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The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being about attending further education and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. I could hardly put it down. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, Gundry-friendly, on October 8th, 2018.

keto_mug_cake

Oh my goodness. I’ve discovered nirvana. I can still have my cake and eat it too!

For the last many months, I’ve been on a diet (Steven Gundry, Plant Paradox diet) and the weight loss has slowed down to a trickle. So much so that if I go out to eat – and am still trying to order things that are within the diet – I gain a pound every time. (It’s probably portion control and salt and maybe sometimes a sauce or something like that served with the piece of fish or chicken.) Then it takes me another week or more to get that off. I’m quite frustrated. There are lots of foods I really miss – some carbs, even some vegetables like green beans (the seeds contain lectins). I miss a piece of toast now and then. I miss eating a sandwich, like a tuna sandwich on white bread. I miss desserts. There is a coconut milk ice cream that is acceptable (So Delicious brand) but I don’t like it all that much. I’m really missing Mexican food – I’d do just about anything to have a shredded beef taco right about now. Or a cheese enchilada. But no, I’m afraid that if I succumb to having it once, it would become a regular routine to go off the diet. But what I’m not missing is chocolate because I’m able to have an ounce a day. Yippee!

So, at one of the Phillis Carey cooking classes a month or so ago, she mentioned a chocolate mug cake that she can have on her diet (keto). She emailed the recipe to me. I promptly looked at the ingredients and decided that yes, I can have it too! I made it once and was not thrilled, but I decided afterwards that I could tweak the recipe and would buy some fresh(er) almond meal. The mug cake had a decided bitter aftertaste that I couldn’t define. The almond meal didn’t smell stale, but then I didn’t taste it straight, either and it definitely was past its use-by date. So, today, I was just craving something sweet (I don’t often have those cravings) and since I can have a tablespoon of cocoa a day (or regular chocolate, 1 ounce) I’d try making the keto mug cake again. I had a new bag of Trader Joe’s almond meal (almond flour is okay too).

One thing I tweaked was the amount of sweetener. The original recipe called for 2 T of sweetener. Well, I think that’s way too much – I morphed it down to 1/2 tablespoon for the mug in its entirety. But perhaps that’s the Swerve. Taste the batter to make sure.

First I melted a tablespoon of butter in a mug in the microwave. (Now, technically, a tablespoon of butter is not on my diet, but even Gundry says that if butter is an important element to something go ahead and use it in moderation, so I did.) Then you add the almond flour, (there’s no wheat flour in this), baking powder, sugar sweetener in some form (I used Swerve, which is my new go-to sweetener), the tablespoon of cocoa powder, some coconut shreds if you want them (I didn’t), an egg and a tiny tetch of vanilla. Stir it up well in the mug and put it in the microwave. The recipe says 45-60 seconds. Mine is done perfectly at 45 seconds. The cake part rises up more than halfway in the mug and it kind of has a sponge-like look to the top. You sprinkle in just a few chocolate chips (optional – recipe calls for sugar free – I used the real thing, but only about 3-4) and pour on a tablespoon of coconut cream or heavy cream. Eat. Oohs and aaahs from here.

Whether I can have this regularly – well, probably not. But when I’ve had a really light lunch as I did today, I think the keto mug cake is in order. The calorie count is 427, so yes, this definitely needs to be an occasional treat!

What’s GOOD: nirvana for me, on this just-about-zero-carbs diet I’m on. Taste is wonderful – cake is moist and kind of sponge-cake like. Definitely a good chocolate taste/flavor. Not a large portion, which is good. Protein is in there (egg and almond meal) and I get my ration of chocolate too. Altogether wonderful. And it took all of about 4 minutes to mix it up and 45 seconds to “cook.”

What’s NOT: nothing at all, really. If you’re not dieting, use regular sugar – taste and add what you think it needs. Don’t use honey as it would change the chemistry – might need another tablespoon of almond meal if you used that route.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Keto Mug Cake

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Phillis Carey
Serving Size: 1

1 tablespoon butter — salted
3 tablespoons almond flour — or almond meal
1/2 tablespoon Swerve — or erythritol or monkfruit sugar (if you use different sweeteners, taste the batter, it may need more)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon coconut shreds — unsweetened, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg — beaten
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon chocolate chips — sugar free Lily brand, optional
1 tablespoon coconut milk — or coconut cream or heavy cream, optional

1. Melt butter in mug in microwave oven. Stir in almond flour, sweetener, cocoa, coconut, baking powder, egg and vanilla; mix well.
2. Microwave on HIGH power for 45-60 seconds until puffed and set. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Immediately top with chocolate chips. Serve topped with coconut milk or cream, if desired, to moisten the cake.
Per Serving: 427 Calories; 32g Fat (62.5% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 243mg Cholesterol; 453mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 29th, 2018.

fresh_lemon_crostata_slice

Sometimes when I type up posts, my taste buds kick into high gear, remembering the flavor of the dish. That’s the case here, Proust-like, I remember the piquant taste of the lemon curd filling and the crispy top.

Since I’m not eating desserts these days, it’s with reverence that I recall the lovely mouth-feel of this crostata, and just wish I could have some. This was from a cooking class a several months ago; one I’d forgotten about, so am posting it now.

