into egg-sized balls and roll out each one into a long rope of medium thickness.
OPTIONAL: For a more layered cookie, flatten the rope and fold it in half along the entire length of the rope.
Shape each rope into a ring, and pinch the ends together. Place cookies onto prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until slightly golden.

While the cookies are baking, prepare your glaze. Mix together the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice. You can add more or less lemon juice if you want. I personally added extra juice along with some zest to my glaze.

While the cookies are still warm, brush on the glaze. Feel free to add a second glazing after the first brushing has dried and set. I did 2 light coatings and a gentle dusting. If it sounds like a lot, it really wasn't. The nice thing is you can make these to your personal preference and are in control of your modifications.


  • I had a little hiccup with my recipe. Roz's original recipe calls for 3 eggs, however, with 4 cups of flour I ended up needing more eggs to bring the dough together. I would take out 5 and start with 3 and see if you need more or not. I am famous for adding or omitting things, so could have been something I did.

As with any biscotti,these are perfect for dunking in pretty much anything you are drinking.


 Source: La Bella Vita food blog

Monday, January 14, 2013

Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons

If you think this looks like comfort food, you would be right. Do you ever have those times where you are craving something but you don't know quite what it is? Then you thumb through recipe books, looking at photos, and then it see a food photo and your stomach growls and churns. It's clearly a message from below that you just hit gold. I trust my food instincts when my body tells me, "this is the one".

Some people give good gifts, and some people don't. My BFF of over 20 years, Gloria, a.k.a The Ginger Snap Girl, is the kind that gives good gifts. For my birthday this year she got me something I have been wanting...a cook book from Ina Garten. She blessed me with her latest publication, 'Foolproof', which is where this divine recipe hails from.

I don't post food/recipes I don't like. When I say, however, that something is truly outstanding, I mean it! This Easy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons is fabulous and this will become a repeated meal in this house.

The soup was flavorful and the addition of tomatoes and orzo gave it texture and thickness. We couldn't eat it fast enough but it was so hot we were forced to slow down. The grilled cheese hit just the right notes of crunch with the distinct flavor of the Gruyere.  We added a few of the cheesy croutons to our soup and did some dunking with the other ones. Fantastic meal!


Tomato Soup
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 heavy cream

Grilled Cheese Croutons
4 (1/2 inch thick slices country wide bread)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated


Tomato Soup
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. ( It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Grilled Cheese Croutons
Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyere on two of the slices. Place the two remaining slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.

Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Serve croutons hot and scattered on top of tomato soup.


  • To save on time, we used ready-made chicken broth from the store
  • We use a grill pan in place of a panini grill, along with a grill press to place pressure on the bread
  • We used a round loaf of Sheepherders bread


Source:Barefoot Contessa, Foolproof

Friday, January 11, 2013

Granny's Old Fashioned Pudding Cake Vigilante

I couldn't resist doing this cake as soon as I saw it on Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off! I had no idea how amazingly crafty some celebs are in the kitchen...especially when that celebrity is Coolio!! (double exclamation). I guess I just think of them as being busy with other things and having personal chefs do a majority of their cooking. I definitely would not have pegged Coolio as the cooking type, but as he has dubbed himself, he truly is the 'Ghetto Gourmet', and was a final competitor against Lou Diamond Phillips , a.k.a LDP, in the Season 1 finale.

Coolio got a lot of flack during the program from esteemed chefs Guy Fieri, Rachel Ray, Alex Guarnaschelli (newest Iron Chef - Congrats), Scott Conant, and Marcus Samuelson. However, they all had to admit that no matter what Coolio's crazy approach and technique to the food was, it always tasted great and they were left surprised and had to admit," it worked".

This delicious looking cake recipe is passed down from Coolio's grandmother who used to make this while he was growing up and taught it to him. In honoring her, he brought it to the show to share with others. It was so sweet you had to love him for doing it. Sentiment aside, the cake held its look at it and I knew, I was making that! Luckily Food Network posted it online and here it is for your enjoyment! 

