Monday, December 29, 2014

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Many years ago, even before Camden was born, I baked the most delicious cookies, from Ina's chocolate chip cookies recipe. She suggested baking two ways: flat and chewy cookies or bars. I baked the cookies and... oh wow... they were so buttery. For the first time, I declared that the chocolate chip cookies baked from real ingredients were better than store bought.

Since I figured out that Brek still has dairy intolerance, I changed Ina's chocolate chip recipe with dairy free substitute, coconut oil. But the cookies fell apart because the cookie texture was just too soft. It's been years that I've tested many chocolate chip cookies recipes to achieve that same buttery and chewy textures. But no luck... until now.

I bought a dessert cookbook called The Perfect Finish because I just luv the photographs of the sweets. Plus, each recipe is full of the real ingredients. I found the flat and chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe and the photograph of them. You could say that I had ants in my pants and just couldn't wait to test the recipe. The verdict? Let's just say that when I asked my kids if they wanted cookies for their afternoon snack, Brek said no. When I showed them the cookies, Camden said, "Ouuu that looks good." Brek agreed, "That does look good." And they gobbled them all up. Mission accomplished!!!

The original recipe asks for chopped walnuts, but I used chopped pecans. So I'm thinking any nut substitute should work. Probably even omit the nuts if you have nut allergy or just don't want them at all. I add the nuts for extra crunch and proteins. Plus, my kids luv pecans. I also omitted the granulated sugar because the cookies would be too sweet. I was right. The light brown sugar was plenty sweet.

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies
adapted from The Perfect Finish's flat and chewy chocolate chip cookies
makes 18 cookies

1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (5.4 oz.) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz.) palm shortening
1 cup (4 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips (mix and match semi sweet to bitter sweet)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
  1. Place a nonstick mat or parchment paper on the baking tray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla extract, sugar, and palm shortening. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, chocolate chips, and pecans.
  4. Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Using a fork, mix both mixtures together until the cookie dough is formed.
  6. Using a small scooper, scoop the dough into a prepared pan.
  7. Freeze the cookie until firm, about an hour.
  8. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F degree.
  9. Place the cookie dough about 1 to 2 inch apart. NOTE: Remember that these cookies will spread out as they are baked.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven for 8 minutes.
  11. Using a spatula or a fork, flatten the cookies.
  12. Bake until crispy, about 3-5 minutes more.
  13. Allow the cookies to cool in the baking pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a wiring rack to cool completely. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Keep the cookies in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days. The cookie dough freeze well, up to 6 months.

Allergy Info: These flat and chewy chocolate chip pecan cookies are free from dairy, corn, legumes (soy), and fish.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gingerbread Cookies (dairy-free)

While browsing through the aisle at Home Goods, I came across the Holiday cookie plunger cutter set that was... ready for this???... 70% off!!! So I had to have it. Then I had to find a way to use these cute cookie cutters. Since Camden's been asking for fresh baked cookies lately, I found the opportunity to put these cookie cutters to good use.

Last year, my modified gingerbread cookie recipe was loaded with butter. I never knew how to make shaped cookies without butter. But with months of baking without butter and with a little tweak, I came up with the dairy free version of the same gingerbread cookie recipe. Solution? Just replace butter with palm shortening. Yup that easy. While I was testing this recipe, I couldn't find ground clove in my pantry. Probably ran out and never replaced it. So I omitted it. Honestly, I couldn't tell that it was missing.

Since I use the cookie plunger cutters, each cookie has pattern imprinted on it. So there is no need for frosting. Cute and edible.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so be prepared to enjoy them, give them as gifts, or just freeze them up for future cravings. I actually baked fresh gingerbread cookies for my kids' breakfast several mornings. They had it with hot cocoa and homemade vanilla marshmallows. Cookies and hot cocoa with marshmallows for breakfast. I know. I spoil my kids rotten. (devilish smile)

Gingerbread Cookies (dairy-free)
makes a lot of cookies, depending on the size

1 egg, cold
1/4 cup (3 oz.) molasses
3/4 cup (5.3 oz.) sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz.) palm shortening
1 teaspoon ginger

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 (10 oz.) all-purpose flour, extra for dusting
Holiday cookie (plunger) cutters
  1. Place the egg, molasses, sugar, and shortening in a large bowl.
  2. Using a hand mixer, beat all of the ingredients until creamy.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and flour.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture.
  5. Whisk again with a hand mixer until the flour is no longer visible.
  6. Place the batter onto the nonstick matt.
  7. Knead until the dough ball is formed.
  8. Roll the dough out to a half inch thick. TIP: Dust the dough with extra flour so it is not sticky and easy to rotate. 
  9. Place a nonstick matt or parchment on the baking pan. Set aside.
  10. Place the all-purpose flour in a bowl. Dip the cookie cutters into the flour to ensure the dough won't stick onto the cookie cutters.
  11. Cut the cookie dough using different cookie cutters.
  12. Place the shaped cookie dough on to the prepared baking pan.
  13. Repeat the steps with the remaining dough. TIP: Cut out all of the cookie dough and keep them frozen for up to 3 months. Bake as directed.
  14. Freeze the dough for at least 30 minutes.
  15. When ready to bake, preheat the oven at 325°F degree.
  16. Line the baking pan with nonstick matt or a parchment paper.
  17. Place the shaped cookie dough on the prepared baking pan, making sure that they are an inch apart.
  18. Bake the cookies 10 minutes for small shaped cookie dough and 12 minutes for larger ones. NOTE: Keep in mind that if the cookies don't hold the shape well when baked, freeze the next batch longer before baking.
  19. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them rest on the baking pan for 10 minutes. Then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool complete. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Keep these gingerbread cookies in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.

Allergy Info: This gingerbread cookie recipe is free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not palm), and fish.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Chocolate Truffles (dairy-free)

Two years ago, I made chocolate truffles that had heavy cream and butter. They were easy to make and were very tasty. A few days ago, Brek wanted to eat chocolate truffles. Hmm... never really thought about making dairy free chocolate truffles, but okay... putting on a mad scientist's hat.

I used the same dairy chocolate truffles recipe but substitute the dairy with non dairy ingredients: coconut cream and shortening. You know what, I can't remember what the dairy ones tasted like. But these non dairy truffles were pretty darn creamy. Luv it!!!

I made these truffles just enough for my kids. Feel free to double or triple the recipe. Brek luvs his chocolate truffles plain. Camden likes a little crunch from the sprinkles. Feel free to roll them into cocoa powder, sprinkle them with chopped nuts or colorful sprinkles, or drizzle them with melted chocolate. Feeling adventurous... insert the chocolate truffles with wooden party forks and have yourself some chocolate truffle pops. How fun is that!!!

