A Particularly Happy St. Patrick’s Day

We’re not Irish. But neither are most of the idiots out there today getting drunk and obnoxious, so let’s go with it.

I made Irish potatoes yesterday. A lot of Irish potatoes.

They’re gone now.

I love Irish potatoes. Everyone else in this house loves Irish potatoes.

So for today’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner I put a pot roast in the crockpot and Alex made soda bread. And since we’d eaten most of the Irish potatoes by mid-afternoon, we needed dessert.

I had half a bottle of Vanilla Porter in the fridge and memories of a delicious Guinness chocolate  ice cream I made once, so ice cream was the way to go.

I have David Lebovitz’s marvelous book A Perfect Scoop, and therein found his recipe for Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.

Alas, I didn’t have Guinness or milk chocolate, and I didn’t feel like making a custard.

So I made something up, in the process providing further evidence for my theory that you can throw just about anything into an ice cream maker and it will be fabulous.

Forthwith, my Vanilla Porter-Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Cream. Please, try it.

  • 7½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used 4 ounces of 72% and 3.5 ounces of 85%, because that’s what I had)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup Breckinridge Vanilla Porter (although I’m willing to bet that you can use any good beer you like)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

I melted the chocolate very slowly in one cup of half-and-half, then stirred in the sugar till it dissolved. If I do it again, I’ll dissolve the sugar first, but I wasn’t sure how much sugar I was going to need. (I added a quarter-cup at a time till it was as sweet as I wanted it to be.)

Then I whisked in the other cup of half-and-half (a bit at a time) and the beer and the vanilla. Some of the chocolate resolidified, so I strained the mixture, remelted it, and whisked it back in, but you can skip that step if you’re not as obsessive as I am; it wasn’t that much chocolate.

I refrigerated the mixture till it was cold and fired up the old ice cream maker.

So, so good. Possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever made, and certainly in the top five.

And you can do this with whatever you have. If your chocolate is sweeter, use less sugar. Use milk. Use cream. Hell, use coconut milk and your paleo sweetener of choice. If you can make a mixture with a fairly high fat content that tastes good, it will make delicious ice cream. And if you go with fruit or juice instead of cream, it will make delicious sorbet.

Get out the ice cream maker. Experiment. You won’t regret it.

 

Paleo Pancakes — and They’re Good!

OK, you all know I have a dislike-hate relationship with this whole paleo thing. I eat that way — most of the time — because I feel better when I do, and because it keeps my weight steady (although still higher than I’d like). But unlike a lot of converts, who swear up and down that they never miss the evils of flour and sugar, I miss them both. All the time.

So I saw this recipe for pancakes on George’s wonderful Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations, and I had to try. I’ve had real pancakes exactly once in the past two years (and they were marvelous), and I wanted more, damn it. And I’ve been quite pleased with the other Civilized Caveman recipes I’ve tried, so this morning, when I wanted something different for breakfast — dare I say, something sweet? — I went with George.

But I don’t like bananas, and even more crucially, I didn’t have any. So I did some modification, and here it is!

Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup peach butter (or apple butter, or something all-fruit that’s equally sweet)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • healthy grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
I used an electric griddle, which is awesome. I hate trying to keep the heat at the right level over a fire. If you have one, preheat it to 325 to 350 degrees. (One side of mine works best at 350, the other at 325. Yours, who knows?) Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix well. If your griddle or skillet is not nonstick, grease it with coconut oil and pour batter. I found that 3-inch pancakes worked well. Cook till browned on the bottom — if you don’t wait long enough, they tend to fall apart when you try to flip them — then flip and cook till browned on the other side.
 
We served them with Kerrygold butter and a bit of warmed maple syrup, but hey, be creative.

They were a bit dry, but perfectly acceptable — and the flavor was great. Enjoy!

Coming soon!

We’re working on new and exciting things here at Confectiona’s Realm — things that involve actual sugar! Stay tuned for further developments!

Soon. I promise.

Scones!

Must be something in the air — two posts in four days. I can’t remember the last time I pulled that off.