Update about my diet: As an aside, I’m positively amazed that I’ve been able to not eat a single, solitary sweet thing for the last 2 1/2 months. I don’t crave sweets now (and I sure did in the past), and lucky for me, I can have an ounce of bittersweet chocolate a day. I went cold-turkey on carbs altogether – – and trust me, if this wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be continuing with the diet of zero carbs – except for the few carbs that exist in regular vegetables. Nary a piece of bread, a grain of rice, a bite of potato, a bean (legume), a grain of any kind, a speck of flour, sugar or pasta has passed my lips in the 2 1/2 months. I am able to eat 1/2 cup of fruit a day (berries only). I snack on a specific mix of toasted nuts (without peanuts or cashews, which are both legumes), 1/4 cup mid-morning and another 1/4 cup in the afternoon (if I’m hungry) and mostly I have soup (more cold soups lately) at lunchtime and I make a nice big salad for dinner with some kind of protein on it – maybe chicken, salmon, tuna, hard boiled eggs, or even a hunk of burrata cheese with a tasty salad dressing. Although I can make a more traditional dinner (a piece of grilled meat, for instance, with side vegetables) I’ve found that my weight loss continues at a steadier pace if I make my dinner meal a salad. I vary it with different dressings (just none like blue cheese, ranch or thousand island). I’ve never been a snacker type person after dinner, and I hope every night that when I go to bed my stomach is growling slightly. That means when I get on the scale each morning, it usually shows a weight loss.

If you missed my earlier mention of this diet, I’m following the food plan of Dr. Steven Gundry, a heart surgeon, who wrote the best selling book, The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain. It all has to do with wicked lectins, which exist in so many foods (carbs, grains and legumes, even dairy). I didn’t have intestinal issues when I began this diet, but as I read his book, it simply made so much sense to me that I decided to go for it. And I am consistently losing about a pound a week, which is a healthy type of weight loss. I’m not hungry all the time. At my age, I’m content with losing a pound a week. Going out to eat is do-able (salads or fish and a vegetable), although I’ve found that when I do go out, my weight loss slows for a day or two, likely because of salt. If I sweeten my iced tea, I use a stevia product (Truvia or Sweet Leaf), which is okay because it’s derived from a plant, not chemicals. Of course, I’m a family of one, so sticking to this diet is easier, as I simply don’t buy or prepare any carbs. I’ve given away a whole lot of things from my pantry, and will likely continue doing that. If you’re interested in knowing what you can and can’t eat, this LINK will take you to Gundry’s website where he provides a printer-friendly group  of pages you can print out (I keep it in my purse).

fresh_lemon_crostata_wholeWell, so back to this lovely crostata. It’s made with an almond crust (it does contain some flour), and then you concoct a lemon curd filling. You’ll use a food processor for the crust (easy, really), adding only as much flour to make the dough hold together. It’s flavored with lemon zest and almond extract and does contain a big chunk of butter, which makes the crust kind of shortbread-like. There’s enough to make a bottom crust, and also to add strips to the top, which makes for a really beautiful presentation. The bottom crust needs to be blind baked and cooled.

The lemon curd is the normal type. You can use this version, or you can make my favorite lemon curd that came from America’s Test Kitchen. It needs to be made enough in advance that it can chill well, then it’s added to the cooled crust and baked again just long enough to get the extra pastry strips browned. Then the crostata is cooled completely on a rack before slicing and serving – along with some sweetened whipped cream and a sprig of mint for decoration.

What’s GOOD: the flavor – but then I love lemon anything – and the pretty presentation. Lots of good flavors in your mouth as you encounter the soft, acidic lemon curd and the crispy crusty bits. Softened by the whipped cream. Divine.

What’s NOT: this does take longer than some to prepare.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Fresh Lemon Crostata

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2018
Serving Size: 10

CRUST:
3/4 cup whole almonds — toasted and cooled (or more substitute hazelnuts)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour — (yes, added separately)
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter — cut in cubes, well chilled
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
FILLING (LEMON CURD):
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 stick unsalted butter — cut into small pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
EGG GLAZE:
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
GARNISH:
8 mint leaves — for garnish
Sweetened whipped cream

1. CRUST: Pulse almonds and FIRST amount of flour in food processor until finely ground. Add almost all of the SECOND amount of flour, salt and sugar and pulse again. If dough needs the remaining flour, add it. Try to use as little flour as needed to bring the doughto a ball. Pulse in cold butter, extracts and zest. Pulse in egg until dough forms. Halve the dough and form each into a disk, one just slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.
2. Roll the larger piece of dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Remove top sheet and invert into an 8-inch springform pan lined with parchment. Press over bottom and at least an inch up the sides of the pan. Roll out remaining dough between sheets of parchment. Remove top piece of parchment, then cut dough into ten 1/3″ wide strips. Chill that dough until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the springform pan with foil and add pie weights and bake until pale golden and edge is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Cool shell on a rack.
4. FILLING: Beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until very thick and trip le in volume. Transfer mixture to a heavy bottomed pan and stir in lemon zest, juice, butter and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until lemon curd is thick enough to hold marks on a spoon, about 6 minutes. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl, cover top with plastic wrap so it’s touching the curd, cool and chill.
5. Spread filling in baked pie shell and arrange 5 dough strips one inch apart on top of filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips one inch apart diagonally across strips to form a lattice (of sorts, but not woven over and under). Trim edges. Brush tops with egg wash (egg mixed with water, whisked), then sprinkle top with remaining sugar. Bake crostata until golden and filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, on a rack, for 2 hours. Remove springform sides and completely the cooling. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with mint leaves.
Per Serving: 452 Calories; 31g Fat (60.6% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 198mg Cholesterol; 156mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 4th, 2018.

mayan_choc_pud

Oh, my mouth is watering. It was early May when I had this, and I can still remember the wonderful mouth-feel of this decadent chocolate pudding. I have these adorable little-bitty glass footed cups (pictured). They’re not used for much, but when it’s the right thing, well, they’re perfect!

