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Smoky Gouda Salsa

24 Mar

This salsa almost constitutes a meal in itself. It’s a super simple recipe, but the outcome is delicious and has that wow-factor that is nice when you take it over to people’s houses! This doesn’t keep well, so don’t make it the day before you plan to serve it.

Smoky Gouda Salsa

3 organic tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, diced
1/2 can organic corn
1/2 can organic black beans (or 6 oz if you soak them yourself)
6 oz smoked gouda cheese, diced
4 sprigs of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
juice of a lime
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic


Come on, you know how to make salsa.


Raspberry Cheese Blintz Bake (Gluten and Sugar Free)

22 Feb

Saturday morning and you don’t want to have to make breakfast AND lunch?

Problem solved. This protein-packed and low-carb breakfast is satisfying and great on its own or with some crispy turkey bacon. This particular recipe is adapted from Taste of Home’s recipe, which combines raspberry and orange flavors – but I’d experiment with different berry/citrus combinations. I tried lemon & blueberry, and I think my next adventure would be blackberry and lime. The citrus is very subtle, and the berries can be served fresh right on top, or you can use frozen berries to make a sauce during the 40 minutes while this is in the oven.

The best part of this recipe might be that you make it almost entirely in a blender.

Raspberry Cheese Blintz Bake (Gluten and Sugar Free)

1/2 cup orange juice (or citrus juice of your choice)
6 eggs
2 egg whites (save the yolks for the filling)
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup xylitol or erythritol
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Put all of the above ingredients in a blender and mix until they are well combined. Pour all but 2 cups of this mixture into a greased 9×13 pan. Rinse out your blender, then fill it with:

2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cottage cheese
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup xylitol or erythritol

Blend this mixture well, which should take 3 minutes or so. You don’t want any cottage cheese chunks left. Once it’s blended well, drizzle it into the pan with the egg mixture, trying to make sure it’s distributed evenly throughout the pan. Use a spatula to marble them together a bit. Take the two cups of egg mixture that you left out and pour slowly over the top of the blintz, using the backside of a spoon to help it pour evenly if you need to. Once that’s done, pop it in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

While that’s in the oven, you can make your topping. If you want it to be a lighter breakfast, I’d just make a little bit of sweetened whipped cream and mix in fresh blueberries and strawberries. If you’re making this as a kind of “main course” for your breakfast, go with a berry sauce. Warning: seeded berries, such as blackberries and raspberries, will need strained. No reason to go through all this work and get seeds in your teeth constantly!

In a small saucepan, combine:

1 16 oz package (2 cups) of frozen berries – I used raspberries
3/4 c citrus juice – I used orange juice

Let these thaw together until the berries are completely “melted.” Pour this mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds and berry pulp. You’ll probably have to get in there with your hands to press the berries to get the most juice out of them. Put your berry and citrus juice mixture into the saucepan, and add:

1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 c xylitol or erythritol
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter

Put the pan over medium-low heat, and stir every once in a while until it simmers. Once it starts to boil slowly, constantly stir with a whisk. In a couple minutes, it will begin to thicken. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, take it off heat and let it sit while your cheese blintz bakes.

Once the cheese blintz is done, let it sit out of the oven for at least 10 minutes. Cut the blintz into 12 servings, which 5 people will eat with varying amounts of guilt, just because it looks bad.

Pour a generous amount of sauce over the blintz, and top with whipped cream – you’ll be set until dinner!

Orange Almond Blueberry Muffins (Gluten & Sugar Free)

16 Feb

Problem: I keep making things planning to put them up on the blog.

They keep getting eaten before I can take a picture.

Luckily, I made these when no one was around and snapped the pictures right away.

These muffins are adapted from the cookbook “Baked” – a really great recipe that I’m going to have to try with carbalose flour, because honestly I’m still working on how to get the muffins to have the right texture. For now, I’ll post the recipe and see if any of you make it, then we’ll see where we come up. I found a muffin TOP pan, which is genius, because it is common knowledge that if faced with a whole muffin or two muffin tops, you would choose the muffin tops. This could work better as a coffeecake as well – I’ll try that next time.

