Thursday, February 23, 2012

Monster Cookies - Gluten Free


Monster Cookies have everything my heart desires. Peanut butter? Check. Mini M & Ms? Check. Mini Chocolate Chips? Check. Yep, it's a match made in heaven.

I slightly adapted this recipe which was given to me by my husband's Great Aunt Betty. She made these cookies for a get-together and when I said I couldn't have them because I can't eat gluten, she surprised me by saying they have no flour in them. So I helped myself to the cookies and the rest is history. Note: if you have to strictly avoid gluten, make sure to use gluten-free oats.

1 stick butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup peanut butter
2 ¼ cups old fashioned oats
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup mini M & Ms

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream butter and sugars
  3. Add egg, vanilla, corn syrup, baking soda, and peanut butter
  4. Mix well until smooth
  5. Add oats
  6. Mix well, scraping side of bowl
  7. Add chocolate chips
  8. Mix again
  9. Add M & Ms
  10. Mix
  11. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. (I like to use a baking mat or a cookie sheet lined with parchment.)
  12. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes
  13. Let cool on cookie sheets about 3 minutes before removing to cooling racks. 
Makes about 60 cookies (depending on how much of the dough you eat!)

Books: Hidden Summit by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is my most favorite author of all. She has interesting and believable main characters, good story lines, and fascinating secondary characters as well. Even the fictitious town of Virgin River, California seems to have become a character throughout the 17 books based there. Hidden Summit is book #17 in her Virgin River series. I can't believe I've read 17 books in her Virgin River series, and I still feel like I can't get enough. (Don't ever stop writing Robyn!). Well, if you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed Hidden Summit. The conflict in the story surrounds the circumstances the couple is in rather than the conflict coming from poor decisions one of the main characters has made and that's the way I like it. If you haven't read any of Carr's books, I suggest starting with the first book in the Virgin River series, Virgin River.

Books: Longing by Karen Kingsbury

I've finished Karen Kingbury's third book in the Bailey Flanigan series, Longing, a week or so ago. I really enjoy Kingsbury's writing and have read almost all of her books (oddly enough, the one I couldn't finish was Dandelion Dust which was made into a movie!). But enough of that. The big question in the Bailey Flanigan series is which man will she choose? Her first crush-turned love who suddenly started ignoring her a year ago? Or the man who loves her and pursues her now? My vote is for the currently man, Brandon Paul. I was very pleased with how the third book played out and I hope Kingsbury doesn't change up things for the fourth book (meaning I hope she doesn't have Bailey switch which guy she chooses). This book actually had me shedding a tear or two (which just does not happen for me when I read books. I felt very cliche when I realized my eyes were misting up, but there is a certain sad scene that warrants tears.) 

One of Kingsbury's amazing ideas is to have the main characters of her book, Bailey, Brandon, and Cody have a Facebook page. You can like them and see their updates. Kingsbury has movie trailers for her books as well and her daughter acts in the role of Bailey. You know when you read a fiction book and it really feels like the characters seem so alive to you? Well, having the fictional characters have their own Facebook page really makes the characters come to life. All of Kingsbury's books are good, inspirational reads.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Cookies with Dipping Bar

I love Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. I've been reading her blog since 2007 and I love watching her show on the Food Network. I think I've made something from every episode of season 2 so far. These Chocolate Cookies are from this past Saturday's chocolate episode. I thought these cookies would be perfect for my son's preschool Valentine's party. These cookies are easy to make and they are delish!
2 sticks salted butter, slightly softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 whole egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces white almond bark (4 squares)
4 ounces chocolate almond bark (4 squares)
Dipping Bar:
Pistachios, finely chopped
Chocolate covered candy, such as M and M's, chopped
Chocolate covered toffee bars, such as Skor Toffee Bars, chopped
Chocolate sprinkles
Other variations: different candy bars, chopped; different varieties of sprinkles; different chopped nuts
For the cookies: Cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt, and mix together until the dough comes together. Place plastic wrap on the surface of the dough and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with baking mats or parchment.

Roll out the cookie dough and cut out the cookies using a cookie cutter, re-rolling the scraps in order to use as much of the dough as possible. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, in batches if necessary, being careful not to burn. Cookies will remain the same general size and shape after they bake.

Remove from the oven and place the cookies on a cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely.
Melt the almond barks in separate bowls in the microwave. Stir and continue heating at 30 minute intervals until smooth. Dip half of each cookie into the white almond bark and half into the chocolate bark.
Immediately sprinkle or press toppings from the Dipping Bar over both sides of the cookies.
Gently set on parchment paper or another nonstick surface and allow to cool before serving.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

French Toast with Strawberry Compound Butter


French Toast with Strawberry Compound Butter 
Bread (we use Sourdough, French, or this time I bought a loaf of actual French Toast bread)
Vanilla Extract

For every 2 slices of bread, use 1 egg and 1/8 cup milk. For example, if you want eight slices of French Toast, use 4 eggs and ½ cup milk.

Put the milk and egg in a shallow dish like a pie pan. Whisk together. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste and about ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk together.