You’ll want to know that this pudding is rich. You’ll not eat all that much of it. Does that make it more enticing because you know you’ll only eat about 1/4 cup of it? Less guilty, maybe? But you should not bypass this recipe just because of the calories. If you’re a chocoholic like I am, you’ll want this recipe in your repertoire. You could make this the day or two ahead of a party too. I doubt I’d make this for a weeknight meal – only because of the nuisance of baking in a water bath. Why do we think that’s so much trouble? It’s really not, but still I might not make it sometimes because of that.

It starts with an equal quantity of heavy cream and whole milk. Then 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (do use something at least 72% cacao) get added in, with ground cinnamon (which would give it a Mexican hint) but THEN you add 1/4 tsp of ground chipotle chili powder. Pow. It also has a tetch of ground allspice in it, and a dozen egg yolks. This recipe is not for the faint of heart. Once the pudding is mostly made on the stove, it’s poured into individual ramekins, or a larger vessel (so it can be scooped as I did with the photo above) into smaller dishes to serve. Do make some whipped cream (it needs it, believe it or not, to cut through the sweet and the chocolate of the pudding itself) and sweeten it and add a little cinnamon to it too. Your table of guests will be deadly quiet as you hear the spoons clinking in the cups as they eat it. From a cooking class with Phillis Carey.

What’s GOOD: the overall chocolate flavor – almost a fudge like texture – and I loved the tiny hint of heat (from the chipotle chili powder). It’s very subtle, but perfect! Make this for Cinco de Mayo next year?

What’s NOT: maybe only the water bath thing. Otherwise, this recipe is a real winner.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Mayan Chocolate Pudding

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor, 5/2018
Serving Size: 12-16

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped (72% or higher)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
12 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
whipped cream with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla added

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Be careful as it reaches boiling as it may boil over. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until completely melted, then whisk in cinnamon, salt, chipotle and allspice.
2. In a large bowl whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the hot chocolate mixture until smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Ladle the custard into twelve 5-ounce ramekins. This is very rich, so you may use smaller containers and serve about 3 ounces each, in which case you’d likely be able to serve 16.
3. Set ramekins in a large roasting pan or two deep baking pans and transfer them to the middle of the oven. Fill the roasting pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes (less if using small containers), until the puddings are set but still slightly wobbly in the center. Using tongs, transfer ramekins to a baking sheet and cool, then chill at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days. Top the puddings with a dollop of whipped cream with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla added.
Per Serving (based on serving 12): 403 Calories; 37g Fat (75.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 273mg Cholesterol; 85mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on June 19th, 2018.

almond_ricotta_cake_slice

Really tasty cake made with mostly almonds (with a little bit of flour), lemon juice and ricotta cheese. Not a light and airy cake, this, but loaded with flavor. Sublime with the whipped cream and berries on top.

The leavening in this cake comes from the egg yolks and egg whites. I wish I were enough of an adventurous baker to fiddle with this recipe and reduce the amount of butter in it. Two cubes. That’s a lot, but then, it serves 12 people, so I suppose you’re not really getting all that much butter in each slice.

The cake requires a 10-inch springform pan, and it’s a bit of a fuss to butter it first, then line it with parchment, and then butter the parchment. You need to do this to assure that the cake will not stick. The blanched almonds are coarsely ground up in a food processor with a bit of sugar, then combined with the minor amount of flour and lemon zest. The butter and sugar are mixed up in a stand mixer (or hand held), then yolks added and you fold in the almond mixture.. The ricotta is mixed lightly with a fork along with the lemon juice, just to make it a bit more pliable. That’s folded into the almond cake mixture. Lastly the egg whites are whipped to soft peaks and folded in as well. Finally that’s all put into the springform pan and baked about 40 minutes.

almond_ricotta_cake_wholeIdeally, serve this cake warm, and with the lightly sweetened whipped cream, and with the lovely fresh berries on the side. And a sprig of mint if you have some.

What’s GOOD: the texture of the cake is slightly crunchy – not majorly crunchy, but a little crunchy. The cake is very sweet (I think n ext time I’d reduce the sugar by a little bit). Overall, though, this is a wonderfully tasting cake. Very different than a traditional light and airy cake. This isn’t, but it still fabulous!

