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Homemade Organic Brown Sugar!

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Hey everyone!

Organic food can be pricey so when you have a recipe that calls for light or dark brown sugar and you already have organic sugar, there is no need to go out a buy a separate box of it.  It’s very easy to make yourself.  Here’s why.

Regular brown sugar is made of white processed granulated sugar with molasses added in.   Molasses comes from sugar cane and it’s stripped out of white sugar during the processing phase.  So, to make regular brown sugar – manufacturers just add molasses back into it.

Organic sugar is made from the juice of sugar cane and then crystalized.  The molasses is never stripped out and that is why it is an off-white (almost brownish) color.  However, it’s not enough molasses to make it into the brown sugar recipes call for, so we need to add more molasses into it.  How much molasses will depend on how dark you want it.  Keep in mind that because there already is some molasses in organic sugar, you won’t need to add as much as you would with regular white sugar.  Here are some guidelines:

1 cup organic sugar to 1 tablespoon black strap organic molasses for light brown sugar.
1 cup organic sugar to 1/4 cup black strap organic molasses for dark brown sugar.

Mix together well.  You might need to adjust the amount of molasses based on your own preference.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel for plenty of recipes using light and dark brown sugar.  www.youtube.com/cinnamonsweetshoppe

 

Mardi Gras Macarons

Mardi Gras Macarons
I always enjoy the festive Mardi Gras celebration but for some reason I’m really into it this year.  And I just love the yellow/green/purple colors as well.  In addition to the colors, I also love macarons.  In fact, the macarons above didn’t last more than a day before they were gone.

Macarons are a French cookie that can be a little tricky to make but taste so good.  It takes a few times of trial and error to get them  right.  If you’ve ever tried to make them and they didn’t look like they should some of the reasons are listed below:

1.  Make sure you have a good recipe (such as the one below) and follow it precisely as its written.

2.  Ingredients are listed by weight not by volume.  Volume measures are not pinpoint accurate and this type of cookie must be exact.

3.  Be sure ingredients are fresh, especially the egg whites.

4.  Do not over fold or under fold the batter.

Ingredients:

100 grams ground blanched almonds or almond meal
180 grams confectioner (powdered or icing) sugar
100 grams “aged” egg whites, at room temperature (See below)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
35 grams superfine or castor white sugar (process granulated or raw sugar in the food processor to make it superfine)
Either white buttercream or marshmallow filling.
Yellow sanding sugar (optional)

Either gel or powdered food colors in green, yellow and purple – DO NOT USE LIQUID FOOD COLOR

Aged eggs – separate eggs at least 24 hours and up to 3 days before making macarons.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Then bring to room temperature.

 

Prepare baking pans with either parchment paper or silicone mats.

Mix the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar together and process about a minute in a food processor.  Sift the mixture to make sure there aren’t any lumps.

Fit an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until it’s foamy.  Slowly add the sugar and turn to medium high.  Continue beating until it forms stiff peaks.  You’ll know it’s done when you hold the beater up, the peak should stand up straight and not flop over.

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In three additions sift (yes, sift again) the almond mixture over the meringue.  With a spatula, carefully fold, do not mix, until fully incorporated.

Divide the batter into 2 equal portions.  Add green color to one portion and purple to the other.  Continue folding until color is even throughout.

The batter will thin out.  The batter is done when it falls off of the spatula and forms a ribbon.  The ribbon should take a few seconds to dissolve back into the rest of the batter.

Fill two pastry bags fitted with a 1/2 inch tip.  One bag for each color.  Pipe out 1 to 1 1/2 inch circles onto the parchment paper or silicone mat.  Each circle should be about 2 inches apart.  These cookies will spread.  Gently tap the tray a few times on the counter to release any air bubbles from the cookies.  Let sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes or until the tops of the cookies are no longer tacky.  This could take longer depending on the humidity level.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake the cookies for about 14-16 minutes rotating them once halfway through.  They are done when they will barely separate from the parchment paper or silicone mat.  some browning will occur.

Cool the macarons completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Add the yellow food color to your filling and mix until color is evenly incorporated.  Fill either a pastry bag or parchment cone with the filling and squeeze just enough on top of the green macarons to form a sandwich.  Top with a purple macaron and roll the sides of the cookie into the sanding sugar.

To decorate I mixed a little bit of purple gel color with a drop of vodka and painted the top of each cookie with a small brush.

