August 2015 archive

gluten free chocolate chip cookies

We’re branching out today.  These chewy, tender cookies are filled with chocolate puddles and are gluten free!  Stay with me here, you’ll like them whether you fill your diet with gluten or leave it out.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

A few of my good friends from college can’t have gluten.  As a baker, even in college, I always wanted to make sure they were not left out when our groups shared treats.  When we moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, I began experimenting with different recipes and methods of replacing regular flour with gluten free options.  Some of the trials were complete duds.  Sunken breads, cookies running across the pan, don’t-try-this-at-home kind of mess-ups.  It is certainly not a one-to-one ratio with any single type of gluten-free flour substitute, but I’m figuring it out and learning as I go.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

See that melty chocolate?  Mmmmm.  Makes me want to make another batch.

I feel like I have a few easy gluten free treats down pat, but I am definitely still working on others.  Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, no problem; gluten free quick bread, getting closer; yeasted gluten free goods, don’t hold your breath.  These cookies, however, are a definite success, loved by gluten-lovers and gluten-free alike.  Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorite desserts to make and eat.  They are my go-to, my classic, my well-known treat, and I’m excited to now be able to share some of the love with my gluten-free friends!

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are soft and thick with a deep flavor from the dark chocolate and brown sugar.  They have a nice crumb and slightly crispy edges, which creates a great contrast of textures.  I like to chop up dark chocolate bars instead of using chocolate chips for this recipe – the chopped chocolate melts better and forms deposits of sweetness throughout the cookie.  Each bite is a wonderful melty mouthful of chocolate and tender cookie base.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

I wanted to keep this recipe simple and easy enough that it wouldn’t be a task to make them.  Because making cookies should never turn into a task and everyone should have the option to have homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Pass the Cookies - These gluten free chocolate chip cookies are tender, chewy and filled with puddles of chocolate. They are delicious, whether you are gluten free or not!

I have included options to use less refined sugar and no butter, if that is your thing.  Both options are delicious.  I had not used coconut sugar before this recipe and I found that it does not affect the taste or the structure of the cookie at all (I found it for a good price at Trader Joe’s).  The coconut oil makes the cookies a little more tender and lends a bit of a coconutty flavor.  It is definitely not overwhelming and Will, who does not like coconut, couldn’t taste it at all.  If you use coconut oil, you’ll want to make sure it is solid.  In the winter ours stays solid in the pantry, but in the summer it is liquid.  If you have that issue, stick it in the fridge or freezer for a bit, no biggie.

Whether you are gluten free not, these cookies are worth making.  Snag a few – you won’t be able to resist.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature (or coconut oil, soft but not melted)
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cup coconut sugar (or light brown sugar)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 ½ cups almond flour or almond meal
2 cup dark chocolate, chopped

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter (or coconut oil, if using) and sugars until creamy and smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the electric mixer and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into 1-½ inch balls. Place chilled cookie dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet a few inches apart and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges become golden. You may need to press them down a bit if they are still puffy after 8 minutes.

london part II: the boroughs

Are you ready for more of London?! During our time in London we made our way to many boroughs. It was amazing to see how different each area is. The pastel and white colored row houses in Notting Hill provide a much different atmosphere than the graffiti art covered streets of Brick Lane and East London. Buckingham Palace, with its golden accents and immaculate flower garden is nothing like the theatre district.

One morning we made it to the Churchill War Rooms before they opened, made it through the museum and over to Buckingham palace to see the changing of the guards at 11am. We didn’t get a great spot for the changing of the guards, but Churchill War Rooms was one of our favorite things so it wasn’t a big deal. We saw the guards marching and trading places and chatted with a local British man near us who attends the ceremony about 3 times a week and has done so for years and years. He explained where all of the guards were coming from and going, what they did during the trade-off behind the palace gate and the significance of the ceremony. No need for a tour guide when you have local experts :)  P.S. If you are going to London, definitely go to Churchill War Rooms – it was a favorite among many in our group.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

Jumping across the park, we also spent some time walking around Notting Hill and Portobello Market. The houses were so pretty, bumped up next to each other with greens and window boxes. Some of the streets were filled with white and black houses, while others embraced multicolored pastels, a different color on each home. Notting Hill was much more calm than the main areas of central London and it was nice to be out of the hustle-bustle for a while where we could still enjoy the views and culture of the city.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