Orange Almond Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

1 tbsp orange zest
the juice of a large orange
1/3 c sour cream
2 large egg whites
4 tbsp melted and cooled butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 c almond flour
1/2 c xylitol or eryithritol (I’ll be doing a post soon about the baking science behind these sugars)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c fresh blueberries (if using frozen, run water over them in a sieve until they are thawed and the water runs clear and either let them dry or toss them in flour before you put them into the batter, saving a few for the topping)
handful of sliced or slivered almonds for decoration

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Get out 12 silicone baking cups, a muffin top pan, or lightly grease a normal muffin pan.

In a food processor, mix up your dry ingredients. This will help to get the almond flour ground up really well and if you are using a granulated xylitol or erythritol that has big crystals, this will help to get those a little smaller. Transfer your dry ingredients to a mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix your wet ingredients together – egg whites, sour cream, butter, extracts, and orange juice.

I decided to freshly squeeze my orange juice – use a half cup of orange juice from concentrate if you have that on hand instead of oranges.

In your dry ingredients, make a little well and pour your wet ingredients in. Mix this just until the ingredients are all combined, then put your blueberries in, saving some for sprinkling on the top right before baking if you want. I used slivered almonds instead.

Pour the batter into your desired baking vessels. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, and enjoy once they’ve cooled! My initial thought is that these taste like Trix cereal. In other words, they are delicious.

Blueberry Walnut Bars (Sugar & Gluten Free)

10 Feb

I’ll be honest. The entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I ate whatever I wanted. I hadn’t done that in years, and there were a few moments in that month where it felt especially good to just eat a full-sugar, full-fat pastry right out of the pretty glass case at Rembrandt’s Coffee House in Eagle, Idaho. I could have gone for the tiramisu, the giant bacon chocolate chip cookies, the caramel pecan bars, the pumpkin cream cheese filled french toast with rum sauce… oh wait, I did go for that one – and let me tell you, it was so worth it. But that’s another recipe for a skinnier time in my life. The point is, I went for the Blueberry Walnut Bars. Because they’re freaking delicious.

It’s so satisfying to take something amazing you ate at a restaurant and make it at home – healthier. If you make the full no-bake cheesecake recipe from the Cheesecake Filled Chocolate Covered Strawberries, you’ll have a lot of cheesecake left over. Never a bad thing – especially when there are so many good uses for cheesecake filling. Another plus about this recipe is that blueberries will be in season soon, and so this is a great recipe you can make that is a. inexpensive, b. low-carb, and c. no one will know the difference. Seriously. I came home twice to an empty pan of these, when I had SO been looking forward to eating one… It turns out people ate them for breakfast. And a little something after lunch. And dinner. Get out of my kitchen.

The “prerequisite” recipe to making this one is for the graham cracker crumbs, and the recipe I use is found at All Day I Dream About Food – one of the best alternative baking blogs I’ve found. These are great to have on hand, so I’d suggest making a couple batches at a time. Or, if you can find graham cracker crumbs that suit your health needs, use those instead!

Blueberry Walnut Bars

Walnut Crust

3/4 c. almond flour
3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c. crushed walnuts
6 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon, optional

Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a bowl, melt the butter and add in the vanilla and cinnamon. Add in your dry ingredients and mix well. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 11×7 pan and bake it for 15 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Let this cool while you prepare the cheesecake and blueberry layers.

Once your crust has cooled, spread cheesecake filling into it. Here’s the recipe in case you missed it from Monday:

Vanilla Bean No Bake Cheesecake

16 oz Neufchatel cheese at room temperature
3/4 c. xylitol, erythritol, or sugar
1 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped stiff
1/2 tbsp good vanilla extract
Several drops of non-bitter stevia extract (to taste, darling)
1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste or the insides scraped out of one vanilla bean

Cream your Neufchatel cheese and your sweetener together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff. Fold in the whipped cream to your Neufchatel cheese mixture, then add in your flavorings and more stevia to taste.