What’s NOT: only that it has a bunch of steps to making it, but none take a lot of time. Worth doing, I think.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Almond, Lemon and Ricotta Cake with Berries and Cream

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 12

2 1/2 cups almonds — sliced, blanched
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup unsalted butter — yes, that’s the right amount
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs — separated
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese — full fat
TOPPINGS:
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla sifted powdered sugar to garnish
1 cup berries
mint leaves for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter a 10-inch springform pan and line it with parchment (on the bottom). Butter parchment. In food processor combine coarsely chopped almonds with 2 T of the sugar (taken from the 1-cup measure). Combine with flour and zest.
2. Beat butter with remaining amount in the 1-cup measure of sugar in a mixer until it turns light and pale. Add yolks one by one. Fold into the almond mixture.
3. Put ricotta cheese in a bowl and lightly beat with a fork. Add lemon juice. In another bowl beat the egg whites with the 2 T of sugar and beat until soft peaks. Fold the ricotta mixture into the almond mixture. Gently fold in the beaten whites.
4. Spread mixture in prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes until lightly browned on top. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove the springform ring. Dust with powdered sugar. Whip cream with sugar and vanilla and serve lapped onto the cake and garnish with fresh berries.
Per Serving: 516 Calories; 39g Fat (66.0% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 66mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on May 4th, 2018.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake

Do you still have some cranberries stuck in the back of your refrigerator? Or maybe a package in the freezer. This one’s for you!

The other day I was trying to find cornichon pickles in my refrigerator. I knew I had some, but couldn’t seem to find them. People who don’t cook much don’t have that kind of problem, I’d guess, since you might be able to open the refrigerator and you can see everything in it at one glance. Not so with mine. I’ve got all kinds of stuff in mine, little jars and packages of this and that, some in little long rectangular box/trays slid onto a shelf, on rounders on the top shelf, etc. Anyway, lo and behold, I had a bag of fresh cranberries pushed up against the back wall on the bottom shelf. That package, unfortunately, had to be tossed out, but I also had a small amount of fresh cranberries in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Perfect for this cake.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake_wholeHaving been invited to dinner with my friends Cherrie and Bud, I was asked to bring dessert. And knowing my schedule on that date, I knew I needed to make it the day before. Whatever it was I decided to make. I scrolled through my to-try recipes and settled on this one, since cranberries were on my brain. One of my criteria was to NOT have to make a trip to the grocery store. So, this one fit the bill. I had everything, including Greek yogurt, Chinese five spice, almonds and both the frozen cranberries and dried cranberries. Zi-pi-dee-do-da. Did I spell that right? Haven’t a clue!!

spiced_cranberry_bundt_sliceThe dry ingredients are mixed up together. Easy. The butter needed to be warmed (my Dacor microwave does a stellar job of bringing chilled butter to room temp with one 10 second period, a pause to turn over the cubes, and another zap of 6 seconds, and the cubes are soft but not too soft. The batter was begun by whipping the butter (adding lots of air), then the sugars were added, eventually the eggs, yogurt, then the dry ingredients and mixed just briefly. Once that was combined, the dried cranberries and the halved frozen cranberries plus toasted almonds were added and it easily slid into the greased and floured Bundt cake pan. It baked for over an hour, cooled for an hour, then I upended it onto my wood cutting board to cool completely. I covered it in plastic wrap overnight (since I don’t have a glass dome cake cover). It was easy enough to bring along a fresh orange and I decorated the cake just before serving. I also bought some vanilla ice cream on the way to their house.

What’s GOOD: loved the Chinese five spice (it’s different because of the little amount of ground fennel and Szechuan pepper in it). It gives this cake a different flavor – but you can’t quite identify it. It was moist and sweet. Liked the use of frozen cranberries (tart) and the dried cranberries (sweet). You will want ice cream with this. I brought more than half of it home (even after sharing some with Cherrie & Bud) and it’s now in the freezer from some occasion when I need a dessert in a hurry! On the scale of heavy cake to light cake, I’d say it was about in the middle. The cake pan was heavy. Just don’t overcook it (test with a toothpick) so it doesn’t get dry.

What’s NOT: maybe that you don’t have frozen cranberries on hand. The cake was easy to make, although the ingredient list might be daunting – it’s not really that difficult.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

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Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake

Recipe By: Epicurious
Serving Size: 14

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour — or almond meal (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter — (2 sticks) room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar — (packed)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or 2% works too
1 cup almonds — chopped toasted
1 cup fresh cranberries — chilled, halved (or frozen cranberries, not thawed)
1/2 cup dried cranberries — chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons orange juice — (about)

NOTES: Chinese five-spice powder is a combination of spices: make your own with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp fennel seed, toasted and ground, 1/2 tsp star anise, ground and 1/2 tsp szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground.
1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract, then Greek yogurt. Add dry ingredients; beat just until blended. Fold in almonds and all cranberries. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.
2. ICING: Stir powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons orange juice in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Mix in more juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls to reach consistency of heavy cream. Spoon icing over cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Sprinkle top with orange zest. Let stand until icing sets, at least 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature. Freezes well for up to a month.
Per Serving: 429 Calories; 22g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 187mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on April 25th, 2018.

choc_brownie_cobbler

What’s in a name? Is this a cobbler? Not like a traditional one with fruit. Is it a brownie? Sort of, but much looser. Is it a lava cake? Possibly, but made in a casserole instead of individual ramekins. Maybe it’s really a pudding cake in disguise. Whatever you call it, it’s worth making.