Chocolate Truffles (dairy-free)
adapted from William Sonoma’s Chocolate Truffles
makes 7

1/4 cup (2 oz.) coconut cream
2.5 oz. chocolate chips (dairy-free)
1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz.) palm shortening
  1. Add the coconut cream into a pot.
  2. Bring the cream to a soft boil (bubbles on the side).
  3. Turn off the heat.
  4. Stir in the chocolate and shortening.
  5. Whisk until the mixture develops a smooth texture.
  6. Transfer the ganache mixture to a bowl, cover, and place in a refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes.
  7. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking mat or parchment paper.
  8. Scoop generous tablespoonful of the chilled ganache.
  9. Roll it into a ball and place it on a prepared baking sheet. TIP: At this time, roll them into cocoa powder, sprinkle them with chopped nuts or colorful sprinkles, or drizzle them with melted chocolate.
  10. Refrigerate them for 10 minutes.
  11. Place the chocolate truffles into the mini cupcake liners or insert them with the wooden party forks. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Keep the chocolate truffles in the air tight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Allergy Info: These dairy-free chocolate truffles are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts (not palm), or fish.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Snowflake and Snowman... cookies and marshmallows

As I started writing this blog post about wintery sweets, there was a blizzard in the east coast. Snow, snow, and more snow. Everywhere. People were snowbound.

At first I felt a little envy. Living in south of Texas for so long, I kinda miss snow.

Every winter, I tried but failed to convince my husband to embark on a family winter trip. You know, just drive or fly into a city where there'd be lotsa snow.

I don't want to ski. I just want to sit indoor, looking out the window and enjoying the sight of white snow while sipping my hot coffee. I mean, if my family is outside building snowman, then I'd watch them do that... indoor. Well, I might put on a winter coat and join them. Seriously, I just want to see wintery white snow.

So the blizzard in the east coast was during the second week of November. The cold blasted its way south of Texas too. No snow... just very cold... well, 30's degree is a blizzard in Texas. My family and I luv the cold. My poor aunts came for a visit that week, and we ended up having a colder temperature here than in New York. (I convinced them that the weather here was warm and didn't get cold until after Thanksgiving. But I forgot to mention that I never trusted Texas weather.)

With snow in the news and with the cold breeze in the air, I was inspired to bake something sweeter. I baked my aunts all kinds of cookies, pastries, pies, cake, and bread. Brek told my aunts, "Mommy's baking is hard to resist." They agreed, and I could tell that they enjoyed the sweets.

After my aunts went back to New York, I felt a little bit lazy but still wanted to bake something wintery. So I tested the William Sonoma's Russian tea cake recipe. I kept this recipe in mind for a long while now and never got to test it until now. I made them into snowflakes. Very easy and very tasty.

About a few weeks later, I received the William Sonoma's Holiday catalogue. In it was a bag of snowflake marshmallows. If I can make a living making things out of marshmallow, I'd be rich. Got inspired and made my own, using my vanilla marshmallow recipe. My kids luv my homemade marshmallows so much that Brek even told Camden, "It's homemade so you can eat as much as you want." Well... not really... but ok.

Snowflakes Marshmallows
makes about 12, depending on the size

1 vanilla marshmallow recipe
a lot of powdered sugar
variety of snowflake cookie cutters
  1. Make the vanilla marshmallow as directed in the recipe.
  2. Spread the freshly whipped marshmallow on 6 by 8 pan for thick marshmallows or 8 square pan for thinner marshmallows.
  3. Once ready, cut the marshmallow using variety of snowflake cookie cutters. TIP: Cut the marshmallow into a small circle then dot it with melted chocolate to make snowman.
  4. Sprinkle the snowflake marshmallows with powdered sugar to prevent sticky. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Keep the snowflake or snowman marshmallows in an air tight container for up to a week.

Snow Flakes Cookies
adapted from William Sonoma's Russian Tea Cakes
makes 12-14

1/2 cup (2.5 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup (2 oz.) palm shortening
1/4 cup (1.5 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 (1.4 oz.) ground blanched almonds
1/4 cup (1 oz.) powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
snowflake plunger cookie cutter
  1. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix it with your fingers until combine. NOTE: The cookie dough will be sticky. Use a fork if needed.
  3. Knead the dough in the bowl. Set aside.
  4. Sprinkle some flour onto the snowflake plunger cookie cutter. TIP: Use other Holidays plunger cookie cutters such as gingerbread boy or Christmas tree.
  5. Press the dough into the cookie cutter.
  6. Place the cookie cutter onto a prepared baking sheet and press out the snowflake cookie dough.
  7. Using a soft bristle pastry brush, dust off the flour on top of the snowflake dough.
  8. Repeat until all of the snowflakes cookie dough are formed. TIP: Remember to dust the cookie cutter with flour. If the dough is stuck onto the pattern of the plunger cutter, use a toothpick to clean it.
  9. Place the cookie dough in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  10. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325F degree.
  11. Bake the snowflake cookies in a preheated oven until golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  12. Let cool in a baking sheet until the cookies are a room temperature.
  13. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar and enjoy.
STORING: Keep these snowflake cookies in an air tight container for up to 3 days. The snowflake cookie dough freeze well for up to 3 months. Bake as directed without defrosting.

Allergy Info: The snowflake and snowman marshmallows are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, or fish. If you are allergic to eggs, use the maple syrup marshmallow recipe.

The snowflake cookies are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), or fish.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sweet Pecan Delights

For me, the main issue with the sweet recipes is to adapt them into dairy and legume free. These recipes are mainly used butter, heavy cream, or milk. Since I have to omit all of the cow's products from Brek's diet and legume ingredients from Camden's diet, I find that modifying sweet recipes can be a challenge. I can no longer bake with cheese cake.

I accidentally found Sweet Julia cooking show while I was flipping through channels. Her recipes were pretty easy to work with to make them dairy free. Her Graham Cracker Toffee looked delicious. I thought I might be able to make them using my own dairy free caramel recipe.

I tested it out and holy cow!!! They tasted gooey, sweet, and nutty. My kids luv pecans, so they asked for more. I asked Brek to name the bars, and he said, "how about Sweet Pecan Delights?" And that's how these bars got their name.

Sweet Pecans Delight
inspired from Sweet Julia's Graham Cracker Toffee
made small 12 bars

8 graham crackers
1/3 cup (3 oz.) coconut cream
3 Tablespoons (1.6 oz.) water
1 Tablespoon (2 oz.) maple syrup
1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (3.75 oz.) raw pecans, roughly chopped
Cooking spray
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree.
  2. Line a 8 by 6 baking pan with a parchment paper. Spray the pan with a cooking oil.
  3. Place the graham crackers to fit the base, making sure that they double up to the same thickness. Set it aside.
  4. Place coconut cream, water, maple syrup, guar, and salt in a heavy-bottomed pot.
  5. Heat the mixture in a medium low heat.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and heat until the candy thermometer reads soft cracks (240F degree).
  7. Add the chopped pecans and whisk quickly.
  8. Slowly pour the pecan caramel over the graham crackers.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  10. Let cool in the wiring rack until cool to touch.
  11. Turn the sweet pecan delights onto the cutting board and cut them into small squares.
STORING: These sweet pecan delights keep well in an air tight container at a room temperature for up a week.

