Alternative Chocolate Chip Cookies

There have been some unique dietary changes at home due to addressing an allergic reaction and testing that was done to remedy that. So, with the new: no egg, no diary, no corn, no wheat diet, I have been figuring out new recipes to try and how to adapt some existing ones. 

Yesterday’s attempt turned out amazing. I love baking, and I typically can make cookie without a recipe in front of me. I know the consistency and ratios of dry:wet ingredients. This one was what I figured would work, and it did, and they are delicious. Everyone loved them and didn’t inquire about the alternate ingredients as they tasted so good. I’ll be making more batches soon. 

Alternate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup regular sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 T flax meal plus 3 T water (mix and let sit 2 minutes)

2/3 cups spelt flour

2/3 cups Almond meal

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup chocolate chips (for allergies, make sure it’s semi-sweet chocolate with no dairy in it)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 (Fahrenheit)

In a large mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer), cream together the oil and sugars. Add in the vanilla and then the flax meal/water mix. 

Then add in the spelt, almond meal, and baking powder, mix together. Last, mix in the chocolate chips. 

Scoop out onto a cookie sheet about 2″ apart. A small ice cream scoop works great for this. Bake for 8 minutes or until slightly browned on edges. Leave on the cookie sheet for about 2-3 minutes before lifting with a small spatula. 

Once cooled, seal in a ziplock bag or airtight container. 

Enjoy!

  
(For those interested in nutritional content, I did approximate calculations with this link: Recipe Nutrition Calculator)

Sweet Potato Kale Chicken Soup

This is a recipe I made tonight after seeing some prepared soup at the store and being disappointed that they were almost out. Also that one small container would be six dollars was a deterrent to my shopping savvy. Now, that cost isn’t much, but to feed five, it’s not a terrific quantity. I quickly turned to the produce section and selected a bunch of fresh Kale, 2 Sweet Potatoes, an onion, and a small package of boneless chicken and went to the cashier determined to try my own hand at something new. About five dollars later, a loaf of garlic bread also somehow made it with me, so an extra $1.50 was spent, we were on our way home.

Here is what I made, and it turned out excellently. If you try to make it, let me know how it turns out for you.

Sweet Potato Kale Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast or tenders, diced into small chunks

2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4” sized cubes

1/2 Yellow Onion, diced

2-3 cups chopped Kale

1-2 T Olive Oil

4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/8 tsp Ground Cloves

1 T Dried Basil

2 T Sugar

pepper

salt to taste

2 T Chicken Bullion (alternately use 2 cans chicken broth and decrease the water)

2 liters water

pinch of Turmeric (optional for color)

(Optional: 1 12 oz package of tortellini or other pasta)

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Instructions:

In a large Soup pot over medium heat, put oil, onions, chicken, and sweet potatoes. Sauté about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Add in Garlic cloves and stir.

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Next mix in the nutmeg, cloves, basil, sugar, pepper, and chicken bullion. Stir and then add the Kale to the pot. Cover with Water and stir. Add the pinch of turmeric. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil, turn heat to low and simmer for anther 15 minutes.

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Meanwhile, in a separate pot boil water for the pasta or tortellini. Cook until done according to package directions. This will be kept separate until the soup is served.

When serving, first scoop a portion of the pasta into the bowl and then top with the soup.

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Note: I was able to make a full pot of this soup for about $5, given that the seasonings were already on hand. It’s a great, 30 minute meal for low cost that I know is a healthy recipe for my family. They all loved it and licked their bowls clean. Plan a little extra time for cutting up and washing the vegetables. Excellent with a slice of Italian bread or crusty roll.

Not exactly baking

Homemde English Muffins Recipe  
In fairness to anyone who follows me on Instagram, I figured I should share my recipe for Homemade English Muffins. Of course, there are plenty online, and I won’t guarantee  that my recipe is different from any other one might find, it might not be the one with the most “nooks and crannies”, or the healthiest, but it is my own adapted recipe with the main point being that it is simple. It isn’t quite baking because they are actually made on a griddle and not in the over. This makes them an excellent bread recipe for the warmer seasons when one doesn’t want their oven on. 

