Homeade Sausage Breakfast Casserole with Crispy Root Vegetable Crust

Long story short, I had breakfast sausage and carrot souffle on the brain – this is what ended up coming out.

I decided to combine the sausage and carrot into one dish rather than having to serve them as two distinct components for breakfast. I like an easy breakfast routine 😉 This casserole reheats very well and is a great option if you like to do food prep early in the week for leftovers throughout the week.

And as a bonus, it served as the impetus to make my own sausage 🙂 This recipe uses pork and beef, home grown herbs, dried cherries, shredded sweet potatoes and carrots, eggs and dairy (yogurt and cheese).

This recipe can be easily made dairy free – just exclude the yogurt and cheese and add more egg. You can also substitute TSP for the meat for your sausage if you’re an ovovegetarian. You could even use some sort of egg replacer for the eggs, sub the yogurt with vegan cream cheese and omit the shredded cheese if you are vegan. If you need it to be low FODMAPs friendly, simply replace the dried cherries with blueberries. Lots of options here. This recipe IS gluten-free and Paleo-friendly.

For this recipe, you will need:

Ingredients for the sausage

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1 t. salt
1 t. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground white pepper
2 t. chives
2 t. cayenne pepper
4 t. paprika
2 t. finely chopped fresh sage
1 t. finely chopped fresh thyme
1 t. finely chopped fresh lavendar
1 t. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 t. ground allspice
1 c. diced dried cherries
3 T. garlic infused oil

Root Vegetable Crust:
3-4 medium sweet potatoes
1 c. carrots, ends trimmed
3/8 c. melted coconut oil
sprinkle of salt (if desired)

Egg Filling:
12 large eggs
1 c. yogurt or cottage cheese
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

First, in a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the sausage and mix thoroughly. For this part, I use my hands – it’s pretty messy but effective.

Add 3T. of garlic infused oil to a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the sausage mixture to the skillet and cook the sausage completely (i.e. browned with no pink).

Cooking up the sausage

Once the sausage is cooked, drain the fat. I laid the sausage on a stack of paper towels to cool – this also helps absorb any extra fat.

Cooling the sausage

Now, while the sausage is cooling, you can prepare the sweet potato and carrot crust.

First, grab a large, glass casserole dish or a large spring foam pan. I tried both formats and both work well so the choice is yours.

Put 3/8 c. of coconut oil is a small bowl and heat for about 30 seconds in the microwave to melt the oil.

Clean the sweet potatoes and carrots and trim ends or unsightly spots.

Sweets and Carrots

Using a food processor (or by hand), shred or grate (use the large grate, not fine) the sweet potatoes and carrots.

Add the coconut oil and mix well. Add to your casserole dish or spring foam pan. If you’re using a spring foam pan, you may want to spray the pan with some additional coconut oil spray to prevent sticking (and a parchment paper disc on the bottom of the pan).

Casserole dish lined with shredded sweets and carrots Spring foam pan lined with sweets and carrots

There are two important things to note here – you want the thickness of the crust to be fairly uniform throughout, and it needs to also cover the sides of the dish or pan. How far up the side of the pan or dish should it be? Here, 1″ was perfect, but I’d actually say 1 1/2″ (I split my filling between two pans). Note, the spring foam pan shown here has a 6″ diameter and the glass casserole dish is 9″ x 13″. If you are using only a spring foam pan, I’d recommend using a 9″ spring foam pan.

If you like salty food, sprinkle the unbaked crust with a bit of salt.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grate 8 oz. of sharp cheddar cheese (large or fine grate).

Shredded Tower of Cheese

Crack the eggs into a large bowl. (I always crack my eggs into a separate bowl in case there are any shell bits that need to be fished out….)

Add the eggs to a blender, along with the yogurt and blend well.


My blender kind of sucks – so I added the cheese to the egg mixture in a large mixing bowl. By all means, if you’re blender will handle it, add the cheese to the blender and mix.

Egg, yogurt and cheese mixture - Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Before you add the sausage to the egg mixture, be sure to crumble the sausage – you don’t want huge chunks of sausage to overwhelm a bite, so make sure they are bite size or smaller pieces.

Fill the casserole dish and/or spring foam pan.

Ready to go! - Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Place in the oven on a middle rack and bake until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean – about 50-60 minutes.

Make sure you let the casserole set for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Finished Sausage Breakfast Casserole

You can see that the crust browns and crisps nicely at the edges (the first piece is turned upside down) 🙂


And enjoy!