Allergy Info: These sweet pecan delights are free from or can be make without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), or fish.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Orange Cranberry Sauce

Every year, my husband reminds me that Thanksgiving turkey is not tasty if it doesn't have cranberry sauce on the side. Of course, back when, he only bought the canned cranberry sauce. It came out of a can, looking rather suspicious to me. I never ate it and definitely never will.

I found the apple orange cranberry sauce from Martha Stewart's magazine which featured all things Thanksgiving feasts. It has been my go-to cranberry sauce every Thanksgiving ever since I tested the recipe... which was... hmm... many moons ago. Boy, I'm getting old. Can't remember too far back.

Anyway, the sauce tasted like cranberries with a hint of oranges. The apples helped with thickening. I made a few short cuts to her recipe. Quick and super easy. So you will definitely have more time "happy feasting!!!"

Apple Orange Cranberry Sauce
adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine
makes 4 cups

1/2 cup (4 oz) orange juice, freshly squeezed or bottled
1 granny smith apple, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cup (12 oz) cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/4 cup (9 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Place all of the ingredients into a heavy bottom pot.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Then simmer until the cranberries pop, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Let the sauce cool in the pot until thickening. Enjoy it warm or at a room temperature!!!
STORING: Keep the apple orange cranberry sauce in an air tight container in a fridge for up to a week. Freeze it for up to 3 months.

Allergy Info: This apple orange cranberry sauce is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, nuts, wheat, legumes (soy), or fish.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Autumn Rice Puff Treats

Rice puff treats or rice crispy treats are super duper easy to make. Of course, the rice crispy treats recipes are mostly made with prepackaged marshmallows.

With this rice puff treats recipe, I use nut butter and rice syrup. No preservatives or additives. Now I can tell my kids to eat as much as they want. These treats travel quite well too. Bonus!!!

I wanted to try an Autumn flavor with cinnamon and dried cranberries. Using my go-to rice puff treats recipe, I added the ground cinnamon and dried cranberries. Just with these two ingredients, they added a big flavor and reminded me to Autumn.

Autumn Rice Puff Treats
makes 12 bars

1/2 cup (5.5 oz.) rice syrup
1/4 cup (2.3 oz.) nut butter
4 cups (4 oz.) rice puff or rice crispy (cereal)
1/4 cup (2 oz.) dried cranberries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Line a 6 by 8 rectangular baking pan with parchment paper. Spray with cooking oil. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan, heat the rice syrup and nut butter in a medium low heat until bubbly.
  3. While the nut butter syrup is heating up, mix together the rice puff, dried cranberries, and cinnamon.
  4. Add the rice puff mixture to the bubbling nut butter syrup.
  5. Mix until well combine.
  6. Transfer the Autumn rice puff treats to the prepared pan, spreading out with a spatula.
  7. Let the treats sit in a room temperature until set, about an hour.
  8. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 12 equal bars or desired shapes. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Keep these Autumn rice puff treats in a container in the fridge for up to 7 days. Bring the treats to a room temperature for at least 15 minutes to soften the texture.

Allergy Info: These Autumn rice puff treats are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, legumes (soy), and fish. For nut free, use sunflower butter.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Chicken Broth

Seriously, the only chicken broth I knew of was from the prepackaged carton. I didn't know how I was living without store bought chicken broth. Until... you guess it... Camden's allergy free diet. I couldn't eat anything without making it myself. Chicken broth quickly went on my to-cook list because I couldn't live without a piping hot noodle soup (Pho).

At first I wasn't sure how to go about making the chicken broth. After searching online, I realize that chicken broth was pretty much chicken bones simmer in boiling water for hours. I didn't have time to slave in the kitchen. With baby Camden to care for and homeschooling Brek, I didn't want to spend another minute in the kitchen if I didn't have to.

So I came up with a plan and put my BFF (a.k.a. my slow cooker) to work. It was a perfect solution to not having to slave in the kitchen. No need to check it. Just let my BFF did all the work. Turned it on in the morning, and chicken broth was ready by dinnertime.

The chicken broth freezes well too. I'd make them in advance, let it cool down overnight in the fridge, skim out the fats, then freeze it up. I even freeze it in ice cube tray to add it to my sauces.

I usually buy chicken thighs with bones and skins. The meat is use for another meals while the bones and skins are for the chicken broth. My BFF is a 5 quart slow cooker. This is my version of chicken broth. Feel free to add other flavors like onions and/or garlic. My kids and I prefer the broth simple with a hint of celery.

Chicken Broth
makes about 4-5 quarts

6 - 8 chicken thighs bones, fats, and skins
2-3 celery stalks
2-3 carrots
1-2 Tablespoons sea salt
1-2 teaspoons ground black peppers

optional add-in: 1 small onion, 3 garlic cloves, a handful of cilantros, 1-inch peeled ginger, or star anise (great Pho flavor)
  1. Place all of the ingredients, except water, in a 5 quarts slow cooker.
  2. Add water, leaving about an inch from the rim.
  3. Turn the slow cooker to a High setting.
  4. Let it runs until the broth is bubbling, about 4-6 hours.
  5. When ready, discard the chicken bones, fats, skins, and veggies.
  6. The chicken broth is now ready for used or strain the broth into several containers. Let the broth cool down before putting it in the fridge. The next day, skim off the fats that are floated on the top.
STORING: This chicken broth keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days. Transfer the broth to several freezable plastic bags or in ice cube trays. It keeps frozen for up to 3 months.

Allergy Info: This chicken broth is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, or fish.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cream Filled Chocolate Cookies

After Camden outgrew his food intolerance two years ago, I decided that I wanted to continue the clean eating. But I did allow prepackaged sweets in my pantry because I just didn't know how make some of them.

When I found Newman's Own cream filled chocolate cookies, I was super happy. They were dairy free, perfect for Brek's school lunch. But these cookies do have soy lecithin and corn starch. I had to put them away during Camden's recent food elimination diet.

Of course, Camden had to ask for these cookies. Just like everything else, I accepted the challenge and told him that I'd bake him some cream filled cookies.

At first, I found King Arthur Flour's Faux-Reos recipe in their cookbook. Then I found William Sonoma's chocolate star cookies on their website. Since I could use my dairy free chocolate frosting as the filling, I just needed a cookie dough recipe. I had good luck with William Sonoma's recipes, so I went ahead and tested their chocolate star cookie recipe.

As it turned out, my kids preferred the cookies without the fillings. The dough was super easy to make. Freeze well too. Well, I need to freeze the shaped cookie dough before baking them anyway. Because the palm shortening or coconut oil is in the dough, the frozen cookie dough keeps their shapes well when baked.

This cookie dough recipe makes a lot of cookies. I divided the dough in half. Use half of the dough and freeze the rest of the dough. I highly recommend that the cookie dough are precut into fun shapes before freezing them. When ready, just bake the cookies as directed, without thawing the dough. Always good to have a make-ahead something sweeter.

My kids luv helping me with the cookie shapes. Let's face it. Cookie cutters are F-U-N.

