Category Archives: Recipes – Dessert

Lemon Meringue Pie = Chemistry in the Kitchen

lemon-meringue-pieHello and happy day to you. I hope that the weather is just as spectacular in your neck of the woods as it is for me. I thought I would take a break from being outside to share a recipe with you that I tried for the first time two weeks ago. It was MIL’s birthday and to celebrate, I thought I would try making one of her favorite desserts, lemon meringue pie. I was a bit hesitant at first because I had heard that these pies can be tricky to make, so I decided to hedge my bets by also making a chocolate cream pie. That way, if the meringue didn’t work out, I could pretend that it never happened and still have a tasty dessert to share.

I started by baking the pie crust – all was well at that point. Next came the ingredients for the lemon filling. I poured the agave, cornstarch, water and egg yolks into the saucepan and stirred continuously while heating. At first, the ingredients swirled in the pan like an odd assortment of messy debris. I looked away for a moment to mention something to SensitiveHusband, and when I turned back I saw a smooth, glistening, even-colored vision of dessert. It was a fine hour for chemistry in our kitchen!

The last piece to make was the meringue topping. Into my stand mixer went the egg whites and agave. I set the mixer to high and watched the mixture slosh around for a bit. After a short time, the liquid turned into a fluffy, voluminous meringue. I stood there, amazed for a moment, and then turned off the mixer. Another score for chemistry in our kitchen!

lemon-meringue-pie2This pie is actually fun to make, especially cool if you ever enjoyed science class, and everyone who sampled it that evening really enjoyed it. Of course, we all had to also try the chocolate cream pie since no dessert should go to waste. It’s a very summery treat for the season.

This recipe calls for only three eggs, which is a good thing since the price for wholesale chicken eggs increased 84.5% from May to June. This increase was the largest single-month jump since 1937, when the first records were started. Why the price increase? It’s because the Avian flu killed 49 million chickens during the past winter, according to CNN, thereby reducing the supply.

This recipe is adapted from Gluten Free & More‘s April/May 2015 issue, to remove all of the refined sugar.

Ingredients
3/4 cup light agave syrup
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup cold water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
zest of 1 (or 2) lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 (9-inch) pie crust*, baked
3 egg whites

*If you are looking for a ready-made crust without refined sugar, Pillsbury has a refrigerated version. For a refined sugar free homemade crust, try my graham cracker version. If you are looking for a gluten free pie crust, there are many store-made products and homemade recipes available.

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup agave and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Stir in egg yolks.

Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat and boil one minute. Remove from heat. See the chemistry!

Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and butter.

Spoon hot filling into baked pie crust.

In a small bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, at high speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup agave and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Chemistry again!

Spread meringue evenly over hot filling, sealing to the edges of the crust.

Bake pie 15-20 minutes or until golden.

After cooled, refrigerate until served.

Advertisements

Snickerdoodles (Paleo, Vegan, Gluten/Cane Sugar/Egg/Dairy Free)

Greetings and Happy Daylight Savings Time for those of you who are participating. Even though winter continues to hang around, there are some small signs of spring. This week, we started hearing birds singing outside of our window early in the morning. And yesterday while the sun was out, the strength of the rays warmed my cheeks.

Today is going to be a baking day for me. SensitiveHusband and I were out and about for much of yesterday, so we are keeping things close to home today. The oven has already helped me to bake a batch of cookies. I think some more baked goods are in store for us today…especially since our heater is being a bit temperamental and having the oven on really heats the place up!

Speaking of cookies, I would like to share with you a recipe for Snickerdoodles that my sister-in-law found. We made them together, altering the recipe slightly, and combined our baking time with a cinnamon taste test. Cinnamon has been in the news lately because studies have shown that there can be health benefits but perhaps the reverse is true if too much is consumed over a long period of time. Feel free to read more about the health discussion here. How do each of the cinnamons taste? We decided to try a side-by-side comparison.

cinnamonThe spice called ‘China Cinnamon’ (often called ‘cassia’) was the same as the offering at a typical grocery store. The medium brown color and texture were pleasing, and the taste was like a ground-up cinnamon stick. Our sample of the ‘Ceylon Cinnamon’ provided a new flavor for us, one with hints of the typical cinnamon flavor but also with a smell and taste of citrus.

