Grain-Free Protein Bars

It’s hard to believe that we are done with the 3rd week of January already! Last week we had 5 or 6 cold dreary days before we had sunshine. This week we’ve had warm sunny days until today when we had rain and cold temperatures again.  Winter in the South..you have to love it!

My Christmas cactus finally decided to bloom, and the other day I noticed that only half of it is blooming!! I guess the other half decided to rest this year!

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The hubby is still working hard keeping to the THM eating plan and has added lots of exercise to his days.  While his weight loss is still only about 20 pounds down, his clothes look like they are beginning to hang more loosely on him!

I came across this recipe on the THM Face book page several weeks ago and finally decided to make it today.  It is an easy recipe to make and is full of flavor.

My batch of these protein bars I used a mixture of almonds and sunflower seeds since that is what I had on hand. I also used powdered Stevia instead of liquid since I have none of that.  For the chocolate topping I used 2 oz of 85% chocolate and mixed about 2 tsp. of stevia into it before spreading it over the top.  Delicious!

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Chocolate-Espresso Dacquoise

This recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen.  The hubby discovered it the other day and really wanted to give it a try.  It is definitely NOT  THM friendly, but it is very delicious! And, as we discovered, it takes a lot of time to create.  

If you want, you can click here to watch the video demonstration of making this delicious dessert!

Serves 10 to 12

The components in this recipe can easily be prepared in advance. Use a rimless baking sheet or an overturned rimmed baking sheet to bake the meringue. Instant coffee may be substituted for the espresso powder. To skin the hazelnuts, simply place the warm toasted nuts in a clean dish towel and rub gently. We recommend Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar with 60% cacao for this recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • MERINGUE
  • 3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (we omitted these since we didn’t have any)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • BUTTERCREAM
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (we used 2%)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3cup (2 1/3 ounces) sugar
  • 1 1/2teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto or water (we used almond flavoring)
  • 1 1/2tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • GANACHE
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (we used a combination of bittersweet and semi-sweet)
  • 3/4cup heavy cream
  • 2teaspoons corn syrup
  • 12whole hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 1cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. FOR THE MERINGUE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Using ruler and pencil, draw 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.

    2. Process almonds, hazelnuts, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until nuts are finely ground, 15 to 20 seconds. Add 1/2 cup sugar and pulse to combine, 1 to 2 pulses.

    3. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. With mixer running at medium-high speed, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 2 batches. With offset spatula, spread meringue evenly into 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on parchment, using lines on parchment as guide. Using spray bottle, evenly mist surface of meringue with water until glistening. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool in oven for 1 1/2 hours. (Do not open oven during baking and cooling.) Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. (Cooled meringue can be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.)

    4. FOR THE BUTTERCREAM: Heat milk in small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in bowl until smooth. Remove milk from heat and, whisking constantly, add half of milk to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to remaining milk in saucepan. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is bubbling and thickens to consistency of warm pudding, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to bowl. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Before using, warm gently to room temperature in microwave at 50 percent power, stirring every 10 seconds.

    5. Stir together amaretto and espresso powder; set aside. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add pastry cream in 3 batches, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add amaretto mixture and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes longer, scraping down bowl thoroughly halfway through mixing.

    6. FOR THE GANACHE: Place chocolate in heatproof bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Pour cream mixture over chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Stir mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool until chocolate mounds slightly when dripped from spoon, about 5 minutes.

    7. Carefully invert meringue and peel off parchment. Reinvert meringue and place on cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle, repeated scoring motion, trim edges of meringue to form 12 by 10-inch rectangle. Discard trimmings. With long side of rectangle parallel to counter, use ruler to mark both long edges of meringue at 3-inch intervals. Using serrated knife, score surface of meringue by drawing knife toward you from mark on top edge to corresponding mark on bottom edge. Repeat scoring until meringue is fully cut through. Repeat until you have four 10 by 3-inch rectangles. (If any meringues break during cutting, use them as middle layers.)

    8. Place 3 rectangles on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Using offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup ganache evenly over surface of each meringue. Refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 15 minutes. Set aside remaining ganache.