Cream Filled Cookies
adapted from William Sonoma's chocolate star cookies
makes a lot of cookies, depending on the size... freeze some precut unbaked cookies for future baking

1 large egg
8 Tablespoons (4 oz) palm shortening
1 cup (7.4 oz)  light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup (7.3 oz) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1.5 oz) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

chocolate frosting for creamy filling
  1. Place a parchment paper or nonstick mat on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, palm shortening, sugar, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, shift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
  4. Using the hand mixer, mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Place the dough onto the nonstick mat and knead until the dough is shiny. NOTE: Sprinkle flour a little bit at the time to prevent sticking, but don't add too much flour that the dough becomes dry.
  6. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Cut the dough into desired shapes. TIP: To decorate the cookies, use a toothpick to draw a pattern or press a small cookie cutter half way into the shaped dough. Try sprinkle raw sugar on top of the cookies before freezing them.
  8. Using a thin spatula to transfer the dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Freeze the cookie dough for 30 minutes. NOTE: The longer the freezing time, the better.
  10. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
  11. Bake the cookies until crisp, about 8 minutes.
  12. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes. Then transfer the cookies onto the wiring rack to cool completely.
  13. If using, place the chocolate frosting on one cookie then sandwich it with another cookie. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Keep the cookies in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to a week. Precut unbaked cookies freeze well for up to 3 months.

Allergy Info: These chocolate cream filled cookies are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legume (soy), nuts, and fish.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Caramel Popcorn

I really missed caramel popcorn while I was on Camden's allergy free diet. After he outgrew the allergy, I went straight to the grocery store to get a bag. But I couldn't bring myself to buy a bag... well because they were made with questionable ingredients.

By now, you probably read or heard about GMO in our food sources. I've been careful to stay on a clean diet even though my kids only have to avoid legumes and dairy. Just like everything else that I have a craving for, I decided to make my own caramel popcorn.

I found a recipe where the popcorn kernels are popped on stove top with a few tablespoon of sugar. But they didn't remind me of the caramel popcorn I used to have when I visited the local pumpkin patches. Search for THE caramel popcorn recipe continued on until last Fall.
I found a few caramel popcorn. Pop the popcorn kernels then drizzle them with homemade or store bought caramel. My brain was at work. Hey, I already knew how to make the dairy free caramel from scratch. Hmmm... what if... YEEEEAH!!!
That is how I came up with this caramel popcorn recipe, using my dairy free caramel recipe. Seriously addictive. Ask all of my friends who ate them before and they can vouch for it. Quick and easy snack to make. Be sure to use organic popcorn kernels. Most of the time, I add sliced almonds. Substitute the nuts with cranberries for the Autumn flavor. Make a lot to feed a big hungry crowd.
Caramel Popcorn
serves 4

1/2 cup (4 oz) organic popcorn kernels
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or safflower oil

1/4 cup (2 oz) maple syrup
3 Tablespoon (1.5 oz) water
3/4 cup (3 oz) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup (1.8 oz) slice almonds and/or cranberries
  1. Line a baking pan with a nonstick mat. Spray a large bowl with a cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a big pot or a pan with a lid, add the oil and three popcorn kernels.
  3. Once a kernel pops, add the rest of the kernels.
  4. Pop the kernels until you no longer hear a popping sound.
  5. Pour the popcorn on to the prepare baking pan.
  6. Place only the popped popcorn in the prepared large bowl. Discard the unpopped kernels.
  7. Add in the sliced almonds or cranberries. Set aside.
  8. Preheat the oven to 250F degree.
  9. In a heavy bottom pot, whisk together the maple syrup, water, sugar, and salt.
  10. Bring the mixture to a boil until the candy thermometer reads 230F degree.
  11. Slowly pour the caramel over the popcorn.
  12. With large spatula, coat the popcorn with the caramel.
  13. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  14. Break the caramel popcorn into bit size pieces. Enjoy!!!
STORING: The caramel popcorn keep well in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: The caramel popcorn are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts (if not using), or fish.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Salted Caramel Sticky Buns

From time to time, I would test recipes just because there's too much dough or batter to bake just one something savory or sweet. That's exactly how I came up with the salted caramel sticky buns. After I made my kids some steamed bao, I decided to use half of the bao dough to bake sweet breakfast.

I baked sticky buns many times. A few times I made them with almonds, but my kids didn't like them that much. They ate a few buns but not like "mommy, can you make more?" Recently, my kids fell in luv with the raw pecans. I saw a chance to test the sticky buns again, but this time... with pecans.

Super duper happy that they luv my salted caramel sticky buns now. Here's the thing though. Camden preferred the caramel pecans, and Brek wanted the sticky buns. You know how that went, right? Sharing!!! Luv it!!!

If you want to double the salted caramel sticky buns recipe, the whole recipe of bao dough is needed. Be sure to double the cinnamon sugar mixture and chopped pecans. The salted caramel recipe doesn't need to be doubled and should be enough for the 18-20 buns. But feel free to double the salted caramel recipe because more gooey caramel is better than less of it.

sticky buns made with chopped almonds
Salted Caramel Sticky Buns
makes 9 buns

1/2 recipe (10 oz) bao dough 

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

salted caramel:
1/4 cup (2 oz) maple syrup
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) water
3/4 cup (3 oz) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt

cooking spray
1 cups roughly chopped raw pecans, divided
  1. Prepare the bao dough as directed. NOTE: You will need only half of the bao dough recipe unless you want to double the recipe.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Spray an 8 inch square baking pan with a cooking spray. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, whisk all of the salted caramel ingredients.
  5. Heat the caramel until the candy thermometer reaches soft thread stage (230F degree).
  6. Pour the caramel on to the prepared pan.
  7. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of chopped pecans over the caramel. Set aside.
  8. With a rolling pin, roll the bao dough until it's 16 by 9 inch rectangle.
  9. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar all over the dough surface.
  10. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of chopped pecans over the cinnamon sugar.
  11. Starting with the longest side of the dough, roll the dough into a log.
  12. Using a knife, cut the dough into 9 equal parts.
  13. Place each dough on the caramel, spiral side up.
  14. Let the dough rest until they double their size, about an hour. NOTE: Each dough will almost touch each other. In a hurry, let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the buns will taste lighter if they are rested more.
  15. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 350F degree.
  16. Bake the dough in a preheated oven until golden brown and the caramel is bubbling, about 20 minutes.
  17. Remove the salted caramel sticky buns from the oven.
  18. Carefully turn them out onto a wiring rack right away.
  19. Spoon more salted caramel on top of each bun.
  20. Enjoy them warm or at a room temperature.
STORING: The salted caramel sticky buns taste best on the day they are baked. Keep them in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.

Allergy Info: These salted caramel sticky buns are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), and fish. To make them nut free, replace the nuts with dried fruits or just omit the nuts all together. If you can have nuts, you can substitute any nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, for pecans.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Salted Caramel and Lollipops (dairy free)

At first, candy making was pretty intimidating. After reading up on how to make lollipops and caramel, I came to one conclusion. Candy making is nothing but heating up sugar to a certain temperature.

