Friday, February 25, 2011

Retirement - Dust Bunnies and Cooking

One of the things about being retired is that while you are spending more time at home, you notice dust bunnies and cobwebs sooner.

Today I decided to give the kitchen appliances a thorough cleaning. I walked into the kitchen just at the right moment when the sun was shining across the stove top. I could see what appeared to be streaked grease on the display. So, I got out the degreaser spray cleaner and attempted to remove the film. It did not work at all, just seemed to smear more.

I went looking for one of those ‘green’ cleaners, thinking maybe it would work; no deal! I tried dawn liquid, which removed some of the haze. Next I added some vinegar to the water with the dawn liquid. Finally, it was clear.

What I discovered was that what appeared to be glass was just some type of clear acrylic.
The degreaser spray cleaner had always worked on mirrors and window panes, so was surprised that it wasn’t working on the stove display. The piece of clear film that is usually on a display was removed long ago.

Once I cleaned the sides, door and top of the stove and microwave, I went for the dishwasher and refrigerator/freezer. I was on a roll, cleaning until I remembered that I had not eaten breakfast.

After finishing a quick breakfast, I headed for the pantry. If you are like most of us who go shopping without a shopping list, there are things in the pantry that you will never use. Now, it was time to go thru the pantry to bag up a few items. I spied a couple cans of clam, so out they came. Then I thought, hmmm, maybe I should make clam chowder instead of putting them in the donate bag…

Well, it’s been a while since I have made clam chowder, so I decided to Google for a recipe. I looked at a few that were really loaded with fat, so I changed the search to “lite clam chowder”. There were a couple of hits, but weren’t quite what I wanted. So I decided to just pull out all of the ingredients that I remember putting in clam chowder when I made it last.

I try to keep Yukon Gold potatoes on hand, because I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Now it was over to the freezer, because I never use a full stalk of celery or whole onion. Frozen comes in handy when you need some for a dish.

As I was looking for recipes, decided to check out the activity on Facebook. And there before my eyes, was the announcement that today: February 25 is National Clam Chowder Day!

Well at least, I was planning on making clam chowder before knowing about the designated day.

Clam chowder is a dish that is often seasoned to one’s taste. My version is always New England clam chowder, just do not like the ‘red’ variety. :-)
This is how I made it…………. It has a little less fat than most clam chowders

New England clam chowder
5 cups Gold Yukon potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup chopped or thinly sliced celery
1 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp McCormick’s Savory All-purpose salt-free seasoning
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp Litehouse Freeze-Dried Salad Herb Blend
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp corn starch
2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup half and half
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt (optional)
2 6.5-ounce cans chopped clams
2 tbsp hot sauce
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Additional freshly ground pepper / sea salt to taste

• Heat a large Dutch oven with the olive oil. Add potatoes, celery, onion and seasonings. Sauté about 5 minutes until the celery and potatoes turn slightly translucent.

• Add enough water to cover (about 1 1/2 cups). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender (15 – 20 minutes).

• Combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup milk and whisk to mix. Combine with the remainder of the milk and half and half. Pour this mixture into the Dutch oven, stirring until soup is thickened (about 5 minutes). Add the hot sauce. Cover saucepan and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

•  Stir in Parmesan  and clames after the soup has finished cooking. Continue cooking at a simmer another 5 minutes. Continue to stir while cooking

Now test for seasoning

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 209 calories, 4.6g total fat, 1.3g monounsaturated fat, <1g polyunsaturated fat, 2.9g saturated fat, 23.6mg cholesterol, 441.4mg sodium, 871.5mg potassium, 31.4g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, 29.2g net carbohydrates, 0g starch, 4.1g sugar, 9.7g protein, <1mg iron.

Bottled clam sauce can also be substituted for some of the milk

I used my cast iron Dutch oven, now it's time to clean it. Wash, dry and heat to remove all moisture!

Well, tomorrow, I will have to continue cleaning……….. Next up; the kitchen cabinets and floor will get the Murphy Oil treatment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

National Chocolate Mint Day

Today is National Chocolate Mint Day.

So, that gives us an excuse for making anything chocolate with mint flavoring.

I chose to make a quick microwave brownie. We save energy by using the microwave and a small amount is made so that we don’t have a whole pan to eat.

I started experimenting with microwave baking a few months ago when ‘World's Most Dangerous Cake ’ was posted on Mixing Bowl. I converted it to gluten free as World's Most Dangerous Cake - AKA Cake for One (modified gluten free).

Actually it is easier to make a quick dessert in the microwave than using the oven. Less energy (electricity or fuel) is consumed in the two to three minutes compared to around 45 minutes to pre-heat and bake a brownie in the oven. So who’s not for saving calories and energy?