We baked half of the batch of snickerdoodles with the China Cinnamon, and the other half using the Ceylon variety. Both were delicious although we thought the Ceylon provided an extra bright and perky taste that was really pleasant.

Checking the costs online, the Ceylon cinnamon was slightly more than the regular variety, anywhere from $0.60 to $1.25 more per bottle.

snickerdoodlesIngredients: Cookies
2 cups almond flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup melted coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Ingredients: Cinnamon coating
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar or maple sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line and grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium sized bowl, combine dry ingredients; mix together well. In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, maple syrup, vanilla and lemon juice. Add the wet ingredients to the almond flour mixture and mix until combined. Let rest for a few minutes – it will thicken up a bit.

Combine the sugar (optional) and ground cinnamon in a small bowl.

Scoop out the dough with a tablespoon, then gently form into a ball. Roll in the cinnamon mixture. Place the balls of cookie dough on the baking sheet, about 3 inches apart.

Gently flatten flatten each cookie using your hands or a jar. Dip the bottom of the jar in some of the sugar and spice mixture to help keep the cookie from sticking to the jar.

Bake for 8-9 minutes. Leave cookies on the cookie sheet while cooling. They may seem under-baked at first, but they will firm up to the right texture as they cool.

The Egg-onomics of Cost Sensitive Chocolatey Cookies

Last week the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released national price data, which showed that egg prices were up 7.7% in December, and 10.7% over the past year. The American Institute for Economic Research attributes the price hike to two factors: (1) the avian flu in Mexico, which reduced that country’s domestic supply and increased demand for U.S. eggs, and (2) new regulations in California, the fifth-largest egg-producing state in the U.S., which now requires that hens have enough space to stand up and turn around, thereby increasing costs. Both of these reasons should make the increase in egg prices temporary, but for now, the egg cartons at the grocery store come with higher price tags.

Before you panic about the increasing cost of your omelette, there is hope! Especially if your ingredients include cheese or milk. That’s because the cost of milk is dropping. According to the Associated Press, milk sales set records in 2014 but due to overproduction the prices have fallen and are expected to continue to drop through 2015.

So how does all of this news affect the SensitiveEconomist Cookie Price Index? The price per batch in February 2015 is down 3% overall compared with February 2012. Prices for agave, whole wheat flour, and vanilla extract have decreased; while prices for the chocolate, all purpose flour, butter, local honey, and eggs have all risen. cookie_index_Feb2015

What’s a SensitiveEconomist to do with all of this information? Make cost-sensitive and refined sugar free cookies, of course! I used Ellie Krieger’s recipe for Triple Chocolate Cookies, with some modifications. I substituted the cane sugars with coconut palm sugar and maple syrup (agave would work fine here too). I avoided using honey because its current price is high relative to the other sweeteners, according to my price index. Since whole wheat flour was less expensive than the all-purpose variety, I used more whole wheat and less all-purpose. And unlike my Chocolate Chip Cookies, on which my price index is based, this recipe only calls for one egg. Enjoy the chocolatey cookies with a glass of milk…while the price of a gallon is still inexpensive!

cost sensitive chocolatey cookies

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup oil (I like grapeseed)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips
2/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl (or using a stand mixer), mash together the butter and palm sugar/maple syrup with a fork until well combined. Add the oil and egg and beat until creamy. Mix in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and the (optional) pecans and mix well. Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Coconut Cream Frosting (Gluten & Dairy Free)

Good day, everyone! I hope that this blog finds you well. I am truly appreciating the weather today, such a bright and sunny day, which is a welcome relief from all of the wind and rain we had this past week. The apples I have been purchasing at the local farm have been outstanding, so much so that I have not baked with apples yet this season because SensitiveHusband and I keep eating them before there is any chance of making a muffin or sauce. The carrots, however, I managed to snag for a cake (more on that in a moment). carrot cake cupcakes

