June 30, 2016

Improving really awful tasting Snack Pack Sugar Free Pudding Cups

It's been quiet around An American Housewife for a couple weeks because I was busy traveling solo; making a cross country trip many states away for a wedding and a family reunion.  On the road for two weeks, I was at the grocery store the night before I left, not only buying food to stock the refrigerator, pantry and freezer for my husband and daughter while I was gone, but looking for food and drink items for myself and the 2 weeks I'd be traveling by car.

I had never tried Snack Pack brand sugar free pudding but as I walked down the grocery aisle, it occurred to me I would want something sweet, tasty and comforting at some point in the trip - most likely around 9:30 pm in my hotel room when I get the munchies while checking emails before bed.  When I saw the family pack of sugar free pudding with 6 chocolate and 6 vanilla I thought it night be a good buy as I could pack a couple of the vanilla with me, and leave the chocolate for my husband.  I bought the box... shuddering at the ingredients (modified food starch is number 2 on the ingredients list) but again; it's not a normal purchase and I knew I'd be happy to have it at some point on the trip.

I'm glad I tasted one at home first!

I did not pack any for the trip. Not a one.

These are hands down the worst sugar free puddings I have ever tasted in my life.

If you are a parent, grandparent, babysitter (whatever) trying to do good by opting for these sugar free puddings for your Littles, then please, please taste these before serving them.

It's kind of like if you were to eat a mixture of a wallpaper paste, but with some 'off' chemical taste in the background.

Not a smidgen of vanilla to be found... never mind no sweetness at all. I'm not kidding; wallpaper paste.

Not wanting to waste them, I opted not to bring them with of course but to doctor them up here at home just to use them up.  It isn't hard and it doesn't take much to make them somewhat palatable.

To the Snack Pack Sugar Free Pudding add;
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t - 3/4 t sweetener of choice

Stir well.  Taste... adjust with a few drops of vanilla or sweetener to your own preference.

If you've been a reader of An American Housewife for any length of time, you know I don't like things sweet.  If and when I do crave a dessert of some sort its usually a cream puff or similar pastry with just a bit of vanilla and/or whipped cream.  Sweet things turn my stomach!  So the fact that I would add 1/2 - 3/4 t sweetener and vanilla to the pudding cup should tell you just how terrible they are.  But... not too bad once they are doctor'd up.

Products related to this post available through Amazon;

EZ-Sweetz (1.05oz - Liquid Sweetener 400 Servings/Bottle)
Snack Pack Pudding, Sugar Free Chocolate, 13 oz
Truvia Natural Sweetener, Spoonable, 9.8 Ounce


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June 22, 2016

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies! No sugar, no white flour but oh so good!

This is my 'go to' chocolate chip cookie recipe when I do not want to use flour or sugar.  No guilt and pure yum.  Although I like to bake on parchment lined sheets, almond flour cookies and baked goods like to stay very moist and sometimes fall apart too easily if they are not baked a little longer than regular flour/sugar versions.  After some trial and error I've found that using one of my older 'darkened' cookie sheets gives these cookies the more sturdy foundation they need to not be too moist, to the point where they want to stick to each other when stored.  It's a very traditional chocolate chip cookie style, but none of the flour or sugar to weigh down your digestive system or pump your system full of sugar.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c butter
1 1/2 c sugar substitute of your choice (like Truvia or Just Like Sugar or Ideal)
1 1/2 t black strap molasses
2 eggs
1 c almond flour or fine almond meal
1 c Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
1/4 c wheat bran (or oat bran)
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 c chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1- 8 oz Bag of Sugar Free Chocolate Chips

*or you can use about 8 mini sugar free Hershey's chocolate bars.  I banged the mini candy bars with my rolling pin to break them up into pieces and crumble them into the dough in place of chocolate chips before Walmart started to carry the SF chocolate chips.

Preheat your oven to 375. Beat the sweetener equivalent to 1 1/2 cup, with the butter and molasses until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. In another bowl stir the ground almonds, whey powder, wheat or oat bran, baking soda and salt. Add this to the butter/sweetener mixture about 1/2 cup at a time to incorporate.