Having the right tools makes this easier, and will enable one to follow this recipe exactly. It can be made without a stand mixer, but it will then loose the simple ease this recipe provides. 

Tools:  a stand mixer (at least a 325 watt or similar to Kitchen Aid brand variety that has a 5qt bowl)

A good flat clean surface, rolling pin

A circle cutter, about 3″ diameter or a large mug/glass will do

And a large completely flat pan or griddle. Can be cast iron, regular skillet, or it can be the electric kind you plug in (like for pancake making). I prefer now the electric griddle, it maintains temperature the best. 

Ingredients:

5 cups of flour (loosely measured) and a little more if needed. 

2 TBSP active dry yeast, or 2 packets

1 TBSP Sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups milk

1/2 cup water

1 TBSP butter

Cornmeal for dusting

Oil for brushing onto skillet 

Directions:

Using your stand mixture bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar, and baking soda.

In a microwave safe bowl, put milk, water, and butter, heat until it feels warm to touch (about 2-3 minutes from fridge temp). 

Add liquid to the dry ingredients. Begin with a paddle style mixing wand. Once it is sticking together, switch to a dough-hook and continue to mix for 2-3 minutes. This is the kneading process. 

Dough should be somewhat elastic (meaning when you lift it and it stretches, it bounces back to shape). It should not be hard or too sticky, slightly sticky is good. Remove dough from bowl and brush same bowl with oil, cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place for 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, get a clean surface ready, a round cutter, cornmeal, oil for brushing the griddle, and rolling pin ready. 

Heat griddle to 300 degrees for electric type, for a pan on the stovetop, heat to medium heat. Brush with a little oil. 

When dough has risen, without working it place about half onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to about 1/2″ thick. Cut with circle cutter, pat softly into cornmeal and place on griddle. 

Cook for 7 minutes on one side, flip and cook 7 more minutes on other side. Cooking can be aided by placing a sheet of parchment paper over the batch while cooking to allow some heat to stay in. 

While first batch is cooking, continue to cut and pat in cornmeal the remaining dough. 

  
Allow to cool briefly before cutting in half with a sharp serrated knife. 

Serve warm or you can spilt and toast them. Make sure they are cool before storing in a container or ziplock bag. Iif you will not be eating them all in 2 days be sure to refrigerate them. Make sure to allow some breathing room in the container until they have reached a cool temperature. 
One final note, I showed my mom how to make this recipe, she never makes bread, but this was so easy for her also, so even if you can’t make a loaf of bread, give this one a try!

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

I adapted and created this recipe a couple of years back, it’s a great Bundt cake with just the right texture.

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Pumpkin Rum Spice Bundt

1 cup butter crisco (I found a Butter flavored crisco that comes in 1 cup ‘sticks’)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup splenda/sucralose
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp Rum
1 15oz can pumpkin
3/4 cup shaken milk (the recipe I was adapting called for buttermilk, shaken well before pouring, I used regular milk and just shook the container before pouring to measure)

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 325
(I mixed it all in a stand mixer)
Beat butter crisco, and sugar about 2 min until creamy. Add in eggs, vanilla, rum, mix gently. Then add in pumpkin and milk. Mix another 2 min.

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Gradually beat in dry to wet, a portion at a time. Mix until well blended.

Spray bundt pan with baking spray containing flour. Spoon in filling mixture and level off.
Place in oven and bake for 40-50 min, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from bundt pan by inverting over plate or serving dish.

Optional: Make glaze with 1 cup powdered sugar, 1-3 tbsp milk or (vanilla coffee creamer) 1 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla. I added the butter last as it helped make the glaze more liquid for drizzling over. Drizzle over once it is closer to room temperature. If the glaze in not thin enough, microwave a few seconds then use.

