Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Wafer Sandwiches

Dessert sandwiches are so much fun to eat. Proof of this is the popularity of ice cream sandwiches, for which the wafers I use here were intended. The wafers are like ice cream cones, only flat. However, you can use them in many different ways.

I decided to try an unusual combination of cream cheese and peanut butter for the filling. It’s extremely easy and delicious, if not low-calorie. While I used regular, dairy cream cheese, you can substitute vegan cream cheese. And if peanuts are a problem for you, substitute almond or cashew butter. Adults and kids alike will love this.

Enjoy!

Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Wafer Sandwiches

Makes 3 sandwiches.

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter)
2 tablespoons maple sugar
8 oz. chocolate, melted
6 (5-inch) wafers
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachios

With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and maple sugar until well blended. Set aside.In a double boiler or non-aluminum bowl set over a small pot, melt the chocolate over simmering water.Set a wafer on a flat surface.

Spread ½ cup of the cream cheese filling over it. Top it with another wafer. Repeat this twice.Drizzle chocolate over each sandwich, then top each with a tablespoon of the pistachios.

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Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

What is it about chocolate-covered strawberries that makes them the perfect St. Valentine’s Day delicacy?

Chocolate is the perfect treat for any special occasion, because it, itself, is special. But it’s particularly popular for Valentine’s Day because, as you may know, it’s an aphrodisiac.

You can cover many things in chocolate but why strawberries? Well, just look at them. They’re red (which represents love and passion), they’re sweet, and they’re luscious-looking.

And, finally, the combination is so incredibly delicious and decadent.

And they’re not as fattening as you might think. If you use dark chocolate, it’s only 57 calories for half an ounce of chocolate and one large strawberry (not including toppings).

Best of all, they’re not as difficult to make as they might seem. In fact, apart from any toppings you put on them, the recipe requires only two ingredients…wait for it…can you guess? Strawberries and chocolate!

Make some for your sweetie, or anyone you care about. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

12 large strawberries
4 oz. good-quality dark chocolate
Colored sugar, chopped nuts, or decorating items (crushed candy, jimmies, sprinkles, crushed white chocolate, etc.), optional

Line a sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and set aside. (I used a cooling rack as well, but it isn’t necessary.)

Wash the strawberries (preferably using a vegetable wash), and set them on a towel. Pat them gently to absorb excess water, then let them sit to fully dry. Do not remove the husks.

Place the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler (or in a non-aluminum bowl set over a pot). Bring an inch or 2 of water to a boil in the bottom pot, then lower the heat to a simmer. Place the chocolate over the simmering water and let it melt. Stir it gently once in a while. When the chocolate has all melted, give it a gentle stir and turn off the heat.

Using the husks to help you, dip a strawberry into the chocolate and rotate it to cover it all. Let the excess chocolate drip off back into the pot. Rest the strawberry on the wax or parchment paper. Coat a few more strawberries and decorate them (before the chocolate hardens). Continue coating and decorating the rest of the strawberries.

Store tightly sealed in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Delicious Date-Nut Bread

Date-nut Bread is a classic winter holiday treat. In fact, it’s become so popular that December 22 is National Date-Nut Bread Day.

Okay, so it’s January, but the cold winter weather continues to call for hearty, comforting foods, and date-nut bread definitely falls into that category.

Dates originated in the Middle East, and they play a huge role in the cuisines from that part of the world. They made their way to the U.S. via the Spaniards, who were introduced to them by the Moors. They are now a popular crop in California.

The word “date” is derived from a Greek word (dáchtylo), which means “finger.” Dates have been shown to help with constipation; promote bone health and ward off osteoporosis; and aid in intestinal disorders, heart problems, anemia, sexual dysfunctions, as well other health issues. They’re a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. They also contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K. They’re also a great source of energy, so if you’re doing any kind of physical activity, dates are a great thing to add to your snack pack. Be aware, though, that dates contain a fair amount of sugar, so you don’t want to overdo them, unless you plan on burning them off.

Enjoy date-nut bread for breakfast or a snack, by itself, toasted with butter, or with jam, honey, maple syrup, or anything else you like.

Enjoy!

Date-Nut Bread

2 cups chopped dates
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease an 8×10-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the dates and baking soda in a small bowl and cover them with 1 cup boiling water. Stir. Let them sit until they cool down.In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, allspice, and salt.Add the flour and dates (including the water), and mix with a wooden spoon. Gently stir in the walnuts.Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.Cool the loaf on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn out the bread onto the rack and cool completely.Store the loaf wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator up to 5 days.


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Triple-Flavor Ice Cream Cake with Gluten-Free Cookies

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What do you do when you have a birthday lunch or dinner to go to, and one of the people going has Celiac Disease and can’t have regular cake, but it’s 100 degrees F out and the thought of turning on the oven to bake a gluten-free cake makes you want to cry?

You make an ice cream cake.

Make an ice cream cake? Why not just buy an ice cream cake, you ask.

Well, let me explain it to you this way. I come from an Italian family. My father loves telling stories about how when he was a boy, he would go up into the mountains in his hometown in Italy and pick fresh chestnuts and eat them until he got sick, and how he remembers the cheeses and curing meats hanging in the kitchen of his family home. I have a mother whose idea of a simple meal consists of a minimum of six different dishes—for the second course, mind you—and for whom a “quick” sauce means opening up a jar of home-canned tomatoes. So, you see, buying a Shop Rite ice cream cake won’t do. Even Cookie Puss wouldn’t be able to charm his way onto my parents’ table.

