Lemony Almond Macaroons

Lemony Almond MacaroonsAdmittedly, these are not Manischewitz macaroons, but I think you’ll forgive me. That, and those that don’t like the store bought kind, may in fact like these type instead! This recipe will make 30-35 macaroons and can be used as a base for other flavours. Just leave out the lemon and add cocoa for chocolate almond ones! The possibilities for the creative cook are endless!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups shredded coconut flakes
1 ½ cups blanched skinless almond slivers
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg whites
Pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. In this recipe, you can use either grated fresh coconut or dried coconut flakes. If using dried coconut, rehydrate it by pouring it into a bowl and covering it with warm water. Let the coconut soak for 5 minutes, then drain. Squeeze all the excess liquid out firmly with your fingers. Proceed with recipe. If using fresh coconut, no need to prep it– simply proceed with recipe.

Place almond slivers and coconut in a food processor, pulse into fine crumbs. Add the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, almond extract, vanilla, egg and salt to the food processor. Process for about 1 minute until the mixture becomes a sticky mixture of fine crumbles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Place rounded tablespoonfuls of the coconut mixture onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced, forming the mounds into haystack-like shapes.

Place the macaroons in the oven and let them bake for 30-40 minutes, till the tops of the haystacks turn golden brown. Remove the macaroons from the oven and allow to cool directly on the baking sheet. Do not try to remove them before they’ll cool; when hot, they are delicate and prone to crumbling. They become firmer as they cool.

When cooled completely, gently pull them from the baking sheet. The bottoms should be golden brown. Store macaroons in a sealed, airtight plastic container. When fresh from the oven, the macaroons will be crisp on the outside, soft inside. They become softer over time when stored in a sealed container.

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Delicious Gluten-Free Pancakes

pancakesThese pancakes will fool anyone into thinking they’re eating gluten full, not gluten free! This recipe will make 10 nice sized pancakes.

Ingredients:

1 cup rice flour
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
⅓ cup potato starch
4 tablespoons dry buttermilk powder*
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 eggs
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups water

Optional Flavour Additives:
½ cup frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 apple, grated
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

In a bowl, mix or sift together the rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, dry buttermilk powder, sugar substitute, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Stir in eggs, water, and oil until well blended and few lumps remain.

Heat a large, well-oiled skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Spoon batter onto skillet and cook until bubbles begin to form. Flip, and continue cooking until golden brown on bottom. Serve immediately with condiments of your choice.

* If you can’t find dry buttermilk powder, you can substitute by replacing both the powder and the water in this recipe with 2 tablespoons vinegar, and enough milk (cow, soy, almond, etc.) to equal 2 cups.

The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies

Chanuka Sugar CookiesThis is the perfect combination of a recipe AND a fun activity for the kids (or just those that act like kids). Prepare the dough ahead of time and keep covered in plastic wrap in the fridge. When company comes over, before the meal, set up a decorating station and have everyone cut out their own cookies and decorate as they please. Have bowls of sprinkles, chocolate chips and tubes of ready-bought icing for them to use. Just remember, the icing goes on AFTER the baking, not before 🙂

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups butter (or margarine), softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you prefer the slice and bake method, form into 2 thick logs and wrap completely in plastic wrap. If you are eventually going to roll out your dough, it’s easier to form them into 2 thick disks, and then again, wrap completely in plastic wrap. Chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If you are rolling out the dough, do so on a floured surface, rolling to about  ¼ to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. If you are slicing the cookies from a log, simply cut with a sharp knife (you may want to wet it between slices) and cut slices about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

Chai-Spiced Shortbread Cookies

Chai ShortbreadAlthough the flavors here are rich and complex, the recipe is very easy to make. This recipe makes about 45 cookies.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds*
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Leaves from 1 English Breakfast tea bag
1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a large bowl with a mixer until smooth. In another bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cardamom, and tea. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or if you don’t have parchment paper, lightly grease the pans. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball and space them about 1 inch apart on sheets, and then flatten slightly with a floured bottom of a glass. Bake until cookies are light golden on the undersides, about 15 to 18 minutes, switching pan positions halfway through baking. Once you have removed the cookies from the oven, transfer them to racks to cool.