Recipe: Orange Ginger Beef

It has been sometime since I’ve posted a new recipe. Over the past two weeks I’ve made this dish a few times and thought it is worth sharing. We’ve all tried to make stir-fry at home and found it a little dry, or at least I have many times. So, I’ve been working on a solution for it to taste more like restaurant Chinese food, and this one works pretty well. We have (kids included) loved it and I hope you will too.

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Orange Ginger Beef

1-2 teaspoons oil
1 pound tender beef, cubed into 1/4″ pieces
2-4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon orange extract
Juice of half a lime
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ginger (ground)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
Black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2-3 cups water
One medium bag of stir-fry frozen vegetables

Cooked rice or noodles to serve.
Crushed red pepper flakes and additional soy sauce.

Heat oil in large Skillet. Add the beef, then add the cornstarch and stir well. Next add in all seasonings, sauce and lime juice. Sauté until the meat is done, then add in the frozen vegetables and continue to stir.
Lastly add the water into the pan and stir gently allowing it to mix with all of the other ingredients.
Simmer for another five minutes and allow the liquid to thicken. Add more soy sauce to taste if needed.
Sprinkle with a few crushed red pepper flakes before serving if desired. Enjoy!

Fall weather means Fall Treats

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So, the cool temperatures that have finally come halfway through September were enough to get me away from the sewing machine and baking. To be honest, as early as Labor day, the smells of pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar were all lingering around the house, but today was the first Sugar Cookie batch. No ordinary cookie…but a spiced cookie and of course decorated; and I’d like to think they are healthier using half the normal amount of butter, and whole wheat flour. They have a light texture with a delicate crumb, and the hint of spice goes excellent with a cup of coffee.

Spiced sugar cookies with Glazed icing.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup light vanilla yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 Eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup Splenda (or generic granulated artificial sweetener)
1 tablespoon molasses
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (finely ground)
1/4 cup regular all purpose flour (plus additional for rolling out dough)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger

Blend butter, yogurt, vanilla, sugars and molasses until a creamed mixture. In a separate bowl combine other dry ingredients. Mix into the creamed mixture. Form into a ball and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350. Roll out dough on a floured surface about 1/4″ thick. Cut with desired cookie cutters. Place on baking sheet and bake just 8 minutes. Be careful not to over bake them, or they will be crispy. (I prefer a softer sugar cookie, so I do about 6-8 min and remove as soon as the bottoms look light brown. I leave on the sheet for an additional minute out of the oven to cool so they aren’t too limp.)
Allow to cool, then ice and decorate as desired.

Pumpkin Spiced Icing
2 cups Powdered sugar
About 1 tsp pumpkin extract (or use a concentrated Pumpkin syrup)
Pinch of Cinnamon
2-4 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract

For this icing, it does require some practice to get the right consistency, I use water to liquefy the icing a bit. Being in a dry climate has helped because the water evaporates out and I end up with a glossy slightly hard/soft sugar cookie icing without the eggs whites or corn syrup.

In a large bowl, put your sugar. Add in the syrups and extract. Gradually add in water one tablespoon at a time until the icing is able to stir and will slowly drip off of the spoon, but not watery.
When at a thicker stage, you can put it into an icing bag and pipe icing around the edges of the cookie, then water the icing down a little more and spoon it to the center filling in the top. Or just leave a little thicker and spread with a knife.

Enjoy!

Bread pudding

So, this is a new recipe I’ve adapted. One evening, wishing for an in-house date, I looked at the leftover day old croissants on the counter and thought there must be something to do with them. So, I came up with this recipe, that was just perfect (accompanied by a pot of tea on the patio).

Croissant Bread Pudding

Ingredients:
6-8 mini croissants (or 3-4 large)
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk (any kind will work, even soy or rice)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.
Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray, or rub with butter. Rip up croissants into small chunks, place in pan. In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, sugar, spices and vanilla. Pour over the croissants.
Bake for 20 minutes or until it is set.