When I studied abroad in college, I met one of my roommates in London, where she was studying. She was a wonderful tour guide and knew the city so well I never had to look at a map. In addition to the main attractions, she took me to places she knew I would like. One of those places was Daunt Books. I probably would not have discovered the bookstore on my own, but I loved the quaint bookstore and the cute surrounding area. We went back when we were there this summer and it is just as great as I remembered. Green walls and wooden railings, books from floor to ceiling for three floors, wonderful books and beautiful book jackets. Marylebone has wonderful shops, great restaurants and, like Notting Hill, is a quieter part of London. Even after two trips it is one of the areas I would visit again and again.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

And now for an area I will always recommend to everyone, one of my favorite parts of London – Borough Market. Markets are my favorite parts of many cities but this one is the best I have ever visited. The well-known food market is filled with mountains of vibrant produce, rows and rows of delicious treats and hot food stands with enough variety to please anyone. Even meats, cheeses, eggs, mustards and flowers fill the many stalls of the covered market. There are options for everyone and it is worth going just to see the extent and variety of the market. Eek, I want to go back!

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.As we were leaving the market, my mom pointed out a chalkboard sign with the heading “Before I die….” We jumped right in and joined the many locals and visitors who had signed their goals and ambitions in multicolored chalk ahead of us. In a city rich with diversity, the chalkboard and the many sentiments it held seemed like a fitting way to end the visit to a market that mirrored so much of that variety.

London is such a huge city and each of its boroughs have their own unique traits.

salted caramel dark chocolate hazelnut praline paris-brest

Get ready.  You are about to experience an overload of pictures and an immense desire for chocolate and pastry cream.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Meet the Paris-Brest.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

I am so excited to tell you about this dessert.  The Paris-Brest is a famous french pastry named after the cycling race, the Paris-Brest-Paris.  One of the oldest cycling races still riden,  the Paris-Brest-Paris is a 1200 km ride from Paris to Brest, on the coast of France, back to Paris.  Not only is it crazy long, but cyclists have only 90 hours to complete the long distance race, meaning many of them sleep for only 2-3 hours at a time while they are on the course.  The Paris-Brest pastry was created by a French pastry chef in honor of the race.  It’s circular shape represents the shape of a bicycle tire and, with all of the biking, racers have a good excuse to eat the extra calories ;)

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

Typically, this ring of choux pastry is filled with praline pastry cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  We’re taking it a step (or three) further and making caramel pastry cream, adding dark chocolate ganache and hazelnut praline.  Decadent and delicious.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

The race occurs only every four years and while the pastry is absolutely divine, I am most excited about this dessert because we are close with someone who completed the race just last week!  We followed along on our computers here in the US as he and his biking friend clocked their cards at each checkpoint.  Sunday through early Thursday, we refreshed the browser, checked to see how they were doing, kept up with their paces.  It was exciting and scary at the same time.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

Now that they successfully completed the race (crazy!), I excitedly share this pastry with you!  The Paris-Brest looks difficult, and I will admit there are a lot of parts, but don’t be afraid!  It can easily be spread apart over a few days or made in just one, whatever you have the time for.  I made the hazelnut praline a few days before I made everything else, and made the pastry cream the night before I made the choux.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

Mmmm, and then there is the ganache.  So easy, so delicious.  That is the rule for most of the steps in this dessert.  They may take some time, but most steps have few ingredients and are fairly easy.  If those cyclists can bike 1200 km in 90 hours, you can make this pastry!  I believe in you! :)  Praline, pastry cream, choux, ganache.  Top it off with some powdered sugar and there you have it.  Easy peasey!

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.I got a bit carried away with the extra choux pastry :)

Most Paris-Brest recipes pipe the choux into one circle.  I strayed from that just slightly and piped two rows of puffs that were close enough to touch each other.  The golden boules provided extra texture and created perfect places to cut it into portions when we served it.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

And a sprinkle (or seven) of powdered sugar for good measure.  It kind of resembles snow-capped mountains to me.  Delicious snow-capped mountains.

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

This is one of the best desserts I have ever made.  Once you get the parts down, you can impress a crowd with this Paris-Brest pastry.  So, allons-y et bonne chance!

Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Paris-Brest

Salted Caramel Pastry Cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream or heavy cream, to lighten the pastry cream (optional)

Hazelnut Praline
1 cup hazelnuts
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Choux Pastry
3/4 cup butter (unsalted), cut into small pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs (5 if you are in a humid environment)

Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces chocolate (I used dark chocolate), coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons butter

For assembly
powdered sugar, for dusting

To make:
Salted Caramel Pastry Cream

Combine the sugar with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup water in a large, heavy saucepan. Stir together over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar dissolves, stop stirring and continue to cook until the sugar turns a medium amber.

Remove from the heat and immediately pour in the cream. The mixture will bubble vigorously – just watch it until it calms down. Stir the cream into the sugar until the mixture is fully mixed and uniform. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, vanilla and salt. While whisking on medium speed, slowly pour the hot sugar-cream mixture down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg mixture. Mix until smooth. Pouring the hot mixture down the bowl gives it a chance to cool off before it hits the eggs and pour it slowly helps to ensure the eggs don’t cook in the hot liquid.

Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise and the whisk leaves streams behind it in the mixture (you will understand that when you do it).

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours. If you are in a hurry, spread out the pastry cream on a large baking pan (so there is more surface area to capture the cold air), cover with plastic wrap as before, and refrigerate until cool or flash freeze for a few minutes. Be careful not to actually freeze the cream if you are attempting to cool it down quickly though.

Pastry cream can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.  It will become more stiff in the fridge, just whip it when you are ready to use it.

To lighten the pastry cream, whip 1 cup of whipping cream in an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks and is the consistency of whipped cream.  Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream and chill.

Hazelnut Praline
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil (about 3 cups of water). To the boiling water, add 2 teaspoons of baking soda and the hazelnuts. The water will turn black. Do not be alarmed. (It’s actually kind of cool :) ) While the nuts boil, fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. After about 5 minutes of boiling, drain the water and pour the hazelnuts into the ice water. With your fingers, slip the skin off each hazelnut.

Line a rimmed baking tray with Silpat or spray very well with non-stick spray. Place the skinned hazelnuts on the pan in a single layer.

In a medium nonstick saucepan, combine the sugar and the lemon juice. Once the sugar dissolves, continue to cook the mixture over medium heat until it is amber, without stirring! You can swirl the pan a few times halfway through but DO NOT STIR. As tempting as it is to continue to stir the mixture, don’t! Despite your good intentions, you might end up with a rock hard clump of sugar. This is almost the same process as when you made the caramel base of the pastry cream above. While the sugar cooks you can brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.

Pour the melted mixture directly onto the nuts and allow to cool. Once cool, break the praline into pieces for decoration.  You can make the hazelnut praline ahead of time and store the praline pieces in an airtight container for a few days.

Choux Pastry
While the pastry cream cools, make the choux pastry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking pan with parchment paper.

In a small nonstick saucepan, bring the butter and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the boiling mixture all at once and immediately stir it quickly until a thick paste forms and the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Continue stirring for 2 to 3 minutes to allow more water to evaporate. If you are in a humid environment, you may need to stir even longer to ensure that there is even less moisture in your final product since there is already so much in the air.

Transfer the choux paste into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Do not mix on high – you don’t want extra air to leaven the pastries, the steam will already do that. The finished mixture should be a soft paste but still stiff enough to hold its shape when you pipe it.

Place the choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip and pipe 1-1 1/2 inch balls touching each other in about a 10-inch circle. I had enough pastry to pipe an inner circle as well. Bake the dough for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven teperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking 30-40 more minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.

Remove the pastry from the oven and let it cool just until you can easily handle it. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut one of the puffs in half across the middle. If the center of the puff feels soft, return the pan to the oven for a few more minutes. Otherwise, set aside to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Add the butter and whisk the mixture until it is smooth and all of the butter and chocolate has melted. Make sure you incorporate any chocolate on the bottom and sides of the bowl (it is easier to do this with a rubber spatula).

To Assemble

With a serrated knife, cut horizontally through the center of the pastry puffs.  Place the pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a large tip.  Lift the tops of the choux pastry and pipe the pastry cream between the layers.  Drizzle the chocolate ganache on top and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cooled hazelnut praline.

