Gluten Free Desserts

So, you are on a gluten free diet? No worries! Not all desserts are made from wheat. There is actually a wide variety of gluten free options. Some companies include Larabars, Amy’s® Kitchen, and Enjoy Life®.

RAW FRUIT BARS

Larabars aren’t only gluten free, but sugar free, too. Now you might ask, how can that be a dessert? Well, in Italy, fruit and ricotta cheese is a traditional dessert. A Larabar is a blend of raw fruit, nuts and spices. There is a variety to choose from starting with ginger, coconut, cherry, lemon, key lime, to name a few.  Each bar has a shelf life of 12 months and contains one or more of the following nuts: cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pecans. This is one of those great “on the go” type of desserts or snack bars.

photo courtesy of Enjoy Life (R)

CHOCOLATE CAKE

Then, the next option you have is a chocolate cake by Amy’s® Kitchen. It’s gluten free, non dairy, and a vegan friendly dessert. It’s made with organic cocoa powder and brown rice flour. You can eat this cake cold or warmed up with a cup of coffee. It is rich, smooth, and has a light texture that simply melts in your mouth. You can find this to be a little slice of heaven in Whole Foods Market or any health food store.

COOKIES AND MILK

Enjoy Life® has quite a collection of delicious cake like cookies. They are all very soft and chewy. Some of the most popular ones include chocolate chip cookies, no-oats “oatmeal”® cookies, double chocolate brownie cookies, and gingerbread spice cookies. They are great for an old fashion milk dunking!

ALWAYS HAVE A SWEET TOOTH

When you try any of the above listed desserts, you will feel like a kid back in the candy store all over again!

Pie, Oh Pie… It’s the APC Great American Pie Festival!

Love pie? Well, there are two new events coming up in Florida and we’d like to share some information with you. If you are a pie lover, these two are a “must see”!

The Great American Pie Festival

The Prestigious Baking Competition and Family Fun, the APC Great American Pie Festival, Sponsored by Crisco®, is back!

When and Where?

On April 9 and 10, 2011, pie lovers, tasters and bakers will gather in Celebration, Florida, for two very sweet days! Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, April 9; noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, April 10. The festival will be held at Lakeside Park at 631 Sycamore St. in downtown Celebration, Florida 34747. Admission to the festival is free.

9 Years of Celebration!

Chocolate Raisin Walnut Pie. photo courtesy of the American Pie Council
Now in its 9th year, this pie extravaganza dishes up luscious layers of fun for the young and the young at heart. Whether looking to enjoy some of the most delectable desserts in America or simply partake in one of the many entertainment and baking demonstrations staged along Main Street in one of America’s most charming small towns, attendees are sure to enjoy pure pie perfection.

From top crust to two crust, juicy to sweet, chocolate to custard all matter of flavors and fillings will flow forth for two full days in April to the delight of an anticipated 28,000 pie lovers from around the world.

Festival Events

All festival events will be held both days. Whether bonafide pie lovers or casual nibblers looking for an afternoon of fun, Celebration residents and visitors are invited to stroll through the free-admission festival and enjoy two days of family fun, reminiscent of days gone by. Attendees may opt to dig in and compete or simply sit back and enjoy the show. The events include:

  • The Crisco® Kids Creation Station will give aspiring young bakers an opportunity to create their own pies or enjoy some fun with pie decorating, pie-scaping, Piecasso tin art at the Piecasso stage and many more activities!
  • The Pietopia Demonstration Stage sponsored by Village Inn and Bakers Square Restaurants will feature entertainment and baking demonstrations with chefs from across the country.
  • Of course, the Great American Pie Festival would not be complete without a pie eating contest, sponsored by Private Selection.

The Never Ending Pie Buffet

As the festival favorite for the past nine years, the Never Ending Pie Buffet will once again feature an all you can eat smorgasbord of 83,000 award-winning pie slices – up from 70,000 in 2009 — ice cream, toppings and beverages from local, regional and national commercial bakeries, restaurants and markets, including Bakers Square Restaurants and Pies, Bonert’s Slice of Pie, California Raisin Marketing Board, J. Horner’s Desserts, Kroger’s Private Selection, Publix Super Markets, Inc., Rocky Mountain Pies, Smucker’s Toppings, The Folger Coffee Company, Village Inn, Wick’s Pies and Winn-Dixie. This is the only paid event at the festival.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors over 65 and children under 5 to enjoy all they care of eat and drink.

The APC/Crisco National Pie Championships

Lemon Swirl Cream Cheese Pie
Lemon Swirl Cream Cheese Pie. photo courtesy of APC

When and Where?

The 17th Annual American Pie Council® (APC)/ Crisco® 2011 National Pie Championships® returns to Orlando April 8-10, 2011 expecting a record number of entries across all categories, to top last year’s record entries: 417 commercial, 170 professional, 321 amateur and seven junior — totaling an astounding 907 pies!

New Categories

New this year are three categories created to reflect the sign of the times.

  • A “Gluten-free” category requiring a pie that is gluten-free in all aspects including crust, filling and toppings:;
  • Crisco Innovation” category sponsored by Crisco in honor of the brand’s 100th Anniversary this year.  The “Innovation” pie requires a blend of classic and contemporary innovative pie making technique and pie flavor selections.
  • Finally, a “Royal Wedding” pie suitable for a soon-to-be-married Prince William and Kate Middleton rounds out the third new category.   The pie’s the limit with all three of the new categories as well as familiar favorites.

