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Gluten Free Hazelnut Meringue Ganache cookies

I’ve been playing with this meringue for the last month now and I just keep making it. I originally found it as part of a cake recipe that I made and was struck by how good the meringue was all by itself. Frankly, the cake was a bit of a pain in the butt to make and I did it twice. The cookies are much easier and can be eaten alone, or with a decadent ganache filling! Bonus, this is a low sugar recipe and each cookie sandwich is only 200 cals. Win, win and win!

The only drawback to these is that they are time consuming, so plan accordingly. Better to make them the day before you want them and on a day when you won’t need your oven. The meringue will sit in there for 3 hours, but they will not need any attention other than turning the oven off once. Still worth it!

Ingredients:

Meringue:
1 Cup Hazelnuts, roasted (I bought them raw and roasted them myself the day I made this.)
1 Tablespoon coconut flour
1/3 Cup Truvia baking blend (or 1 Cup regular sugar)
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt if using unsalted nuts

Ganache:
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate chopped
1/3 Cup Truvia baking blend (or 2/3 to 1 Cup regular sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 oz Frangelico (I used one little sample bottle, like you get in hotel mini bars)

Parchment paper, jar cover, marker and a 2 greased cookie sheets


Undress your nuts (take the dark brown papery cover off of them) and put them in a food processor. Process until it looks like corn meal.


Add to it 1/2 of the sugar, the coconut flour and salt. Pulse once or twice just to get it all mixed up.


On the parchment paper, draw circles with the market and a jar top. My jar top was just over 2.5 inches across and I got 24 meringue wafers, which is what I based my calorie count on. You can make them as big or as little as you want really, but the larger ones are more fragile. Basically, you want a generous inch of uncooked meringue thickness or the cookies will just fall apart on you. Put this sheet INK DOWN on the greased cookie sheet. You want there to be enough butter on the sheet to hold the parchment paper down. I had to use two cookie sheets.


Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Now whip the snot out the egg whites! Okay, maybe just whip them to soft peaks, then add the other half of the sugar and THEN whip the snot out of them! Once they get firm peaks, fold in the nut mixture, until fully incorporated.


Preheat the oven to 250. Spread the meringue on the cookie sheet in the little circles. Try to keep the thickness about even through the whole cookie and between the cookies. These do not spread out like regular cookies, so if you want even cookies at the end, they need to be even in the beginning. Put these in the oven, preferably on the same rack, and bake for 90 minutes. At the end of 90min, turn the oven off and leave them in there for another 90min. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR THIS 3 HOURS! Apparently, the world will end if you do, so just don’t. It is written.


After three hours, take them out and let them cool for 20-30 min before you mess with them. Now to the ganache!


Chop up the chocolate and put in a mixing bowl. In a small sauce pan, combine heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Slowly heat to a boil, stirring to keep from scalding the cream. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate, stir with a spatula and let sit for 10 min. Using the paddle, mix the chocolate until smooth, then either let it sit until it cools, or put it, paddle and all, in the fridge for 10-15min to cool. Pull it out and mix on medium or so until it starts to thicken. Lower the speed and slowly add the 2oz/small bottle of Frangelico. Otherwise, you will wear the Frangelico. (Yes, I’ve done that before, but it was years ago. Mostly.)


While the ganache is chilling or mixing (it has a better social life than I do), pour your meringue a drink! Peel the cookies off the parchment paper and brush the bottoms with more Frangelico or chocolate liquor. I used creme de cacao because I only had the little bottle of Frangelico and it went in the ganache. YUM! This adds moisture and flavor. While awesome, the meringue cookies can be a little dry, so this helps.

Don’t let the ganache get too thick or you’ll break the cookies trying to spead it. If it is too thick, just put the bottom of the bowl in warm water to melt it back down again. I try for the consistency of greek yogurt. It will thicken as it sits, but should smooth out if you just mix it for a few seconds again. Put a dollop on a cookie, spead, and add another cookie. You should have too much ganache unless you go nuts with it, so don’t be stingy, but the chocolate is powerful. Try a blob of this stuff in a cup of coffee when you’re done cooking. Mocha delight!


Voila! Cookies sandwiches! I put these in the fridge overnight to get them set, then took them out the next day to warm.

 

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Clean your Coffee Maker!

Today was coffee maker cleaning day. Yes, that means what it says, I spent time fully cleaning my coffee maker to with in an inch of its poor life. Why you ask? Because coffee residue will build up and the coffee you make will progressively taste more and more bitter if you don’t. I’m not a fan of bitter coffee, I like it rich and smooth, so I take time to clean the machine. In fact, I have quite a little ritual to make sure my coffe stays tasting as good as that first cup I made when the maker was new.

