September 30, 2016

Healthier Halloween Cookies! Cut out sugar cookies without the sugar!

I posted this last year but hey, Halloween is coming up in just a few weeks so I'm bringing it back!  It only has 1/4 cup of wheat flour in it and the rest is low-carb friendly almond flour and coconut flour.  I cut mine into ghosts - but any shape will work!

Cut Out Cookies - sugar free and lower carb

1 1/2 c almond flour
1/4 c coconut flour
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1 egg
1/4 t almond extract
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 c natural sweetener
5-10 drops liquid sweetener to your level of taste
scant 1/2 c butter with 1 T shortening to make up for the 'scant'

Cream the sweetener, butter and shortening.  In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients well.  Add the egg and extracts to the sweetener/butter mixture.  Add the dry mix and blend until it comes together as a dough.  If it's really sticky, add more of your favorite gluten free flour or a little more whole wheat flour until the stickiness is lessened a bit so you can form a ball and wrap in plastic wrap to chill.  Chill about 30 minutes, remove half the dough.  Return the second half back to the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350.  Roll the dough out between 2 sheets of parchment.  Cut out your shapes and transfer them to a baking sheet. I use a Wilton icing spatula to transfer mine.  Use either ungreased or parchment lined pans.  (I did both and my cookies did not stick even on the unlined).

Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 3-4 minutes and then place directly into the oven.  Bake for about 9-10 minutes or until you can see the edges just starting to brown.  I find almond meal based cookies to be a little more tender and delicate than wheat cookies and have learned to bake almond flour based cookies a little longer than I have to for all purpose flour based.  I just keep an eye on them and set the time for "one more minute" if I didn't see the edges had any color to them yet.

Remove from the pan and place on wire racks to cool completely.  If your cookies are baked long enough this isn't a problem - they are nice and sturdy but still tender with a perfect 'bite' to them like any good sugar cookie.

Frost with your favorite frosting.

I used a favorite "cake" frosting I whipped up but you can use any you like.

Sugar Free Butter Cream Vanilla Frosting

2/3+ c granular natural sweetener  
2 T water
2 large egg whites (separate and use the yolks in another recipe)
1 stick real butter
1 T vanilla extract
 *If you taste test it and find your personal tastes would like it sweeter, use 5-8 drops liquid sweetener

In a saucepan, place the water and sweetener. Heat over medium high until it comes to 240 degrees. 

As you are heating the sugar substitute and water, mix the egg whites in a large mixing bowl.  Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  With the mixer running, pour the hot sweetener mixture down the side of the bowl in a thin stream, mixing into the egg whites.  Beat approximately 5-7 minutes on high until the egg whites resemble a thick and glossy meringue.

Start to add the butter in chunks, about a tablespoon at a time.  Keep the mixer running and whip the mixture about 5-7 minutes more.  If the mixture breaks up when you first add the butter and it looks like cottage cheese, no worries.  Just keep whipping until it's smooth again.  Once the frosting is smooth, add your vanilla and whip again for a few minutes.  If it's a really warm or humid day it might get too warm to work with.  Just refrigerate it for about 7 minutes, whip again.  The cooler temperatures will cause it to harden up again.

Photos from the cookie making process

I added a bit of whole wheat flour as we have no allergies or food restrictions in our house

I like to use a long, thin frosting spatula to transfer the cookies to the baking sheet

Ready for our decorations!

You might also be interested in these related products through Amazon if you can't buy them locally:
Blanched Almond Flour, 5 lbs.
Natural Sweeteners
Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Flour (Gluten Free), 16 Ounce Canister
Ideal No Calorie Sweetener 10.6 Ounce Baking Bag

Wilton Angled Icing Spatula, 13-Inch, Black


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Reviews for The Cuisinart 14 Cup Food Processor - And a Price Drop!? ( DFP-14BCNY )

A couple months ago I wanted to shred a block of cheddar cheese in my food processor and it would not get the job done.  Granted, I have a very chea... uh affordable Hamilton Beach processor, but still, it's always been a great little machine for me and has power.  For whatever reason, it decided the task of shredding some cheese was too much work and I had to admit that my food processor might not be able to keep up with my penchant for cooking and baking.  That is when I set off to do my own research as to what food processor I should invest in to replace it.

I researched online websites and reviews for a couple days and then visited a couple retail stores in my local city.  The one I decided on was going to be the Cuisinart 14 cup processor.

I actually had a 20% off coupon for a local well known store so I decided that although this processor retailed for $199 (which is FAR out of my single income household budget) with my 20% coupon, and cutting back in a couple other places I could justify the purchase.  I cook and bake so much that a good processor is like gold to me.

And they did not stock them in the store!  Ha ha.

So I returned home, decided I would order it online through their website so I could still use the discount coupon, and all would be well.  Except something came up and I no longer had $150 to spend so I put it off.