*Grind in a clean coffee grinder or in a mortar. For tips on cleaning your coffee grinder, click here.

Due Finali Dolci

TiramisuTiramisu

This dish, again seems to be a bit labour intensive, but again, worth it! The best advice I have for you is to make it at least a day in advance, if not two, so that the flavours have a chance to meld and develop. If not, you might find it somewhat bland and unbalanced. I also recommend serving it chilled.

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks
¾ cup white sugar
⅔ cup milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
½ cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature (espresso is even better)
4 tablespoons rum or alcohol of choice
2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, don’t stop, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour. Remove from the fridge and whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth, you may wish to use an electric beater for this if you have one, it will make the job easier and give you a silky texture. In a separate medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum. Take each lady finger and dip it into the coffee mixture. Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7×11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set, but preferably overnight or even a day or two.

BiscottiItalian Biscotti

This recipe is for a basic almond cookie, but the flavour options are endless. You can replace the extracts with ones of your choosing, such as anise, orange or lemon. You can add, remove or change the nuts used, or use chocolate chips or poppy seeds instead. Add citrus zest or dried cranberries! You are truly only limited by your imagination.

Original recipe makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

12 ounces butter/margarine
1 ¾ cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 ounces chopped almonds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, and then add eggs one at a time, beating until fluffy. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and then incorporate them into the egg mixture along with the chopped almonds. Stir the dough with a spoon until it begins to come together. I find it easier, once the basic dough has formed, to then dump it out onto a clean floured surface and knead by hand at this point. Divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll each piece into a log about 15 inches long (or as long as your baking sheets are). Place logs onto cookie sheets, two to a sheet, the long way. Flatten the logs out until they are about 3 inches wide with a slight hump going down the middle. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove them from the oven. The loaves should be firm to the touch. Transfer the logs to a rack to cool slightly, and then using a serrated blade, cut the loaves into diagonal slices ½ inch wide. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Stand the slices upright on the baking sheet and bake for another 40 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Galactoboureko (Custard Fyllo Pie)

Galactoboureko

For those of you who haven’t tried this dessert yet, you do NOT know what you’re missing! It’s one of those desserts that doesn’t over-stuff you, and is really nice after a dairy meal. For those of you that have tried it… well, you know what I’m talking about 🙂 If you’re wondering about the ingredient “cream of wheat”, you can use packages of unflavoured cream of wheat instant cereal or it is also sold as farina.

Ingredients:

4 cups milk
1 cup cream of wheat
5 tablespoons sugar
5 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup clarified unsalted butter
1 pound fyllo pastry

Syrup:

2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 lemon slices
3 cups water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the custard, put the milk, cream of wheat and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Beat egg yolks lightly and slowly fold them into the milk mixture. Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the clarified butter and mix well. With a pastry brush, grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with some of the clarified butter. Place a sheet of fyllo dough on the bottom of the pan and brush with the butter. Continue layering half the fyllo sheets in this manner, brushing each sheet with some of the butter. Pour in the custard filling and cover with the rest of the fyllo sheets, following the same brushing of butter. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. In the meantime, to make the syrup, put sugar, cinnamon, lemon slices and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, uncovered, until syrup begins thickening. Remove lemon slices and cinnamon and let syrup cool. When the hot pie comes out of the oven, pour cooled syrup slowly over the top. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Cassarole
*This dish calls for the use of dairy ingredients such as butter, milk and buttermilk. If you wish to have this dish be non-dairy or parve, you can substitute margarine and a non-dairy milk product, such as soy milk or almond milk, instead. For non-dairy buttermilk, please see the instructions at the end of the recipe.

