Dal Ra Pulungo- Yellow Dal with Spinach and Burnt Onions

I know, I know.  I just posted another yellow dal recipe last week.  But this particular version is really good, super healthy, and definitely different enough to warrant another blog post.  It would have been a travesty to keep this recipe from you guys (especially my vegan friends out there).

Several handfuls of baby spinach add a nutritional boost to the already healthy dal.  And yellow split peas cook pretty quickly, making this is a perfectly viable weeknight meal option.

And although they’re totally optional, I highly recommend making some crispy and sweet burnt onions to top the dal.  They don’t take too much time or effort, but they’ll add a whole other flavor and texture dimension to the dish.

Dal Ra Pulungo- Yellow Dal with Spinach and Burnt Onions

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 cups yellow split peas
* 8 cups water
* 2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 3 cloves
* 2 cardamom pods, crushed
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
* 8 ounces baby spinach, washed
* 1 teaspoon salt
* burnt onions

Directions:

Combine the split peas and water in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer over low heat until the split peas have softened.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, cloves, and cardamom and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about a minute or two. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until golden. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Add the salt and stir to mix.

Add the spinach mix to the yellow split peas. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Top with burnt onions.

Bangur Bhutuwa- Nepali Spicy Stir Fried Pork

I know I write this just about every time I post a pork recipe, but I really need to start making pork more often.  It’s inexpensive, easy and quick to cook and just about universally liked.  In this recipe, boneless pork gets stir fried with classic Nepali spices and frozen peas.

Straddling the line between tasting like an exotic foreign dish or a familiar American classic, it’s one of those recipes that’s perfect for getting non-adventurous eaters to branch out into something a little different.

And since I always have plenty of leftovers, I’m once again guilty of smearing them with Sriracha and Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce on days three and beyond for a little variety.  One of my favorite ways to jazz up the same old, same old.

Bangur Bhutuwa- Nepali Spicy Stir Fried Pork

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

* 3 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
* 1 large onion, thinly sliced
* 5 cloves garlic, minced
* 1-1/2-inch piece fresh, peeled ginger, grated (I freeze peeled ginger and use a Microplane zester)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
* 2 teaspoons cumin
* 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1-1/2 pounds boneless pork, cut into small cubes
* pinch ground cloves
* pinch ground cinnamon
* pinch ground cardamom
* 1/2 cup frozen peas
* fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the ginger, salt, turmeric, cumin, and coriander and stir to coat. Add the pork and cook, stirring, until no longer pink. Add the cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom and stir to distribute. Add the frozen peas and continue to cook until the peas are heated through.

Serve atop rice and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Lättyjä- Finnish Gluten-Free Buttermilk Crepes

It’s pretty much impossible not to have positive memories associated with crepes.  Whether you’re strolling down a Parisian cobblestone street with a banana and Nutella crepe from a street vendor (or one from this great/creepy clown themed creperie.. trust me, it’s not a place for the anybody with coulrophobia) or just enjoying a stack at home on a lazy Sunday mornings with family, crepes just seem to make everything better… and a little fancier as well.

My grandmother used to make crepes every single time we’d visit.  Since there were four of us kids, those crepes would get gobbled just as soon as they came off the pan.  And regardless of the season, she’d make hot chocolate for us to drink.  It wasn’t Paris, but it was still pretty darn special.

I’ve made, and posted, crepes before on Girl Cooks World, but this recipe appealed for a couple reasons.  Partially because buttermilk is such an important part of Finnish cuisine (they drink it straight!) and partially because I still had the majority of a quart of buttermilk in the fridge.  And can you ever have too many crepe options?  I think not.  In a nod to another popular Finnish ingredient, these are filled with fresh blueberries.  A light dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream is the perfect finishing touch.

Lättyjä- Finnish Gluten-Free Buttermilk Crepes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 2 Tablespoons melted butter
* 1/2 cup superfine rice flour
* 1/4 cup potato starch
* 1/4 cup tapioca starch
* butter for frying
* blueberries, for filling
* whipped cream or powdered sugar, for topping (optional)

Directions:

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together. Add the salt, buttermilk and melted butter and whisk together. Add the rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch and whisk together until smooth.

Heat a pat of butter in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add about 1/4 cup of batter and swirl the pan to distribute the batter evenly. Cook until golden. Flip and cook other side until golden. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding additional butter when necessary.

Fill with blueberries and top with powdered sugar or whipped cream, if using.

