Chocolate Non-Dairy Gelato

Gelato

This is for all my non-dairy eating, vegan, ice cream addict friends. Thanks to this easy recipe, you can all enjoy the same creamy deliciousness you crave. You’re welcome.

Ingredients
2 Cups almond milk
2 Cups French vanilla creamer
1/2 Cup sweetener (honey, sugar)
1 Vanilla Bean (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2-3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 Ounces dark chocolate bar, (such as Ghirardelli 86% cacao) chopped

Directions
1. Put almond milk and French vanilla creamer into a medium-size saucepan and whisk in the sweetener.
2. Slice the vanilla bean in half to extract the seeds from inside. Place the seeds and the pod into the saucepan.
3. Place the mixture on a medium heat and allow it to simmer for five minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, and extract around 1/4 cup from the pan. Mix this with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Then mix that back into the pan, and whisk it to infuse. Cover, and allow the mixture to sit for twenty minutes.
5. Cool the mixture until cold. Remove vanilla bean.
6. Churn mixture in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes.
7. Add 3-4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa and dark chocolate, chopped. Churn for an additional 5 minutes.
8. Freeze for several hours before serving.

You can delete the chocolate additions and add anything your heart desires. Fresh berries would be good! Enjoy!

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Asparagus Risotto

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Hi everyone! Welcome to fall! It’s my very favorite season. So much to look forward to… cozy sweaters, crisp mornings, crunchy leaves, rainy days, Halloween, fires in the fireplace, new TV shows, soups… I used to love fall because it meant my birthday was coming, but that doesn’t excite me anymore. It actually kinda freaks me out. I try to believe that those numbers don’t really mean much, but the higher they get, the more I have to tell myself that they’re just numbers and they don’t really mean much. Why does time seem to accelerate with more life experiences? (aka age). Does anyone else feel that way?

Speaking of time, if you’ve ever made risotto from scratch, then you know how much time is involved. The amount of time spent stirring and waiting for all the liquid to be incorporated is almost not worth the effort. Homemade risotto is one of those all consuming tasks that does not allow a bit of multitasking while creating it. Come to think of it, I may have just found a solution to slow down time… risotto. But if you’re like me, you don’t really have enough time to not multitask, so carry on. This post is about saving time right?

Enter microwave risotto! Welcome to my world!

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It’s so simple. I made mine with fresh asparagus, but you can add whatever you like. I can’t wait to try it with delicata squash!

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I served it with a small filet of wild Coho salmon topped with homemade pesto. Oh yea!

Microwave Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup)
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 ounces shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1/3 cup), divided

Preparation:
NOTE: This risotto is not covered while microwaving, so use a large (at least 2-quart) bowl to allow plenty of room for the liquid to boil.
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a 2-quart microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Stir in rice; microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Stir in stock and wine; microwave at HIGH 16 minutes, stirring for 30 seconds every 4 minutes. Add asparagus; microwave at HIGH 2 minutes. Stir in rind, juice, salt, pepper, and half of cheese. Top with remaining cheese.

Chocolate Chip Blondies

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The hot days of August appear to have ended just in time for the beginning of a new school year. I don’t know about you, but I’m always glad when the temperatures drop, and I can bring my fuzzy socks out from the back of the drawer and onto my feet. Although there are so many great things about summer, extreme heat and humidity are not ones I rate highly.

I’m ready to clean the oven, heat it up, and bake up some delicious treats. Like these…

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Chocolate Chip Blondies
Adapted from How to Cook Everything 
(and adapted further when I made a mistake and put in too much butter)

Ingredients:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:
Butter an 8×8 pan
Mix melted butter with brown sugar – beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
Add salt, stir in flour. Mix in any additions you like (I added 1 cup of large dark chocolate chips, but you could add nuts, butterscotch chips, caramel, whatever floats your boat… the choices are endless).
Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until the middle is set.
Cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

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Mini Cherry Pies

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Projects from last weekend included creating some new portable food photography surfaces. Finding the tongue and groove boards I had my heart set on proved way more challenging than expected, but once I’d gathered all the materials, putting these together was relatively easy. I won’t bore you with the details in this post, because I have way more interesting things to share. Smaller, but much more significant things to share…

…such as these cutie patootie little pies!

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I’ve seen these around the internet, on Pinterest and on a few blogs, but could not find a complete recipe for them, so I did some research and adapted my own version. I did not expect to have so much fun making these little things. Putting these together took me back to childhood days and an Easy Bake oven, (without the part where I wonder why they won’t bake from the warmth of a light bulb).

The first thing you’ll need to do is remove the pits from about 4 cups of fresh cherries. Don’t let this seemingly daunting task discourage you. I’m sure there are many kitchen gadgets on the market that make this really easy, but since I had already done my share of running around town in search of supplies related to the creation of photography surfaces (the ones I’m not going to bore you with right now), I wanted to use what I had. Here’s the method I used:

How To Pit Cherries

1. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross on the bottom of the cherry.

2. Make sure your cuts go all the way down to the pit.

3. Flip the cherry over and hold it firmly in your hand. Grab a chopstick and insert it into the top of the cherry (where the stem was), and push the pit out through the cut end.

4. The pit should pop right out. So satisfying! And fun!

I’m filing this under ‘Things my Grandmother never told me’.

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For the dough, I used a slight adaptation of the basic pie dough recipe in Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts, circa 1985. I’ve used this for many tart bases over the years, and it always creates a flaky, delicious crust that never disappoints. It’s slightly sweet, buttery and firm enough to hold up well in desserts that stand up unaided in their shells, such as tarts and small pies.