– Nicole

Posted in beef, breakfast, has dairy, main dish, pork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Triple Pickle

So, things have been crazy on my end – hence the lack of posts. My apologies. To be honest, it’s been a rough few months for various reasons. One of the reasons is my finicky stomach; that makes cooking and baking not a lot of fun, not to mention restrictive. Restrictive how? Well, I’ve been on a low FODMAPS diet since the beginning of June. Unfortunately I have not had a ton of improvement, but it’s interesting to learn about it. So long story short, it’s changed my perspective on food a bit lately.

What else have I been busy with? Well, this year Monkey Man and I started a vegetable garden in our back yard. It’s been a successful experiment so far 🙂 We planted garlic, shallots, scallions, herbs, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, kale, lettuce, swiss chard, beets, melon, squash, cucumbers, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and potatoes. Not all of the seeds sprouted, so we’re learning; but we recently harvested 10 pounds of fingerling potatoes and the cucumbers are just downright prolific.

In the garden - cucumber plants

You can only eat so much cucumber on a salad, or eat so much cucumber salad. So what do you do with the rest (aside of give it away)? Make pickles 🙂

This post actually contains three pickle recipes – Sweet Gherkins, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Dill-ish Spears. These are refrigerator pickles, so they are 1) super easy to make, 2) ready to eat in a few days, and 3) not meant for long term storage. Should you want to make pickles for long term storage, you can use the same brine, but the process is a bit different.

Sweet Gherkins were my favorite pickle as a kid and I can’t tell you how pleased I was for these to turn out well!

For the Sweet Gherkins, you will need:

Sweet Gherkin ingredients

200 g small cucumbers (about 1/2″ in diameter)
2/3 c. water
1/3 c. white distilled vinegar
1/3 c. champagne vinegar
2 t. sea salt, uniodized
1/2 c. cane sugar
1/2 t. fennel seed
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. celery seed
7-8 whole cloves
1/4 t. mustard seed
1/8 t. ground tumeric

I reuse jars – pasta sauce jars, jelly jars, any jar really. I clean them and sanitize them in the dishwasher before pickling. I was a bit lazy about the labels this time – so excuse them please. But if you want, just soak the jars in hot, soapy water for about an hour and the labels will come right off.

Check your cucumbers and trim any stems, remove any flowers, etc.

Small Cucumbers

Pack your cucumbers into the jar to make sure they’ll fit. This was a small sauce jar.

Making sure the jar is filled

Next, add all of the spices, sugar, salt, vinegars and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Making the brine - sweet gherkins

The salt and sugar should be completely dissolved. I usually transfer the brine into a large measuring cup (4+ cup capacity) to make pouring the brine into the jar a bit easier.

Getting the brine into the jar - sweet gherkins

Fill the packed jar with the brine, making sure to fill the jar to the very top – don’t be afraid to let some spill over.

Fill it to the top - sweet gherkins

Place the lid on the jar and close tightly and place in the refrigerator for about 2 days prior to eating. They’ll pick up more flavor the longer they sit on the jar 😉 Don’t forget to gently turn the jar to move the spices around – they tend to sit at the bottom.

The filled jar - sweet gherkins

For the Bread and Butter Pickles, you will need:

Bread and Butter pickle ingredients

250 g cucumbers, 1-1.5″ diameter, sliced into discs
Handful of scallions or chives (green parts only), chopped
1 T. uniodized salt (sea salt)
4 heaping T. brown sugar (not packed)
2/3 c. water
2/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1/8 t. ground tumeric
1 whole clove
1 t. mustard seed
1/4 t. celery seed

First, slice the cucumbers into approximately 1/8″ discs. Discard the ends. Finely chop the chives.

"Bread and butter" cukes

Jar contents - bread and butter pickles

Pack the jar (I used a salsa jar) with the sliced cucumbers and chives to make sure it will fit. Be sure to layer in chopped chives throughout.

Add the brown sugar, water, apple cider vinegar, salt, and spices to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Making the brine - bread and butter pickles

Be sure that the salt and sugar have dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and transfer to a pourable measuring cup. As with the Sweet Gherkins, fill the jar completely – in fact, overfill the jar. Place the lid on the jar, invert a few times, and place in the refrigerator.

Jar of "bread and butter" pickles

Now, the Dill-ish Spears are not traditional Dill Spears for one big reason – I did not use garlic, hence low FODMAPs friendly 😉 But I think you’ll find they are still reminiscent of traditional Dill Spears. If garlic is not a problem for you, by all means add garlic (2-3 cloves).

For the Dill-ish Spears, you will need:

Dill spears ingredients

2 large cucumbers
1 1/2 c. water
3/4 c. white distilled vinegar
3/4 c. apple cider vinegar
Heaping handful of fresh dill
2 T. coriander seed
1/2 t. mustard seed
1 T. chives, chopped
2 T. salt
1 t. ground black pepper

First, cut off the ends of the cucumbers and cut out the seeds (at least most of them).