Peanut Butter Fudge

So now that you’re comfortable with the idea of making traditional fudge, let’s try one more shall we?  I can never get enough peanut butter and so I was pretty excited to try this fudge where peanut butter took center stage… usually it’s relegated to just being a chocolate fudge swirl-in.

Again, just make sure you have a candy thermometer and follow the instructions carefully and you should be all set.  You’ll never go back to those versions that rely on sweetened condensed milk or powdered sugar.  And you can also stop shelling out all that money at the candy shop.

But, if you happen to goof it up (hey, it happens to the best of us), stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on how to rescue a botched batch of fudge.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Ingredients:

* 2 cups brown sugar
* 2 cups white sugar
* 1 cup milk
* 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
* 1 Tablespoon butter
* 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Butter an 8-inch by 8-inch pan.In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the sugars and the milk over medium-low heat. Add the peanut butter and butter and stir to combine. Cook over medium-low heat until sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is smooth (do not let the mixture boil until the sugar has dissolved).

Use a pastry or silicone brush dipped in cold water to wash down any sugar crystals or peanut butter mixture that has formed on the sides of the saucepan. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan, making sure that it does not touch the bottom of the pan.

Increase the heat to medium and let the mixture come to a boil. At that point STOP STIRRING THE FUDGE. Keep the mixture boiling and stand by the make sure the mixture doesn’t boil over.

When the temperature reaches 236 degrees, remove the saucepan from the heat. Let sit until the mixture has cooled to 110 degrees. Add the vanilla and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the mixture thickens and loses its sheen. Pour into prepared pan. Let cool completely and cut into small squares.

How To Save a Botched Batch of Grainy Fudge

Bad batches of fudge happen to everybody.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  I’ve made enough successful batches now that I sometime get a little bit cocky and try to take a shortcut or two.  Yeah, never a good idea.

You can probably tell from the photos above that this batch of fudge became one grainy mess.  I don’t like wasting calories on mediocre candy.  I’m also too cheap to throw a bad batch away.  The solution?  A fudge do-over.

Even though it set up properly, I threw it back into a saucepan with about 1 1/2 cups of water and gently heated the mixture to dissolve the fudge into the water.

From there, I pretty much re-did the whole cooking process.  Here are the basic steps:

  1. Heat the mixture gently to ensure the sugar has melted;
  2. Wash down the sugar crystals on the side of the pan;
  3. Boil to the mixture until it reaches the soft ball stage (without stirring!);
  4. Let cool until the mixture reaches about 110 degrees; and
  5. Beat with a wooden spoon until set.

Aahhhh… doesn’t that look better?  Although the color of the fudge slightly darkened, the flavor was unaffected.  Unlike the first batch, it was smooth, creamy, and set up just right.

Next time, I’ll try to be more careful.  But the opportunity for a second chance?  Always a good thing.  At least when it comes to candy-making.

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Want to get into the holiday spirit without compromising your healthy eating habits?  Or want to make nutritional amends after a couple too many cookies?

Well, this vegan pumpkin spice smoothie might be just the thing.  It’s super easy to make, has all the flavors you crave during the holiday season, and tastes like an indulgent dessert.  Stick with these smoothies throughout the holiday season and you might not need to take any drastic measures come January 1st.

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

* 1/2 banana (or use a small Hawaiian apple banana)
* 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
* 1 cup almond milk
* 1 cup ice cubes
* 6-8 dates (can reduce to 3-4 if using the larger Medjool variety)
* 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Gluten-Free Triple Ginger Cookies

Before I went gluten-free, this Fresh Ginger Cookie recipe from Allrecipes.com was one of my very favorites.  I got a lot of requests from friends and family to make these for parties and get-togethers.  When I went gluten-free, it was one of the first recipes I tried to convert.  After a number of spectacular failures, I put it on the back burner for awhile.

When I was ramping up for the holiday season this year I decided to give it another go, using one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes as a starting point.  Finally, success.  This is a cookie for true ginger lovers: it’s got fresh ginger, powdered ginger, and crystallized ginger.

Great alone, of with some honey ice cream or made into a cookie sandwich with some lemon cream filling (yep, those Carr’s ginger lemon creme cookies used to be a favorite of mine).  Or if you ever find yourself with leftovers, use some to make a ginger crust for pumpkin cheesecake.  Yum.

Gluten-Free Triple Ginger Cookies

Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

* 3/4 cup butter
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 3/4 cup rice flour
* 3/4 cup sorghum flour
* 1/2 cup potato starch
* 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 Tablespoons molasses
* 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger (use a microplane zester on frozen, peeled ginger)
* 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
* 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
* coarse, unrefined sugar

Directions:

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and stir to combined.