This dessert is best eaten soon after it is assembled so the pastry cream does not make the pastry soggy.

Hazelnut praline slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.  Salted caramel pastry cream and choux pastry slightly adapted from Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Let Them Eat Cake.

 

The decadent Paris Brest pastry celebrates great randonneuring traditions and tastes absolutely delicious.

link love

link love 8-21-2015

via

Whew.  It’s Friday.  Does it feel like it to you?  I feel like it has been a very long week, but at the same time it still feels like it is about Wednesday in my mind.  I guess that is better than it feeling like Friday on Wednesday!

And here are this weeks links!  I like ‘em :)

Fall is coming, fall is coming!!! Are you excited yet?  Because I am!  Michaels and Target already have their fall decorations out and the pumpkin flavors are already coming out (okay, chill out Starbucks, it’s a little too soon).  I love fall so much more than summer.  Cooler weather, crunching leaves, PUMPKIN.  Let the countdown begin.

I thought that I had used all aspects of Google possible until this week.  How did I not know about Google Cultural Institute?  It is really cool!  I love looking at the different groupings of art collections.

Speaking of art, this Edinburgh architect made a paper model every day for a year.  Some of them are so intricate and amazing!  I can’t imagine how much time that took him total but I can definitely understand how he is faster and better now that he has completed a year of projects.

I’m so so so excited about this book.  I think it is an awesome concept and I want to see all of the recipes!  This author, chef and literary lover wrote recipes based on great literary works, from childhood favorites to adult classics and popular books in between.

This article about smartphone attachment is hilarious and absolutely on point.  I love it.  But it also scares me.  I can totally relate to #3, it is a frantic situation.

Happy Friday and happy weekending!

england part I: london’s main attractions

After our week in Scotland we journeyed on to London, England for another week of travel and exploration.  London is such a huge city and we saw new sites and different boroughs every day.  We mapped the attractions we saw each day by location, seeing the sites and neighborhoods that were in close proximity to each other so we didn’t have to traverse the massive city all day.  And it wouldn’t be London without some grey days!  As per typical London weather, we had grey skies most days, including in all of these pictures.

We loved exploring the huge city of London, England.  Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are so detailed and beautiful

When we arrived, we set out across Westminster Bridge and stopped at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  The architecture of these beautiful buildings is so intricate and detailed.  I visited Big Ben when I studied abroad, but I noticed different elements this second time.  While we were on Westminster Bridge, looking at Big Ben, we were asked to take a picture for a couple getting married and a picture for a couple announcing their first baby.  For regular ol’ tourists, it was definitely an exciting place to be :)

We loved exploring the huge city of London, England.  Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are so detailed and beautiful

We walked past 10 Downing Street and back across the Thames on the Golden Jubilee Bridge to see the views from the opposite side and to check out the London Eye.  I snapped a shot of my lovely siblings with Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the Church of St. Margaret (a canon of Westminster Abbey) and the Thames River in the background.  One of the best parts of the trip was being able to spend two whole weeks with my family and our friends.  Now that we are home I’m itching to spend more time with everyone, but it seems so much harder once everyone gets settled into their busy schedules.  I’m so glad we could capture some quality time over the summer to explore the UK together though! :)

We loved exploring all of the nooks and crannies of London, England

The London Eye is an interesting structure.  It is ridiculously expensive (£23.00, or about $36 per person for one ride) but apparently the views are great.  To me, the giant ferris wheel looks out of place against the gothic architecture across the river, but I do think it is a cool concept.  Maybe next time we will try it out.

We loved exploring all of the nooks and crannies of London, England, especially the lions in Trafalgar Square

Oh hey there, Hails :)

One morning we made it out to Trafalgar Square to see the famous lion statues and visit the Crypt of St. Martin in the Field.  Climbing atop the statues was more difficult than we expected but we were determined to make it up there!  We tried to squish all of the “kids” onto one of the lions, but didn’t quite have enough room, hence my solo action down there ;)

We loved exploring all of the nooks and crannies of London, England, especially the lions in Trafalgar Square

On Tuesday afternoon we took a walking tour of East London.  Our guide took us to places we probably would have missed otherwise and pointed out all of the street art as we passed.  He said there was no theme to the tour, but we are convinced it was a street art tour.  I have some cool pictures of some of the vibrant paintings on walls and buildings in East London for later.  When we finished our 3-4 hour tour, we decided to test our feet a bit more and walk across Tower Bridge to get to a tube stop further along.  We definitely got our daily steps in while we were in London – our daily average was about 9-10 miles of walking!