Cucumber spears

Double check the spears and make sure they fit in your jar. Trim and cut as required to make them fit 🙂

As with the other pickle pickle brine, combine the water, vinegar, and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Place the fresh dill and chives in the bottom of the jar. Fill the jar with the spears and cover the spears with the brine. Place the lid on the jar and place in refrigerator.

Jar of dill spears

Two days later – pickles!

I hope you guys enjoy these. Monkey Man has 🙂

The beauty of pickling is the variety of spice combinations. You can use similar pickling brines for okra, chow chow, green beans, even fruit. Note, the brines in this post go from sweetest to not sweet – i.e. Sweet Gherkins, then Bread and Butter Pickles, then Dill-ish Spears. Both the Sweet Gherkins and the Bread and Butter Pickles call for tumeric (gives the pickles a yellow color) and cloves. These spices also give the impression of sweet. Careful with the cloves – a little goes a long way, so don’t be tempted to add more 😉

Now, I was tempted to use the apple cider vinegar for the Sweet Gherkins, but was afraid  that the flavor would over power them – that’s why I opted to use champagne vinegar. It’s got more depth than white distilled vinegar.

Have fun with it! And enjoy 🙂

– Nicole

Posted in appetizer, snack, vegan, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bourbon Chocolate Tres Leches with Caramel and Toasted Coconut (Gluten-free!)

(Geez, I think this may be my longest post ever. I really hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. I put this in my show stopper category ;-))

So Monkey Man and I are over at our friends’ house (Chef Tony and Yvonne) for Sunday gravy. Yvonne’s friend Flo brings with her this amazing Tres Leches with toasted coconut brittle and a meringue top. Omg. But it was not gluten-free so basically I stared and drooled while everyone else ate this amazing cake. From that evening forward, I was bound and determined to make a gluten-free (and grain-free) Tres Leches cake.

After looking at a few recipes (I always start with a non-gluten-free recipe as my reference), I found one for chocolate Tres Leches. And so this post begins.

Now, before I list all of the ingredients and go through the steps let me give you an idea about how long this takes to make – a while! Making the cake is not the long part, but you have to soak the cake in the Tres Leches mixture (either 1.5-2 hours or overnight depending on how you do it). So on the short end, we’re talking 4 hours. On the long end, we’re talking 12 hours. But don’t fret – this cake is worth every second spent making it! 🙂 Definitely a cake worthy of a special occasion (or just wowing your friends) 😉

What’s different about this Tres Leches cake compared to traditional recipes? Well, first, it’s gluten-free. Second, it’s chocolate. Third, I use bourbon instead of rum. And fourth, I add toasted coconut and caramel sauce.

For this recipe, you will need:

Toasted coconut topping:
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
coconut oil spray

Cake batter:
2 t. instant coffee + 3/4 c. water
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 c. coconut flour
1/2 c. tapioca four
1/4 c. almond flour
2 T. ground chia seed
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt + 1 pinch of salt
1/2 c. canola oil (or grapeseed oil)
1 T. vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
8 egg whites
3/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. + 2 T. cane sugar

Caramel Sauce:
1 c. brown sugar + 3/4 c. water
1 T. butter

Tres Leches Mixture:
1 c. half and half or cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (or 65% or greater dark chocolate)
14 oz. can sweetened, condensed milk
12 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 c. bourbon

Whipped Topping:
2 1/2 c. very cold whipping cream
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. powdered sugar

First thing is first – prepare the cake pans. Grease two 9 inch cake pans (I used coconut oil spray).

Greased cake pan - Chocolate Flourless Chocolate Cake

Then, line the bottom of the cake pans with parchment paper. To do this, trace a circle on the parchment paper with the bottom of your cake pan. Cut out the circle and line the bottom of the cake pan. Spray the bottom with a bit of extra oil spray, just for good measure.

Lined Cake Pan - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Next, flour the cake pans and set aside.

Preparing the cake pans - Boozy Tres Leches

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Now, in a small saucepan, heat 3/4 c. water. Add the instant coffee. Once dissolved, add 1/2 c. of unsweetened baking cocoa. Whisk until there are no lumps and set aside to cool.

Coffee and cocoa mixture - Boozy Tres Leches

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients – coconut flour, tapioca flour, almond flour, ground chia seed, salt (1/2 t.), cane sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.

Dry Ingredients - Boozy Tres Leches

In a large mixing bowl, gently whisk the canola oil, vanilla extract and egg yolks.

Wet ingredients 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Wet ingredients 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

Next, make sure that the coffee/cocoa mixture is cooled, and if so, add to the oil/yolk mixture. If it is not cooled, go ahead and put it in the fridge for a bit. If the coffee/cocoa mixture is not cooled, it could curdle the oil/yolk mixture – yuck.