And that was now months ago.  I never was able to get a new food processor and although my little guy is still hanging in there, I have been shredding cheese by hand on a little $3 manual metal grater.

But this morning I was looking through some of my draft files and saw I had originally put some of my research into a draft post for the Cuisinart - I was going to post it after I purchased it and let people know what I thought.  Since I never was able to buy one, the post got lost in the 'draft files' and never saw the light of day.

But guess what happened this morning?  I was going through the drafts, saw it, clicked on the product link I had to Amazon, and this morning I see the price for the silver colored version is down to $145.00!  Granted - Amazon prices change constantly - and can even change in the time you take between viewing it and putting it in your basket.  But for right now, this very morning, it's $145 - down from $199 AND offering free shipping.

I honestly don't have $145 right now or I would have clicked to add it to my cart; but I DID add it to my wish list and I decided to let my readers know the price dropped.  Here is my original 'draft file' of the product from a couple months ago when I was doing research for my own personal decision making.

Source of review:

Food Processors
Published January 2016

Cuisinart Custom 14 Food Processor
Update: February 2016

Our winning food processor by Cuisinart has a new model number, DFP-14BCNY, and a newly redesigned S-shaped chopping blade. As we noted earlier, we found that the older blade sometimes cracked under heavy usage. (In the new blade, the metal arms are built into the plastic housing; the older blade was fastened on with metal bolts, where cracking began if the blade was under stress.) We have tried the new blade and still highly recommend this food processor. The manufacturer's list price has also increased to $199.

How We Tested

Here in the test kitchen, we demand a food processor that can handle lots of chopping, slicing, and shredding while delivering professional quality results, and we think home cooks deserve the same. It had better be able to not only puree a dip and whip up creamy mayonnaise but also cut fat into a pie crust in seconds, grind beef into hamburger, and knead heavy pizza dough. And of course we want our food processor to be simple to use and quick to clean, or why would we ever bother hauling it out?


Here is another review I found and saved while I was researching machines.

With a powerful, quiet motor; responsive pulsing action; sharp blades; and a simple, pared-down-to-basics design, our old favorite aced every test, surprising us time and again by outshining pricier, more feature-filled competitors. It was one of the few models that didn’t leak at its maximum stated liquid capacity. It’s also easy to clean and store, because it comes with just a chopping blade and two disks for shredding and slicing. Additional blade options are available à la carte.

NOTE: We recently noticed that after 18 months of heavy use in the test kitchen and constant exposure to our powerful commercial dishwasher, most of the S-shaped chopping blades from our winning Cuisinart Custom 14 food processors either showed hairline cracks or had small pieces of metal broken off. Cuisinart has created a new S-blade for this model, and all new machines are now equipped with the new blade. If you own the older S-blade, we recommend checking it every time you use it; this would also be a good practice with the chopping blade of any food processor. Check back for the most up-to-date information on this model; if you need to replace your chopping blade, please contact Cuisinart directly at (1-800-726-0190).

Suggested retail:  $199.99

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September 29, 2016

Cold Vegetable Ranch Salad - "Summer Salad"

This is a recipe that isn't really a recipe because you have so many options to use what you have on hand.  Aren't those kinds awesome?  Basically it's going to turn out no matter what and you can't beat that for a last second side dish! 

This recipe makes me smile because it's been in my recipe album since... forever.  Soon after our oldest daughter was born, we were expecting some old friends to visit from out of state.  I gathered a couple recipes to make while they were visiting and this was one of them.  My oldest daughter is in her 20's now...  and still, this recipe has a place in my first first recipe album.

This makes a really large salad so I usually half it and it's still enough to feed a family of 5.  Leave out what you don't have or don't like, substitute if you wish but it works best if you at least have the cauliflower, broccoli, peas, peppers and bacon and even better if you can add at least 3-5 more veggies.

Summer Salad

1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 10 oz. pkg frozen peas
1 c celery, chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (or yellow or orange)
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
1 pk. dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix
1 c mayonnaise
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced or chopped
cheddar cheese cubes
bacon bits or crumbled cooked bacon

Combine the dressing mix with the mayonnaise.  Add this to a large bowl of your mixed vegetables and mix well.  Add the eggs, cheese and bacon.  Cover and chill 4 hours before serving.  Even better the longer it chills and sets.

Peas are so pretty!  And taste so good with the ranch dressing mix!