My daily routine: Before I make my first cup of the day, I rinse the carafe and the top then rinse out the basket the filters rest in. I never leave the maker on but turn it off as soon as the water is done going through. Leaving it on will just cook the coffee and make it taste terrible unless you are at a coffee house and the stuff is turned over very quickly.

Weekly: I wash the carafe and filter basket with detergent and water. I wipe down the burner, inside, outside, the spot where the basket rests and run a full pot of hot water through, just for a hot rinse.

Once every month or two: This is a little more involved, which would seem a little annoying to most people, but we don’t have a dishwasher. I AM the dishwasher so I just do this while washing a sink load, so it doesn’t take much more effort and the results are worth it. I wash the carafe and basket, then fill the reservoir with hot water and just a touch of detergent. I run that through the system for a few moments, to clean that part, then use a toothbrush and scrub out the reservoir. Rinse. I ad a little vinegar to a cup of water and run that through. This helps to clean out any soap, stains, left over odd flavors and such. Vinegar is a wonderful thing. Rinse again and then run two full pots of clean water through the whole thing. Voila, a perfectly clean coffee maker! Yes, it seems like a long process, but the few times I’ve done this solo, while not washing dishes, it only took about 10 min or so.

“But I have a Keurig!” You say triumphantly. That doesn’t mean the machine can’t get guncked up by old coffee, it just means there’s less to clean. Anything that coffee goes through or sits in should be cleaned regularly, so that spot you put the little cup in needs a good cleaning as much as any other coffee machine.

If you use a french press, the same applies. Clean that bad boy regular like. And for the tea drinkers, you should do this too, but you have less to clean. I have a wonderful steeping screen and I wash that in detergent once a month as well. It has the exact same problem as coffee, oils from the leaves will build up on the screen/tea ball and make the tea taste more and more bitter. If you have a dishwasher, just toss it in there once in awhile and you should be fine.

Happy drinking!

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Food, On a Personal Note

 

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Cashew Noodle Salad

If you have never tried this dish, then you are not living life to its fullest. My mother and I discovered this dish years ago at a health food store in Memphis TN. It was part of a fondly remembered Saturday morning trip we took every few weeks. We’d get up early and go to a bakery that made chocolate cherry bread, a bread so popular they’d sell out in an hour or two of opening and only made for the weekend. And it was an old style peasant bread, heavy, dark cocoa colored and thick, with warm chunks of bitter sweet chocolate and dried cherries. served warm with butter, it was sheer ambrosia for the chocolate dependent. Yes, duplicating that recipe is on my list, never fear.

After that we’d hit the health food store, pick up some sushi if they had some fresh made and a quarter pound of cashew noodle salad. Served cold, it was rich and creamy with bits of chopped cashews, buckwheat somen noodles and hot pepper. It’s best when it’s just hot enough to make you tear up. I can’t eat it that hot anymore, because my lips now puff up like I’ve been stung by a bee, but if you like hot food, try it hot. If not, it’s still wonderful without the heat.

3.5 teaspoons peanut oil
4 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons plus 1.5 teaspoons tamari soy sauce (If you are sensitive to salt, then use light soy sauce, it works fine)
3 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cashew butter
1/2 buckwheat somen cooked, rinsed in cold water
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3.5 Tablespoons unsalted cashews chopped
1/4 cup green onions or chives.
fresh ground pepper to taste
*I have made some modifications to this recipe for various reasons which I’ll explain with the pictures. I would also like to note that this recipe does not list salt. That’s because there is plenty in the soy sauce, and you can always add salt, but you can never take it away if you add too much.

Cashew Noodle Salad 01 photo Cashewsalad01_zps56d44b31.jpg

In a small saucepan combine oils, soy sauce and cashew butter.

Warm on low heat and stir until it all melts together. It might look like gritty, but that’s fine, that happens with mine because my cashew butter isn’t as finely smoothed as peanut butter is.

Set the pan aside and chop the nuts, or you can do what I do and just smash them up in a ziplock bag with the butt of a knife.

Add the somen noodles, chopped nuts, pepper flakes (I only use 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of the pepper) and onions to the cashew paste in the pan. Mix until well combined and the noodles are well coated.

If you want a lower calorie option or if you are going for gluten free, grain free or any other variant on that theme, then try kelp noodles. I found them at my local health food store and while they are a bit stiff and odd fresh out of the package, a night in the cashew mixture fixed that right up and they were delightfully tasty. Using them reduced the calories per 1/4 batch from 440 to 255, so that was quite a win. While I do love buckwheat somen, this recipe doesn’t suffer from the loss because you don’t really taste the somen, you taste the cashews.