Wet Ingredients 3 - Boozy Tres Leches

Add the dry ingredients to the coffee/cocoa/oil/yolk mixture – this is the base of your cake batter.

Making the batter 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Now, in another large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar. The cream of tartar helps the whipped egg whites retain their shape. Once the eggs whites become finely foamy, add the cane sugar in a fine stream while whisking. Continue to whisk until the whites become glossy and the soft peaks hold their shape. Finally, folding gently, add the flour mixture to the egg whites in three additions.

Whipping the whites - Boozy Tres Leches

Folding in the whites - Boozy Tres Leches

Once the egg whites and batter are uniformly combined, evenly fill the cake pans.

Filling the cake pans - Boozy Tres Leches

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Here I used a piece of wax paper over the top of the cake pan to catch my cake when flipped the cake pan upside down.

Catching the cake - Boozy Tres Leches

Trim a fine layer off the top of the cake. I used a long serrated knife. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect 😉

Trimming the cakes - Boozy Tres Leches

Why are you cutting off the tops of the cakes? This will allow you to pour the Tres Leches mixture over the cake and be absorbed. This step is critical for Tres Leches cake.

Now, clean out the cake pans (i.e. wash them) and place the cakes back into the cake pans – this is the set up for soaking the cakes. This is where laying the cakes on wax paper comes in handy – use it to slide the cake back into the pans.

Set the trimmed cakes in the cake pans aside and make the Tres Leches mixture.

For the Tres Leches sauce, pour the half and half into a medium saucepan. Add the semisweet chips.

Three milks 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Heat until the chocolate is melted. Then add the condensed and evaporated milks and the bourbon. Using a whisk, mix until smooth.

Three milks 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

I poured this mixture into a large measuring cup (holds about 4 cups of liquid) and eyed the level – it’s about 4 cups. Carefully pour half of the mixture, a bit at a time, over one of the cakes. Give the cake enough time to absorb the liquid before you pour more on top. Try pour the Tres Leches mixture evenly over the surface of the cake. Once the liquid starts to rise up the sides of the cake, they won’t take on much more liquid. It’s okay if you don’t use all of the Tres Leches mixture – though I should note that I basically did. But if you do have extra Tres Leches mixture, save it for the caramel sauce!

Soaking the cakes - Boozy Tres Leches

Now, if you have the luxury of time, place the cakes in their pans in the refrigerator overnight. I did not have the luxury of time, so I placed my cakes in their pans in the freezer for almost 2 hours. Either will suffice. The longer you give the cakes to absorb the liquid, however, the less liquid will spill out from the cakes when you assemble them. Less time = more mess 😉

Before you’re ready to assemble the cake, you’ll need to make whipped cream, caramel sauce, toasted coconut, and chocolate shavings. The caramel sauce requires a little finesse.

In preparation for the whipped cream, the cream needs to be very cold. Go ahead and place it in the freezer while you toast the coconut and make the caramel sauce.

For the toasted coconut, lightly grease a cookie sheet or tray (I used coconut oil spray). Spread the shredded coconut evenly over the sheet or tray and place in a preheated oven (325 degrees F) for about 5 minutes. It should be nicely golden. Set aside.

Toasted Coconut Flakes - Boozy Tres Leches

For the caramel sauce, combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil for 5-8 minutes. The mixture will darken in color and become glossy.

Caramel Sauce 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Caramel Sauce - Boozy Tres Leches

Add 1 T. of butter and mix well. Now, here’s the fun part. Add a bit of milk, or half and half, or leftover Tres Leches mixture to the caramel sauce until you’ve achieved the right consistency. If you don’t, the caramel will seize, making it completely unpourable. Add the liquid bit by bit until the mixture is thick and pourable and does not harden. I then filled a clean squeeze bottle I keep around – it makes drizzling the caramel sauce over the cake super easy 🙂

For the whipped cream, in a large bowl, whip the cold cream with 1 t. of vanilla extract. Once the cream starts to increase in volume, add the powdered sugar. Continue to whip until you have achieved typical whipped cream consistency. The mixture will be softly firm.

Whipped Cream 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Whipped Cream 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

Finally, I normally have some sort of dark chocolate lying around. If you do, go ahead and make fine shavings with about 2 ounces of the chocolate.

Time to dress the cake!

When you take the cakes out of their pan, you may want to do it by the sink – if there’s a fair bit of unabsorbed liquid it’ll make quite the mess.

Start with one of the cakes.

Dressing the cake 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Add a generous layer of whipped cream.

Dressing the cake 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

Then drizzle with caramel sauce.

Dressing the cake 3 - Boozy Tres Leches

Then sprinkle with toasted coconut and chocolate shavings.