Years ago I read an article about all the differences and variations of cobblers, crisps, buckles and pandowdys. And from my recollection, I don’t know that this recipe quite qualifies, but hey, it’s just a name. What this isn’t is a brownie you can pick up with your fingers. As I explained above, this is more like a pudding cake. Decadent, full of chocolate flavor. Tarla Fallgatter made this at a recent cooking class, and I all but licked the bowl. But then, I love chocolate in almost any way, shape or form. Oh, except milk chocolate. Someone offered me a chocolate bar the other day that contained cinnamon and crispy things inside, but it was made with milk chocolate. I had one bite and threw the rest away. Not for me. It was also exceptionally sweet.

choc_brownie_cobbler_baked_whole

Don’t you just want to dip your spoon into that? From the look of it, it’s a chocolate cake. But oh no, it’s not. Well, yes, it IS a cake, but its properties are much more fluid, soft, oozy. Totally decadent in my book. The batter is just like a chocolate cake (butter, eggs, chopped chocolate, sugar flour, nuts, and some chocolate chips thrown in at the end) and it’s baked in a ceramic or glass dish. If you have big eaters this won’t serve 10. But serving smaller portions  you definitely could feed 10 since you’ll serve it with vanilla ice cream. You need the ice cream to balance the sweet and rich of the pudding/cake. Make this, okay?

What’s GOOD: definitely the chocolate flavor. If you’re a chocoholic like I am, you’ll swoon over this one. You could, I suppose, make this with milk chocolate if that’s your chocolate of choice. I much prefer dark chocolate! There’s plenty of texture in this – cake part, oozy chocolate lava-like part and a bit of crispy crust plus a few little chunks of chocolate chips. Altogether wonderful and easy to prepare.

What’s NOT: if you don’t like chocolate, well, this isn’t for you! This is a keeper as far as I’m concerned. Very easy to make also.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Chocolate Brownie Cobbler

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 10

1 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup walnuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips — or pieces
cocoa powder
vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter a 9-inch baking dish (glass or ceramic).
3. Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and add sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add vanilla, both quantities of flour and salt. Stir in walnuts and chocolate pieces/chips and transfer to prepared baking dish.
4. Bake until top is crisp, 40-50 minutes. Center of cobbler should be soft. Cool in a rack for 15 minutes. Dust with cocoa powder. Spoon the cobbler into bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream. As the cobbler cools, it firms up some and won’t have the soft, runny consistency.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 37g Fat (58.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 134mg Cholesterol; 141mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2018.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_slice

Do you like rhubarb? Gosh, I sure do, and here in SoCal, it’s hard to find sometimes. When I see it at any of my local markets, I buy some.

There aren’t many rhubarb recipes here on my blog. Mostly because over the years I was married to my DH, as a Type 1 diabetic, rhubarb was a dangerous fruit for him because it requires so much sugar to make it edible. I was never successful using artificial sweeteners with rhubarb. But I grew up knowing and eating rhubarb. My mother used to make a simple rhubarb sauce and that would be dessert whenever the big patch of rhubarb in our back yard was bearing fruit. My mother did make rhubarb pie now and then too.

rhubarb_in_shell_rawDid you read my last post about the new pie crust I made? That has a bit of cornstarch added into the dough? This one – see the lovely flaky-looking edge – I’ll just tell you even those edges were tender and oh-so flaky – I ate every bite of my slice.

First the raw rhubarb was trimmed and cut up into 1/2” slices. Easy to do. They were piled into the crust. Meanwhile, I’d made an egg and sour cream mixture (plus a tetch of flour and salt), added some vanilla and poured it onto the rhubarb. It took a minute or so for the viscous fluid to sink down in, but it did.

rhubarb_pie_raw_filling_addedInto the oven the pie went, first at a high temp, then after 10 minutes the temp is reduced to 350°F and baked about another 30 minutes.

The crumb topping is kind of standard (sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and butter) and mixed up well with a fork. When the pie comes out of the oven at this point, the crumb topping was added and the pie was baked for an additional 15 minutes.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_streusel_crust_out_of_ovenI had to leave the house at the exact moment this pie was finished, so if I’d wanted to add another 5 minutes of baking I couldn’t have done it. I was concerned, though, as the center was still looking a little bit jiggly, but it had completely set by the time the pie cooled and it was served.

Results? Every one raved about it – me included. Fortunately everyone in my group that night liked rhubarb. I thought the sour cream aspect of it added a lot of mellowing flavor. The recipe came from The Splendid Table, and it’s a keeper.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was good – the pie crust, the filling, the topping, etc. I served it with vanilla ice cream, and then the leftovers were served with whipped cream instead. Both were good. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. I’d definitely make this again.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

Recipe By: The Splendid Table
Serving Size: 8

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rhubarb — (fresh or frozen), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
CRUMB TOPPING:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter — softened

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla, then add to the flour mixture.
3. Place the rhubarb in the prepared pie shell. Pour the egg and flour mixture evenly over the top.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes more.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping and mix with a fork until crumbly.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the crumb topping over the top. Return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.
7. Remove from the oven again and allow the pie to cool slightly before slicing. Pie can be frozen at this point. Once it is defrosted and warmed slightly in a 200°F oven, you would never know it had ever been frozen.
Per Serving: 326 Calories; 13g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 294mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 16th, 2018.

pie_crust_w_cornstarch

One might think there couldn’t be anything “new” regarding pie crusts. But lo, behold, there is a pie crust that’s very easy, has a bunch of butter, but also cornstarch. Amazing.