Put the whole thing in the fridge and let it sit over night. You can try some fresh, but it’s a let down and really needs that time to let the flavors meld and it’s better cold by far.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Food, Just to be Random, On a Personal Note

 

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2 eggs and Bacon!

Ah, the first day of being able to eat fats again was a glorious day indeed. I looked forward to it like a child…okay like I look forward to Christmas. I dreamed of the foods I would be able to eat, I thoughts about them every waking hour of that last week and in fine fashion, I made things before I could even eat them, just to be ready you understand. One of those things was pimento cheese. Now I lived in the south for a number of years, but I never had pimento cheese. It wasn’t made in my house, because we’re from New England and such things are not made in the homes of the cold north. But while trolling YouTube for tasty things to fantasize about eating I came upon this video about a chicken fried hamburger of all things. And while the burger itself looks really good, I fell in love with cheesy goo he put on the burger. So I set forth and made it!

Now, when I first make a new recipe, I follow the directions and don’t adjust anything, I write notes about things to change when I’m done. So this is the recipe in the video, thought there are things I will change about it, but I’ll cover those at the end. Here’s the recipe I used.

Pimento Cheese (Original)

16 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 Cup Mayonnaise
7oz jar Pimento red bell peppers chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
dash of cayenne paper
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
fresh ground black pepper
dash sea salt

Pimento Cheese 01
I put the cheese in a bowl, added the parsley that was already chopped from the night before and then chopped things.

Pimento Cheese 02
These things are pretty slippery so cutting them was a bit of a pain. Next time I’m using a food processor on them!

Pimento Cheese 03
Everything’s chopped, measured and added. While I do prefer to use my own mayonnaise, I find that Safflower mayo is incredibly tasty and a good alternative to the crap made with the horrible-for-you canola oil that every other mayo on the planet is made with. It also has no sugar in it, which is key for me right now. And why is there sugar in mayo anyway?

Pimento Cheese 04
This looks really nice just like this, but I found it to be a little runnier than I would like, so I strained some of the mayo out and saved it for later.  And traditionally you whip it up in the food processor, which I ended up doing to make some pimento cheese sandwiches for entertaining friends. I was a little jealous since they got to try it before I could even eat it, but it was a big hit. One of the guys is gluten intolerant so I served it up to him as a dip with corn chips and he found that to be an excellent solution. He also said it was better than the stuff he used to get as a kid, and while I’d like to take credit for that, I can’t. I’m pretty sure the cilantro and parsley are the key to this recipe.  And the mayo.  Seriously, if you haven’t tried safflower mayo, you should.  Just saying.

Pimento Cheese 05
And finally I get to eat it! I put it on my eggs and it was very good, though a little too salty for my taste, and that’s saying something on this diet. I’ve never been one to eat what most people would consider a normal amount of salt. Most things made for me by someone else, such as in restaurants, tends to be too salty. On this diet, I was craving salt like it was illegal. And this was too salty, so in future I would not add salt. And I would cut the mayo by half. This lowers the salt further, but also gives the mixture a firmer texture that would make using it as a sandwich filling a great deal easier and cuts some unnecessary calories as a bonus. And I do like it enough to add it to my recipe box.

 

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Raw Milk > Vitamin C

I started drinking raw milk late last year, some time between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It took a tiny bit of getting used to, it costs more and I can’t get it at my regular grocery store.

But it is worth it! Since I’ve been drinking it, I feel so much better. I drink more milk, get hungry less often and I haven’t had a full cold or flu all winter. It’s better at cold prevention than vitamin C. Normally I get sick at least twice for a good week because of my husbands job. He spends his days in an office which is bad enough, but he also teaches other engineers how to use engineering software a week or two most months. Those other engineers come in sick all the time, being very generous with their wonderful diseases. So he brings it home, and we get to content with the little viruses for a few days. We can feel it coming on a day or two after exposure, a vague feeling of unwellness, fatigue, a slight fever. We have this for a day or three and then we’re good. No runny nose, coughing, sneezing, aching, stuffy headed misery for a week. Now, I’ve had to have days like that four or five times this year, but it beats the hell out of being sick for four or five weeks this year.

I’ve always been pretty healthy, but there was a notable change in our health this year when every year before that I would get sick at least once, but usually twice. And the Hubby usually gets sick far worse, loosing days of work to this nonsense. Part of it is recognizing it early and taking precautions, such as taking a day off to sit at home eating, sleeping and watching movies, so our bodies can fight it off. That helps a lot. better one or two days down, than a week or more of misery. We also let the low fevers rage without medicating. The body is trying to kill the virus and they do that by cooking them out, let the fever go!