Dressing the cake 4 - Boozy Tres Leches

Add the next cake and repeat. Then serve and enjoy!

– Nicole

Let’s talk quickly about substitutions.

If you have a nut allergy, you can probably just use a gluten-free all purpose baking flour of your choice (I like King Arthur’s personally).

If you can’t have dairy, well…..substitute coconut milk for the half and half and evaporated and condensed milks, but you’ll have to add sugar (probably about 1/2 c.). You can also make your own whipped coconut milk cream instead of actual whipped cream. Use 1 T. of coconut oil when making the caramel sauce (instead of butter), and again use coconut milk or almond milk instead of dairy.

Finally, if you’re not a bourbon person, use rum, or amaretto, or Frangelico, or Kahlua…..you get the idea 😉

Posted in baked good, chocolate, dessert, has dairy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Knock Your Socks Off” Sweet Potato Gnocchi

OMG. That’s all I can say. I was so happy when I made these and they turned out well.

Back when I was 18, it was St. Patrick’s Day and we were celebrating by making traditional Irish dishes (I think my friend Ron was making a stew) and some not so traditional Irish dishes (gnocchi – but hey, it has potato). That’s me in the back, circa 1996. You do the math 😉 Anyhow, the gnocchi did not turn out well. Ever since, I have been waiting to remake gnocchi – successfully.

Making gnocchi circa 1996

Making gnocchi is time consuming. And it’s not making the dough that’s the tough part, but rather the making of the gnocchi. To get those perfect little ridges, you have to press each piece onto the tines of a fork and roll them into the dumpling. 208 pieces later……you get the idea.

The sweet potatoes need about 30-40 minutes to bake, another 45 minutes to cool. Prep time for me for the gnocchi was, well about 2 hours. Granted, I wasn’t rushing and I was working alone and I made 200+ pieces of gnocchi. I’m sure that amount of time could be cut down. I started the potatoes in the morning and finished the dough and gnocchi later in the afternoon.

Expect leftovers with this recipe, or simply scale accordingly.

For this recipe, you will need:

Ingredients - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

2 lbs. sweet potatoes
1-2 T. olive oil
10 oz. ricotta cheese
1 oz. parmesan cheese (grated)
3 t. + 2 T. coarse sea salt
1 1/2 c. all purpose gluten free flour (like Glutino)
1 1/4 c. brown rice flour
3 T. ground chia seeds
Tapioca flour for dusting paper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Measure out your ricotta cheese and set aside in a dish.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drizzle 1-2 T. of olive oil onto the paper. Sprinkle with salt.

Baking Sheet - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Cut the sweet potatoes in half and place face down onto the baking sheet.

Bake until tender when pierced with a fork.

Set aside and allow the sweet potato halves to cool until they are cool enough to handle with your hands.

Tatoes 2 - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Drain off any liquid from the ricotta cheese.

Scoop the meat of the potatoes (absolutely no skins or hard bits) into a large bowl.

Scooped - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Mash! Believe it or not, I did not use the food processor for this recipe. I only used a hand masher. If you have a potato ricer, even better.

Mashed tatoes - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Add the ricotta cheese to the mashed potatoes and blend with the masher.

Cheesy Mashed Tatoes - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Next, add the parmesan cheese…

Parmesan Cheese - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

…and mash to blend.

Mix together your dry ingredients in a small bowl – salt, flours, chia seed. Add the flour mixture to the mashed potatoes 1/2 c. at a time and mix well with the masher.

Adding flour - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

The dough is coming along - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Almost there - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Once you can form a soft dough (and note, I used all of my flour exactly), place the ball of dough onto a well floured piece of parchment paper or wax paper. I dusted my paper with tapioca flour.

Ball of dough - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Cut your dough ball into 6 pieces. I ended up using two pieces of parchment paper…I had a lot of dough.

Pieces of dough - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Roll the pieces of dough into a long “rope” – about 1 inch thick, and cut into 1″ pieces (like on the left above).

To make the gnocchi dumplings, press one 1″ piece of dough gently onto the tines of a fork with your thumb.

Pressing the dough - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Now gently roll one end of the dough until it touches the other.

Rolling the dough - Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Set aside onto the floured paper and repeat until all of the dough has been made into dumplings!

Sea of sweet potato gnocchi

Now to cook the gnocchi, take a large pot and fill 3/4 with water. Add 2 T. of salt to the water and bring to a boil.

Add the gnocchi (about 20 at a time) into the boiling water. They’ll initially sink to the bottom. Once they rise to the top, let them cook another 2 minutes.

Cooking the gnocchi - sweet potato gnocchi

Remove from the water and allow them to drain. I set them aside in a colander. Continue until all of the gnocchi have been cooked.