Mixing in the dressing/mayo with the chopped veggies

Products related to this post available through Amazon;

Large Clear Glass Wavy Serving/Mixing Bowl, 63.5 oz
Hallmark Home Clever Kitchen Everyday Collection, Medium Stoneware Serving/Mixing Bowl


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September 26, 2016

Homemade Wheat Bread - Autumn and Homemade Bread Just Go Hand in Hand

Wheat Bread 
double loaf

3 c warm water
1 T instant/quick yeast
1/3 c oil
1/3 c honey or sweetener
1 T salt
6 c hard white whole wheat flour mixed with;
1/2 c rolled oats or quick oats
1/4 c vital wheat gluten with vitamin C

Combine water, yeast, oil, honey and salt.  Add about 5 cups of the flour mix and start to mix slow in a heavy duty mixer with a bread hook.  Add 1-2 cups more flour as needed so it forms a nice ball of dough.  Let it knead about 8 minutes.  Coat your hands with a bit of oil and turn dough out onto an oiled or parchment lined surface.  Divide and form 2 loaves.  Place in greased bread pans.  Cover with plastic wrap and let raise in a warm area for about 45 minutes until doubled in size.  Bake breads at 350 for 25-30 minutes in a regular open bread loaf pan or about 45 minutes for a heavy duty, restaurant style pan with lid.  Remove and cool. You can rub butter on the top surface of the bread in the 'open' traditional style baking pans for a softer crust with a nice flavor.

I have taken to grinding my own wheat since last year but I bet you could use King Arthur Flour 100%s Organic White Whole Wheat Flour or another good quality white wheat flour if you don't have the ability to grind your own.

The photo at the top of the page was baked with a square pan/lid that I ordered from Amazon.  I like it because the slices are uniform in size and work great for sandwiches.  I've found (as silly as it sounds) that my husband is more likely to make a sandwich out of the bread if it's 'square' slices while the traditional rounded top breads are used more for slices to eat with a meal (with soup or stews or made into garlic bread, etc).

Here is picture I took of the double loaf baked in one traditional pan and then using the square sided pan without the lid so it was just a traditional looking homemade loaf.

Note:  I have found the square pans are thicker and need to be baked longer than the bread I bake in a traditional bread loaf pan (up to 15 minutes longer!).

You might be interested in these related products, available through Amazon;

WonderMill Grain Mill
Hodgson Mill Vital Wheat Gluten w/ Vitamin C - 6.5 oz
Non-GMO Project Verified Hard White Wheat Berries
USA Pan Bakeware 9 x 4 Inch Pullman Loaf Pan

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September 23, 2016

Slow Cooked Roast that Makes it's Own Gravy

We go through stages where we don't care for roasts and then suddenly we want them pretty often.  For some reason, roasts have been really popular in our house for the last couple months; and it's not even cold outside yet! 

This is one I throw together often because we love the flavor of but I don't ever actually measure anything.  You can also add/delete a couple items if you wish or you have them on hand.

I know most people buy Lipton Onion Soup mixes... it seems people usually have those on hand.  I don't because I usually just whip up my own homemade version.  So in the photo below you'll see some beef soup base (beef bouillon), celery seed, onion powder and dehydrated onions.  This is what is in a store bought Lipton Soup Mix.  So basically - if you have a package on hand just use that.  If you don't, then use the items below.  :)

Another option - you can brown or pan sear the roast before hand if you wish.  I almost never do.  I haven't found it's necessary and by the time the roast is finished cooking it's a nice dark brown color anyway and the flavor doesn't seem to be affected either way.

Slow Cooked Roast

1 chuck roast
1/4 c dried minced onion
2 T beef soup base (or 2 cubes bouillon)
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t celery seed
dash salt
1 can cream of mushroom soup
optional:  extra mushrooms, baby potatoes

Use can use 1 envelope dry onion soup mix instead of the onion, beef flavor, onion powder and celery seed.  I know some people will cringe to see it has mushroom soup in it.  My husband would too... except you really can't tell in this dish once it's cooked.  Seriously; he doesn't eat sauces or gravies if he can tell it's made with mushroom soup but this one cooks up wonderfully and adds to the flavor and texture of the gravy.  Brown the roast beforehand if you wish (not necessary).

Place in the slow cooker or crock-pot along with the other ingredients and use the empty soup can to measure out water.  Add 1 can of water to the crock, cover and cook on low for about 8 hours or high for about 6 (depends on your own crock pot). 

You can add extra mushrooms if you wish and you can add some baby potatoes.  If you can, just add them for the last 2-3 hours cook time but if you need to add them at the beginning, be sure to just put them on top of the roast so they cook slower.  Remove the potatoes and roast when done to a serving dish and gently stir the gravy to mix it all before serving with the potatoes.  You could also serve with pasta, rice or mashed cauliflower.


Related products available through Amazon 
 (I use the Hamilton Beach with temperature probe which I love for the size but honestly I never use the meat probe at all.  I love it for the size, the seal on the lid and how well everything seems to turn out in it).

Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker With Temperature Probe, 6-Quart (33969A)
Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker With Temperature Probe, 6-Quart (33967A)
Hamilton Beach 33461 Stay or Go 6-Quart Portable Slow Cooker

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