Melt about 1 Tablespoon butter on a hot griddle (I heat mine to 400 degrees) or a skillet on medium. Dip both sides of each slice of bread in the egg mixture and place on griddle. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until done. Serve hot and enjoy!

Strawberry Compound Butter
I saw Pioneer Woman make a blackberry compound butter on her show a few weeks back and it looked delicious and easy, but there was no recipe for it on the Food Network. So here I have typed up my version of her compound butter. My friend Sheree came over and we made compound butter together, isn’t it fun to cook with friends? We split what we made, but I think next time, I’m going to make a lot more because it’s so good.

2 sticks of salted butter, softened
5 or 6 fresh strawberries

Wash strawberries well and pat dry. Remove stems. Cut strawberries into small pieces.

Put the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the butter until its creamy. Remove whisk attachment, and put on the paddle attachment. Add the strawberries and gently mix them together (mixer should be on lowest setting).

Place a sheet of foil (about a foot long) on the counter, then put the same amount of plastic wrap on top of it. Put half the strawberry butter on the plastic wrap and form into a log. Roll the plastic wrap around it (like a tootsie roll). Then wrap the foil around it (like a tootsie roll). Store in the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, take it out, slice it and let it sit out for about ten minutes, then enjoy! This would be good on toast, pancakes, French toast, etc.

Books: A Home By the Sea

I chose this book because I used to love reading Christina Skye's books and I haven't read one in a while. This one was sadly disappointing. I really liked the two main characters and I loved the family of the male interest (I can't even remember his name!). But half way through the book, the main character moves across the country and we're introduce to a whole new set of secondary characters and we never hear from the lovely family again. The introduction of these new secondary characters and a second setting made the book boring. I had force myself to finish it. Very disappointing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Salmon and Spinach Salad

I've posted about this recipe before, but it's so pretty and delicious I have to do it again. My kids liked the salmon as well. My 5 year-old said, "This SPAM is good!"

This time I've cooked the salmon in a skillet because it's winter and I don't want to BBQ outside like the original recipe suggests. It was just as good. It was also good to see my picture from almost 2 years ago compared to the one from today. I think I've improved!

Salmon and Spinach Salad
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon honey mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 Tablespoon butter
1 (6-ounce) package fresh spinach
4 oranges, each peeled and cut into 6 slices

1. To prepare vinaigrette, combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Drizzle lemon juice over fillets, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons pepper. Cook salmon until done about 5 minutes each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. (I used fillets with no skin.)  
4. Add spinach to vinaigrette in bowl; toss well. Place 2 cups spinach mixture on each of 4 serving plates; arrange 1 fillet and 6 orange slices on top of greens. Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brownies Topped with Ganache, GF

These delicious easy to grab brownies will be part of my food spread tomorrow for the Superbowl. I love this brownie recipe (it can be made non-gluten-free, just use regular flour and eliminate the xanthan gum). And a word about the ganache: Please make it (okay, that's three words). It will change your life. This ganache is obedient, simple to make, and delish. The consistency is perfect and it spreads exactly where I tell it to. Obedient ganache. Now if my kids were that easy to manage.
Gluten-Free Brownies Topped with Ganache
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup gluten-free flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill GF Flour)
¼ tsp. xanthan flour
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan. In a medium saucepan melt butter. Remove melted butter from heat, add cocoa, and stir until well blended. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Stir in vanilla, flour, and salt. Do not overbeat. Spread in prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let brownies cool completely before cutting.

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp whipping cream
2 Tbsp corn syrup

Melt chocolate and butter together over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat and add cream and corn syrup. Mix till smooth. Pour over brownies, cake, etc...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Brown Butter and Sea Salt Cookies - Gluten Free

Last October, my aunt brought me a package of Gluten Free Chocolate Mint Browned Butter Sea Salt Cookies all the way from the Brown Butter Cookie Shop in Cayucos, California. They survived the plane ride and everything! Let me tell you, those three cookies were worth it! I even portioned them out so I wouldn't eat them all in one night. It was such a surprise to have the last cookie a week later when I really NEEDED a cookie. I haven't found a recipe for the chocolate mint cookies yet, but I did find the basic Brown Butter Sea Salt cookie recipe from Here is my gluten-free version with some slight variations.

Gluten Free Brown Butter and Sea Salt Cookies

1 cup salted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups gluten free flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
Sea Salt

1. In a small saucepan, melt butter on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned. Stir in sugars and vanilla and remove from heat.
2. Let the sugar mixture cool to room temperature.
3. In a mixing bowl add flour, xanthan gum, and baking soda. Stir in sugar mixture until combined.
4. Let the mixture rest for at least an hour to let the flour absorb all the butter. The mixture may be stiff afterword and crumbly; microwave handfuls of dough for 10 seconds. The dough will be easier to roll.
5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
6. Roll 1 inch balls of dough and place on cookie sheet. Gently flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass. Sprinkle sea salt on top. (Flattening the cookies was one of my additions. You can see I did that for the cookies in the foreground in the picture above, whereas the cookies on the plate have not been flattened. I think the flat ones look better.)
7. Bake for 15 minutes. Place a sheet of foil on countertop and transfer cookies to the foil to cool.