Warm Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients:
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
Splash of vanilla

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Gently whisk in sugar and vanilla. Add a little bit of milk at a time whisking until slightly liquified. When it starts to bubble on the edges, remove from heat and spoon over warm croissant pudding.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg as desired.

Apple Empanadas

Apple Empanadas

It’s a pastry, filled with fruit. That’s the short definition. For those in Albuquerque, NM, I am jealous. Just stop in at Pros Ranch Market on Central and you can choose your variety of Empanadas; pineapple, apple, pumpkin, cherry or any number of fruit fillings.
For those of us far away, making them at home is the only way to get them like ‘home’. At first I thought, okay, that’s easy, a pastry with fruit, but after trying multiple varieties of dough recipes- with some not quite right and some making a terrible mess- I finally came up with a winner. (partly taken from another website, but I can’t find it again).
Now I would say it is easy again, the dough is simple and easy to work with. The filling I usually make is apple- because they are readily available. Although we like berry filled which I make from frozen berries.
I was so excited to make them I only have a picture of the finished product, but if I make them again soon- which I might- I’ll take more photos as I go.

Empanada Dough:
1/3 cup warm water (hot)
1/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 tsp yeast (or two packets)
1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups of flour
Generous 3/4 cup shortening. (I use a margarine- it really makes a nice consistency)

In a large mixing bowl, combine water, sugar, yeast, baking powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. Let sit for 2-4 minutes.
Add in 1 1/2 cups of the flour.
Add in the shortening and mix very thoroughly. Then add in remaining flour. (this recipe has been pretty precise on the flour measurement, so no adjustments should be needed).
Knead dough gentle with hands until it forms a solid lump. There shouldn’t be anything too loose. (dough should be pliable still).
Cut or tear into 12 even sizes. Form into balls.
Roll each out individually into about an 8″ circle.

Place about 2 tbsp filling mixture into the center. Fold over and seal the edges. I do this by rolling it over itself a little with a pinch.

(optional: beat 1 egg and brush the tops with egg wash before baking)

Place on a cookie sheet or other baking pan (not glass or they will be a little soggy on one side).
Place in oven for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Apple fruit filling:
6 large apples- peeled, cored and sliced into thin short slices
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour (for thickening)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

Mix apples and all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water.
Simmer for about 5 minutes. Then set aside to cool a little before putting inside the empanadas dough.
If there is a lot of liquid to it, make sure you don’t put too much liquid to fill the dough or it will not seal and will make a mess over the cookie sheet.

(alternate filling: Strawberry)
1 16oz bag frozen strawberries (thawed)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour

In a saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour. Then add sugar and thawed strawberries. If it’s thickening quickly a little water may be added. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
Use only a spoonful of the mixture and fold over dough and seal quickly so it doesn’t run. Bake as usual.

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A Mongolian summer favorite…khuushuur

Something that Mongolians like to eat a lot is meat. Mostly sheep, cow and goat but also common meat here is camel and horse. A little background story on meat, when we first arrive here I went shopping with some friends, who knew the language more than I did. As I was at a butcher, I asked for a roast of beef. My friend translated, helped me order in kilos and I paid and walked away. As I walked away, my friend was stopped by the butcher and said something. They had given me horse meat. Having already paid and being worn out from the shopping already I decided to make the best of it and take it home. I made a slow cooked stew- and it actually ended up alright, but I have made sure to never again knowingly buy anything except beef. So, all that to say, meat is very important to the locals, both for livelihood and for eating. I read an article once that said livestock in Mongolia outnumber humans 15:1. It may have changed since then, but still meat is the staple food. After meat, is “white foods” which are a variety of curds, cheese, fermented curds and yogurt. Upon my observation I would say the next most important aspect of the diet is flour product. Whether it’s bread, noodles or used for wrapping meat in for cooking.
Now that some of you may have lost your appetite (which I hope you haven’t), let me preface my recipe by saying, it tastes good, my kids eat it, and it’s flavorful. Think “fried taco without the fixings” and you’ve almost got it.
I make my recipe for this a bit different than what would be found in this land, so if you were to make this recipe and then visit, it would probably look the same, but taste different. In the traditional writing it is written as хуушуур, which sounds like huushuur with a strong ‘kh’ at the beginning.