    9. Using offset spatula, spread top of remaining rectangle with 1/2 cup buttercream; place on wire rack with ganache-coated meringues. Invert 1 ganache-coated meringue, place on top of buttercream, and press gently to level. Repeat, spreading meringue with 1/2 cup buttercream and topping with inverted ganache-coated meringue. Spread top with buttercream. Invert final ganache-coated strip on top of cake. Use 1 hand to steady top of cake and spread half of remaining buttercream to lightly coat sides of cake, then use remaining buttercream to coat top of cake. Smooth until cake resembles box. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours. (Once buttercream is firm, assembled cake may be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

    10. Warm remaining ganache in heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very fluid but not hot. Keeping assembled cake on wire rack, pour ganache over top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread ganache in thin, even layer over top of cake, letting excess flow down sides. Spread ganache over sides in thin layer (top must be completely covered, but some small gaps on sides are OK).

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    11. Garnish top of cake with hazelnuts. Holding bottom of cake with 1 hand, gently press almonds onto sides with other hand. Chill on wire rack, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours. Transfer to platter. Cut into slices with sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice. Serve.

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Almond Biscotti

I came across this recipe in the newest edition of “EveryDay with Rachael Ray” magazine.  It caught my attention as an easy, yet different, treat to make.  The article says that the cookies go well with coffee.  However, I am NOT a coffee drinker. Not. Ever!  But I do enjoy a nice cup of hot tea.  My favorite lately is spiced chai.  And these treats go amazingly well with hot tea!  They really are easy to make!

2 c. natural almonds

3/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar

2 c. flour (I used 1 c. whole wheat/1c. all-purpose)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

10 oz. dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350. spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. (My almonds were already roasted, so I skipped this part.)  Let cool. Transfer 1/2 c. of almonds and 1 tbsp. sugar to a food processor; mix until finely ground. Add flour, baking powder and salt; pulse to mix.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla, and remaining 3/4 c. sugar on high until thick and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix on low until just blended. Stir in remaining whole almonds.

Grease baking sheet. Transfer dough to sheet and shape into three 2-1/2 x 10-inch loaves. Smooth the tops. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Cut each loaf across  into 1/2 inch strips of cookies. Stand each cookie up on one cut side. Reduce heat in oven to 325 and bake until golden and crisp, about 20 more minutes. Let cool.

Melt chocolate in double boiler and stir until smooth.  Dip the biscotti bottoms into the chocolate. Lay them on one cut side on parchment paper to cool until set.  Enjoy with either hot tea or espresso!

Incredibly-Delicious-But-Oh-So-Bad-For-You Cookies

This summer I have been trying to keep the sweets in my house to a minimum.  It has not always been possible since I have had 2 of my guys home for most the summer.  Sweets just seem to be staples in the diet of teenage boys.  Unfortunately, I have a sweet tooth, so the cookies just seem to call my name!  I think that I finally got that sweet tooth under control a few weeks ago, and things have been looking much better.  I was actually looking forward to having a sweetless kitchen this week since my guys are away at camp.  However, on Friday, I was asked to make a dozen cookies to help fill a care package which was being sent to said camp.  Now, you know as well as I do that you can’t just make a dozen cookies!  It is impossible, so  I decided to find a recipe that would be good, but maybe not too appealing to my sweet tooth.  I searched our church’s cookbook and found a recipe called Texas Almond Crunch Cookies. These definitely sounded like teenagers would enjoy them, but with a high fat content, I didn’t think that I would be that drawn to them.  Yeah, right…they are amazing!  I think that you will agree!

1 c. sugar

1 c. powdered sugar

1 c. butter

1 c. oil

1 tsp. almond exxtract

2 eggs

3-1/2 c. flour

1 c. whole-wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. salt

2 c. coarsely chopped almonds

6 oz almond brickle baking chips

sugar

In a large bowl, combine both sugars, butter, and oil until well-blended. Add almond extract and eggs; mix well. Combine both flours, soda, cream of tartar, and salt; mix well. Add to sugar mixture and mix at low speed until well-blended. Stir in almonds and brickle chips. Shape into large balls with tablespoons. Roll in sugar. Place 5 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. With a fork dipped in sugar, flatten in criss-cross pattern. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-18 minutes or until a light golden brown on the edges. Cool a minute on baking sheet; remove to wire racks to cool completely.