I finished the gnocchi off in some pesto sauce, heated in a small saucepan. Heat the pesto sauce on medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi and toss. Cook until the gnocchi have browned just a bit.

Cooking with pesto sauce - sweet potato gnocchi

Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pesto Sauce

And mangia!

– Nicole

You can freeze the leftover gnocchi for later. Just reheat in boiling water or pan fry. You can serve these with a browned butter sage sauce, spicy marinara, or a sweet maple cinnamon butter sauce. They are pretty versatile 🙂 Not to mention delicious 😉

Posted in has dairy, has grain, main dish | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simple Divinity – Kasia’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless chocolate cake has become one of my favorite desserts this past year. Partly, because my chef friend (Tony) makes amazing flourless chocolate cake and would serve it on occasion when we came over for Sunday dinner – what a wonderful gluten-free dessert! And partly because it’s so simple to make, but looks simply elegant. Turns out it is my friend Kasia’s favorite cake as of late, and now a birthday tradition.

It’s going to change your life once you realize how easy it is to make this. And then you’ll want to make it ALL the time 😉

It takes about 15 minutes to make the cake “batter”, another 5 hours to allow the cake to set, and another 15-45 minutes to bake the cake. Why such a large range for baking times? Well, it really depends on the size container you bake it in. If you bake it in little ramikins, it will only take about 15-20 minutes to bake. If you bake it in a cake pan, it will bake upwards of 45 minutes.

For this recipe, you will need:

Ingredients - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Wax paper or parchment paper to line the bottom of your cake pan
200 g of at least 64% chocolate (that’s two chocolate bars, dark chocolate, the darker the better)
5 eggs, separated
1 stick of salted butter (1/2 c.)
1/2 c. of cane sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. coarse sea salt
some extra pieces/morsels of chocolate for the center of each cake
powdered sugar for garnish
fresh fruit (dark berries) for garnish

First, grease your cake pan (I am a fan of the coconut oil spray).

Greased cake pan - Chocolate Flourless Chocolate Cake

Trace a circle on the wax paper or parchment paper with the bottom of your cake pan. Cut out the circle and line the bottom of the cake pan. Spray the bottom with a bit of extra oil spray, just for good measure.

Lined Cake Pan - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Next, melt together the stick of butter and the bars of chocolate (broken into small pieces). There are three was you can melt the chocolate and butter: 1) double boiler, 2) carefully in a small saucepan, or 3) carefully in the microwave. All three work – this is really dependent on whether or not you have a double boiler and whether or not you have a microwave.

The point is, carefully melt the chocolate and butter, without scorching the chocolate or browning the butter, i.e. heat gradually, watch, and stir frequently. The mixture should be smooth in texture, no lumps.

Melted chocolate and butter - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Set aside, and allow the butter and chocolate mixture to come to room temperature.

Next, add the egg whites to a high mixing bowl and whip them until softly formed peaks hold.


Add the sugar and continue to whip until medium peaks form – see below.

Meringue - Flourless Chocolate Cake

That shot was not taken at precisely the right moment to capture the stream of meringue – the peak simply formed as I pulled the whisk out of the bowl and held. That’s what I mean by medium peaks. They hold firm, but still look soft.

By now, your butter chocolate mixture should be cooled to room temperature. But check it first. If it’s too hot, it will curdle during the next step……so, if you need to, put it in the fridge for a bit to speed up the cooling process.

Add a bit of the chocolate mixture to your egg yolks and mix until blended. Add a bit more and blend.

Yolks with chocolate - Chocolate Flourless cake

You’re increasing the temperature of the yolks slowly, so that they will not actually cook when you add them to the chocolate mixture.

Add the yolk mixture to the chocolate and mix until well blended. The mixture will thicken and darken in color. Add 1 t. vanilla and 1 t. salt and mix.

By hand, gently fold the chocolate/yolk mixture into the meringue. This step requires some elbow grease. What happens if you blend with a mixer? You’ll ruin the soft structure that the meringue is providing in this cake, so no short cuts 😉

Folding in the chocolate - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Once the “batter” is well mixed, place 1/2 into the bottom of your lined, greased cake pan. Add the extra chocolate morsels, and then cover with the remaining batter.

Filled cake pan - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Tap the cake pan on the counter to smooth the top and get rid of any big bubbles.

Ready to bake - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours to set. You can just as easily make the day before and allow it to set in the fridge overnight. This step is pretty important. I’ve made this several times, and allowing it to set is critical.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Once your oven reaches temperature, place the cake pan in the oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes.

The cake will start to pull away from the sides of the cake pan, and a toothpick, when inserted into the center of cake, will come out clean. I also find that the aroma of a chocolate becomes very rich when the cake is about done. Keep your eye on this cake when you’re at the last 10 minutes or so – overcooked and it becomes too firm with browned edges.