I don't normally (if ever) make box cakes but I wanted to do it his way and I have to admit, I really have missed the smell a boxed cake mix can put out when the cake is in the oven. I read the instructions for the whole recipe and said " That's it"? Easiest cake recipe I have had to do in a long time. There are additions of other ingredients that truly elevate the box cake to have a more complex flavor...add in the glaze on top and you are ready for a dessert that has some bright notes with creamy textures and plenty of sweet to satisfy. Well balanced. Coolio's grandmother had good taste and seems to have passed it on. Although it was LDP, FTW, Coolio rocked it out, literally, and it was an enormous amount of fun and laughs to watch him in action. All of the celebrities were amazing and it was fun to see them in a more personal way and how they interact with each other. Very entertaining and at times, very funny. If you haven't ever watched the show, I recommend it.


1 box vanilla cake mix
1 box vanilla pudding mix
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lime

2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, buttermilk, oil, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon and lime juices. Whisk well, or beat with a hand mixer, until the batter is combined and smooth.

Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 inch nonstick baking pan, or use a regular pan coated with cooking spray. Bake until the cake is baked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven.

Combine the powdered sugar, butter, buttermilk, lemon and lime zests and lemon juice in a saucepan and whisk well to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat. Remove from the heat.

Slice the cake into even pieces and drizzle the glaze on top.


  • I used ramekins for the cake since one large cake is too much for us in this household of 2. With the smaller portions we can freeze the rest or give it to neighbors or work associates.
  • I garnished with some zest as it appears they did on the show...although this is not reflected in Food Network's instructions. As always...modify to your liking and creative ideas.
  • In addition to glazing the top, I have pooled the glaze around the bottom of the cake, as was done on the show. The amount of glaze just on top may not be enough to compliment each bite of cake but like other things, this is a personal preference.
  • If there is no thick frosting on a cake, then I need whip cream! So I whipped up a batch to further garnish and compliment this cake.
  • For more of Coolio's recipes, such as the famous Soul Rolls or Heavenly Ghetallian bread, go to: Recipes


Monday, January 7, 2013

Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Blackberry Glaze

These muffins are moist, delicious, full of nutrients, and the blackberry glaze is just gorgeous. It's a perfect bite for breakfast or even an afternoon snack.

Since making raw foods is still new to me, I sometimes anticipate doing a new recipe and this one is no exception. I wonder how each will turn out and I am always curious about the creation process as I head into it. Once again it was fast and easy. The only real work is waiting for the dehydrator to do its business which in this case was 7 hours of drying time. However, while you are waiting, the dehydrator is busily warming the muffins and blowing out the gentle warm scent of blueberries into your home, which was both welcoming and delightful to the senses.

If you like traditional muffins made with flours and sugar of some description, you may pause at the thought of a raw muffin. I challenge that this muffin is as good, if not better than, a traditional healthy muffin, and that you will not be disappointed! Especially if you have a healthy streak in you, then there is no denying that you can benefit from this as an addition or replacement to other muffins. Even the oat bran muffins at grocery stores or bakeries have flour or refined sugar added. This is an all natural way to get equally good taste without the heavier added ingredients that our bodies have to work through. And as usual, because it's not baked, all the nutrients are still viable and ready to do their good work for you.


1 2/3 cups almond meal
1 cup golden flax meal ( about 3/4 cup whole seeds ground into powder)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract, or the seeds from one vanilla bean
1 tablespoon liquid coconut oil
1/3 cup cup filtered water, as needed
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1/2 cup cashews, ground into a fine powder
2 tablespoons blackberry juice ( from 1/3 cup blackberries pushed through a wire sieve)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1 tablespoon filtered water, as needed)


To make the muffins, mix together the almond meal, flax meal, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the agave syrup, vanilla, and coconut oil and mix well. Add the water and mix to a batter like consistency. Gently fold in the blueberries ( I did this by hand).

Place your choice of small or large cupcake liners into a muffin pan and spoon dough into each. I suggest gently pressing the dough into the shape of the liner. This is not traditional baking where the dough cooks up and out. It will not take shape unless you make it. Fill cups to your personal liking. Place the pan into the dehydrator and dehydrate for 4 - 7 hours, until the batter is dry to your desired consistency.