Just like baking bread, I researched many recipes, loading up on tips and tricks. Last year, I tested out some recipes, substituting heavy cream with coconut cream. Let me tell ya. When the caramel turned out creamy and chewy, I could hear myself laugh like the mad scientist. 

I luv how these caramels turned out... chewy but not sticky. Feel free to double or triple the recipe. Perfect for the Holiday's gift giving.

Salted Caramel (dairy free)
makes a lot, but who's counting

1/3 cup (3 oz.) coconut cream
3 Tablespoons (1.6 oz.) water
1 Tablespoon (2 oz.) maple syrup
1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Cooking spray
  1. Line an 8 by 6 pan with a parchment paper. Spray it with a cooking oil and set aside.
  2. Whisk all of the ingredients in a heavy bottom pot.
  3. Place it over the stove and heat the mixture over medium low heat.
  4. Boil until the candy thermometer reads 240F degrees (soft crack), about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour it on to the prepared pan.
  6. Leave it sit at a room temperature until cool enough to touch, about 30 minutes.
  7. Cut them into desired shaped.
  8. Wrap them in parchment papers. (Now you can do the mad scientist laugh because you just make the perfect gooey, chewy caramel.)
TIPS: Be sure to spray the lollipop mold with cooking oil. Once the caramel is ready and pour into prepared pan, leave a little bit of the caramel in the pot, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Bring the caramel to 300F degree (hard crack stage). Pour the caramel into a lollipop mold. And there you have it... dairy-free caramel lollipops. Makes up to 6 lollipops.

STORING: Keep the caramel individually wrapped with parchment paper in a fridge for a week. Bring them to a room temperature for at least 10 minutes to softening them up. Or just eat them like caramel a little bit hard candy.

Allergy Info: These salted caramels are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, nuts (not coconut), wheat, legumes (soy), and fish.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Maple Bacon Cupcakes

Since I watched several cooking shows featuring the bacon cupcakes, I was itchy to bake some for my kids. They luv bacons. They luv cupcakes. So why not, right?

The first and only time I tried to bake the bacon cupcakes, they didn't turn out well. The cupcakes were moist, but they didn't have that bacon flavor. I tugged away the need to bake these cupcakes for awhile, thinking that one of these days I'd attempt to bake them again.

I woke up one morning and asked my kids what they wanted for breakfast. No idea. I've been saving bacon fats and have the urge to try baking bacon cupcakes again. So I asked them if they wanted to try bacon cupcakes for breakfast. Really, mommy? You had to ask.

A few changes I made: use maple syrup and bacon fats. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed while the cupcakes were baking. Man, my heart was beating so fast. Remember, these cupcakes were for my kids' breakfast. I was nervous because I hated to test out a recipe with no backup plan. If these cupcakes didn't turn out, they'd have to eat the leftovers.

Maple bacon cupcakes turned out... VERY flavorful. A hint of maple syrup was in the cupcake. So fluffy and moist. The bacon fats really helped bring out the smoky flavor. The maple frosting was creamy and perfect with the crunchy maple bacons. I served these maple bacon cupcakes with scrambled eggs. See... who said you can't have cupcakes for breakfast? And no leftovers for breakfast. Whew!!!

Maple Bacon Cupcakes
makes 6-7 regular size cupcakes

1 large egg
1/4 cup (2 oz) maple syrup
1/4 cup (1/7 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) bacon fats
1/3 cup (3 oz) coconut cream
1 cup (4 oz) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Maple Frosting
1 marshmallow fluff recipe
1/4 cup (2 oz) palm shortening

1/2 cup cooked bacon bits
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Line the cupcake pan with a foil cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, maple syrup, sugar, and bacon fats. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, shift together the flour and baking powder.
  4. Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until combine.
  5. Using a large scooper, divide the batter evenly to the prepared cupcake pan.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until the toothpick comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.
  7. While the cupcakes are baking, make the marshmallow fluff as directed.
  8. Whisk the palm shortening into the marshmallow fluff for about 30 seconds.
  9. Keep it in the fridge to cool down.
  10. Add the bacon bits into pot that you cooked maple syrup (from the marshmallow frosting). Coat well then place them on the non stick mat to cool down.
  11. Once the cupcakes are baked, let them cool down before frosting. TIP: Place the cupcakes in the fridge for 5-10 minutes for faster cooling.
  12. Place the maple syrup frosting in a piping bag then pipe it on to each cupcake.
  13. Sprinkle the bacon bits on top of the maple frosting. Enjoy!!!
STORING: The maple bacon cupcakes can be kept in a container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring them to a room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving to soften the frosting. The bacon fats keep well in an air tight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Allergy Info: These maple bacon cupcakes are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not palm), and fish.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Crispy Tortilla Wraps

This recipe came to me after watching Dinner, Dine, and Drive featuring crispy Asian wrap. The wrap looked seriously crunchy and oh so mouth watering.

Got me wondering... how easy it was to duplicate this meal with my own flour tortilla recipe and my own fillings. OK, I have to say it, "Super duper easy!!!"

Basically, I used my flour tortilla recipe for the crispy tortillas. Instead of cooking it on a dry griddle, I pan fried the tortilla. The fillings were very versatile. I was thinking of a brunch, so I was aiming for some breakfast fillings. My kids luv scramble eggs with candied bacons. Sometimes I added candied salmon or leftover proteins like chicken nuggets.

These crispy tortilla wraps have been my kids' favorite brunch. Great for dinner too with pulled pork filling. I even packed them in Brek's school lunchbox. Feel free to make a lot to feed a big crowd.

Crispy Tortilla Wraps
makes 6

1/2 flour tortilla recipe
a lot of safflower oil
Fillings: scramble eggs, candy bacons, smoke or candy salmon, ham, or shredded cheese
  1. Make half of the flour tortilla dough.
  2. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes while preparing the fillings, like scrambled eggs.
  3. Preheat the oven to 225F degree.
  4. Place a wiring rack over a baking pan then place both of them in the oven.
  5. When ready to make the crispy tortilla, heat a 10 inch frying pan to a medium low heat.
  6. Add a good amount of oil to the pan.
  7. Take about a golf ball size dough.
  8. Roll it out into a thin round tortilla.
  9. When the oil is hot, place the tortilla in the frying pan.
  10. Pan fry the tortilla until crispy and lightly brown, about 45-60 seconds per side.
  11. Place the crispy tortilla on a plate and add the fillings.
  12. Fold the crispy tortilla in half then place it in the preheated oven to keep warm.
  13. Make the rest of the crispy tortilla. Serve warm.
TIP: There is no need to make a new batch of tortilla dough. Add the filling to the cooked tortilla. Fold the tortilla like a wrap. Pan fry until golden brown, about 60-90 seconds per side.

Allergy Info: These crispy tortillas are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. Choose the filling according to your allergy free diet.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Crepes (dairy free)

Crepe is basically a very thin pancake. I tried making them twice many moons ago but failed miserably. When I saw a video instruction from the Weelicious blog, I was inspired to give it another try.

Making the batter was very simple. Because the crepe batter was thin, I didn't have to worry about over mixing it. The challenge was cooking the crepes. I used a small frying pan, about 8 inches wide. There is such a thing as a crepe pan, but I want to work with what I have. So any nonstick frying pan should do the trick.