Chocolate Mint Brownies - Gluten Free, Low-sugar, Lower- Fat (Microwave)
3 T Quinoa (or GF all-purpose) flour
3 T Stevia in The Raw (granulated)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch baking soda
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/8 tsp vanilla powder, optional
2 T Ghirardelli unsweetened natural cocoa
2 T liquid egg substitute
1 dash mint oil or mint extract
2 T butter, melted
3 T skim milk or unsweetened almond milk
2 T walnuts, chopped
2 Andes Creme de Menthe Thins
1. Lightly spray a 1-qt glass dish with oil spray. Place the butter in the dish and microwave for about 30 seconds to melt, do not over-heat.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients. Add the egg, mint flavoring and cooled melted butter. Do not scrape the baking dish, as any butter left behind will be absorbed into the brownie.

3. Whisk to mix, adding in the milk and nuts. Save a few of the nuts to sprinkle over the brownie after it comes out of the oven, if desired. Spread batter into prepared dish.

4. Cook on high for 2 minutes 15 seconds using an 1100 watts microwave. Remove from oven. Using two small plates flip the brownie onto one and then turn top-side up onto the other one.

5. Glaze - Break the mints into smaller pieces. Place on top of hot brownie. Spread, when they start to melt.

If using the saved nuts, sprinkle them over the frosting.

Cut 1/4 of brownie per serving.

Servings: 4

Cooking Time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds - 1100 watt microwave oven at full power

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 126 calories, 9.9g total fat, 1.9g monounsaturated fat, 2.1g polyunsaturated fat, 4.6g saturated fat, 15.6mg cholesterol, 167.2mg sodium, 78.1mg potassium, 8g carbohydrates, 2.1g fiber, 6g net carbohydrates, <1g starch, 2g sugar, 3.4g protein, <1mg iron.

Feel free to substitute wheat flour for the Quinoa flour for a wheat version.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baking with Cake Mixes

Today it was chocolate cake mix and deciding what to make with it. There was a choice of making the ‘Easy Soda Cake’ or ‘Cake Mix Cookies’.

After a few minutes of thinking about which one was easiest and had known success, decided to go with the cookies!

A few of my online friends have been raving about the peanut butter cookies made using chocolate cake mix. Actually they are very good. I made them a few times before having to go gluten free with Duncan Hines Devil Foods cake mix. It has also been made with two different gluten free Chocolate Cake mixes (Gluten Free Pantry and Betty Crocker Gluten Free). I made them with Duncan Hines with 1 egg before the recipe was changed to 2 eggs. The additional egg makes it easier to mix. If the dough seems too crumbly or dry, continue mixing! You kind of have to squeeze the dough into a ball to shape the cookie. It is worth the effort!
The Gluten Free box mixes tend to be smaller packages (less than the 18 ounces), so you may want to reduce the eggs to one. The cookies come out the same.

This is a very simple and easy recipe; great for quick plain chocolate cookies and for dressed up cookies.  This can also be flattened and frosted with a white or colored icing!  Just think of the possibilities!
I bake some plain, some with peppermint chips and some with PB chips. The PB chips are my favorite!

Almond butter can be substituted for the peanut butter... add 1 tsp almond flavoring
Print friendly copy

 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
1 box 2-layer size devil's food cake mix (this version was Betty Crocker GF Chocolate)
4 oz PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup regular creamy peanut butter
2 eggs (actually used 1 egg)
Chips, peanut butter or pepper mint for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Using a hand mixer; beat cream cheese, peanut butter and eggs until fluffy.

Add cake mix; continue mixing until thoroughly mixed.

In the early stage of mixing, if the dry mix is flying around, stop the mixer and mix with a wooden spoon to mix just enough to dampen the cake mix.

Continue with the hand mixer to complete the mixing.

Shape into 1 to 1-1/2 inch balls, depending on the size of cookie you want.

Place on parchment covered baking sheets 2 inches apart. Flatten with a criss-cross pattern, with tines of fork dipped in sugar.
At this point, decide if you want to add any extras, like rolling in sugar or decorating with chips

Bake 7 to 8 min. or just until edges of cookies are set. (Do not over bake.) Cool on baking sheet 2 min. Remove with a lifter ( will be brittle while hot) to a cool flat surface like another cool baking sheet, allowing cooling completely.
----plain, pb chip and  peppermint chips

Yield 32
Servings: 32

Nutrition Facts as prepared
Nutrition (per serving): 88 calories, 3.7g total fat, 1.4g monounsaturated fat, < 1g polyunsaturated fat, 1.4g saturated fat, 10.5mg cholesterol, 106.2mg sodium, 32.5mg potassium, 12.1g carbohydrates, < 1g fiber, 11.6g net carbohydrates, < 1g starch, 6.6g sugar, 1.8g protein, <1mg iron.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Celebrating National Cream Cheese Brownie Day (Feb 10th) and Valentine’s Day

In celebration of National Cream Cheese Brownie Day (Feb 10th) and Valentine’s Day, I whipped up some brownies and cookies fit for the King and Queen!

How Special Observance Days Are Determined

The President of the United States has the authority to declare a commemorative event or day by proclamation. Fewer than 150 are granted in an average year across all categories.