Pecan Toffee Chocolate Candy (Vegan and clean eating alternative included)

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The holidays are over and that means re-starting that weight loss/healthy lifestyle resolution that you never followed through with last year.  Or the year before that.  My approach to any healthy lifestyle is “moderation” which includes healthy treats and  unhealthy treats.  So here is a recipe for pecan toffee.  Even the healthier clean eating version is still high in calories but toffee can be broken into smaller size portions for those days that you allow yourself a treat, in moderation of course.  And the rest can be sealed and saved for up to a month or more.

I changed a few things around to make it just a smidgeon healthier.  For one, corn syrup is forbidden in my home.  As an alternative, I use tapioca syrup.

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Here’s is what you need:

2 sticks unsalted butter (For a vegan and healthier version, use 2 sticks Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)
200 grams raw organic sugar (I haven’t tried this with coconut palm sugar and don’t know how the results will be.  If you try it, let me know)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp Tapioca Syrup (You know how I feel about corn syrup but if you want, you can use that or glucose instead)
a pinch of salt (I usually leave salt out but sea salt would be a cleaner option)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (cane sweetened for a cleaner choice)
3/4 cup chopped pecan nuts.
Prepare a sheet pan with either a silicone mat or spray the pan liberally with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and sugar.  Add in the water, tapioca syrup, and salt and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Once at a boil attach a candy thermometer. Stir occasionally to ensure an even color.  Cook sugar mixture until thermometer reaches 300 degrees.  It could take anywhere 10-15 minutes or longer depending on the depth of your pot.  Be patient!  It must reach this temperature for toffee to set up and harden.  Once the mixture reaches 300 degrees, remove from heat and while stirring, add in vanilla extract.

Pour onto prepared pan and wait about two minutes to slightly cool.  Sprinkle chocolate chips.  The heat of the toffee will melt the chips.  With a spatula, spread the melted chocolate across the toffee completely covering it.  Then sprinkle pecans on top.

Wait about 2-3 hours to harden at room temperature.  Break apart into desired sizes.

Toffee can be stored in an airtight container for at least a month.  Never refrigerate or freeze it as the condensation with make it soft and gummy in texture.

How To Make Chocolate Candy (Clean eating and Vegan)

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When you get that sweet tooth but want something without processed sugar and healthy, these easy to make chocolates are satisfying.  There are so many variations to this recipe so you can customize it.  I used a candy mold.  The first time I made these, I filled them with peanut butter.  The secret to really good chocolatey tasting candy is good quality cocoa.  I always use either a high quality Dutch Process or for a less expensive option, Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa.

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Cocoa butter is expensive.  When I started making chocolate I was able to find good cocoa butter under $10 for a pound.  With growing demand and not enough supply, it consistently gets more expensive.  You can use coconut oil instead if you don’t want to spend the money on cocoa butter but keep in mind your chocolate will have a mild coconut flavor.  If those you serve it to like coconut, that’s fine.  For those of us who don’t care for coconut (which is quite a bit of us), even a mild flavor is awful.  When purchasing cocoa butter, make sure it is food grade quality.  Don’t buy the Palmer’s Cocoa Butter stick you see in the beauty aisle.  Even though it says it’s 100% cocoa butter, it was processed on equipment and packaged in containers not FDA approved for consumption.

You can purchase food grade Cocoa Butter here

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4 tablespoons raw food grade cocoa butter melted (coconut oil will work too but has a coconut flavor)
1/4-1/2 cup Maple Syrup. (You could use raw honey instead but it won’t be vegan.  Regardless of which sweetener you use, adjust the amount to your particular taste.  You might want to add more or use less.)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

**If you prefer to use sugar, grind up the sugar first in a food processor until it is powdery and then add it in so it will blend in without being gritty.  Don’t use confectioners sugar (also known as powdered sugar, 10X, and icing sugar) because that has cornstarch in it and it will ruin your chocolate.

Optional: flavor extracts, peanut butter, nuts, cocoa nibs, raisins, etc.  (To make chocolate mint add in mint extract.)

Follow directions as per above video

Chocolate should be thick but also pourable. If it’s too thick add more cocoa butter to thin it but DON’T add water to the chocolate or else it will seize up and ruin it.  Pour into any flat container or candy molds or flatten between layers of wax paper.  You can also add some nuts and make clusters.  Fridge or freeze until solid about 30 minutes.

Can also be melted down and used as a chocolate sauce or in place of chocolate syrup over ice cream and cakes.  Other ideas would be to add a pinch of cayenne pepper and cinnamon extract for Mexican chocolate.