If someone had given me a recipe for a new pie crust, well, maybe I’d have smiled, said thank you, and promptly set it aside and not even looked at it. But this one, oh gosh, what a mistake to not try it! This one came from Christopher Kimball, from his new venture, Milk Street. And there was a very big write-up about it in the magazine, so I input the recipe into my MasterCook software and didn’t think about it for awhile. I don’t make many pies.

But the other day, needing a dessert for my weekly bible study group, I was going through to-try recipes, and it just so happened I had rhubarb in the refrigerator. That led to a recipe, and that led to my needing a pie crust.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile (it’s been nearly 11  years now I’ve been blogging) you likely have gone to my recipe index. It’s prodigious. I’m not bragging, truly I’m not. But sometimes when I’m actually writing in the additions to the index, I’m kind of blown away by how MANY recipes I have on this site. And I was particularly amazed at how many cakes are there. Obviously I love baking. And I use any occasion as an excuse to try something new. Occasionally I go back to a tried and true recipe (like my mother’s Crisp Apple Pudding that I made recently and used both apples and pears) but because I write a blog, well, one must keep truckin’ and try new recipes.

My next post will be the pie filling part – but today we’re just talkin’ about the crust. I’m not often lured into making pie crusts. They just seem like so much work. More work than I want to do. I’m not fond of making a pre-baked crust – more work with digging out the pie weights, getting them cleanly out of the shell, etc. In this case the sour cream-rhubarb filling was put into the raw crust and baked together (easier!).

The crust isn’t difficult, although you do have to briefly cook the cornstarch with water in the microwave until it’s hot and set. It gets cooled some, then stuffed in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool off. Then it’s added to the usual dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) in the food processor and pulsed until that mixture is smooth. Then you add the sour cream (only 2 tablespoons) and 10 tablespoons of butter. Once pulsed for a bit, it all comes together into a ball. It’s flattened into a 4-inch flat disk, wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled for an hour (or longer). I was on a time schedule, so I did 60 minutes.pie_crust_w_cornstarch_sideview

But now, the crust – when I took it out of the refrigerator and began rolling it, it had a definite texture difference. It was supple and soft and the amount was perfect for my 9-inch pie plate. It didn’t roll out into that magical perfect circle that one would like (darn) but when I patched the dough in a couple of places, it adhered and was very easy to finish rolling. I rolled it up onto the rolling pin and gently let it down into the dish. It was easy to move, because, of course, I hadn’t centered it correctly, but the dough allowed me to do that without tearing or stretching it. Yea! I trimmed some of the edges off, then folded the 1/2 inch outer edges under and crimped with my fingers and the crust was DONE! It was easier than I thought. I didn’t freeze the dough-filled plate (as you would do if you wanted to blind bake it) and the finished pie was just fine – not overly browned even though I baked the pie at a different temperature than the suggested for a blind bake.

And oh, my. Is this crust tender! Even those tall, thick finger-crimped edges were as tender as could be. Sometimes when you make a wet kind of pie filling (like the sour cream rhubarb one I did) it makes the bottom crust soggy. Not this one. Why, I don’t know. I may just be making this pie crust anytime I need one in the future. The recipe says to make two and freeze one of the disks, which would be a great idea – just use within a month, though. You can also make the dough a couple of days ahead and keep chilled.

What’s GOOD: everything about this crust is a good thing! Easy to make. Easy to roll out. Easy to get into the pie plate. Baked perfectly. Bottom crust stayed a crust and wasn’t soggy. Easy to cut and get out of the pie dish too. Sometimes that first slice is a bummer. Not with this one, anyway. A day later when I had a leftover slice that had been refrigerated, the bottom crust was still firm and not soggy, and the chilled crust was tasty and flaky. Truly, this pie crust is a bit of a miracle for me!

What’s NOT: nothing at all – just one extra step to cook the cornstarch and water before starting and cooling it in the freezer for 10 minutes. You should chill the dough, too, so do plan a few hours ahead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Single-Crust Pie Dough with Cornstarch

Recipe By: Milk Street, 2016
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
159 grams all purpose flour — (equals 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons butter — WITH SALT, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons sour cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch. Microwave until set, 30 to 40 seconds, stirring halfway through. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
2. Once the cornstarch mixture has chilled, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and process until mixed, about 5 seconds. Add the chilled cornstarch mixture and pulse until uniformly ground, about 5 pulses.
3. Add the butter and sour cream and process until the dough comes together and begins to collect around the blade, 20 to 30 seconds.
4. Pat the dough into a 4-inch disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.
5. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position.
6. On a well-floured counter, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.
7. Hang the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Gently ease the dough into the pan by lifting the edges while pressing down into the corners of the pan.
8. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then tuck the overhang under itself so the dough is flush with the rim of the pan.
9. Crimp the dough with your fingers or the tines of a fork, then chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
10. To blind bake, line the chilled crust with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until the edges are light golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
11. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the bottom of the crust just begins to color, another 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before filling.
12. Once baked and cooled, the crust can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Tip: Don’t skip the sour cream; it’s key for a tender crust. And don’t skimp on the pie weights; use enough to come 3/4 of the way up the sides.
Per Serving: 214 Calories; 15g Fat (64.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 216mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 12th, 2018.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_slice

That may not look like much – I’ve mentioned it here before – brown food doesn’t look very appetizing. But, oh, you’d be wrong about the flavor!