Stir in the nuts and chocolate chunks or chips. Drop by tablespoons onto a sprayed/greased cookie sheet. Form into nicely shaped rounds and flatten a bit with your hand. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to a rack or counter to cool. The original recipe said each cookie yields about 3 carbs.

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June 14, 2016

Homemade Cheese Balls

Homemade Cheese Balls

Play with the ingredients in this recipe. Use different cheeses, add jalapeno, add crumbled bacon, some chipolte, use only cheese but mix in smoked provolone, smoked gouda and cheddar, add chopped shrimp, crab or lobster to make a seafood ball.. etc.

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) real butter
1-2 green onions, chopped
1/4 c flour (I used a hard white wheat I ground myself this time)
1 c milk
1 c mozzarella, shredded
1/2 c cheddar, shredded

1/2 c flour, extra for tossing with the cheese
oil for frying

Combine the shredded cheeses and extra flour in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a saucepan, add green onions, cook briefly until soft and add the flour. Whisk until bubbling, stir in milk and heat until it thickens.

Combine the flour/milk mixture with the cheeses in a bowl. Stir until blended and let cool.

Form the mixture into small balls. (Roll in some panko crumbs if you wish.)

When all the balls are formed, heat your oil. Deep fry the cheese balls in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Related products available through Amazon;

Norpro Stainless Steel Scoop, 1 Tablespoon, 35mm
Hamilton Beach 35021 Deep Fryer with Cool Touch, Black
Secura 4.2L/17-Cup 1700-Watt Stainless-Steel Triple-Basket Electric Deep Fryer, with Timer Free Extra Oil Filter

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June 13, 2016

When you can't or won't cook with alcohol... here are substitutions for alcohol of all sorts!

When it comes to substitutions in cooking I've never really had to worry about it because it comes naturally to me. I stop, think about what I want or need to substitute, an idea comes to me and it's done.  Some of them are so second nature I don't even think about it (like souring milk with lemon juice or vinegar in place of buttermilk). 

I don't like the taste of alcohol and I found out very early in our marriage that I didn't like the taste of cream sauces and similar food items that were cooked with it.  Especially sherry and white wine in my cream sauces with chicken.  I immediately figured out to just use chicken broth in the sauce.  Once every few years I may play with a recipe or a sauce and use the dry white wine or whatever called for, but usually we like it better without.  Not to mention, when you are cooking for a family, kids don't like the taste either.

So with 'substitutions' in mind I thought I should probably put a post up on An American Housewife...  but before I could post one, I saw this list and realized;  someone else already did it - and did a far more thorough and great job than I probably would have!  Ha.  So... without further adieu, a substitution list for when you can't or don't want to cook with alcohol.