We loved exploring the huge city of London, England.  Tower Bridge was even more majestic than we imagined.

I wasn’t expecting the bridge to be so vibrantly colored.  I had seen pictures of the bridge from a distance but nothing showing the painted suspensions up close.  Apparently the red and white portions were painted for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee and the whole bridge was repainted with blue and white in 2008 (thanks Wikipedia).  London is interesting with it’s combination of old and new buildings and structures, resulting from the rebuilding after bombings during World War II.  While the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are very old sites, the buildings that surround them are much more modern, with glass sides rising to the sky.  It is such a juxtaposition of old and new and a great reminder of the history of the city.

We loved exploring the huge city of London, England.  Tower Bridge was even more majestic than we imagined.

We loved exploring the huge city of London, England.  Tower Bridge was even more majestic than we imagined.

We had no idea that Tower Bridge was a draw bridge until alarms started sounding and lights flashed as we got toward the opposite end.  It was pretty amazing how such a huge, old bridge could raise that high.  Besides the views of the rising bridge, the best part was when the bridge lowered and all of the bicyclists sped across before the gates lifted for the cars to go.

Below is the Tower of London, the historic castle that now houses the Crown Jewels of England.  Within its history it has been used as a historic residence, an armoury, a treasury and as a prison, among other things.  I imagined the Tower of London to be a single tower, Rapunzel style, so I was amazed when we approached a huge fortress covering acres and acres of land, with walls, turrets and multiple towers.  If you look toward the left side of the photo, you can see the famous Shard building peeking over the top of the Tower walls.  A great example of that juxtaposition again :)

We loved exploring the huge city of London, England.  Tower Bridge and the Tower of London were even more majestic than we imagined.

London has so many amazing attractions and interesting history.  This is a small peek into a few of the sites we saw.  Keep checking back for more of London and our day trip to charming Cambridge!

porridge with raspberry ripple and honey roasted pistachios

When we were in the UK this summer we had the best porridge for breakfast.  We first tasted it at The Elephant Room, the cafe where J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter, and were hooked for the rest of our vacation.

This creamy porridge with raspberry ripple and honey toasted pistachios is a delicious, nutritious way to start your morning.This creamy porridge with raspberry ripple and honey toasted pistachios is a delicious, nutritious way to start your morning.

We tried to recreate it in our apartment in Edinburgh and were unsuccessful, with burnt porridge smelling up the kitchen.  Once we figured out our mistake, we made it perfectly for our breakfasts in London.  The secret to delicious, non-burnt porridge is a non-stick pan and keeping the heat low for the majority of the time it cooks.  The oatmeal that we know in the US is a type of porridge, but in the UK they typically make the breakfast food with milk instead of mostly water, use a different ratio of oats to liquid and cook it until it is very thick.  It is a creamy and delicious morning treat.

This creamy porridge with raspberry ripple and honey toasted pistachios is a delicious, nutritious way to start your morning.This creamy porridge with raspberry ripple and honey toasted pistachios is a delicious, nutritious way to start your morning.

After we returned, I was determined to make porridge as tasty as the bowls we had in Scotland and England, but using ingredients we can easily access in the US.  It was a great success.  I used oats and cooked them long and low, as we did our porridge.  You can use steel cut but I used whole rolled oats.  The raspberry ripples and honey cinnamon toasted pistachios add great texture, color and taste to the already delicious oats.

Porridge is a great healthy breakfast and this recipe can easily be adapted for gluten free and vegan diets by using gluten free oats and/or your favorite non-dairy milk (almond is delicious with this combo).

This creamy porridge with raspberry ripple and honey toasted pistachios is a delicious, nutritious way to start your morning.This creamy porridge with raspberry ripple and honey toasted pistachios is a delicious, nutritious way to start your morning.