Baked - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Allow the cake to cool.

If I had used a spring foam pan, I could have simply opened up the pan and served the cake on the bottom of the spring foam pan. For the cake pan, place your serving plate over the cake pan and flip.

Flipped - Chocolate Flourless Cake

The cake should simply drop out of the cake pan onto the plate. Remove the wax paper or parchment paper liner from the top.

Next, I used a metal strainer to dust with confectioner’s sugar. Place 2 T. of confectioner’s sugar into the bottom of the strainer. Over the cake, tap the strainer to dust.

I also garnished with some strawberry slices. Raspberries and blackberries work just as well.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Serve and enjoy!

– Nicole

P.S. Change up this recipe by using different chocolate. You could also coat with a chocolate grenache or caramel drizzle. You could also dot the center with pieces of white chocolate, sea salt caramels, or peanut butter chips for a fun surprise in the center 🙂

Also, if you want this to be completely dairy free, substitute a refined coconut oil for the butter; it does the trick 🙂

Want to make this for a friend that can’t have a lot of sugar? You can substitute with Splenda – one to one substitution for the cane sugar.

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“Pucker Up” Persimmon Bars

I was grocery shopping a few weeks ago and saw persimmons on sale. I’ve never worked with, much less tasted a persimmon before, so of course my interest was piqued 😉

What is a persimmon? It’s actually the fruit of the Diospyros tree and varies in hue from yellow-orange to red-orange. While they look similar in shape to a tomato, their flavor profile resembles dates when ripe. The Asian varieties of persimmons are considered “astringent”, and have high levels of tannins in their fruit that only soften as they ripen. “Non-astringent” persimmons are fairly sweet, even when not completely ripe, with lower levels of tannins in the fruit; the American persimmon, Black persimmon, and Mexican persimmon fall into this category.

I was actually hoping that the fruit was going to be astringent, but the persimmon variety I bought (Bouquet) most definitely tasted like dates, with no astringency. I was thinking lemon bars but with persimmons.

Well, that’s kind of what happened here. I was super pleased with the shortbread that served for the crust, and used the persimmons as my sugar for the curd.

Note, this is not a quick recipe. You’ll need to make it one day ahead of time because it needs to set overnight, so keep that in mind 😉

For this recipe, you will need:

Shortbread Crust

Shortbread ingredients - Pucker Up Persimmon Bars

3/4 c. Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour
1 c. brown rice flour
10 T. unsalted butter, soft and cut into about 1″ pieces
2 T. cane sugar
2 T. powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Add the sugars to a food processor and make a fine powder. Add the butter and cream.

Creamed butter and sugar - Pucker Up Bars Then add flour, in 2 additions, until no dry flour is visible.

Shortbread Batter 1Shortbread Batter 2

Shortbread Batter 3

Then, using your hands, knead the dough on wax paper.

Shortbread Dough

How will you know when you’re done kneading the dough? The dough will be smooth and well mixed.

Line a baking pan (13″ x 9″) with aluminum foil. Press the dough into the bottom of the baking pan, trying to ensure consistent thickness throughout.

Shortbread Ready to Bake

Bake the shortbread for about 35 minutes – until slightly golden, but not browned.

Baked Shortbread

Allow the shortbread to cool. I wanted to speed up the cooling process so I threw the shortbread into the refrigerator while I made the curd.

This shortbread recipe tastes amazing. It’s buttery and crumbles perfectly when you bite into it. I’d use this for regular shortbread cookies, not just as a crust. Note, for the cookies, roll out the dough with rolling pin and cut out the cookies with your favorite cookie cutter 🙂

Now, onto the Persimmon and Lemon Curd topping…

For this recipe, you will need:

3 persimmons (I used Bouquet – Spanish)
2 blood oranges
3 lemons
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground ginger
2 pinches of cardamom
8 egg yolks
5 T. butter

First, zest the oranges and lemons.

Zesty Zesty Zest Zest - Pucker Up Persimmon Bars

Then, juice the oranges and lemons. Be sure to juice through a strainer to prevent any pulp in your curd.

Citrus juice - Pucker Up Persimmon Bars Next, quarter the persimmons. Cut off the peel and clean away the center of the  persimmons. The pile on the left is what goes onto the food processor. The middle pile is the peel of the persimmon, and the pile on the right is the center of the persimmon.

Persimmon Prep - Pucker Up Persimmon Bars

Blend the persimmons in a food processor or blender for 2-3 minutes. The mixture should be velvety smooth. Note, 3 persimmons will make about one cup of persimmon puree.

Persimmon Puree - Pucker Up Persimmon Bars

Add the juice and blend. Then add the butter and blend. Next, add the ginger and salt and blend.