But even with all that, this year has been clearly far more disease free. How does raw milk help you ask? Part of it is that raw milk has live bacteria and enzyme that take up residence in the digestive track and help out there, making you far more resistant to other nasties. Those new tenants also break down the milk far more efficiently so your body can actually use whats in the milk. The other part is that raw milk is very high in Vitamin D, which we are low on in the winter months. Pasteurized milk kills the good microbes and homogenization changes the molecular structure of the milk, making it far harder for the body to absorb the good stuff in it.

And the benefits of milk fat are enormous. It helps cut down on the amount of fat you store in your belly, mine is noticeably flatter now, it’s a good fat that the body can use for energy, skin and hair moisture and it has a lot of the vitamin D the body needs and calcium.

Pasteurizing made sense when we didn’t have refrigeration and bad stuff got in the milk, but it’s become the way to go, even though it isn’t really necessary anymore. If anything, it allows the dairies to be less clean because they are just going to cook the milk anyway. The farm my milk comes from is clean, has only grass fed cows that are the older genetic lines, and their milk is amazing. Pasteurized milk just tastes gross to me now.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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I hate Arugula

I really do. The bitter taste makes my mouth form that universal expression of revulsion with every chew of the foul weed. Not only is it bitter, but it has this overwhelming muddy water flavor that sticks to my teeth. Reprehensible. And just my luck, it’s the new sea salt. Ah, the wonderfully wacky world of fad foods. It seems I’m having a harder and harder time finding a salad mix that doesn’t have arugula, or it’s equally hated, though not quite as foul cousin, radicchio mixed in for good measure.

Yes, I know. If I want bitter, muddy water free salads, I should buy the lettuce and make my own mix. Touche, but for only two people, it’s pretty wasteful. We’d have to eat salad with our breakfast cereal to use it all up. So I like the mixed bags and I like to go organic when possible. Thank you arugula, for making that impossible.

And on the topic of food fads, sea salt in my chocolates! Stop doing that, please. You have ruined caramels with your salt invasion. I can’t get a decent, salt free chocolate from the artisan chocolatiers anymore. They have all been body snatched by aliens with a need for constant salt intake. Why I ask you does the fad food take over the whole food line?

So I wait for the fads to blow over so I can have a fresh salad and superb caramel. May I not wait in vain.

 
 

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Why the meat hate?

I was looking through the flyer for my local health food store, from which I purchase my raw milk cheese, and I was struck by how much stuff in there was touted as meatless. Not a problem really, I have nothing against people who choose not to eat meat. Totally your choice. What I don’t understand is the idea that meat is somehow unhealthy. Where did this idea come from?

Are all meats good to eat constantly? Well no, like all things, food needs to be eaten with great variety. Plants are in the same boat, there are plenty that you don’t want to eat in great quantities. Strawberries come to mind as they can give a lot of people the serious runs.

What really bothers me about this whole Vegetarian movement is the militant faction, who are set on taking meat away from the rest of us. Why? I would understand the humanitarian angle if animals were more humane in their killing habits that we are. And I’m not talking about the huge farming system America has, which is obviously a problem, thanks to government corn subsidies. Corn has changed normal ranching and farming into a hideous monster of disease and mistreatment. I myself purchase beef from a local who raises them on grass and only a small amount of grain. I don’t buy big beef. Chicken is trickier to find, but I get what I can, and I buy wild caught fish.

Have you watched a nature show? Lions aren’t exactly humane when they take down a gazelle. They go for the neck most times, but they don’t always kill cleanly. I have seen more than one big cat snap the spine of an animal, then start chewing on the back half while the front half is trying desperately to crawl away. So why is it okay for them to eat other animals? Because it’s natural?

Okay, let’s look at that a moment. Big cats are carnivores. They need meat to live. You can’t raise a healthy cat on veggies. We aren’t carnivores. We aren’t herbivore either. We can’t spend the day making grass into steak. We aren’t bunnies or deer or cows. We’re omnivores. If you want to talk about evolution, then we are evolved to eat both meat and veggies. Our whole system is designed to run on both. A diet of all one or the other can cause health issues. You can’t be a body builder, or even grow a lot of muscle on veggies alone. And there are a whole host of issues associated with not eating enough plants.

So why this slant toward no meat? Why is an all veggie diet considered the epitome of health? I have no problem with those who choose that lifestyle. I have a problem with the desire of some vegetarians to ban meat from all others. Those who are just plain obnoxious about people eating meat. The ones who have a fit if you eat meat around them, or constantly tell you how bad it is, and such. Why? I don’t demand you eat meat. I don’t spend a whole dinner extolling the vise of eating veggies. I don’t think you should be forced to eat meat by law. Can we just allow for some tolerance of other lifestyles? Be vegetarian if you like it, if it makes you feel good. Great! Everyone is different. Choice is the soul of freedom. Leave it at that.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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