Speaking of cake, have you ever eaten “too many slices of suboptimal, day-old cake,” which then inspired you to figure out how best to slice a cake so as not to expose the remains to the air and get dried out? No? To tell you the truth, I hadn’t thought much of it either. Yet this issue has been pondered for well over a century. In 1906 Sir Francis Galton, a British mathematician, discussed the scientific principles of cutting a cake in a letter written to the journal Nature. Galton, who was a first cousin to Charles Darwin, notes that instead of cutting a cake into wedges, you should cut the cake down the middle and remove a thin slice, then push the cake back together, which seals the cake back up. Galton goes a step further and suggests wrapping a rubber band around the outside of the cake to guarantee that no air dries out the baked good. He, who discovered regression to the mean, perhaps only ate cakes with fondant frosting – because I fear the effects of a rubber band wrapped around a luscious buttercream.

Need to see this to believe it? There is an excellent video demonstration by Alex Bellos – check it out here. And see if it convinces you that a wedge slice may not be the only option for parsing out dessert.

Since I continue to think of cake, I will share with you a recipe I made recently for my SIL’s (sister-in-law) birthday. This carrot cake was inspired by a fabulous recipe found in Elana’s Pantry. I chose to sweeten the cake with honey and I used grapeseed oil for the fat. I also crushed the walnuts and baked them into cupcakes. My notes are included in the recipe below. And then I topped them off with a maple coconut cream frosting! I again was inspired by Elana’s Pantry, although I sweetened the frosting with maple syrup, which paired so nicely with the flavors.

Still not sure how you want to slice a cake? No worries, just bake cupcakes!!

CARROT CAKE – INGREDIENTS
3 cups blanched almond flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
5 eggs
½ cup honey (or agave nectar)
¼ cup grapeseed oil
3 cups carrots, grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped

PREPARATION
In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, honey (or agave nectar) and oil
Stir carrots, raisins and walnuts into wet ingredients
Stir wet ingredients into dry
Place batter into 24 cupcake tins with liners (or 2 well greased, round 9-Inch cake pans)
Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes (35 minutes for cakes)
Cool to room temperature and spread with frosting

MAPLE COCONUT CREAM FROSTING – INGREDIENTS
1 cup coconut milk (in a can)
1 cup maple syrup
pinch sea salt
5 teaspoons arrowroot powder
3-5 tablespoons water
1¼ cup coconut oil

PREPARATION
In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, maple syrup and salt, simmer for 10 minutes
In a small bowl, combine arrowroot and water to form a smooth paste
Pour arrowroot mixture into saucepan
Whisk vigorously to combine, then bring to a boil, briefly, until shiny
Remove pot from heat and very gradually blend in coconut oil with a hand blender (or mixer)
Allow pot to cool for 10 minutes
Place pot in refrigerator for 45-120 minutes, until frosting solidifies
Remove from refrigerator and blend again with a hand blender (or mixer), until fluffy
Spread over cake or cupcakes

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sundaes

Hello, and happy summer to you all! As you know, SensitiveHusband and I recently bought a house and moved, and we just sold my condo. So as you can imagine, my free time has been spent moving boxes around. I also find myself doing a lot more laundry since my washer and dryer are just off of the kitchen, which makes moving the clothes around so much easier. It’s weird, I actually find myself making excuses to just do another load of laundry! I bet that feeling will wear off eventually.

peanut butter ice creamHowever, I have still been trying new recipes. And this one for peanut butter ice cream is so delicious and creamy, you won’t even notice the lack of dairy, refined sugar, or gluten. It is rich and satisfying, especially if you pair it with some hot fudge sauce!

How did I uncover this gem of a recipe? My friend MaryAnn sent me a link to the Gluten Free Goddess web site with a simple note attached – “You MUST make this! AMAZING!” Since I like ice cream, and this recipe seemed to be receiving a ringing endorsement, I thought I would oblige.

sundaeI made two changes to the original recipe. First, I doubled it. If the ice cream was really going to be this good, I better make a sizable batch. And secondly, I substituted the brown sugar with coconut palm sugar. The recipe went off without a hitch and when I sampled it, I was overjoyed. So far I have made this ice cream twice, once for SenstiveHusband’s birthday (hence the candle in his sundae), and once for a family party. And I already have all of the ingredients for another batch.