Maybe it’s that I’m making some really yummy stuff that I don’t have to feel guilty about. Or maybe I just miss blogging.

Whatever it is, herewith, scones.

But first, some background. Ben works at his former Sunday school, so every week from September to May Tim and I have two and a half hours to kill in Chestnut Hill. When the weather is good, or passable, we hike in the Wissahickon, which is a lovely and highly recommended way to spend a Sunday morning. However, the forecast for this morning was 30 degrees with 25-mph winds and a wind chill factor of 10.

So, no hike. Yes, I am a wimp.

When we don’t hike, we while away the hours at a coffee shop on Germantown Avenue. It’s a nice place, casual and unpretentious, with marvelous-looking pastries in the display case. Every time we go, I gaze longingly at those pastries.

Not this time, I decided last night. So I went looking for alternatives.

And I found these coconut scones on a blog called Frisky Lemon, where I do believe I will be spending more time in the future.

I haven’t loved most of the (non-paleo) scones I’ve made in the past; they tend to be dry, and often don’t have a whole lot of flavor. But, I figured, we’d be eating these with coffee. And hey, my expectations for paleo baked goods are pretty low, so how could I be disappointed?

I modified the original recipe a bit, because that’s what I do — but in this case, only a tiny bit: I used maple syrup in place of honey, and I let the food processor mix in the coconut milk too.

Before the coconut milk went in, the dough was exactly the right texture for scones, and it looked just the picture accompanying the original recipe. I very nearly just skipped the coconut milk completely. But I didn’t, and I’m so glad.

When they came out of the oven the scones looked delicious, and smelled even better. But they also looked crumbly, and I was worried about how dry they must be. But I cooled them and refrigerated them, as instructed.

This morning I packed up four to take along. And it’s lucky I did, because if I’d taken all eight, they’d be long gone by now.

These are by far the best scones I’ve ever had: moist and light and just sweet enough. They are perfect; there is nothing I would change about them.

This is one of those recipes I can recommend wholeheartedly even to those of you who aren’t eating paleo. They’re that good. Try them!

Coconut Scones
(courtesy of Allison Nichols of Frisky Lemon)

  • ½ cup almond meal
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter (cold)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


In your food processor, combine both flours, coconut, butter, honey, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Pulse until everything is crumbly. Add the coconut milk, and mix until well combined (the batter should be sticky and hold together, although mine did not form a ball).

Place the batter on your baking sheet, and press into a circle. Cut the circle into 8 wedges and sprinkle with shredded coconut (I went pretty heavy on the coconut).

Bake until browned; mine took 8 minutes. Caveat: My oven has only a passing familiarity with holding a set temperature; the original recipe says 10 to 12 minutes.

Pull the sheet of parchment onto a wire rack to let the scones cool. Like most coconut flour baked goods, these will be a little crumbly when they come out of the oven. Once they cool, refrigerate them, and serve chilled!

Pudding!

Anyone who’s ever read even one post on this blog knows I have a sweet tooth. No matter how long I avoid all traces of sugar (I’m looking at you, Whole30), I always welcome it back with open arms at the earliest opportunity.

I’ve been binging pretty heavily (for the new, marginally improved me, that is) in the week since we finished Whole30, but today, I had no sugar. None at all. No chocolate. No strawberry Fluff (God help me). Not even any stevia in my coffee (the only positive thing to come out of Whole30, as far as I’m concerned).

And tonight, after a dinner of shrimp sautéed in coconut oil on a bed of salad greens, I wanted dessert. But I also wanted to be good.

So I made pudding!

Avocados are one of those primal/paleo mainstays; Tim eats several per week, and it seems as if every other paleo recipe includes them. I don’t like avocados. I’ve tried; really I have. But I really wanted pudding.

The recipe I modified promised that this pudding wouldn’t taste like avocados. I was dubious, but did I mention I really wanted pudding?

So I made it, tweaking it a little along the way. And it was marvelous: dark and rich and smooth — and not a hint of avocado.