Often my bible study group meets at my home, but we pass around the duties of hosting, and of providing some kind of dessert. One of our members is 95 years old (young). There is almost nothing Dottie won’t do – she still travels often in countries around the world. She walks, she studies, she’s often busy all day long with various activities. Her husband passed away many years ago, but Dottie is such a trooper. We all admire her immensely and only hope we’ll be as agile and sharp as she is when we reach 95.

Recently she was supposed to keep one leg elevated, but was willing to host our group, so I offered to take the dessert. I didn’t think I had anything much at home, but I did have some aging bananas. I looked into my to-try recipe file, and sure enough there was this one, and I’d even marked it “MUST MAKE.” That’s a signal I put on some recipes so I might try them sooner rather than later.

The recipe came from David Lebovitz’s blog. Years ago he developed this recipe for a diet type magazine, apparently, and it became a favorite of his. And what a great use of a bunch of bananas – there are supposed to be 3 bananas that dot the bottom of the pan (which becomes the top once you up-end it) and a few more in the cake batter. As it happened I didn’t have as many bananas as he suggested, so I skimped on the number you’d see and put in the right amount (a cup) in the batter. I didn’t follow all the diet ingredients, but did use butter, and 2 eggs, rather than an egg and an egg white. If you want to make this as he did, just click onto the link above and you can see it all there. Along with the funny story he wrote about the bananas.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_wholeThis cake is very easy to make – truly it is. You do make a little sauce that becomes the kind of caramel top, then the bananas (the recipe calls for about 5 bananas) are sliced decoratively, in overlapping rows, into the sauce. This is made in an 8-inch square pan – NOT a 9 inch one. It’s not a thick cake to begin with, so do not make the mistake of making it in a 9-inch pan.

You can see there that I didn’t have enough bananas to really make the pretty, decorative overlapping rows, but hey, it all worked out – nobody knew there was supposed to be oodles more bananas. A cup of mashed bananas is needed for the cake batter, and once made you stir in some chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup). The chocolate is not prominent in this cake, yet you know it’s got something else in there besides bananas.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_whole_sideviewWe served it with vanilla ice cream, which was really good with it. Whipped cream would work too. I sent all the leftovers home with one couple in our group, so I wouldn’t end up snacking on it for days.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor – the caramely top with the slightly caramelized bananas is really good, and the cake itself with the hint of chocolate is also delicious. Definitely I’d make this again, but I’d be sure to have 5+ bananas to start with!

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Banana Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake

Recipe By: David Lebovitz
Serving Size : 9

TOPPING:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar — packed, PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons butter — or water (if butter, warm to room temp)
3 bananas — ripe, medium sized
A few drops of lemon juice
CAKE BATTER:
1 1/2 cups flour — (210 g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar — (150 g)
2 tablespoons melted butter — (30 g) salted or unsalted
1 large egg
1 large egg white — or use 2 large eggs total
1 cup bananas — (250 g) pureed (about 2 bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream — (120 g) regular or low-fat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips — (80 g) or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1. TOPPING: place the brown sugar and water or butter in an 8-inch (20 cm) square cake pan. Warm the pan directly on the stovetop over low heat, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly moistened. If using water, simmer the mixture for about 45 seconds. If using butter, stir just until the sugar is moist and bubbling, then remove from heat. (It won’t melt completely smooth, and there may be a few bare spots, which is normal.) Let cool to room temperature.
2. Peel and slice the bananas in 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange them in slightly overlapping rows over the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
4. CAKE BATTER: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Mix in the granulated sugar.
5. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, egg, egg white, banana puree, sour cream, and vanilla.
6. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.
7. Scrape the batter into the pan over the bananas, then use a spatula to carefully spread the batter over the sliced fruit.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just set in the center when you touch it.
9. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake to help it release from the pan. Serving: The cake is best served warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or by itself as a snack. If made an hour or so in advance, it can be inverted on the serving platter, and left with the cake pan over it, to keep it warm. Otherwise is can be rewarmed in a low over, covered with foil. Or enjoy at room temperature. Storage: The cake can be made up to two days in advance, although it is best the day it’s made. To freeze, wrap it securely in plastic wrap; it can be frozen for one to two months. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.
Per Serving: 374 Calories; 13g Fat (28.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 321mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on January 20th, 2018.

instant_pot_7-in_1

So, maybe many of YOU asked for this little gem for Christmas. No, it’s a big sized kitchen gem.  Or maybe you already have one. I was late to the parade because I already have a pressure cooker (2, actually); a slow cooker (1); and rice cooker (1); and a Breville multi-cooker (1). But the idea of doing more one-dish meals interested me, plus I particularly liked the suggestion that I could get rid of all of those other kitchen appliances. The only thing this new I.P doesn’t have is a risotto function. I did see a recipe for risotto, so will have to try it and see if it does it as well as the Breville. If so, I’ll get rid of that also.