Ingredients:
2 14-oz. cans organic coconut milk, chilled
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup organic natural peanut butter
1 dash sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons dark chocolate shavings (or grain sweetened chocolate chips if you can handle gluten)

Preparation:
Prepare your ice cream maker ahead of time by freezing the canister overnight. Now is a good time to chill your coconut milk in the fridge too.

Combine the chilled coconut milk and coconut palm sugar in a blender and whip until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the natural peanut butter and vanilla extract. Whip just until the mixture is creamy and frothy.

Set your freezing canister in place and turn on the ice cream maker. Pour the mixture into the freezing canister.

Add in the shaved dark chocolate.

Churn until frozen; at 30 minutes it should reach a thick, soft-serve consistency.

Scoop into a freezable quart container, cover and freeze.

hot fudge sauceUpon sampling this peanut butter ice cream, you may find yourself craving a sundae. If this is the case, try this recipe for Homemade Bittersweet Chocolate Syrup from the Nourishing Gourmet. Plus, it’s Paleo; gluten, refined sugar, and dairy free!

And if you need to top it all off with some whipped cream (not dairy free, but gluten free and refined sugar free), you can check out my recipe.

Cheer Up with Maple Syrup – and a Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hi everyone! I hope that you are enjoying (or at least tolerating) the snowy and cold winter weather. Sensitive Husband and I have been busy stimulating the economy by purchasing real estate and a number of various services that go along with it. I must say, based on our recent house-buying experience, that the housing market is beginning to pick up, although slowly. The number of buyers is increasing, although some service providers are still clambering for work. For example, mortgage brokers, real estate appraisers, painters, and repairmen are more than happy to hear about a new house sale, and are available to help at a moment’s notice, which is not the case when the housing market is strong. Needless to say, most of my free time lately has been focused on choosing paint colors instead of trying new recipes. However, spring is almost here, and I am looking forward to more cooking and baking in a new kitchen!

If you have been down in the dumps because of the cold winter, cheer up because spring is a mere three weeks away. Late winter is also a wonderful time of year because the maple sugaring season is typically in February and March. Once the temperature reaches above freezing, pressure develops in the tree and causes the sap to flow out of the taps created by the sugar makers. Then with colder temperatures below freezing, suction inside the tree pulls in water to make more sap. When the fluctuations in temperature lessen, the sap stops flowing. This period of sap flow usually falls within early March to mid April. This year the maple sugaring season will be on the later side because the temperatures have been so cold.

According to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, sap is boiled to evaporate water and to concentrate sugar. The quality of syrup is affected by the particular season, time of season the sap is collected, and how it is processed. The top quality syrups contain about 66% sugar.

Since we received a sampler of maple syrups as a gift, Sensitive Husband and I decided to conduct a taste test of all of the grades since we did not know much about the differences among them. The Grade B maple syrup was the darkest in color and had a rich, smoky taste. The Grade A Medium Amber variety was also quite good, and had slightly smoky and slightly buttery flavors. Grade A Dark Amber was also delicious, with buttery and maple flavors. And the Fancy grade was excellent with even stronger butter and maple flavors. Our taste experiment yielded positive results, in that we enjoyed all of the options! I think Grade B would be best for baking, and the Grades A and Fancy would be good for both baking and pouring over breakfast treats. The trick is to make sure that the maple syrup you purchase is pure, with no added sugars or preservatives, to get the best taste.

So now that we finally familiarized ourselves with various grades of maple syrup, the labels of the grades are about to change. The Grade B label will be eliminated, and the grades will explain more about the taste. Maple syrup producers will be required to use them starting in 2015, although consumers will probably start seeing them this year:

Golden Maple Syrup with a Delicate Taste: light to more pronounced golden colour and a delicate or mild taste

Amber Maple Syrup with a Rich Taste: light amber colour and a rich or full-bodied taste

Dark Maple Syrup with Robust Taste: dark color and a robust or strong taste

Very Dark Maple Syrup with a Strong Taste: very strong taste, generally recommended for cooking

According to the International Maple Syrup Institute, 2013 produced a bumper crop of maple syrup in most areas with the production of lighter syrups being most common. Total production of maple syrup for 2013 in Canada and the U.S. combined was estimated at 170 million pounds, with about 120 million pounds being produced in Quebec.