Anyway, back to the cake. I drew the line at making the ice cream from scratch, so I went out and bought three different flavors: white chocolate raspberry truffle, coffee caramel, and pineapple coconut.

I also bought gluten-free cookies, which I crushed to put in between the layers. Each flavor of ice cream was different layer, with the cookies in between.

The end result was a very attractive and definitely delicious dessert that was simple to make and let the house stay unbaked in the middle of summer. Huge plus. Continue reading


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Cranberry Bread

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Do you still have cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving? I’ll bet many of you do. Maybe it’s a stray can hanging out in the pantry, or it’s a cup or so in the fridge that you haven’t been able to bring yourself to throw out. That’s okay—cranberry sauce lasts a long time in the refrigerator, but at this point, use it or lose it.

There are many things you can do with leftover cranberry sauce, but making a loaf is one of my favorites. (This is a wheat-free version, but it has spelt flour, so if you have—or are making it for someone with—Celiac disease, this isn’t the right recipe for you. It also contains soy flour, so if you’re avoiding soy, again, this isn’t right for you.)

This is not overly sweet, so it makes a nice breakfast loaf, toasted with some butter or jam. But it’s got enough sweetness and crunch from the walnuts (if you want to use them) that it makes a great snack with an extra dollop of cranberry sauce.Pilcrow & Dagger Cover

I’m happy to say that another version of this loaf (not gluten free) appears in the holiday issue of the literary magazine Pilcrow & Dagger, along with my recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. Check out a sneak preview HERE. And if you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can do so HERE.

So, rescue that leftover cranberry sauce and make this tasty loaf and enjoy.

I hope you all had a wonderful, joyful holiday season, and may 2016 bring happiness and success, whatever that means for you.

Cranberry Bread

Makes 1 (8 x 4) loaf.

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup soy flour
¾ cup chickpea flour
¼ cup rice flour
½ cup sugar or maple crystals
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 medium eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan (or line is with parchment paper).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.IMG_5633In a small bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, coconut oil, and ¼ cup water.IMG_5634Mix this into the flour mixture just until all dry ingredients are moistened. If it seems dry, add a bit more water.IMG_5635

IMG_5636Stir in the walnuts, if you’re using them, then stir in the cranberry sauce, but don’t mix it in completely—just run it through.IMG_5639Spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out fairly clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Some moist cranberry on the knife is okay.

If the loaf starts getting very dark or starts burn around the edges but the loaf isn’t done, cover it with a piece of foil and continue baking.IMG_5645Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto the rack. Serve warm or cool completely.IMG_5646

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Wheat-Free Carrot Cake

IMG_5598This is one of those recipes that I made spur of the moment but, luckily, turned out well. So, I needed a quick dessert to make for a lunch at my parents’ house. We were having a guest who is gluten-free and I wanted to make sure there would be dessert for her.

There’s nothing easier than carrot cake. I love carrot cake. It’s not only flavorful and delicious, but it’s also very difficult to do badly. I mean, I’ve had great carrot cake, good carrot cake, and so-so carrot cake, but I don’t recall ever having terrible carrot cake.

That’s probably because it would take a deliberate effort to make a terrible carrot cake. There’s no creaming of butter, no whipping of egg whites, no adding of things in additions, or layering of ingredients. Aside from whisking together the dry ingredients first, everything gets mixed together. (And, quite honestly, you probably don’t even really need to mix the dry ingredients. I just recommend it to ensure that you get no lumps.)

I call this cake “wheat free” and not “gluten free” because it calls for spelt flour. I didn’t want to use all chickpea flour because I didn’t want it to be too heavy or dense or taste to “beany.” Spelt is related to wheat, so it’s the non-wheat flour that is closest to it in chemistry, flavor, and behavior. However, because it’s related to wheat, people who have Celiac disease can’t digest it. People who have a gluten/wheat intolerance, on the other hand, can usually consume it without negative consequences.

I (and everyone else) was pleasantly surprised at how light and moist this cake came out. It has a somewhat unusual flavor because of the chickpea flour but not a bad one. Just different. I hope you like it.

Wheat-Free Carrot Cake

1 cup chickpea flour
¼ cup spelt flour
½ cup coconut (palm) or date sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup water

Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or line it with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in the carrots, eggs, vanilla, applesauce, and water with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Make the frosting: With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and zest until smooth.

Remove the cake from the pan. Invert the cake, then invert it again on a serving plate. If you used parchment, peel it off gently. Spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides. Serve.

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(For the cake in the photo, I chose to use a simpler confectioners’ sugar icing and coconut flakes. Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with a tablespoon of water. Mix until smooth, adding a tiny bit more water at a time, as needed. Spread over the cake, then sprinkle on 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes.)


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Boozy Watermelon

IMG_5288I was passing by a market that had some fruit on display outside. I was paying no attention to it, but something caught my eye. They had a box of mini round watermelons. They looked so cute, I had to have one. So, I picked one out and took it home. (I paid for it first, of course.)IMAG3106

When I cut it open, I discovered that it was a yellow watermelon. They hadn’t labeled it yellow—the sign only said “sweet.” I love finding yellow watermelons. They’re like yellow topazes, sparkling in the light.

Unfortunately, it was a lot prettier than it was tasty. They lied. It wasn’t sweet.

Now I had to find a way to enjoy this melon without resenting the money I paid for it.IMG_5274

So, I cut it up and put some booze in it. But not just any booze. I had this beautiful elderflower rum that I picked up at a farmers’ market in Vermont and it paired perfectly with the melon. Then I decided to mash it and make it into a slushy. Continue reading