I found that this plastic container top (around 6 inches), which was a good size for the bottom crusts. The dough should have a bit of an overhang after it’s pushed down into the wells of a cupcake pan. A slightly smaller biscuit cutter worked well for the top dough.

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After the cherries were pitted, I cut them in half and placed them into a large bowl. In a small bowl, I measured out about 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and mixed them well. Then I squeezed some fresh lemon juice onto the cherries, and combined the sugar mixture and cherries together and let the ingredients mingle for a few minutes before scooping the cherry filling into 10 pie shell bottoms.

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The real fun starts when you get to cut and decorate the tops. My favorites were the lattice tops. I also used mini dough cutters in various shapes to cut out hearts and stars. My daughter is not a fan of cherries, so she made her own peach mini-pie. You could use blueberries, blackberries, apples, or any other favorite filling. I’m thinking nearly any recipe for a 9″ pie would could work divided between the 10 little pie shells.

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THE RECIPES:

Mini Cherry Pies
Makes 10

Ingredients

One Pate Brisee recipe (see below), Chilled
4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg for egg wash (beaten with a pinch of salt)
Additional sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Remove a disc of chilled dough from the fridge, roll out, and use a 5-inch circular cutter to cut out 10 circles. Press the dough circles into the wells of cupcake pans and allow the access dough to hang slightly over the top.

Place the pitted, halved cherries into a bowl and squeeze 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice over the top and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon, then blend with the cherries until the pieces are evenly coated. Allow this mixture to sit and create juices for a few minutes before distributing it between 10 pie shells.

Remove the second disc from the fridge and cut tops and shapes out and place them over the mini pies. Crimp edges. If your designs don’t include cutouts, make sure to cut a few slits on top so the filling can vent. Chill the pies at this point for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to start cleaning up the giant mess your kitchen has become.

Preheat oven to 425°F. When you are ready to bake, brush tops of the pies with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, turn and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325°F and bake another 10 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is a golden brown.

Cool the pans on a rack before removing pies. I carefully removed the pies while they were still warm since the filling bubbled up over the top a bit. I didn’t want the pies to stick. Go around the edges with a butter knife first and the pies should pop right out with a little gentle twist.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you need to reheat them, about 20-30 seconds on high in the microwave works well. Warm pie. Cold ice cream. It doesn’t get much better!

Pate Brisee (Basic Pie Crust)
adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe
Makes 10 double crust mini cupcake sized pies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Directions

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds just to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for longer than 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into two. Place each half onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten and form two discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before using.

Chocolate Pie

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This is one of the first cream pies I’ve ever made. Unless I count the grasshopper pie from high school home economics. Gasp!

Depending on what’s in season, my favorites are blueberry, strawberry, peach, and pecan. But today, because chocolate is always in season, and there’s a very long week of have-to’s — hours of driving my daughter to school and dance classes, work, meetings, cooking dinners, washing dishes, doing laundry and dog walking — a chocolate cream pie is chilling in the fridge to keep us happy.

Remember, dark chocolate is a superfood! Have you thought of having cocoa-enriched chocolate pie as part of a healthy skin routine? According to Medical News Today, German researchers found high-flavonoid cocoa increases hydration, decreases skin roughness and scaling, and helps to support women’s skin against UV damage. (Sorry guys…I’m sure the benefits for men are similar, but the research was on chocolate loving women.) The research found that women who consumed high-flavonoid cocoa every day had smoother, moister skin after just three months. That’s a study I’d have gladly volunteered for!

This pie requires a pre-baked crust, which has always challenged me. The crust always ends up slumping down in the plate or folding into itself. I tried something new this time, and it worked splendidly. It involved a package of dried black beans. Here’s how you can pre-bake the crust without having it change shape:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. When the pie crust is chilled, line it with aluminum foil (or you could use parchment paper). Fill about 2/3 full with pie weights (I used dried beans, but rice or actual stainless steel pie weights also work). Bake the crust with the weights for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, remove the weights by pulling the foil liner out. Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the crust and return it to the oven, this time without the weights, and bake for another 10 minutes or until it’s golden brown. Cool completely before adding the filling.

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Chocolate Cream Pie

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chocolate shavings
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine above ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over medium heat, whisking until thickened, 7-8 minutes. Whisk in chopped bittersweet chocolate and unsalted butter. Pour into a pre-baked 9-inch piecrust. Chill until firm, 4-5 hours. Top the pie with whipped cream and the chocolate shavings.

New name, new location

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It’s official! I’ve moved. Several things led to my decision to move from Portland Peeps over on blogspot. I wanted to have my own dot com address so there’s room to evolve and grow, and I wanted to be an official food blogger. Portland Peeps started out as a place to discuss chicken keeping, but as I began to place more focus on food, the title no longer seemed like a good fit. Keeping chickens is still one of the ways I feel I have a little control over the quality of ingredients that go into my basic recipes, besides the fact that they’re very entertaining to have around. But they are only a part of a larger equation. Making decisions about what and how we eat has a large effect on our lives, and I look forward to sharing some of the delicious combinations of ingredients I discover with you.

Something else happened recently that brought me to this change. I fell head over heels in love with food photography. I’m finding it challenging and rewarding in ways I never expected. It is here at The Decisive Cook that I plan to feed this passion. I will be sharing with you all things culinary, which at times may include chicken keeping, growing some of your own food, and incorporating plenty of simple, healthy ingredients into everyday meals.

Thank you for following along on my new adventure!