Article originally published 2004 by What's Cooking America

  • Amaretto – Non-Alcoholic almond extract. Substitute 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for 2 tablespoons Amaretto.
  • Anisette – Anise Italian soda syrup or fennel. Also use the herbs anise or fennel.
  • Beer or Ale – Chicken broth, beef broth, mushroom broth, white grape juice, or ginger ale.
  • Bourbon – 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of non-alcoholic vanilla extract.
  • Brandy – Water, white grape juice, apple cider or apple juice, diluted peach or apricot syrups. Substitute equal amounts of liquid.
  • Champagne – Ginger ale, sparkling apple cider, sparkling cranberry juice, or sparkling white grape juice.
  • Coffee Liqueur – To replace 2 tablespoons of liqueur, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chocolate extract mixed with 1 teaspoon of Pero® or Postum® powder, which has been mixed in 2 tablespoons of water.
  • Cognac – Juice from peaches, apricots, or pears.
  • Cointreau – Orange juice or frozen orange juice concentrate.
  • Creme de menthe – Spearmint extract or oil of spearmint diluted with a little water or grapefruit juice.
  • Grand Marnier or Orange-Flavored Liqueur – Unsweetened orange juice concentrate or orange juice. Substitute 2 tablespoons unsweetened orange juice concentrate or 2 tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon orange extract for 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier.
  • Kahlua – Coffee or chocolate-flavored liqueur. Substitute 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chocolate extract or substitute 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Pero® or Postum® powder in 2 tablespoons water for 2 tablespoons Kahlua.
  • Kirsch – Syrup or juices from cherries, raspberries, boysenberries, currants, or cider. Substitute equal amounts of liquid.
  • Peppermint Schnapps – Non-alcoholic mint or peppermint extract, mint Italian soda syrup, or mint leaves.
  • Port Wine, Sweet Sherry, or Fruit-Flavored Liqueur – Orange juice or apple juice. Substitute equal amount of liquid.
  • Rum (light or dark) – Water, white grape juice, pineapple juice, apple juice or apple cider, or syrup flavored with almond extract. Substitute equal amounts of liquid.
  • Sake – Rice vinegar.
  • Sherry or Bourbon – Orange or pineapple juices, peach syrup, or non-alcoholic vanilla extract. Substitute equal amount of liquid 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
  • Southern Comfort – Peach flavored nectar combined with a small amount of cider vinegar.
  • Tequila – Cactus juice or nectar.
  • Triple Sec – Orange juice concentrate, orange juice, orange zest or orange marmalade.
  • Vermouth, Dry – White grape juice, white wine vinegar, or non-alcoholic white wine.
  • Vermouth, Sweet – Apple juice, grape juice, balsamic vinegar, non-alcoholic sweet wine, or water with lemon juice.
  • Whiskey – If a small amount is called for, it can be eliminated.
  • Vodka – White grape juice or apple cider combined with lime juice or use plain water in place of the vodka.
  • Claret – Diluted grape juice or cherry cider syrup.
  • Gewurztraminer – White grape juice combined with lemon juice.
  • Grappa – Grape juice.
  • Port Wine – Concord grape juice with some lime zest added, cranberry juice with some lemon juice added, or grape juice concentrate. Substitute orange juice or apple juice for lighter ports.
  • Red Wine – Red grape juice, cranberry juice, chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, clam juice, fruit juices, flavored vinegar. Substitute equal amount of liquid.
  • White Wine – Water, chicken broth, vegetable broth, white grape juice, ginger ale, white grape juice.
  • Sweet White Wine – White grape juice plus 1 tablespoons Karo corn syrup. Substitute equal amount of liquid.
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June 09, 2016

Homemade Macaroons (Macarons) Again - Just for fun, just for my family

I made something this week that left me with a few egg whites to use up so this morning I decided to whip up some macaron cookies to use up the egg whites.  I've already posted this recipe previously around Easter time with some 'mini' macaroons I had tinted pink.  These didn't have to be as pretty... and didn't have to be pink.  As a matter of fact I left them white and untinted with white buttercreme frosting in the middle but used a simple yellow jimmy sprinkle to add color since I chose to use "Princess" flavoring which the lemon citrus really stood out in today.

I have tried to make these completely sugar free previously.  They work 'ok' but not great when made sugar free.  The texture isn't the same and they stay 'sticky' and don't dry out to a nice meringue style crisp.  I don't usually bake or cook with sugar but I did for these.

Macarons  (Macaroons)

1 c confectioner's sugar
3/4 c almond flour
2 egg whites, room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 c superfine granulated sugar
optional: 1-2 drops food color and 1/4 t flavor extract

Mix the confectioner's sugar and almond flour very well either by pulsing in a food processor until combined or using an electric stick blender or electric whisk, etc. It should be mixed very well and quite fine.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add a drop or two of food color if you are using it, a drop or two of flavor extracts if you are using them, and the superfine white sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip if you have one, or if not, leave the round 1/2 inch opening of the bag or the white plastic piece you would normally put a tip on, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Drag the pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks.

Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)

Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon filling of your choice. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.

You might also be interested in;
Princess cake flavoring
Non Stick Parchment Paper
Blanched Almond Meal Flour, 5 lbs.
KitchenAid 5-Speed Hand Blender
Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender with Whisk and Chopper Attachments


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Almond Flour & Whole Wheat Pasta made into Ravioli

In April I posted the first part of this post as I made homemade pasta (noodles) from this recipe. This morning I want to get the other part of it posted; ravioli. Cheese stuffed ravioli.  This particular recipe is almond flour based - but it's not completely 100% wheat free.  It's not as important to me to find one completely wheat free now that I buy my own non-gmo, organic wheat berries and grind my own flour.  After I stopped buying the store-bought flour(s) on the market, we found the digestive issues, bloating, pain, etc. disappeared.  It wasn't a gluten issue, it was the stuff that passes for 'flour' in stores today. That's a whole topic, post... novel for another day.