Catherine from Weelicious instructed to add about 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan. I read many recipes that indicated to cook the same amount of batter. But that didn't work for me. I added about 1/8 to 1/4 cup per crepe. It is the right amount to spread the batter around the pan. Instead of tilting the pan to spread the crepe batter, I used a mini spatula to spread the batter. It worked best this way for me. Whatever method used, be sure the batter spreads out thinly.

Crepes are best cooked and cooled before adding the filling. Perfect for a make-ahead-meal. I've made and kept them in the fridge for something sweeter as well. For savory, the fillings are usually scramble eggs with candied bacons. Banana with melted chocolate filling is healthy and chocolaty for something sweeter.

Crepes (dairy free)
adapted from Weelicious' crepes
makes 10

2 large eggs
3/4 cup (6 oz) coconut milk
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
2 Tablespoon (1 oz) safflower oil
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (4 oz) all purpose flour
safflower oil for cooking
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, water, and oil.
  2. Mix in the sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Set aside.
  3. Place the 8-10 inch frying pan on the stove at a medium low heat.
  4. Coat the pan with 1 teaspoon of oil.
  5. Add 1/8 to 1/4 cup of crepe batter to the pan and quickly spread the batter with a mini spatula.
  6. Cook the crepe for about 1 minute.
  7. Flip it over with a spatula and cook it for another 30 seconds.
  8. Place it on the wiring rack to cool completely.
  9. Make the rest of the crepes. Enjoy them with your favorite fillings.
STORING: Keep these crepes in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, place the crepe on a warm frying pan (with no oil) for 30-60 seconds per side. No need to reheat the crepes for sweet fillings... unless you prefer warm crepes.

Allergy Info: These crepes are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut), and fish. Add the sweet or savory fillings according to your allergy free diet.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Yeast Waffles

I made yeast waffles many moons ago, just to test the recipe. Because it is a yeast batter, it needs time to rise, up to an hour or overnight. Most of the time I don't plan the breakfast or brunch menu ahead of time. For that reason, I rarely make these yeast waffles.

On a lazy morning, I was watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay. The episode was battling Belgium waffles called Leigi waffles. The secret ingredient to make these Leigi waffles are the yeast and the pearl sugars. After watching the waffle battle, I was inspired to make the yeast waffles for dinner. My kids luv the idea of an upside down dinner anyway.

The yeast waffle recipe was adapted from William Sonoma's raise waffles. I added a lot more sugar for sweeter taste. To make these waffles dairy free, I used coconut milk and palm shortening. Keep in mind that the Belgium waffles are made using Belgium waffle maker, with the deeper grooves. I've used my regular rounded waffle maker which worked well. When I make regular batter waffle, the setting of my waffle maker was at the highest setting, number 5. For these yeast waffles, I set the waffle maker at a medium setting, number 3, for perfect golden brown. Do a test run on your waffle maker and see what heat setting is best.

For our upside down dinner that night, I made scrambled eggs, candied bacons, salmon nuggets (from leftover baked salmon), and hash browns. I also blended together frozen strawberries, frozen sheep's milk yogurt, rice milk, and agave for a strawberries smoothie. Enjoy the warm and crunchy waffles with maple syrup.

These yeast waffles are excellent bread alternative. The wheels are turning in my brain... Brek's school lunch!!!

Yeast Waffles
adapted from William Sonoma's raised waffles
makes 8 - 10 round waffles

1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water (105° to 115°F)
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup (4 oz) coconut palm sugar
1 cup (8 oz) coconut milk (105° to 115°F)
1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz) palm shortening
1 cup (4 oz) all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Place the water in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the yeast and palm sugar in the water. Set aside until the mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the milk and shortening.
  4. Add the flour and mix until the batter is thick.
  5. Set the batter aside and let the yeast relax in a warm and draft free place, about an hour. TIP: At this point, the batter can be refrigerated overnight and follow the next step on the next day.
  6. Preheat the waffle maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Since I use coconut palm sugar on this batter, the waffle will brown quickly. The setting I use for the waffle maker is at number 3 (right in the middle).
  7. While the waffle maker is preheating, whisk in the egg and baking soda to the yeast batter.
  8. Spray the waffle maker with vegetable oil.
  9. Scoop about 1/2 cup of batter on to the waffle maker.
  10. Close the waffle maker and cook it according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  11. Transfer the yeast waffle to a plate and repeat step 9 to 10.
  12. Enjoy them while they are hot with maple syrup, honey, or dust them to powder sugar. This yeast waffles are super light and are great for breakfast bread alternative. How about, scrambled eggs and shredded cheese wrap. Yummeee!!!
Allergy Info: These yeast waffles are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut or palm), and fish. If you are allergic to nuts, substitute the same amount of coconut palm sugar with brown sugar and use your preferred milk instead of coconut milk.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hash Browns

I want to devote this month to blog about breakfast recipes. My kids and I ate brunch every mid morning this summer. Super easy for me because I only had to cook one big meal for breakfast and lunch. Now that school has started, why not do something quick and easy for breakfast. Plus, breakfast for dinner is affordable and... let me say it again "EASY!!!"

The one breakfast side I luv is hash browns. How do you make hash browns? Yeah, my thought exactly. I had no idea that hash browns is one of the easy side dish to make. Before I was on Camden's allergy free diet, I would make them from frozen prepackaged hash browns which have the listed ingredients of potatoes, dextrose, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate. No ideas what those ingredients are. But really, hash browns should be nothing but... are you ready?... potatoes, oil, and salt. Yup, three ingredients.
The few techniques for making crispy hash browns are (1) make sure the shredded potatoes are dry, (2) no salt added while pan frying, and (3) lotsa oil. First, the water is the enemy to crispy hash browns. Just think of it this way. Water is for steaming foods. In order for the hash browns to have that deep dark crispy appearance, do not salt the potatoes until the hash browns are fully cooked though. The salt will just sweat the potatoes, causing the shredded potatoes to steam. The "lotsa oil" technique is making sure the potatoes are crispy.
I usually make hash browns using one big potato or two medium size ones. I use a big frying pan, about 12 inches wide. Two options for deep frying the hash browns: making them one BIG one like a pie or a few small little ones like patties. The cooking technique is the same. Be sure to buy organic potatoes as they are much cleaner tubers than the conventional ones.

Hash Browns
serves 2

1 - 2 potatoes
a lot of safflower oil
sea salt
  1. Heat the 12 inch round frying pan on a medium low heat.
  2. Add the oil to coat the pan.
  3. While the pan is heating up, peel then grate the potatoes.
  4. As soon as the oil is hot, grab a fistful of shredded potatoes and squeeze out the water.
  5. Then spread the potatoes on the frying pan.
  6. Continue with the rest of the shredded potatoes until the frying is covered with the potatoes.
  7. Using a spatula, flatten the potatoes.
  8. Drizzle more oil around the edges of the potatoes.
  9. Cook the potatoes for 4 minutes.
  10. Drizzle the oil over the potatoes.
  11. Flip the potatoes with a spatula.
  12. Cook the other side for another 4 minutes.
  13. Sprinkle the hash browns with sea salt.
  14. Remove the hash browns on to a cutting board.
  15. Cut into desired shape. TIP: For easy finger food, cut them into a bite size.
  16. Enjoy them as a side dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Graham Cracker Blondies

Blondies are the non-chocolate version of brownies. I made the blondies before, but I never liked the taste of them. Simply too plain.