Skillet Chocolate Chip CookieMaple syrup is a fabulous natural sweetener, and can be substituted for cane sugar in most recipes as a 1:1 swap. I substituted maple syrup for the sugar in this recipe for a skillet chocolate chip cookie in the October 2013 Everyday Food magazine. This cookie is delicious and can be made in just a few minutes. I hope that you enjoy finding many ways to use this delicious natural sweetener.

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or maple sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine butter, maple syrup, and sugar with a spoon. Stir in egg and vanilla. Stir in flours, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chips. Transfer to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; smooth top.

Bake until cookie is golden brown and just set in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

Banana Strawberry Oat Bars (Gluten, Dairy & Sugar Free)

Strawberry Oat BarsGood day, everyone. I hope that the new year finds you well. During this time of year I enjoy baking (even more than usual) and the lingering aroma of baked goods throughout the house. These oat bars make a great breakfast or snack. Plus, they are free from gluten, dairy and sugar, so many of your friends will be able to eat them!

I was inspired by Sweet as a Cookie’s version of Vegan Banana Strawberry Oatmeal Bars. I used the suggested ingredients except I substituted coconut palm sugar for the Stevia, used parchment paper instead of nonstick spray, and I doubled the recipe so that it would fit in my 9×13 pan.

You may find that these bars become one of your favorite comfort foods. Speaking of comfort foods, have you voted for your favorite comfort food? It just takes two clicks to cast your vote on sensitiveeconomist.com. Thanks!

Ingredients
2 bananas, mashed
2/3 cup natural applesauce (unsweetened)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup strawberries, diced
3 tbsp. coconut palm sugar, optional

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare an 9×13 pan by greasing with butter or covering with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium sized bowl combine bananas, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Once combined mix in baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir in oats until everything is well mixed. Add the strawberries to the mixture and combine. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and flatten evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle optional coconut palm sugar over unbaked bars. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for approximately 10 minutes. Cut into 10 evenly sized bars and enjoy!

Fall Equinox Favorites: (Gluten/Sugar/Nut Free) Pesto and Watermelon Granita

rosesHappy Fall Equinox, everyone! Our weather is absolutely spectacular and we are enjoying a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. SensitiveHusband and I are stretching out the summer feeling by being outside and making some fresh foods that freeze well. These roses are from my garden – they smell like honey and look pretty and delicate.

pestoOne of the summer foods that we have been consistently eating is pesto. We like fresh pesto as a replacement for mayonnaise or mustard on a sandwich, and it’s also great on a cracker or carrot stick. Pesto is really quick to make although the first time I felt like making it I did not have any pine nuts, a common ingredient, on hand. So I found inspiration from the Farmers’ Almanac – and used chickpeas instead! Here is my interpretation of a summer favorite that can easily be frozen and savored throughout the cooler months.

Nut-Free Pesto (or Pistou) Ingredients:
1 cup fresh basil, washed
1/4 cup chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 cup grated cheese (I like Parmesan and Pecorino Romano)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
pinch of kosher salt
juice from 1/4 lemon

To prepare, place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for later use.

granitaAnother way to prolong the summer foods is by making a granita, which is similar to a frozen ice. The results for this next recipe is from you and everyone who shared an opinion to the poll question: What is your favorite summertime food? The results were close, although watermelon won out with 27% of the votes. I found a recipe for a watermelon granita from Ellie Krieger, and instead of using cane sugar I used agave nectar. This is a nice way to sweeten watermelon that is not quite as flavorful as it was during the height of the summer, and you can keep it frozen for awhile and enjoy as the temperatures turn cooler. The first time I made the granita, I thought the flavor of the mint was overwhelming so the recipe below tones down the amount used.

Watermelon Granita Ingredients:
4 cups seeded, cubed watermelon
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/8-1/4 cup mint, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup agave nectar

To prepare, puree watermelon in a food processor. Strain puree through a sieve and strain out solids, forcing liquid out with a wooden spoon. Discard solids. Combine the watermelon puree, lime juice, mint and agave nectar in a 9 by 13-inch metal pan. Place mixture in the freezer, scraping thoroughly with a fork every 30 minutes for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the granita resembles coarse crystals. Scrape 1 last time and spoon into parfait glasses or bowls. Top with a mint sprig.