But my point is... we do eat wheat flour now - Not a lot of it, but I keep our pantry stocked with healthy, real wheat berries I grind whenever I want to make something with flour in it.

The only homemade low carb almond flour pasta I've been happy with so far  has about 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour in it.  You can use blanched or unblanched almond flour - For the photos in todays version I used unblanched almond flour so it has more specs of brown in it, is a little darker in color and it is firmer than when I made it using blanched. It has quite a bite to it when you use whole wheat and whole ground almonds.  It's very filling.  I like my pasta with just butter, salt and pepper on it but obviously you can top it with any kind of sauce you wish.

The carb counts depend on what products you use as they vary so much!  If you cook and bake lower carb often, you also know the brand you use makes a tremendous difference in whether or not your product turns out at all.  One almond flour does not equal another even if they look similar.  Same with whey protein powders.  It's frustrating, but true.

Almond Flour Based Pasta 

1 heaping c almond flour (blanched makes a whiter, softer product. I used natural, unblanched for this batch which is firmer than usual)
1/2 c plus 2 T unflavored whey protein powder (mine has 0 carbs and 0 sugar)
1/3 c vital wheat gluten
1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 t xanthan gum
1 t salt
3 eggs

Combine the dry ingredients in a  mixing bowl.  Slightly beat the eggs and pour into a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  With a bread dough hook attachment on your mixer, lower it and turn on low to behind to slowly incorporate the eggs into the dry ingredients.  It should slowly 'grab' the dry from the edges of the bowl and continue mixing until it forms a ball of dough itself.  If it's too dry and it absolutely is not forming together even after about 4 minutes, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil or water onto the edges - only 1/2 teaspoon at a time.  If it's too wet for some reason and won't form a ball, sprinkle a tiny bit of almond flour or wheat flour or even whey protein powder until it starts to come together.  In the photos below you can see I don't need to add anything nor touch it.  I just let it mix on its own and it forms a ball.

Turn the ball of dough out to a parchment paper and work it with your hands a bit to loosen it  up.  It's a little sticky but you could add a tiny bit of whole wheat flour to dust if you need to.  Cover with a piece of plastic and let it rest about 15-20 minutes.  Divide the ball into half if you are rolling out with a rolling pin and roll between two sheets of parchment paper to very, very thin.  Slice strips with a pizza cutter to make noodles, use a ravioli mold for ravioli or slice into wider sheets to use for lasagna.  If you are using a pasta machine, divide your dough into 4-6 small balls and proceed as your particular machine requires.  Mine is a manual pasta machine.  Photos below.  For noodles, cook in boiling water until tender, drain.  Season.

Products I used to make my version are available online if you can't find them locally (I have to buy online too):
Marcato Atlas Pasta Maker, Stainless Steel
Isopure Whey Protein Isolate, Unflavored, 1 Pound
Honeyville Farms Blanched Almond Meal Flour, 5 lb
Natural Almond Flour - 25 Pound Bag
Hard White Wheat Berries - Non-GMO, 100% Non-Irradiated
Hodgson Mill Vital Wheat Gluten w/ Vitamin C - 6.5 oz
Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum, 8-Ounce
KitchenAid Classic Plus Stand Mixer

Eggs into the dry ingredients

Starting to mix - let it slowly incorporate itself

Didn't scrape down the bowl or force it to blend - just let it grab from the sides itself

It's forming a dough ball nicely

And it's a nice ball of dough

Stickier and harder to work with than wheat pasta... takes more time

Not as stretchy and smooth as flour based of course, but I got the job done

Putting together pieces into my ravioli mold

Filled with a basic egg, ricotta, garlic and parsley filling

Covered with more pasta and rolled to seal

Ready to freeze or cook in boiling water for a few minutes until done

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