I subscribed New Morning's graham crackers via Amazon for many years because they were just cheaper than buying them at a local market. When I received the last order, the expiration date on each box was within six months. Listen, I luv graham crackers, but I honestly don't expect to eat 12 boxes of graham crackers within six months. That's just nuts!!!

I visited the New Morning's website to check for recipes. Let's face it. I could come up with a lot of recipes that used graham crackers. But to use up 12 boxes, I'd need more inspirations.

I came across their graham cracker blondies recipe, and it looked rather promising and easy to modify to dairy free. So I tested the recipe and was extremely happy with it. For the Fall flavors, I add about 1/4 cup of dried cranberry into the batter. They are easy to prepare, keep well in an air tight container, and travel well. Perfect for the lunchbox too.

Graham Cracker Blondies
adapted from Alltune Food's graham cracker blondies
makes 8 two-inch bars

2 large eggs
4 Tablespoon (2 oz) coconut oil or palm shortening
3/4 cup light brown sugar
18 full sheets graham crackers (2 packs from 3 pack box)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup raw almond, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips
cooking oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Line the bottom of 8-inch square pan with a parchment paper then lightly spray the pan with cooking oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, oil or shortening, and sugar.
  3. Process the graham crackers in the food processor until finely ground. TIP: Place the graham crackers in a plastic bag and crush them until finely ground. This will be a time consuming process. Process the graham crackers ahead and freeze them for future baking. Be sure to label the freezable bag.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the graham cracker flour, baking powder, almond slices, and chocolate chips.
  5. Mix the graham cracker flour mixture to the egg mixture until just combine.
  6. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven until the tooth pick inserted comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.
  8. Cool the blondies in a pan for 5 minutes then transfer them into a cutting board. Cut them into 8 or 16 equal bars. NOTE: Feel free to cut the blondies in any size. They will serve a big crowd.  
STORING: Keep the graham cracker blondies in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days. During Fall or Winter, they can be kept at a room temperature for up to a week.

Allergy Info: These graham cracker blondies are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), and fish. To make them nut free (but not from coconut nut or palm) omit the almonds. The nuts are just for the crunch. I bet they would taste good with seeds. Hmm... I'll have to test out with pumpkin seeds and cranberries for the Fall flavor.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Indoor S'mores with Vanilla Marshmallows

One of the best things in life is finding a good bargain. I luv shopping at Half Price Books. As I mentioned in my Summer Reading blog post, I have a large collection of cookbooks that I can practically run a small library out of my home.

I enjoy making candy at home but finding a good cookbook is another story. Most of the candy making cookbooks are filled with artificial ingredients. When I found Love Foods' Marshmallows, I was super surprised to find the actual ingredients listed in most of the recipes. What makes these marshmallow recipes different is the egg white. The only marshmallow recipes I've seen are the ones that were made from corn syrup. Since I couldn't have corn way back when, I substituted it with maple syrup to make my go-to maple syrup marshmallows. Since the maple syrup is so darn expensive these days, I'm super happy to find an alternative to make marshmallows without it.

After taking it home and flipping through the book that very day, I decided to test out the basic vanilla marshmallows. I modified the recipe to make just half of the amount indicated. Because I used my own vanilla extract, I also added vanilla beans for even more vanilla aromatic. This is optional. Taste the freshly whipped marshmallow and add the vanilla extract with or without vanilla beans to taste.

Vanilla Marshmallows
adapted from Love Foods' Marshmallows
makes about 12 or more, depending on the size

1/4 cup (2 oz) hot water
2 Tablespoons (0.6 oz) gelatin
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
1 1/8 cup (7.7 oz) sugar
1 extra large egg white (1.3 oz)
vanilla bean from 1 vanilla pod
1 - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
cooking oil
powdered sugar
  1. Mix together the hot water and gelatin. Set it aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together the water and sugar.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil until the candy thermometer reaches 248F degree (firm ball stage), about 8 - 10 minutes.
  4. While the sugar mixture is boiling, whisk the egg white in a stand alone mixer until stiff peak forms.
  5. Split the vanilla bean then scrape the pods. Add the vanilla pods to the whipped egg white and whisk for another minute.
  6. Turn off the mixer and wait for the sugar gelatin mixture.
  7. Once the sugar water reaches 248F degree, turn off the heat and whisk in the gelatin.
  8. Turn the stand alone mixer on low.
  9. Slowly pour the sugar gelatin to the side of the mixture.
  10. Turn the mixer to High speed (8 or 10) and whip for 10 minutes.
  11. While the marshmallow is whipping, spray the 6 by 8 baking pan with a cooking oil. Dust it with powdered sugar. Set it aside. NOTE: I use this size pan because I want thick marshmallows. An 8-inch square or larger baking pan would make thinner marshmallows.
  12. Once ready, add the vanilla extract and whip for another minute. NOTE: Add more vanilla extract to your liking. I add one to two tablespoons of vanilla extract.
  13. Pour the freshly whipped marshmallow into a prepared pan.
  14. Wet your hand and smooth the top. 
  15. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar.
  16. Let it sit in the room temperature for about 15 minutes before cutting them into 1-inch cubes. Enjoy them or keep them in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to a week.
Indoor S'mores
After making some vanilla marshmallows, my kids and I decided to have some fun making s'mores... indoor!!! We decided to test them out by roasting them over the stovetop. They were as delicious as roasting them outdoor over a campfire. My kids actually luv plain toasted marshmallows. You can make as many indoor s'mores as your sweet tooth can handle. The instruction is same.

graham crackers (New Morning)
chocolate chips, melted
vanilla marshmallows
  1. Break a sheet of graham cracker in equal size.
  2. Turn the graham crackers over on a plate.
  3. Spread each graham cracker with melted chocolate. Set aside.
  4. Pierce the vanilla marshmallows with the camping forks.
  5. Turn the stovetop on to a low heat.
  6. Roast the vanilla marshmallows until they are dark brown color and have the burnt sugar aroma.
  7. Place the toasted marshmallows on top of melted chocolate graham crackers.
  8. Place another melted chocolate graham cracker on top of the toasted marshmallow to form a s'more. Enjoy!!!
Allergy Info: These vanilla marshmallows are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Vanilla Extract

One of the shockers when I first started Camden's allergy free diet was how the ordinary kitchen essentials, like vanilla extract, would have corn in it. If I read the ingredient listed on the prepackaged vanilla extract, I'd see vanilla and ethyl alcohol. So what's the corn? The ethyl alcohol. Yeah, I didn't know that it is actually made from corn. Thanks to my friend, Nicole, who told me what to avoid during the corn free diet phrase.