Since it is the Fall Equinox and the season for apples and pears, it is time for a new poll! What is your favorite way to enjoy apples and pears? Do you like to eat them straight from the tree, or do you prefer to indulge in a pie or other dessert? Please vote for your favorite treat by clicking on my home page, choosing your answer, and clicking ‘vote.’

Sugar and Gluten Free PB&J Cookies

PB&J CookiesHappy Labor Day weekend everyone! The U.S. Census has posted a range of statistics to celebrate the holiday. For instance, in 2012 the largest occupation was retail salesperson; while in 1910 the largest occupation was farmer. The first observance of Labor Day was in 1882 when about 10,000 workers gathered in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the U.S., and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. Later that year, President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.”

I hope that you are enjoying the long weekend. It’s always nice to have an extra day to relax and to enjoy a range of activities, which for me includes baking. For some of you it may mean back to school, which in my case includes memories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Perhaps my thoughts around this time of year inspired me to try a version of Jack Deen’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies that I noticed in the September 2, 2013 edition of People Magazine.

I removed the two types of sugar and substituted with coconut palm sugar and honey. I used my cane sugar free brand of strawberry jam, and also tried some with chocolate chips, as the middle garnish. I hope you like this sugar free version of a very tasty cookie.

Ingredients:
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
3 tbs honey
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
strawberry jam* (or chocolate chips^)

*St. Dalfour is a great brand of jam without cane sugar
^Endangered Species makes chocolate bars that are gluten and refined sugar free that you can cut into chunks

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat peanut butter, sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of batter on a parchment paper-ined baking sheet. Flatten dough with a fork. Make a 1/2 inch indentation in the center of each cookie using your thumb. Spoon 1/2 tsp jam (or chocolate chips) into each thumbprint.
3. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Makes 12 cookies.

Sugar Free! Key Lime and Chocolate Cream Pies

Two PiesOnce you have the sugar free graham cracker crusts prepared (see my previous blog post for the recipe), you can fill them any way you choose. I tried making key lime and chocolate cream pies because they are such sweet treats for the summertime, and I wanted to take on the challenge of making them sugar free.

For the key lime pie, I started with a Cooking Light magazine recipe that is a healthier version than many other recipes I reviewed. The trick with a key lime pie is to get the right consistency without using sweetened condensed milk. My online research found that heating evaporated milk with agave nectar could work as a good substitute. Adding Greek yogurt to the filling provides some tang and a thick consistency. This pie takes a while to bake and it will continue to thicken once it is out of the oven and cools. Fresh key lime juice tastes great in this pie although fresh lime juice will work just as well.

Ingredients for Filling:
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh Key lime juice (or fresh lime juice)
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
3 large egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup agave nectar

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine evaporated milk and agave nectar in a small saucepan. Cook on low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Use approximately 14 ounces (or 1 2/3 cups) of the resulting mixture in the filling in the next step.
3. To prepare filling, place yogurt, lime juice, lime zest, egg yolks, and milk/agave mixture in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350° until set, about 35 minutes. Cool pie completely on a wire rack. Cover loosely, and chill at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

As for the chocolate cream pie, I again started with a Cooking Light recipe as the base. I substituted the coconut palm sugar for the cane sugar, and used grain sweetened chocolate (Endangered Species or Sunspire are delicious cane sugar free options) instead of the usual store-bought sugary brands. This pie is delicious and had a light and rich texture.

Ingredients for Filling:
2 cups fat-free milk, divided
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 ounces (cane sugar free) chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated (cane sugar free) chocolate

Preparation:
1. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup milk, 2/3 cup palm sugar, and next 4 ingredients (2/3 cup palm sugar through egg) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
2. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat. 3. Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Add chopped chocolate; cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared crust; cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill 3 hours or until cold. Remove plastic wrap; spread whipped cream evenly over filling. Sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Pi PlateServe your favorite pie in a pie plate – or in my case – a pi plate! Pi (pronounced “pie”) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter, which is the same value no matter the size of the circle.