Add the rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, sweet rice flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Add the molasses, fresh ginger, powdered ginger and crystallized ginger and mix to distribute evenly. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a cookie sheet or line with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.

Sprinkle some of the coarse sugar onto a large plate. Take heaping teaspoons of chilled dough and roll in the sugar. Drop on the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the cookies turn a light golden brown. Remove from oven and let the cookies stand on the baking sheet for a minute or two. Remove to a cooling rack.

Gluten-Free Lemon-Vanilla Sugar Cookie

A happy accident turned plain lemon cookies into something extra special.  My homemade vanilla extract was just about gone and as I was pouring out the last of the liquid, a large reserve of vanilla seeds came along with it, turning these lemon cookies into a lemon-vanilla hybrid.  They’re soft and chewy the first day and leftovers, should there be any, will be crunchy the next day.

And I’m not the only one who was smitten with these delicate tea cookies.  I was surprised when, on a cookie platter surrounded by chocolate-based varieties, these were the first to go. Totally great for the holidays, but I’ll be sure to add this recipe to my regular cookie rotation as well.

Gluten-Free Lemon-Vanilla Sugar Cookie

Ingredients:

* 3/4 cup butter
* 1 cup sugar, plus extra for coating (optional)
* 1 egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla pod
* 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
* zest from 1 lemon
* 3/4 cup rice flour
* 1/2 cup sorghum flour
* 1/2 cup potato starch
* 1/4 cup sweet rice flour (also goes by brand name Mochiko or glutinous rice flour)
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar until well combined. Add egg, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, lemon extract, lemon zest and mix until smooth. Add the rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, sweet rice flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.

Pour a thin layer of sugar onto a large plate or bowl. Roll teaspoon sized pieces of dough in the sugar to coat. Use your hands to press the dough slightly flat.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are a light golden color. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is the happy end result from a total baking failure.  It was Thursday, November 25 2010: Thanksgiving Day.  I went against my better judgment and decided to try out a new recipe for pecan pie bars.  Big mistake. I ended up with a goopy mess that ended up in the trash.

With only about an hour to make a new dessert, I used a gluten-free adaption of Crisco’s chewy brownie cookie and tossed in some Trader Joe’s mint UFOs.  People went wild for those cookies.  I don’t blame them, they’re like a soft and chewy version of Girl Scout Thin Mints.

Since Trader Joes refuses to expand to Hawaii, making maintaining a decent stock of mint UFOs a difficult task, I’ve altered the recipe to add peppermint extract to the dough and using regular bittersweet chocolate chips.  These  monotone dark brown cookies aren’t much to look at, but man oh man, do they taste good.

So until those Girl Scouts start making gluten-free Thin Mints, these just might tide you over.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

* 1 cup butter at room temperature
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup cocoa powder
* 1 cup rice flour
* 1/2 cup sorghum flour
* 1/2 cup potato starch
* 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
* 1-1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degreese and lightly grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter and both sugars using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Add the cocoa powder, rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt and mix until well blended. Stir in the peppermint extract and chocolate chips.

Drop heaping teaspoons of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet approximately 2-inches apart. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for a minute or two. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Cream Cheese Scones

If you’re not of the gluten-free persuasion and you happen to visit Honolulu, the blueberry scones at Diamond Head bakery are pretty killer.  They’re bursting with plump blueberries and are filled with a big, creamy blob of cream cheese.  Anybody who brings them into work becomes the most popular person in the office… at least for a day or two.
Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I decided it was high time to create my own gluten-free version.  They’re little lighter than your typical American super dense scone, with a hint of sweetness.  And they’re quite the show-stopper, if I do say so myself.  I actually gasped when I took these out of the oven.  Try out these babies when you’ve got a crowd to wow.

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Cream Cheese Scones

* 1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons rice flour
* 1/2 cup sorghum flour
* 1/2 cup potato starch
* 3 Tablespoons sugar, plus extra for dusting
* 1 Tablespoon baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 5 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
* 1/2 cup milk
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
* 4 ounces cream cheese, partially frozen and cut into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line heavy baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.

Combine the rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter.  Add the eggs and milk and mix until thoroughly combined.  Carefully fold in the blueberries and cream cheese pieces.

Use lightly floured hands and a lightly floured surface to pat out the dough into a large rectangle.  Use a knife to cut into triangles.

Place dough on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar.  Turn the oven temperature down to 375 and bake until golden and cooked through.

Makes 8-10 scones.