Believe it or not, vanilla extract is actually very easy to make. There are only two ingredients needed: vanilla and potato vodka. The secret to process the vanilla extract is time. It will take a few weeks for the potato vodka to seep into the vanilla beans, giving that vanilla essence. Once ready, the vanilla extract is kept in an air tight glass bottle indefinitely.

Even after Camden outgrew his food allergy, I decided to continue eating cleanly. I still make my own vanilla extract out of potato vodka and rum. For vanilla pods, they are cheaper when purchasing them online. Four years ago, I bought fifty vanilla pots from the internet for about twenty dollars. To this day, I still have half of the amount of the pods left.

Vanilla Extract
makes as much as you want

5-7 vanilla pods
potato vodka or rum
  1. Add 5-7 vanilla pods into a bottle of potato vodka or rum. NOTE: When adding the vanilla pods into the bottle, the liquid might overflow. Pour out a little bit of potato vodka or rum into a small bottle to use later. 
  2. Leave the bottle in a dry and cool pantry.
  3. Once a week or so, shake the bottle.
  4. The vanilla extract is ready when the potato vodka or rum has dark amber color.
Allergy Info: This vanilla extract is free from or can be made without dairy, egg, corn, legume (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish. Do a little research and find out which potato vodka or rum is corn free. Keep in mind that some packaging is made from corn. The vanilla pods I purchased online came in a vacuum sealed bag. Definitely ask around and call companies to check their sources and packaging to prevent allergic reactions.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Slow-Cook Pulled Pork (dry spice rub)

I've been watching cooking shows nearly every day. I luv, luv, luv Bobby Flay, Anne Burrell, and Ina Garten. Their recipes are pretty flexible to modify. After I tested so many of their recipes, I decided that they are the best chefs on Food Network.

With that said, I watched Bobby's BBQ Addiction and noticed that he didn't really measure his spices. He would said the amount but he just sprinkled the spices on to the bowl. So when it comes to dry rub, anything goes. Really!!! No jokes!!! It is just ratio on what I want to taste on my meat. I really don't like cumin. It's sort of stinky to me. When making my dry spice rub, I tend not to add too much.

So take all the spices out of your pantry and decide what do you want to make. Here's what I usually do. I have in front of me: sea salt, grounded black peppers, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, light brown sugar. Using a kitchen scale, I measure each ingredient in ratio. If I want Asian flavor, I would change it up by adding grounded star anise or ginger and omit cumin.

This is an alternative way to get away from slaving in the kitchen, especially on a hot summer day. Thinking ahead, you can make your own dry spice rub. Put them in a cute little bottle for a homemade present. The dry spice rub can be kept in an air tight container at a room temperature indefinitely.

Slow-Cook Pulled Pork (dry spice rub)
serves 8

4 to 5 pounds pork shoulder
2 parts (2 oz.) light or dark brown sugar
1 part (1 oz.) sea salt
1/2 part (0.5 oz.) of the following: grounded black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
1/4 part (0.2 oz.) of the following: cumin, paprika
  1. Place the pork shoulder on a large cutting board. Trim off the fats.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium size bowl.
  3. Generously, rub the dry spice on to the pork shoulder.
  4. Put the pork shoulder in the slow cooker's pot fats side up. 
  5. Place the pot in the refrigerator over night. NOTE: If time is limited, go ahead and plug in the slow cooker. The flavor is still there, just not as strong.
  6. In the morning, plug in the slower cooker and turn it on HIGH.
  7. Let the pork cook until dinner time, about 6 to 7 hours. NOTE: I usually turn on the slow cooker at 10am and the dinner is around 5pm.
  8. Shred the pulled pork with a fork, discard any fats. Serve and enjoy!
TIPS: There are so many ways I serve this pulled pork: pulled pork tortilla wrap, quesadilla, bao's filling, pulled pork lettuce wrap, or pulled pork sandwich. The possibilities are endless.

Any leftover can be freeze up to six months. No need to defrost them for pizza toppings.

Click here to search for my bread alternative recipes to serve with the pulled pork.

Allergy Info: This dry spice rub is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gummy Snacks

When Grandma (a.k.a. my mom) came to live with us after her (finally) retirement, she was surprised with all the things I was able to cook or bake. She asked me how I did it. I told her that it was simply a matter of researching the recipes and testing them out.

The craving also has a lot to do with my wanting to make something sweeter. Let's face it. Most of the prepackaged sweets will have at least one questionable ingredients in them. Case in point, jelly beans, lollipops, and gummy fruit snacks. So far, all of the ones I found have either citric acid, ascorbic acid, guar gum, flavoring... and so on.

When I told Camden that he had to mind what he was eating. If he craved or wanted to eat something, he had to tell me in advance. I'd research for the recipe and make him anything he wanted to eat. The first thing he asked me was "can you make gummy fish?"

I made gummy fruit snacks once, and they turned out really good. Perfect gummy texture. The fun factor with gummy fruit snacks is the molds. Finding the right molds is a must. I bought a lot of small ice cube silicon molds at Target, thinking that I could use them to make chocolate candy. But these molds were perfect for making gummy fruit snacks. Of course, Camden said he wanted some gummy fish, not gummy fruits. I came across a gummy fish mold at Amazon and had to get it. The gummy fish snacks look authentic (like the store bought). Yay!!! Mission accomplished.

I highly recommend using the silicon molds. It's easier to remove the gummy fruit snacks out of the this type of mold. And be creative with the fruit juice. I made them with watermelon juice, apple juice, grape juice, orange juice, and cantaloupe juice. But stay away from fresh pineapple juice. The gelatin won't set because of the enzyme in the fruit.

Gummy Snacks
makes a lot, depending on the size of the mold

3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (7 oz.) fruit juice
2-4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or to taste)
3 Tablespoons gelatin (Knox or Great Lakes)
  1. Place a mold of choice on top of the baking tray.
  2. Pour the juice in a microwavable bowl or cup.
  3. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in the sugar and gelatin until they dissolved.
  5. Spoon the juice into the mold.
  6. Place the mold in the refrigerator until the juice is set, about an hour.
TIPS: Instead of using a microwave, the juice can be heated up on stovetop. Then follow step 4 of this recipe.

To make gummy snacks from the actually fruit juice, such as watermelon or cantaloupe, peel and seed the fruits. Cut them into cubes. Place them in a blender and blend until liquefy. Strain the juice until the amount needed for this recipe. Add the sugar to taste.

NOTE: Most prepackaged juices are pretty sweet already. The amount of sugar that is added to make these gummy snacks is up to your taste preference.

Allergy Info: These gummy snacks are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, or fish. Finding the prepackaged juice is like finding a needle in a hay stack. The cleaned ones I've used are TreeTop apple juice (from concentrated), Martinelli's apple juice, Hill Country grape juice or apple juice (HEB store brand), Ceres juices, or Florida's Natural orange juice. When looking for prepackaged juice, the only ingredient listed should be the juice you are purchasing. No citric acid or anything funky added.