Blueberry Topping

1 1/2 c. frozen blueberries (you can do a mix of frozen and fresh if you prefer)
1/2 c. orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp arrowroot powder

Bring the blueberries and orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan. Once all the blueberries have thawed, add in the vanilla extract and the arrowroot powder, which is a healthy sauce thickener and will act like corn starch. Let the mixture simmer for several minutes, stirring occasionally, as it thickens. once it’s reached a nice thick consistency, put it in the fridge and let it chill for a few hours, or if you are feeling impatient put it right on top of the cheesecake layer and let it melt and swirl into the cheesecake.

Clearly, I was feeling impatient.

Refrigerate the bars for 30 minutes to an hour, then cut them up and enjoy!

Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Almost Sugar Free)

8 Feb

If you make these for a party, have a backup plan in case they don’t make it. Have a padlock on your fridge until their time comes. Trust me – you can’t trust yourself with these.

Most of the posts this week will be about no-bake cheesecake and it’s many uses. I used the same recipe across the board, and it goes a little something like this:

Vanilla Bean No Bake Cheesecake

16 oz Neufchatel cheese at room temperature
3/4 c. xylitol, erythritol, or sugar
1 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped stiff
1/2 tbsp good vanilla extract
Several drops of non-bitter stevia extract (to taste, darling)
1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste or the insides scraped out of one vanilla bean

Cream your Neufchatel cheese and your sweetener together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff. Fold in the whipped cream to your Neufchatel cheese mixture, then add in your flavorings and more stevia to taste. Voila! You’re done with that part! This can be used for a myriad of recipes.

Now, for the strawberries. Cut the tops off of the strawberries and use a paring knife to dig out the middle of the berry.

In a bowl held over a simmering pan of water, melt together one bar of good quality dark chocolate (85% cacao content is the best; my favorite brand is Green & Black’s Organic) along with two tablespoons of butter and 10-15 drops of stevia extract.

Dip them strawberries. I used a fork in the middle of the strawberry and then just swirled it around in the chocolate, using my fingers to pull it gently off of the fork. Set them on parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Silicon baking mats, by the way, are the single best baking investment I’ve made this year.

I put the strawberries in the freezer while get ready to pipe the filling through a pastry bag. You want to make the cheesecake filling just before getting it into the strawberries, while its still soft.


Once you’re done, put them in the fridge for a few hours if you can wait that long. Otherwise – enjoy!


7 Feb

The cupcake trend has hit Idaho. Since early 2010, there has been a cupcake craze across the nation – major experimentation with the look, taste, and overall fanciness of these single serving sweets. It’s all said to have started with Magnolia Bakery in New York City, and from there it’s bounced from the coasts inward, just like every other trend. Idaho might be last, but we won’t be least. Here’s a peek into the methods behind some recent cupcake creations I’ve made recently, and a few links to interesting cupcake websites. I used box mixes for all of the cupcakes this time, since I was making almost 100 of them.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

The first cupcake I made was a devil’s food cake mix with a simple buttercream on top. The trick to making the buttercream with that little pink swirl in it is to drip a line of gel food coloring down the side of the bag you’re piping the icing from. The other part of the look I achieved was in using an extra-large pastry tip, like this one. My buttercream frosting recipe is as follows: Cream three sticks of butter, slowly add in two pounds of powdered sugar, and ad vanilla extract until you are satisfied with the deliciousness… I’d say a healthy tablespoon at least. Experimentation with the flavors of the buttercream is a lot of fun too.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

This one used a strawberry boxed cake mix, and I baked them in white snack cups. This resulted in a little bit smaller of a cupcake, which many guests appreciated. For the frosting, I used 2 bricks of cream cheese, a half stick of butter, 1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar, and vanilla bean paste. Om nom nom.

Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Royal Icing

After I started frosting these cupcakes, I remembered that I actually wanted them to have almond icing. Oh well. The cupcake part, again, was a box mix – the easiest way to do something like cherry chip! The royal icing is made up of three egg whites beat into a meringue, four cups of powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. I put three or four drops of red food coloring in as well. Once the frosting dried, which is only about a minute with royal icing, I brushed edible shimmer powder on the tops of the icing to create a silvery effect. You can get all of the baking cups and other special tools I’m mentioning at most craft stores, or at

And last but not least, the belle of the cupcake ball…

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I used a butter yellow cake mix for the base of the cupcake. Once cooled, I cut out the middle of the cupcake. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could use one of these. I used a paring knife. I made a simple lemon syrup ( a cup of lemon juice and a half cup of sugar, dissolved together and boiled for a couple of minutes), and drizzled this into the cupcake’s hollow center, trying to soak the cake a bit. Then, I made lemon curd (recipe to come in a later post; there’s plenty of good ones out there) and filled the centers until flush with the top of the cupcake. Last, I topped the cupcakes with meringue and popped them in the oven for 10 minutes under 35o°F heat.

By far, the best cupcake that party saw.

I hope this inspires you to have your own cupcake adventures – check out these blogs to see where I got some of my inspiration!

Cupcake Blog



Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Sugar & Gluten Free)

4 Feb

Discovering swiss meringue buttercream was a liberating experience. Not only does it have a super-indulgent mouthfeel, but it can be made sugar free so much more easily than your traditional buttercream – you’re sacrificing nothing.

The method behind swiss meringue buttercream is basically that you take perfect meringue and beat an ungodly amount of butter into your sweetened egg whites. The result is a fluffy and creamy cake topper that hardens just a little bit when refrigerated. You’ll want to make sure your pastries are fully cooled before frosting them, since this will melt more easily than traditional buttercream – and you’ll want plenty of time as well.

Martha Stewart’s website probably has the best recipe for buttercream, but be warned – it calls for two pounds of butter. I only made a quarter of that recipe, and it was enough to frost my Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake from yesterday’s post.

I’ll be making some cupcakes for the Superbowl this Sunday, and I’m going to try making a 1/2 recipe to frost the cupcakes – I’ll also be trying to do a chocolate/vanilla swirl with it.

Here’s my recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe:

1 cup of xylitol or erythritol
5 egg whites at room temperature
1 lb (4 sticks) of butter, at room temperature, cut into 1 tbsp chunks
1/2 tbsp natural vanilla extract, add any other extracts or flavorings in limited quantities (remember, you can’t take it out once it’s in!)

A note about the butter: since it’s a main player in this recipe, get good quality butter! Get the best you can afford – Tillamook butter is my standard but if I’m feeling spiffy I use Kerrygold’s Irish Butter. It’s expensive, but its worth the two dollars more when you’re going for a buttercream that isn’t going to be waxy. Check for manufacturer’s coupons online or in the store if you can, and it will help offset those finer food costs.

Simmer some water in a medium sized saucepan. In a non-reactive bowl, constantly whisk the egg whites and sweetener together over the simmering water. As the bowl heats up, the sweetener will dissolve into the eggs. This should take about five minutes, and while you don’t want to cook the eggs, you will want them to be hot to the touch.

A note on meringue: start the whisking out slowly if you want a creamy meringue. What you’re doing is unraveling the proteins so that once you start mixing on high speed, the eggs will have smaller air bubbles and you’ll have a good texture at the end. Throw this mixture right in to your mixer and let it go for 7-10 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and it’s completely cooled. You can add 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar if the eggs aren’t stiffening well – but be sure not to over-beat, or you’ll have a dry, grainy meringue. And we’re making buttercream… you need soft & silky meringue.

And now is the fun part. You can switch the mixer attachment to the paddle now. While beating on medium speed, throw in one chunk of butter at a time. Wait about 20 seconds in between butter chunks. As you add the butter, you’ll probably see your mixture start to curdle – all is not lost! I actually got to this point and threw out a batch, which is not advised. That’s a lot of butter to throw away. Just wait for it to come together – it will eventually.

Troubleshooting: If your butter is too warm it will be harder for it to come together – sticking the bowl in an ice bath may be necessary. On the converse, if your butter was too cold to start you’ll just have to wait until it softens in the beating process.

Once you’ve reached the point where your butter and eggs have harmonized into one delicious whole, you can experiment with colors and flavors until you’ve hit your limit.