With Thanksgiving only a couple of weeks away, many of you who are hosting dinners have undoubtedly begun planning the meal. Getting as much done ahead of time will allow you to spend more time with family and friends. Things like pie crusts, cranberry sauce, and even gravy can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen. You can also start thinking about your table decorations. Some people get so overwhelmed with the thought of preparing an entire Thanksgiving dinner that they put very little effort into decorating the table. I think this is such a shame! If you’re going to spend all that time cooking an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t it make sense to put some extra thought into the table decorations? After all, this is the stage for the beautiful meal you’ll spend hours preparing. Floral arrangements are lovely, but oh so boring. Why not create something truly unique and memorable – like Thanksgiving Cookie Votives! These charming cookie votives are a little labor intensive but so worth the effort. They’ll dress up your table and are sure to be a conversation starter. Plus, you can serve them for dessert. Below are some tips for making Thanksgiving Cookie Votives. For complete step by step instructions see the printable recipe at the end of this post. (more…)
These witch’s finger Halloween cookies are SO creepy. A shortbread type dough is molded into the shape of a finger and adorned with a blanched almond, painted red to look like a finger nail. The end result is a cookie that looks amazingly realistic. It’s fun to greet trick-or-treaters at the door with a tray of these cookies. The reactions are priceless! (more…)
Calling all chocoholics! Peanuts in healthier chocolate couldn’t be more delicious! This is a chocolate bar you can feel a little less guilty about eating. mr. Good(for you)bars are made with only five ingredients and unlike regular chocolate bars they contain no refined sugar, no artificial flavorings, and no emulsifiers or other food additives. They’re a healthier alternative to store bought chocolate and are so simple to make. Below are a few tips for making this chocolate. For complete step by step instructions see the printable recipe at the end of this post. (more…)
It’s the beginning of September and this time of year has me thinking about all the things school related. I’m pretty sure that’s what prompted me to make these cookies. Milk and cookies is the quintessential after school snack – the ideal kid comfort food. Even though I try to eat healthy most of the time I’ve never outgrown my love for cookies. Every now and then I crave a good cookie – one that is golden brown, a little crisp at the edges, and soft and chewy at the center. (more…)
These Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Toasted Coconut are sweet, tart, creamy, and delicious – sounds more like a dessert, doesn’t it? Sweet potatoes are a great year round vegetable but I’ve always thought of them more as a fall/winter vegetable, that is, until I started making this recipe. Lime and coconut are classic tropical flavors and these two simple ingredients transform ordinary mashed sweet potatoes into a fantastic side dish that is not only healthy but simple to prepare. This is a great recipe to add to your summer cooking repertoire. Below are a few photos and tips that may help you prepare this dish. For complete step by step instructions see the printable recipe at the end of this post.
You’ll need 2 lbs. of sweet potatoes as well as a few limes for this recipe. Four medium sweet potatoes is roughly the equivalent of 2 lbs. There are 4T of lime juice needed so 2 limes should yield enough juice but if you want a garnish you’ll need 3 limes.
Securely wrap each sweet potato in aluminum foil and place seam side up on a baking sheet. The sweet potatoes may ooze a bit during baking – that’s ok, but if this happens the aluminum foil may get stuck to the baking sheet, making it very hard to clean. When you place the package seam side up this is less likely to happen. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 1 hour, or until the sweet potatoes are tender can be easily pierced with a toothpick through the foil. The total cooking time may be a little more or less than 1 hour depending on the size, thickness, and how many potatoes you are using. Start testing them after 45 minutes.
Once the sweet potatoes are tender let them cool for at least an hour before unwrapping them – they’ll be too hot to handle before that. This is what they will look like when you unwrap the packages.
Cut a slit up the center of each potato to remove the skin.
The skin will separate easily from the insides of the sweet potato and come off almost in one piece. I think this method of preparation is much easier than peeling and boiling the sweet potatoes.
The recipe calls for melted butter but if the potatoes are warm enough you can put them into a mixing bowl right on top of the unmelted butter and the residual heat will melt it. Then simply add the lime juice, salt and pepper to taste, and mix it all together. I use a potato masher like the one pictured above but the tines of a fort will work as well. Once everything is well combined transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.