In the UK, a thick porridge breakfast sustained us until lunch.  Now, back in the US, it is great for easy weekend mornings.  It takes a little time but the result is a creamy, nutty and healthy breakfast good enough to serve company but easy enough to make for yourself on a regular basis.  Porridge has become one of my favorite breakfasts and I’m so excited to try even more flavor combinations as we get closer to fall.  For now though, I’m loving this raspberry ripple and honey cinnamon pistachio combo and the breakfast that brings me back to vacation.

Porridge with Raspberry Ripple and Honey Cinnamon Toasted Pistachios

Porridge
½ cup whole rolled oats
1 ½ cups milk (the higher the fat percentage, the creamier the porridge)
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

Raspberry Ripple
¾ cup fresh raspberries

Honey Toasted Pistachios
1-2 teaspoons honey
½ cup shelled pistachios
½ teaspoon cinnamon

To make the Porridge
In a small heavy saucepan (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat, combine the oats, milk, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats are tender and creamy. This will take about 30 minutes (but could take longer). While the porridge is cooking, make the raspberry ripple and the honey toasted pistachios.

To make the Raspberry Ripple
Pour the raspberries into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until they are a thick liquid.   If you do not like the seeds, strain the berry puree before using it.

To make the Honey Cinnamon Toasted Pistachios
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pour the shelled pistachios onto a baking tray and toast for about a minute. Remove from the oven and pour into a medium bowl. Immediately pour the honey on top of them and mix until all of the nuts are coated. Sprinkle the cinnamon into the bowl and toss again. Immediately pour the nuts back onto a parchment covered baking tray, spread out into one layer and bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before using.

To Assemble
Pour the porridge into a bowl, alternating with the raspberry ripple. Top with the honey cinnamon toasted pistachios and any additional honey or milk, to taste.

This creamy porridge with raspberry ripple and honey toasted pistachios is a delicious, nutritious way to start your morning.

scotland part III: the highlands and the end of edinburgh

During our time in Scotland we took a day trip to the Highlands.  We hopped on a bus in Edinburgh at 8am and returned to the Royal Mile at 8pm.

Scotland II-2

It was a long day of riding and sightseeing but all of the views were amazing and the trip turned out to be one of the best things we did in the UK.  Our tour guide, Fergus (a good ol’ Scottish man with a proper kilt) took us north to the Cairngorm Mountains and learned about the National Park and the tree preservation efforts.  According to Fergus, Scotland used timber from the many trees in the Highlands to make supplies during World War II.  By the end of the war though, they had cut down almost all of their trees and had to rely on timber imports from the Scandinavian countries.  The Highlands are now full of tree farms to ensure that the trees can continue to be a resource for Scotland.

Scotland II-4

Look at that rock skipping form ;)  We headed West and then South through Inverness and to the famous Loch Ness where we stopped for a boat ride and a view of the castle ruins.  Unfortunately, we did not spot the monster ;)  Loch Ness was remarkable – I never realized how enormous it is.  Apparently, if you took all of the fresh water from lakes and ponds in the UK and combined them, all of that water would fit into Loch Ness.  It is so deep that if you dropped the Eiffel Tower into the Loch, you wouldn’t know it was there.  The Loch was formed by ancient glacial movement, which also created the large, smooth mountains rising straight out of the water. While the tales of the Loch Ness Monster make the Loch famous, the views are really what should draw people there.

Scotland II-1

Scotland II-3

Our next stop was Ben Nevis and a small stop to see the hairy coos (hairy cows).  These photos were taken at another lake (or loch) on our way back to Edinburgh.  The Hairy Coos were so funny.  Long hair covered their body and their eyes and they would stick out their tongues at anything that resembled food.

The beautiful Highlands and Edinburgh, Scotland

Our favorite part of the Highlands trip was the stop at the Three Sisters mountain ridges and the drive through the rest of Glen Coe.  The first picture in this post was taken at the Three Sisters range.  Glen Coe is mossy and green as far as the eye can see with rolling mountains, trickling waterfalls and running rivers everywhere.  It is picturesque but no picture can capture it well enough.  Our tour guide pointed out all of the places along our ride where famous movies have been filmed (think Harry Potter train scenes, wooded scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, James Bond’s house, etc).  For a place with such beautiful scenery, the Highlands is surprisingly undeveloped, which makes the views even more amazing.  At the point when we took the picture below, we were all in need of some fresh air.  While the bus was a great way to see the sites, Fergus was a crazy driver.  I’m pretty sure we were going in three directions at once during some parts of the ride.  Beautiful, nonetheless though :)

The beautiful Highlands and Edinburgh, Scotland

On our last full day in Scotland, some of our group took a day trip to St. Andrews and the rest of us went exploring in Edinburgh.  We walked from Old Town to New Town and found a cute area of Edinburgh called Dean Village.