Finally, add the egg yolks and blend.

Transfer the mixture from the food processor or blender to a saucepan. Cook on low heat (absolutely no boiling or you will overcook the egg yolks) for about 10 minutes.

My curd started out as a lovely rose colored mixture, but as it cooked, it lightened in color and thickened. You’ll know it’s done cooking when you can make a streak through the middle of it if you coat the spoon. Check out this lemon curd recipe – it has a great photo demonstrating this test for doneness. You can also use a candy thermometer – when it reads 170 degrees F, your curd is cooked.

Curd - Pucker Up Persimmon Bars Now, once the curds starts to cool a bit, cover your shortbread. Gently shake the pan from side to side to smooth out the curd topping. Place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the curd topping to set.

In the Refrigerator to Cool and Set

Once it has set, you simply lift it out of the pan by lifting the aluminum foil from the pan.


Cut into squares or triangles and plate. Dust with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I garnished with raspberries – they complemented it perfectly 🙂



– Nicole

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Ch-Ch-Chia Dirty Chai Cupcakes

It was my friend Jillian’s birthday and I wanted to bake her birthday cupcakes, but not the same type of cake and icing I had made the year (unless she had asked for it of course!). One of my employees had come back from a trip to India and had given me an amazing Marsala Chai. Let me tell you, we’ve got nothing on the real deal Indian chai. Since Monkey Man and I came back from India last December, I’ve been craving authentic Indian chai.

In cake terms, when I think chai cupcakes I think of a spiced-like cake. But I wanted it to have more dimension. And so the Dirty Chai cupcakes were born.

Because these were for Jillian, they had to be egg-free and gluten-free. And of course they had to taste great 😉 This recipe gave me the opportunity to make some of that amazing Marsala Chai from India. This recipe makes about 20 cupcakes.

For this cake recipe, you will need:

Ingredients - Dirty Chai Cupcakes

5 1/2 t. Ener-G egg replacer
6 T. water
1 c. honey
1 c. palm sugar
3/4 c. + 2 T. almond flour
1 1/2 c. coconut flour
1 c. tapioca flour
1 t. baking powder
3 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 T. ground chai seed
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cloves
2 pinches of cardamom
4 t. Marsala chai tea, loose
1 1/2 c. almond milk
1 c. canola oil

For the icing, you will need:

4 c. powdered sugar (with tapioca flour, not corn starch)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. ghee (softened)
1/4 c. coconut oil (softened)
3/4 c. almond milk (almost boiling, steeped with  2 heaping T. Marsala chai)
2 T. instant coffee, ground
1 T. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line at least 20 cupcake holders with paper liners.

First, in a large mixing bowl, add 4 1/2 t. of Ener-G and 6 T. of water. Whip until the mixture increases in volume.

Ener-G! - Dirty Chai Cupcakes

After the mixture increases in volume, add the honey and palm sugar. Continue to whip until very well mixed. Add another 1 T. Ener-G and beat for additional 2 minutes.

Sugar and Ener-G - Dirty Chai Cupcakes

Next, steep 4 t. of Marsala chia tea in 1 1/2 c. of almost boiling almond milk. I say almost boiling because the almond milk will start to break down at boiling temperatures.

Marsala Chai - Dirty Chai Cupcakes

And…..it’s really important when making chia tea. In fact, some people steep the tea twice by bringing the milk to a boil once, allowing to cool, and then bringing to a boil a second time. Again, because almond milk does not tolerate a boil well, you’ll need only bring it to an almost boil.

While the chai tea is cooling, mix the dry ingredients in another large bowl – almond flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chia seed, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom.

Dry ingredients - Dirty Chai Cupcakes

Add the milk to the sugar mixture. Then add the dry ingredients in two additions.

Batter - Dirty Chai Cupcakes

Add 1 c. canola oil and beat on medium-high for 2 minutes.

It’s important to beat for at least 2 minutes – you need to let the ground chia seed get “snotty”. This is what helps bind these ingredients for a nice, not-crumbly cupcake 😉

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20-25 minutes. Be sure to confirm the doneness –  first, they’ll start smelling “done”; next, a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cupcake in the center of the cupcake pan.

Cupcakes - Dirty Chai Cupcakes

Place the cupcakes on a wire rack and allow to completely cool before icing.

For the icing, steep the Marsala chai in almost boiling milk for at least 5 minutes. Add the ground instant coffee. Set aside.

Cream the ghee, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt. Then add the powdered sugar and milk mixture, alternating, until the icing is a smooth texture. Pipe onto the cupcakes.


Ch-Ch-Chia Dirty Chai Cupcakes

enjoy!!! I know I did 🙂 I hope you do too.

– Nicole


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