Ingredients:
1 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 TBSP Soy sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black ground pepper
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Mix the spices with the meat and set aside.

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Next, in a separate bowl mix
2 cups Flour
1/2-1 cup water
Dash of salt

Place flour in the bowl, Gradually add water and blend until all flour is incorporated. You want to make a soft dough that is pliable in your hands, but not sticky.
Then form the dough into a ball and roll into a long tube shape. Cut into about 15-16 smaller balls.

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Next begin heating a large pan with oil about 1-2 inches deep. Try to use a lighter oil like Soybean, Canola or vegetable oil.

On a flat clean surface begin rolling out each ball of dough into a very thin circle. If you start with the outside edges and roll out a little at a time it usually works well. Each circle should end up a little bigger than the palm of a hand.

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Next spoon a small amount of meat mixture into the dough. Don’t put too much or it won’t be able to close right.

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Fold in half to make a half circle and tightly pinch the edges to seal. You want to make a good seal so the meat will not seep out when cooking. You can use water on you fingers to help. I fold them over a little bit to create a good seal.
Place a few at a time in the hot oil. (Watch for splatters of hot oil as the meat cooks, make sure your kitchen is also well ventilated, those tips are from experience.)
Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. (if it’s browning faster than that turn down the heat). Drain on paper towels.

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In our home we usually serve them with Salsa but, I’ve seen them eaten with kimchee or soy sauce or other sauces of choice. Enjoy!

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Fresh from the oven Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits made fresh, warm from the oven are delicious, and I don’t mean from a can that pops open to scare the cook.
This recipe is found on the back of Clabbers Girl Baking Powder. I don’t follow it exactly because usually I’m substituting regular milk for soy milk which works great. The key to a good biscuit is when it’s made into a biscuit shape. I used to do more of a “form with my hands into circles” biscuit. It was good, but I didn’t realize it could be better. It is a “quick bread” in a way, and does require about 30 seconds of gentle kneading.

Biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp Baking powder
1/3 cup softened butter (butter is better!)
3/4 cups soy or regular milk
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 375.
In a bowl, place butter, mix in flour and baking powder and salt with a fork until is crumbly. Add in the milk, stir well. Then, get your hands in and push the dough together until everything is incorporated into the dough, turn and press, repeating for about 30 seconds.
Lay on flat surface and either roll or press with hands to an even thickeners of about 1/2″ cut with a circular cookie cutter or a glass (with flour on the lip of the glass). I usually get about 9 biscuits using a 4″ round cutter.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes of until lightly golden.

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Biscuits are great with anything, soup, salad, stew, breakfast, fruit, jelly, and gravy. So here is my gravy recipe. I usually use bacon and make a bacon gravy now because it’s hard to find a sausage here that has a nice “breakfast sausage” flavor. So, I use bacon, and we all love it. (alternately sausage can be used in place of bacon).

Country Gravy

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 tsp Black pepper
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Salt
1 tsp Parsley flakes
2 cups milk (usually cow milk or non-flavored soy milk)
Aprox. 8 strips of bacon

In a skillet fry bacon, be sure to crisp but not burn it.
In a saucepan, melt butter, whisk in the flour until it is blended. Add in seasonings. Gradually whisk in the milk. It will begin to thicken after a few moments.
Crumble the bacon and put into the saucepan. I usually don’t drain it too much so more of the flavor in brought into the gravy.
If the gravy is getting too thick you can slowly add milk a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
Serve over hot biscuits.

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