Scotland II-8

The picture above is from our walk to Dean Village, the picture below is from our walk along the river in the Village.  The little village was tucked below a bridge and the whole area was lower than most of the surrounding buildings.  A waterfall and a babbling river ran between the cute houses and led us to a cobblestone road for bikes and pedestrians and eventually to a small market.

Scotland II-10

Scotland II-12

The pictures below are some I forgot to post from a previous day in Edinburgh when we toured Holyrood Palace.  They are the ruins of the Abbey on the palace grounds.  Through the window holes you can see the Royal Garden where the queen hosts the Royal Garden Party each year.

Scotland II-6Scotland II-5
That’s all for Scotland!  We LOVED our time there and would absolutely go back, especially to Glen Coe.  Let us know if you need any recommendations – We have nothing but rave reviews of the Highlands and Edinburgh!  Until next time, Scotland, slainte!

key lime pie with pretzel crust

I had every intention to post this recipe yesterday, as I usually do.  I had all of the pictures ready, the recipe written on a note card, ready to be transcribed, but I have bad reactions to bug bites and stings.  What does that have to do with this post, you ask?

This key lime pie with pretzel crust is a perfect tropical dessert for any summer celebration.

On Saturday I was outside, enjoying a beautiful unexpectedly cool and low humidity morning.  Low humidity is not part of a North Carolina summer, so it is something to really relish.  I was minding my own business when a yellow jacket flew into my shirt sleeve and couldn’t find it’s way out.  The trapped insect was understandably agitated and released it’s frustration and fear through a harsh sting on my arm before buzzing away.  The sting hurt but wasn’t a big deal.  Until Sunday that is, when it turned from a small dot to an itchy red swollen spot that enveloped my entire upper arm.  Attractive and comfortable.  Not.

This key lime pie with pretzel crust is a perfect tropical dessert for any summer celebration.

This is where we get to the part where the bee sting affects this post.  The swelling and itching got so bad last night that I decided the best course of action was to take a benadryl to help with the reaction.  No problem.  I went about the next hour as usual and then, as I was staring at my computer screen, deciding which pictures to use I realized that I was suddenly very tired.  I looked at the pictures again.  Did I choose this one or that one?  Did I already export these?  I had no idea.  I didn’t remember what I had already done and what I still needed to do.  All I knew was that I really needed to go to bed.  So instead of a key lime pie post brought to you by loopey, swollen Hope, I bring you a late, but coherent key lime pie with pretzel crust recipe and a yellow jacket story you probably don’t care about :)

This key lime pie with pretzel crust is a perfect tropical dessert for any summer celebration.

This pie was inspired by my brother, who recently celebrated his 19th birthday.  His favorite dessert as of late is key lime pie, but all of the recipes I found included a can of sweetened condensed milk, which I don’t love.  Instead of using sweetened condensed milk, I made a basic pastry cream recipe and added freshly squeezed lime juice and some powdered sugar, to balance out the tartness.  It worked better than I could have hoped.  To mix it up even further, I swapped out the traditional cracker crust for a salty pretzel crust.  The result is a tangy but sweet, creamy lime filling piled atop a slightly salty pretzel crust.  The flavors pair perfectly and are almost reminiscent of a cold lime margarita with a salt rim.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, or whipped coconut cream to really make it tropical, for a dessert fit for any summer celebration.

This key lime pie with pretzel crust is a perfect tropical dessert for any summer celebration.

Here’s to hoping key lime pie helps with yellow jacket stings! ;)

Key Lime Pie with Pretzel Crust

Key Lime Pastry Cream
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
½ – 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (less if you don’t want the pie to be as tart)

Pretzel Crust
1 ½ – 2 cups pretzels
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
7-8 tablespoons butter

To assemble
Whipped cream or coconut whipped cream
Lime slices or peels

To make the Key Lime Pastry Cream
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk until smooth and pale.