To make the glaze, combine the cashew powder, blackberry juice, lemon juice, agave syrup, and water, in a personal blender and blend until smooth.

To serve, frost each muffin with the glaze.

These will keep for several days refrigerated. Can be frozen for several weeks and thawed. Warm muffins in the dehydrator at 104 (optional) for an hour or two before serving.


  •  I added chopped walnuts to this recipe for a textural element. I like my breakfast muffins to have soft and crunchy elements in them, and I personally love nuts anyway. You can modify this recipe in all kinds of different ways and still keep it raw.
  •  I did not puree my glaze enough, you really want a smooth silky glaze. The cashews take a little extra time to blend through. Don't hesitate to add more blackberry juice than what is recommended. I did so after the fact and it was more delicious and the color amazing.
  • Author Ani Phyo recommended a yield of 6 muffins/cupcakes for this recipe which would have been too big in my opinion (large liners). For the amount of flax in these muffins, I don't think you would want more unless your digestive system is really used to it. I used the standard size cupcake liners and filled them to the top and they were perfect. One of these satisfied my sugar craving and I felt full for hours.
  • This muffin is rich is Omega 3 and 6, antioxidants, and vitamins.

 Recipe: Ani's Raw Food Desserts, by Ani Phyo


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Dream Smoothie

Happy New Year 2013! 

So - how many of you are back on a regimented eating plan? I know we are in this house. I generally plan to overindulge at the holidays and know full well that I will pack on a few extra pounds and I don't get on myself about it. It's not great but I also don't regret it. This is why my blog has been silent all the month of December... I was so busy baking and eating that I didn't even get time to post my delicious recipes of cookies and cakes! I love food and all of life will constantly be a plan of moderation and swinging scales, so a couple months out of the year is not going to be detrimental to me personally.  Having said that, January 1st we launched with full dedication back into our low glycemic food plan.

This smoothie recipe has been our daily morning breakfast for almost a year. Yes, we like it that much that we still look forward to it. Coming from the book " The Metabolism Boosting Diet" by Dr. Joey Shulman, the plan is based on foods that do not spike blood glucose, take time for the body to absorb, which in turn provides longer satiety, reducing the feelings of hunger which can lead to mindless snacking to satisfy immediate cravings. She offers four different smoothies, but we have managed to stay stuck on this one.


1/2 frozen banana
1 scoop chocolate whey protein isolate powder
1 tbsp (15 ml) natural peanut butter
1 tsp (5 ml) cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Handful of crushed ice


Blend all ingredients together, pour into a glass and enjoy

Per Serving

296 calories, 12.5g total fat, 27g carbohydrates, 22g protein, 4.5g fivre, 13g sugar

Crystal's Notes

  • We use EAS Whey. After tasting several different powders, this was our personal preference for taste.
    • We accidentally ordered the Vanilla powder last time but with the added cocoa powder, it's hardly noticeable.
    • I also recommend Healthy Planet whey protein powders. This is a line from Fabio (you know, long flowing blonde hair). A lot of care and commitment goes into using high quality products that are beneficial to the body.
    • Remember that with these powders, sometimes you get what you pay for. You can gain a great source of vitamins and supplements from these as a bonus and with high quality ingredients can come a higher price tag, but remember that your health is worth it.
  •  We buy bunches of bananas in advance and peel, split them in half, baggie them, and stick them in freezer. Since this is a daily plan for us it makes the AM process go faster when we can grab and go.
  • We have used "all natural PB" from Whole Foods where you can churn it up yourself. I don't find it as tasteful as the other all natural peanut butters that are pre-made in a jar that you have to mix up with the oil. This will be a personal preference, just watch the sugar count.
  • Calories will not be exact. Not all powders will be the same, banana size will vary, and PB may have slight difference. However, it should be pretty close.
  • We add a tablespoon per serving of ground flaxseed.

~ Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous  2013 ~