You can toast the coconut flakes in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees but watch them closely as they are baking because like other nut meats, they go from perfectly golden brown to completely burned very quickly.
Just prior to serving sprinkle on the toasted coconut. Garnish with a lime wedge if desired.
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes
- 2 oz./4T freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1T melted butter
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each sweet potato individually in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 1 hour or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a toothpick through the foil. (This could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1½ hours depending on the size and thickness of the sweet potatoes. Start testing them after 45 minutes.)
- Once the potatoes are tender take them out of the oven and let them cool for 1 hour. Remove the aluminum foil from each potato, remove the skin, and place them into a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter, lime, salt and pepper, and mix well using a potato masher or the tines of a fork. Transfer to a casserole dish. Just prior to serving, reheat for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Top with toasted coconut and garnish with lime if desired.
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If you have a sweet tooth but are trying to cut down on your sugar intake, you will love these Gluten Free Raspberry Fudge Flowers. While I adore chocolate I have always been put off by the intense sweetness of fudge. I know some people are crazy about fudge but I think the amount of sugar in most fudge recipes masks the depth of flavor for which chocolate is known. These pretty little dessert flowers have the consistency of fudge but without loads of added sugar, which, with the help of a couple of tablespoons of strong coffee, allows all of the chocolaty goodness to shine through. Except for 1 tablespoon of raspberry liqueur (which you can leave out if desired), there is no refined sugar in this recipe. All of the sweetness is derived from the natural sugars in the dates, which are combined with the other ingredient to create a healthier alternative to traditional fudge. A 1.5 oz. piece of fudge has about 150 calories and somewhere around 29 grams of sugar. By comparison these Raspberry Fudge Flowers have 130 calories and a mere 7 grams of sugar. That is a huge difference in sugar content! And, they are gluten free and require no cooking to boot! This recipe was inspired by the popular Lara Bar recipes that are all over the food blogosphere. I experimented with peanuts, almonds, and walnuts (and various combinations thereof) but found that cashews produce a texture most similar to fudge – soft and chewy. Serve these with dollops of whipped cream and you will be in (a healthier) fudge heaven!
I’m making A Berry Patriotic Salad with Gluten Free Star Croutons for the 4th of July, but it would be great for Memorial Day or Labor Day too. It’s fun, festive, delicious, AND nutritious.
What makes this salad special is the star croutons and you only need 5 ingredients to make them.
Start by melting coconut oil over medium low heat. While the coconut oil is melting measure out the gluten-free baking mix, parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper and salt into a mixing bowl.
Add the warm water and melted coconut oil to the flour mixture and combine thoroughly. Use a rubber spatula to gather the dough into a ball.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator or freezer if you are not immediately rolling out the croutons.
When you’re ready to roll out the dough, do so between two sheets of plastic wrap to prevent sticking. Don’t try and roll out the entire ball of dough at once. Instead pinch off pieces of dough that are a tad smaller than the size of a golf ball. This will make the rolling and cutting more managable. The trickiest part of this recipe is getting the dough rolled out thin enough. You want to roll it out really thin – between 1/8 and 1/16th or an inch thick. If the dough is not rolled thin enough the croutons will be tough and chewy instead of crispy and crunchy. Rolling pin rings REALLY help with getting the dough to the right thickness for this recipe. Rolling pin rings are plastic or silicone rings that fit onto the ends of your rolling pin and help you roll out dough evenly and to a specified thickness. They come in a variety of sizes depending on the thickness of dough desired, and are available on-line and in cooking stores.
Once the croutons are baked they’ll be crispy and slightly golden brown. They make the salad taste so good! They’re not greasy and salty like boxed croutons or the ones you typically get on restaurant salads.
The crouton recipe makes many more croutons than are needed for 2 salads so package up the leftovers and store them in a zip lock bag in the freezer. You can pull them out whenever you need gluten free salad croutons. It’s fun to make other holiday themed shapes too for Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.