In a large, preferably heavy, saucepan, combine the cream, milk and vanilla and bring to a simmer. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the mixer and whisk until combined.

Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise. Remove the pastry cream from the heat and add the butter, whisking until incorporated. At this point, add the lime juice and sifted powdered sugar, a little at a time, while whisking. I used 1 cup of powdered sugar and ¾ cup of lime juice. If you want a less tart pie, use less lime juice and add powdered sugar to taste to make sure the mixture does not become too sweet.

Transfer the key lime pastry cream to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap actually touches the surface of the pastry cream to ensure that a “skin” doesn’t form (like the skin that forms when you refrigerate puddings). Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours, depending on the depth of your bowl. If you are in a rush, pour the pastry cream into a large baking pan with edges, place the plastic wrap on top and chill. It will take much less time to cool since the cream is in a thinner layer and there is more surface area for the cool air to reach.

To make the Pretzel Crust
While the pastry cream is cooling, make the pretzel crust. Place 1 ½ – 2 cups of pretzels in a food processor and pulse until the pretzels are very finely crushed and become almost the consistency of flour. Pour 1 cup of the pretzel “flour” into a medium bowl. Add the brown sugar and sugar to the bowl and mix until fully combined. With your hands, work 7 tablespoons of the butter into the dry mixture until it sticks together. Add the extra tablespoon of butter if the mixture does not come together when you press it against the walls of the bowl.

To assemble
Press the pretzel mixture into mini (or large) tart/pie dishes. Spoon the key lime pastry cream into each one until full. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or coconut whipped cream and a lime slice to garnish.

This key lime pie with pretzel crust is a perfect tropical dessert for any summer celebration.

link love

It’s Friday and I’m ready for the weekend.  Ready for sleep and relaxation.  We’re so close!

link love 8-7-2015

via

Here are some links from this week:

I know I have mentioned shadows before but I think the dispute over building shadows in NYC is so interesting.  Central Park is free for the public to enjoy.  It is hard to rationalize a new highrise building for billionaires that would put any shadows on the park, no matter the size.

This woman is trekking around the world bringing pie to different countries on her World Piece tour.  She uses pie and baking as a way to help heal, share love and promote cultural tolerance.  When can I join?

Bruuh, you have heard of fleek amirite?  With the interconnection that social media provides these days new words are spreading across the country quickly.  This article details how and why that is happening.  Apparently many of the words emerge from the South.  Represent.

The “hair and makeup tax” makes me angry.  Society rewards women who wear makeup and do their hair more often than it rewards those who do not.  I like to look nice and put together, but it is ridiculous to spend 2 weeks out of the year getting ready in order to be treated like we should be in the workplace.  Let me now throw my burning hot flat iron and my sharpened eyeliner at you, society.

I found this website dedicated solely to grilled cheese sandwiches.  They all look delicious.  It makes me want to watch Chef and saute my own gourmet grilled cheesey goodness.

Happy weekending!

scotland part II: arthur’s seat

While we were in Scotland, we spent one afternoon climbing beautiful Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.  Arthur’s Seat is the main hill in Holyrood Park, right next to Holyrood Palace, where Mary, Queen of Scots, lived and where Queen Elizabeth stays when she visits Scotland. Scotland was chilly and none of us had taken our jackets off all day (even though we were also wearing winter sweaters) until we started climbing the hill.  On the way up we all stripped our jackets and rolled up our sleeves.  It was the warmest we were during our time in Scotland, until we made it to the top, that is.  The top of the hill was a freezing wind tunnel with a beautiful view of the entire city and the water surrounding it.  Here are some of the pictures from our fun walk!

Also, you can now follow my blog with Bloglovin!

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Look closely – you can see Will on top of that ridge!

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Oh, I love these wonderful people :)

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

We had a great time hiking up and walking around Arthur’s Seat and seeing the greens, the rocks and the views of the city and we definitely recommend tacking it onto your list if you go to Edinburgh!  I’ll be sharing the Highlands next week, don’t forget to follow along with Bloglovin!!

Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

1 2