Chocolate Pudding
1 ripe avocado
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup full-fat coconut milk (although you could probably get away with light)
¼ cup agave (I think I’ll try coconut nectar next time)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
dash of salt

In a blender (or probably a food processor; I’m going to try that next time), blend the avocado, cocoa, and coconut milk till smooth. Add the agave, vanilla, and salt and continue mixing until it’s pudding.

I’m already thinking of ways to play with this. You could put whipped cream (or berries, if you like that sort of thing) on top. You could use mint extract or almond extract in addition to the vanilla. You could freeze it and make pudding pops!

The world is your oyster. And almost no guilt!

(Sorry about the photo. I was too lazy to do it right.)

I Can Still Bake!

Yes, it’s been months. Nine long months during which I didn’t post a thing on this blog, despite the fact that I have indeed been baking.

Sheer laziness.

I’ve been eating paleo/primal since the beginning of the year; the main difference from my old life is that there are no grains and no processed sugar. (In theory, mind you. Only in theory. I have had both grains and sugar at various times in 2011; I just try not to bake with them at home.)

I’ve made a variety of primal cookies this year, but I just haven’t bothered to write down what I did.

That changes now.

After his Thanksgiving baking frenzy, Alex left me six egg whites in the refrigerator. That very day I found a recipe in a paleo cookbook for coconut macaroons, and it called for — wait for it — six egg whites.

Who am I to argue with fate?

Of course, I tweaked the recipe a bit. And the result is quite satisfying on a cold Saturday evening.

Even if you haven’t given up everything that makes life worth living, give them a try.

Primal Coconut Macaroons (makes about 30 cookies)

  • 6 egg whites
  • ¼ to ½ cup agave or maple syrup
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup cocoa nibs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk the egg whites till they form soft peaks. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the syrup and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the coconut and coconut nibs.

Form into one-inch balls (a cookie scoop helps immensely with this) and bake for about 15 minutes, till slightly browned.

Cool on the parchment paper on a wire rack.

They’re delicious while still warm.

(I apologize for the quality of the photograph. Technology issues. I’ll do better next time.)

 

Cookies the (Very) Old-Fashioned Way

So, some of you may have noticed a dearth of posts in the past couple of months. Also, some of you may know that Tim lost 90 pounds last year by following what’s called the primal way of eating.

These things are not coincidental in any but the most literal sense.

Although I lost 30 pounds last year using SlimFast, I hit a plateau in late October and could not lose anymore. At the same time, I started having horrible carb cravings, worse than my standard carb cravings. I think those things were not coincidental either.

So at the beginning of December, I started eating primally.

It was not easy: Two of my major food groups were bread and sugar. But it was necessary.

Regular food has been fairly easy to adapt: no rice or pasta, no bread. No biggie.

But dessert. And snacks. And, you know, good stuff. That was what I missed.

So, here begins a reimagining of Confectiona’s Realm, one in which I work through the issues involved in being a sugar addict who gives up sugar.

Step one: Cookies. I found this recipe on the Internet, and thought it looked like a good place to start. After some tweaks, it turned into this:

  • 1¼ cup almond meal
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup coconut syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans, or to taste
  • 1½ ounces chopped dark chocolate, or to taste
  • Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until desired doneness. Be careful: They go from not quite done to burnt quite quickly. Allow to cool for a minute or so on the pan, then slide the parchment onto a rack and let cool. Eat at least one warm.

These are good. These are very good. They’re not as good as Dorie Greenspan’s amazing chocolate chip cookies, but they’re healthier. Or so I hear.

Next up, cookies not based on nuts!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Translucent Maple Tuiles

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipes was Translucent Maple Tuiles, chosen for us by Clivia of Bubie’s Little Baker. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for as long as I’ve had Baking: From My Home to Yours, so I was very happy to have an excuse to bring cookies into our increasingly low-carb life.

Most of my tuiles had nothing in common with the picture in the book, except color. The color was spot on.