Daughter Sara wants my pressure cookers, so I’ll be happy to give them to her. Don’t know if she has a rice cooker, but I’ll take that along too, when I see her next. I may keep my slow cooker only because it’s a really big one and perhaps I’ll be sorry to not have that for some large function in the future.

Image result for sunbeam electric skilletSome years ago I bought a new electric skillet. Those of us of a certain age will remember the old 1960s era electric skillet as a kind of a one-dish frying pan, but it plugged into the wall, had 4 legs on it, was square shaped. Anyway, my original one died (photo at right, from ebay), so bought a new fangled one, but found that I almost never used it. And it was a good one – Cuisinart, I believe. Anyway, I gave that to my granddaughter Sabrina (the one attending Clemson Univ.) and she’s already used it in her dorm room to make chicken tortilla soup. She was so proud to tell me that she was really happy with the results. Being a Southern California girl, she really misses Mexican food, a regular staple for almost anyone who lives in this neck of the woods.

Out of the box, the IP suggests running it through a test pressure cooker run. I did that. No problem. I’ve also subscribed on FB to the IP page, and have been reading recipes from there. And it was there that I saw the link to an IP rice pudding at PressureCookingToday.  Also in amongst my received Christmas gifts was a cookbook for the I.P. (Henceforth I’ll just call it the IP).

My cousin Gary (who lives in Santa Clara and has been spending Christmas with me for decades) was here over the holidays, and on day 3 of his visit he came down with a very bad cold. And he was sick with it for the entire remainder of his 8-day visit. Poor guy! He didn’t get to participate in any of the usual family Christmas festivities. We drove to San Diego to have a get-together with daughter Sara and her family on December 23rd, and it was while he was there that he realized he was coming down with the cold. He went into their guest room and slept the rest of that day’s visit. Sara and the family (and me) all made home made tamales that afternoon (my job was to spread masa onto the damp corn husks). We made 124, and I have 6 tamales in my freezer, waiting for an occasion to steam them. The tamale recipe belongs to my daughter’s mother-in-law, Jean, and I don’t know that she would share the recipe, but there are plenty of them out there on the ‘net if you’re interested. Sara’s family always makes (1) pork in a mild red sauce and (2) cheese and jalapeno.

IP_arborio_rice_puddingAnyway, all that to say that Gary has been sick enough to not even feel up to preparing any food for himself, so I’ve been feeding him meals throughout his illness. And I asked him how he felt about rice pudding. He said “yum.” So, that was my first dish in my new IP.

As I’ve learned with the brief amount of time I’ve had my IP, there’s a special lingo to IP cooking. If you’re really preparing and providing a recipe (as below) you start off with the quick list of cooking. In this case it’s the following:

  • Total time – 20 minutes
  • 2-4 minutes prep
  • 3 minutes pressure cook high
  • 10 minutes slow release, then quick release
  • About 7-8 minutes sauté

IP_arborio_rice_pudding_top_viewThat how you inform a reader how much time is required and what functions you’ll be using on the IP. Adding rice (Arborio, the kind you use for risotto), water and salt to the IP, it’s pressure cooked on high for 3 minutes. Then you turn off the IP and let it just sit – it’s not on, but still under pressure. This allows the rice (I’m guessing) to continue to cook very slowly – and to develop that extra special creaminess that accompanies anything with Arborio rice. Then you release the pressure (and remove lid, of course), stir in sugar and milk, stir, turn IP to the sauté function, then mix up 2 eggs and 1/2 cup milk and whisk well. Pour it through a sieve into the IP and allow the pudding to just come to a boil (that took about 5-7 minutes I’m guessing) and it’s done. Add raisins if desired. And vanilla. Stir and pour into individual ramekins or into a large storage bowl. Allow to cool to room temp and serve. It’s best warm, but it’s also yummy once chilled.

Now, I’ll grant you, making rice pudding isn’t exactly gourmet cooking!! BUT, in this case, the use of Arborio rice makes for a really creamy consistency. I think more creamy than regular rice.

What’s GOOD: the overall flavor – I think the amount of sugar – rice – milk ratio is absolutely spot-on. And the texture is so smooth and creamy. Loved it. This will be my new go-to rice pudding. Rich tasting. I did use whole milk – no cream.

What’s NOT: not a single thing. A keeper.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot Arborio Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Pressure Cooking Today
Serving Size: 8 (1/2 cup servings)

1 cup Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk — divided use
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins

IP Instructions:
* Total time – about 20 minutes
* Prep time – about 5 minutes or less
* Pressure cook high – 3 minutes
* Slow release 10 minutes, then quick release
* 8-10 minutes saute
1. In instant pot, combine rice, water, and salt. Lock the lid in place and select High Pressure and 3 minutes cook time.
2. When beep sounds, turn off pressure cooker and use a natural pressure release for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure with a quick pressure release.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and sugar to rice in pressure cooking pot; stir to combine.
4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs with remaining 1/2 cup milk and vanilla. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into pot. Select sauté and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. Turn off pot. Remove pan and set on counter to cool. Stir in raisins.
5. Pudding will thicken as it cools. Serve warm or pour into serving dishes and chill. Serve topped with whipped cream, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired. Makes eight 1/2-cup servings.
Per Serving: 230 Calories; 3g Fat (13.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 61mg Cholesterol; 121mg Sodium.

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