Original recipe makes 1 -2 ½ quart dish

Ingredients:

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 large eggs
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup buttermilk*
⅓ cup milk*
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground allspice
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Pistachio crust:
½ cup chopped roasted, salted pistachios (or other preferred nut)
½ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with butter or margarine. Place sweet potato cubes into a large pot, cover with water, and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until a knife is easily inserted into a sweet potato cube, about 10 minutes. Drain well. Return to the pot and mash 2 tablespoons butter or margarine into sweet potatoes. Whisk eggs, maple syrup, buttermilk*, milk*, vanilla extract, cayenne pepper, allspice, and ½ teaspoon salt together in a large bowl until smooth. Gradually mash sweet potatoes into egg mixture, starting with 2 tablespoons of sweet potato mixture, until all sweet potatoes are incorporated. Transfer sweet potatoes into prepared baking dish. Mix nuts, brown sugar, flour, and ¼ cup melted butter or margarine together until completely mixed. Crumble topping evenly over top of sweet potatoes. Use the back of a fork to gently press nut mixture down onto sweet potatoes. Bake in the preheated oven until topping is browned and casserole is set, 25 to 30 minutes. If desired, place under oven’s broiler for 5 minutes to give topping a little more brown colour. Let rest to cool slightly before serving, about 10 minutes.

Non-Dairy “Buttermilk”

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon lemon juice, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Enough dairy-free milk to add to the ½ tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar) to equal ½ cup total liquid

Directions:

Combine ingredients; whisk. Set aside 5 minutes. Milk will thicken and may separate, depending on the type of dairy-free milk you use. (This is fine, don’t worry!) Stir and use as you would use buttermilk in recipes. You may double the recipe for 1 cup of dairy-free buttermilk, if needed.

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

For this recipe, it is important that the wet ingredients are mixed really well before adding the dry. Once the dry are in, you don’t want to over beat it, but it needs to be fully incorporated and lump free. Take your time. It’s worth it! For added decadence, you can make the glaze, though note that it is dairy, and therefore would make the whole cake dairy once poured on top.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups apples – peeled, cored and diced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one 9″ x 13″ cake pan. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the oil and eggs with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour salt, baking soda, and ground cinnamon. Slowly add this dry mixture to the egg mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Fold in the apples by hand using a wooden spoon or spatula. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Once cake is cool serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or with the Caramel Glaze below.

Caramel Glaze

Ingredients:

½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

In a medium sized sauce pan, add the butter, sugar and cream. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and then let bubble for about 3 minutes. Stir gently, but frequently to avoid the mixture from scalding. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Let the glaze cool just slightly before pouring over the warm cake.

Creamy Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Ingredients:

3 ¾ cups milk
½ cup Arborio rice
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

In a medium size pot, add all of the ingredients, save the vanilla, and bring to a boil. Once the mixture has reached temperature, reduce to low and cover the pot. Stir the mixture every few minutes, so that the rice does not burn. Once the rice is tender and the mixture is thick, about 15-20 minutes, remove from the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or cool, as is or with a sprinkling of cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Stress Relief Needed?

Stressed

So did you know that stressed spelled backwards is desserts? Ergo, to solve stress, one must eat dessert! I’m sure my logic is faulty somewhere in there, but right now, I’m thinking of the warm, creamy rice pudding that I have as today’s recipe. It is filled with great fall flavours, like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and cardamom. These warm flavours actually do physically warm you up! Here are some of the health benefits that the spices in today’s recipe promote:

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is a member of the Lauraceae (Laurel) Family. It helps dry dampness in the body and warms people that are always cold and suffering from poor circulation. Cinnamon is antiseptic and an excellent digestive tonic. Chewing cinnamon flavoured gum or just smelling the sweet spice has been found to improve brain activity. Cinnamon enhances cognitive processing and was found to improve test subjects scores related to attention, memory and visual-motor speed when working at a computer.

Nutmeg (Myristica Fragrans) is a member of the Myristicaceae Family. During ancient times, Roman and Greek civilizations used nutmeg as a type of brain tonic. This is because nutmeg can effectively stimulate your brain. As a result, it can help eliminate fatigue and stress. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, nutmeg may also be a good remedy. Nutmeg can also improve your concentration so you can become more efficient and focused at work or at school.

Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) is a member of the  Orchidaceae (Orchid) Family. Vanilla is rich in antioxidants which prevent and reverse skin damage caused by free radicals. It helps to slow down signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. Certain neurological studies have proved that vanilla extract can have a positive effect on those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), a member of the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) Family, is an expectorant, thus helping to open the respiratory passages. Cardamom oils can be added to baths as a form of aromatherapy that fights depression and reduces stress. Ground Cardamom seeds can be made into a tea for similar benefits.

So there you have it, straight from the doctors, you NEED to eat rice pudding! It’s for your health!