Petitions are introduced by constituents, trade associations or public relations firms to honor industries, events, professions, hobbies, etc. The Senate issue commemorative resolutions which do not have the force of law. Some state legislatures and governors proclaim special observance days, as do mayors of cities, which is why there can be a National Chocolate Day and a National Chocolate Month, as well as two National Guacamole Days—authorized at different levels of government. After the observance day has been authorized, it is up to the petitioner to promote it to the public. See more ..

Cheery Cherry Marbled Valentine Brownies - Gluten-Free
These brownies are loaded with cherry flavor and dark chocolate. These are definitely ‘boy bait’ or ‘girl bait’.

Brownie Mix
3 ounces Ghirardelli Bittersweet 60% chocolate Baking Bar
1/4 cup whole almonds
3 tbsp brown rice flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/8 tsp salt
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 egg

Cream Cheese Layer
2 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp liquid egg substitute
8 Maraschino cherries drained, chopped (1/4 cup)

Additional cherries for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle of the oven.
Line a 6x2 inch square or 6 inch heart shaped pan with parchment paper.

Add the almonds and rice flour to a food processor and pulse until nuts are finely ground. Set aside.

Place the chocolate, sugar and salt in the top of a large double boiler over barely simmering water or a pot over low heat.

Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Whisk in the egg.

Add the almond and rice flour mixture and stir until moistened, and then mix briskly, about 20 seconds.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg until creamy. Chop the cherries and add to the cream cheese mixture

Dollop the Cream cheese mix over the pan. Spread over and swirl into brownie. Add a few halved cherries to the top

Bake 20 to 25 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven.

Cool the pan on a rack. Run a knife along the sides of the parchment paper to detach the brownies. Allow to cool completely before attempting to remove the entire brownie from the parchment paper.

It is recommended moving the brownie to a serving plate with parchment paper intact and then trimming the parchment paper just under the edges of the brownie, if your brownie is too tender to lift from parchment paper.

Cut into 4 squares. Serve with a cherry on the side - OR cut in half and serve with two cherries and share

Servings: 4

Not that anyone would want to see the nutrients, but here they are anyway

Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per serving): 440 calories, 29.3g total fat, 7.5g monounsaturated fat, 2.1g polyunsaturated fat, 0g trans fatty acids, 14.8g saturated fat, 144.3mg cholesterol, 158.6mg sodium, 151.8mg potassium, 41.8g carbohydrates, 2.9g fiber, 38.9g net carbohydrates, <;1g starch, 30.8g sugar, 8.2g protein, 1.8mg iron.


You can substitute 1/2 cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips for the 3 ounces of Ghirardelli Bittersweet 60% chocolate Bar.

Since the Valentine and Cherry idea was on a roll, dressed up some chocolate cookies with a cherry.

Just make your favorite chocolate cookie recipe and top with half a cherry.

Enjoy and have a  Great Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Breakfast Cookies - get your eggs, bacon and corn flakes with raisins

Another unusual Breakfast item, IMOHO….
Domino Sugar did a Facebook post about a recipe for Breakfast cookies whose ingredients include bacon, corn flakes and raisins.  My first thought was no, no, no way!
So I thought hmmm, how about a post about this unusual recipe?

After making them I wasn’t hungry, so I decided to eat just one.  I could definitely taste each ingredient!  So you get your eggs, bacon, corn flakes with raisins.  Enjoy with a big cuppa Joe or Tea.

This would be a great ‘cookie’ to make for get-togethers.  Kids would most likely just love them!

The original recipe from Domino Sugar: Breakfast Cookies.
My version had to be gluten free, so I decided to just use some Pamela’s.  I also cut the recipe in half.
There are a few modifications from the original recipe.

Breakfast Cookies
3 tbsp Earth balance buttery spread, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp Egg Beaters egg substitute
1/2 cup Pamela's Bread and Flour Mix
1/4 tsp vanilla powder
1/2 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)
1/8 tsp   baking soda
4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cups   corn flakes cereal (used Nature’s Path)
1/4 cup   raisins
Preheat oven to 350°F.  
Using a food processor, pulse flour, vanilla powder, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and butter substitute until crumbly.

 Dump the mix from the food processor into a mixing bowl. 

Mix in egg until thoroughly mixed.   

Stir in bacon, corn flakes, and raisins.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Had to move them to a larger baking sheet.
Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet before removing to a wire rack.

Notes: These cookies do not spread, so shape them the way you want them to be.  They do puff a little.

Make-ahead tip from Domino Sugar: For a quick breakfast, make cookie dough in advance, form into tablespoonfuls, and freeze on a cookie sheet. When frozen, remove from cookie sheet, place in a plastic bag, and return to freezer. To bake, pop frozen cookies into 350°F oven and bake 18 to 22 minutes.

Servings as made: 11

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per cookie): 110 calories, 5.2g total fat, 2g monounsaturated fat, <1g polyunsaturated fat, 0g trans fatty acids, 1.1g saturated fat, 3.2mg cholesterol, 200.1mg sodium, 53.7mg potassium, 15.6g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 14.7g net carbohydrates, <1g starch, 8.8g sugar, 1.9g protein, <1mg iron.