- 2 ounces baby spinach or other salad greens
- ¼ cup/1 ounce goat cheese
- ½ cup fresh blueberries
- ¾ cup fresh raspberries or sliced fresh strawberries
- ¼ cup chopped almonds
- ½ cup gluten-free all- purpose baking flour
- ¼ cup/1 ounce finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ Tablespoons hot water
- Balsamic Vinegariette
- 3 ounces balsamic vinegar
- 1 ounce olive
- Salt and pepper to taste
- To make the gluten-free croutons preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the gluten free baking flour, salt, parmesan cheese, coconut oil, cayenne pepper, and hot water. Once the dough comes together, gather into a ball and turn it onto a lightly floured (dust with more of the gluten free baking flour) surface. Gently knead it a few times.
- Roll out the dough until it is very thin, approximately ⅛th to 1/16th of an inch thick.
- Using a star cookie cutter, approximately 1 inch in diameter, cut out the croutons and place them on the baking sheet.
- Bake 9-11 minutes, or until they start to brown around the edges.
- Notes: This crouton recipe makes more than enough croutons for 2 salads so you’ll have extra left over. Alternatively you can make enough croutons for 2 salads (approximately 1 dozen) and then using a larger cookie cutter make crackers with the rest of the dough.
- Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and set aside. Divide the baby spinach or salad greens between two bowls. Top each bowl of greens with goat cheese, berries, almonds, and 5 or 6 star croutons. Dress with balsamic vinegariette and serve.
- Serves 2
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The idea for trail mix on cobb salad came to me a few years ago while I was vacationing with my family on Turks and Caicos. Every January, in order to decompress from the holiday madness, we rent a condo on this beautiful island, fully equipped with a fantastic kitchen. Turks is a blissful place to visit and about the only negative thing I can say about this tropical paradise is that food there is dreadfully expensive. As a result we eat breakfast and lunch at our condo and only go out for dinner. This is the lunch salad that has become my family’s favorite while we are there. I make a variation of this salad at home quite often and usually include dried cranberries and candied pecans. However, without my normal pantry items available in a vacation rental, I once improvised and used the trail mix we bought for snacking as a topping. We liked it so much that this is what I now use at home on our salads. Aside from the trail mix the other thing that makes this salad unique is that I substitute two of the ingredients typically found in cobb salad – bacon and blue cheese – with goat cheese and crispy prosciutto. I like the milder flavor of goat cheese and think it pairs nicely with the fruit and nuts in the trail mix. And the crispy prosciutto in lieu of the bacon works well because it has the same general texture and flavor profile as bacon (crispy, salty, pork). For this reason, I often use crispy prosciutto in recipes that call for bacon because it is so much easier and less messy to prepare. You roast it in the oven on a parchment lined sheet pan. It’s done in under 20 minutes and there is very little grease so clean up is a breeze (see below for directions).
I love recipes that are simple and elegant – the kind that produce finished dishes that look sophisticated but are quick and easy to prepare, and require no unusual or hard to find ingredients. This Pea Parmesan Soup hits the mark on all counts. You can throw it together at the last-minute on a busy weeknight, or prepare it ahead time for a fancy dinner party. I usually serve this soup as a first course, but you can make it a complete meal by omitting the prosciutto, stirring in chunks of good quality ham, and serving it with a salad and some crusty french bread.
Lay the prosciutto slices on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until crispy.
Here’s what the prosciutto looks like when it’s done. (more…)
When I developed this recipe I wanted it to be as colorful as possible so I called upon the mnemonic device we used in grade school to remember the colors in a rainbow – Roy G. Biv – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. If you look closely at this salad you’ll see that the array of whole foods used in this recipe represents all the colors in that mystical spectrum of light. I’m counting the flecks of cabbage in the broccoli slaw for indigo and violet – maybe that’s cheating a bit but the important thing to remember about this salad is that it is beautiful, healthy, AND delicious. Save this recipe to make for your first picnic or backyard barbeque of the season.
Microwave the frozen corn and peas on high for about 2 minutes, stirring, and checking their temperature after each 30 second interval. You want to defrost them but not heat them through. Once they are at room temperature, blot away any excess water with a clean paper towel. If don’t own a microwave, or don’t want to use one, simply leave the peas and corn out on your counter, at room temperature, until they are completely defrosted.
I usually use grape tomatoes for this salad but you could substitute cherry tomatoes, just make sure you cut them into bite size pieces. My grape tomatoes were kind of big the day I made this salad so I cut them into quarters. Once they are cut up add them to the bowl of peas and corn and set aside while you make the vinegariette. (more…)