I baked two sets of cookies. In the first set I put 12 little balls of dough on an unlined, ungreased cookie sheet. Six minutes later, they’d baked into one large tuile. I waited the few seconds specified in the recipe and tried to pick one up with a metal spatula. No. Almost the whole batch wound up smooshed up into miniature cigars — delicious cigars, mind you, but not what I was after.

I didn’t take any pictures of those, because Ben and I ate them too fast. They were essentially candy, like toffee. Yum.

For my second try I put six little balls of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Six minutes later they’d baked into lovely tuiles, looking very much like the picture in the book.

I followed Ben’s brilliant suggestion to leave them on the cookie sheet longer this time, and it worked! They still weren’t perfect — the edge nearest the spatula wound up thicker than the rest of the cookie — but I put them over a marble rolling pin for about 10 seconds, and they set!

We crumbled them to eat over vanilla ice cream, and the combination was absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

So go visit the other TWD bakers to see how their tuiles turned out. And if you want to try your hand at making some delectable tuiles yourself, buy the book or visit Bubie’s Little Baker for the recipe. See you next week!

Crab Cakes, Marvelous Crab Cakes

So, a couple of months ago I bought a can of crabmeat at Trader Joe’s. I thought, “Hey, I’ll make crab cakes this week.”

Then I put the can in the meat drawer of my refrigerator and forgot it existed.

Thank heaven for modern methods of food processing.

So, I found the can, and I thought, “Hey, I’ll make crab cakes this week.” But this time I really did.

I love crab cakes. When I eat out, if there are crab cakes on the menu, I order them. So I’ve had great crab cakes and not-so-great crab cakes. Sometimes they’re too spicy for me. (Yes, I hear you, Alex.) Sometimes they’re mushy and unappetizing. Sometimes they contain so little crab that they could be fish cakes.

So when I decided to make them at home, I knew I had to find a good recipe. Through the magic of the Internet, I found these, from a lovely blog called the Wednesday Chef that is new to me, but I’ve added it to my Google Reader. Great writing.

Anyway, the intro to the recipe talks about how these crab cakes don’t almost no filler and are great for people who don’t like mayonnaise. Perfect.

So I cracked open the two-month-old can of crab, which was in perfect condition, and added some onion and panko and Old Bay and mayo and an egg, then shaped the cakes and refrigerated them for a couple of hours.

And then I fried them, in butter and oil. And they were magnificent. I really think these are the best crab cakes I’ve ever had. I must make more, very soon. (The recipe makes eight, which was perfect for the three of us. When Alex is home, we’ll all have to survive with only two each. Tragedy.)

And the same recipe would work with canned salmon, and probably even tuna. Versatile!

So seriously, if you like crab cakes, try these. You won’t be sorry.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Peanuttiest Blondies

Oh, yes.

I love Tuesdays With Dorie.

This week’s recipe, chosen for us by Nicole of Bakeologie, is a modest little number, a peanut butter blondie with chocolate chips. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But they’re the crack of the cookie world.

I don’t even like peanut butter cookies, so I wasn’t expecting much from this recipe. I made it only because I haven’t done TWD in a couple of weeks, and the next two weeks involve fruit.

So, blondies. I used natural peanut butter from Trader Joe’s, even though the recipe says not to, because I was at Trader Joe’s and not Wegman’s. I was willing to take the chance, because I really didn’t expect to enjoy them all that much.

Other than that, I made the recipe straight, using mini chocolate chips rather than taking the time to chop chocolate, like I do when I’m expecting to like what I’m making.

Oh, God. These things are so good.

Next time, I’ll throw in some cinnamon chips. Or those cappuccino chips I can almost never find. So very, very good.

I don’t have a lot of pictures, because we ate all the blondies. Really fast. Ben and I scarfed down a bunch as soon as they came out of the pan. Then Tim ate some. Then I took some to a friend. (Who also said they were addictive.) Then we ate some more.

And now they’re gone.

You might be able to find some more photos at the other TWD blogs; everyone can’t be as weak-willed as I am. And Nicole, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We’re All Foodies Here