It will take a record number of judges — 200 prequalified volunteer pie aficionados — to eat through almost 1,000 pieces to find the crème de la crème of North American pie bakers. It comes as no surprise that the largest number of entries for a single flavor goes to America’s collective favorite — apple pie — with 39 entries in the amateur category.

Entry forms are available online for junior, amateur, professional and commercial divisions.  Entry costs are free for juniors and $15 for amateurs.  APC members receive discounts on entries.

Hotel Discounts

The host hotel Caribe Royale is offering a special $129 per night room rate for those attending or participating in the Great American Pie Festival or National Pie Championships.  To book this special rate, you must tell the hotel you are with the event.  Call 800-823-8300 to book a room.

More Info

For more information, visit the Front Porch Celebration Community or the American Pie Council®, the only organization committed to maintaining America’s pie heritage, passing on the tradition of pie-making and promoting America’s love affair with pie. The APC offers personal, professional and commercial memberships.

Crisco® is a registered trademark of The J. M. Smucker Company.

How to Make Doughnuts at Home

Whether you crave a bit of sweetness or would like to enjoy an easy sweet treat project with your children, why don’t you consider making doughnuts? Homemade doughnuts are not only inexpensive and tasty to make, but also open the doors to many different possibilities. Below you will find a quick and easy recipe, as well as a handful of ways to sweeten your treats:

Super Easy Doughnuts

Ingredients

  • Tube of refrigerated biscuit dough
  • Powdered sugar
  • Oil

Directions

1. Open a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough (like Pillsbury) and separate. Lay the biscuits flat on a cookie sheet.

2. Cut a hole in the middle of each biscuit by using a small glass or cookie cutter. You can save the round doughnut centers to cook later as “doughnut holes.”

3. Heat oil in a pan over a medium high heat. Remember to use clean oil.

4. Add dough to the pan and cook – flipping over the doughnut when one side has become light brown in color. Allow the other side to cook. Do not overload the fryer – cook only three to four doughnuts at a time.

5. When doughnuts are a light golden brown color, remove from the pan – allowing excess oil to drip off.

6. If making sugar doughnuts, lightly press into a bowl filled with granulated sugar or powdered sugar. One of the easiest ways to coat a doughnut in sugar is to add a sugar or cinnamon sugar mixture to a paper lunch bag. Place a warm doughnut in the bag and shake.

Other ways to serve your homemade doughnuts is to:

  • Coat with melted chocolate (with or without sprinkles)
  • Dip in honey
  • Spread on a fruit glaze
  • Drizzle warm cake frosting or icing
  • Roll in chopped nuts after adding a glaze

Freeze Your Treats

Another advantage to making doughnuts at home is that they can be frozen for later enjoyment. For the best results, place unglazed donuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Thoroughly freeze, and then transfer to a Ziploc bag before returning to the freezer. When you’re ready to eat, heat the frozen doughnuts in an oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Ideas for Easy Peanut Butter Sweet Treats

From pie topped with whipped cream and chewy cookie bars, peanut butter is a popular flavor for many sweet treats. Depending on the recipe, you could wind up spending a great deal of time and money deciphering the instructions. If you like uncomplicated baking with easy-to-find ingredients, consider the following ideas that incorporate the likes of Jif, Skippy, or Peter Pan.

Peanut Butter Cake

A quick and easy way to make peanut butter cake is to use a package (around 18.25-ounces) of butter cake mix as your base. First, cream together ½ cup smooth peanut butter and ½ cup softened butter until they become light and fluffy. Add 4 large eggs (one at a time) – making sure to mix well after each addition. Add in the cake mix alternately with 2/3 cup of water. Stir the ingredients until they are combined.

Pour the batter into two prepared 9-inch round cake pans (greased and floured). Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack. To further cool, turn out the pans onto the rack. Frost when completely cooled.

To make a peanut butter frosting, cream 1 cup of peanut butter and 1/2 cup softened butter until light and fluffy. Add 4 cups of powdered sugar. Slowly add in the milk until frosting is spreadable.

Ways to enhance a peanut butter cake recipe include:

  • Chocolate as an ingredient
  • Chocolate frosting
  • Chopped nuts as a topping

Peanut Butter Cookies

When you’re looking for an uncomplicated, traditional treat, peanut butter cookies are a favorite of all ages. To make about 2 dozen cookies, you will need 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature), 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1 egg, 1 1/4 cup flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

First, cream the butter for two minutes, and then add in the sugars. Cream the ingredients for 2 additional minutes. Mix in the peanut butter and egg. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt), and then stir into the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic and put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into balls measuring 1 1/4 inches. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Use a fork to imprint the cookies with the signature crisscross pattern.  Bake the cookies until they turn light brown – about 9 to 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for one minute, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you prefer chewier cookies, bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Balls

Residents of Ohio know peanut butter balls all too well – nicknaming the treat “Buckeyes.” The recipe for this confection calls for basic ingredients to create quite a tempting treat. After mixing the ingredients together, you basically roll the treats into small balls, chill, and then dip in melted chocolate. Many say that the sweet treat resembles a homemade Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. With a chocolate coating and creamy peanut butter filling, the texture of the candy slightly resembles fudge.

An example of ingredients used to make peanut butter balls includes 2 cups creamy peanut butter, ¼ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature), ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and 2 to 2 ½ cups of confectioner’s sugar. The chocolate coating is usually made out of melted semisweet chocolate and shortening.

10 Tips for Baking Brownies

Brownies became a favorite treat of the United States and Canada during the first half of the 20th century. With a texture resembling a cross between a cake and cookie, the brownie has come a long way from the first example to appear in public. A chef at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois created the sweet treat using walnuts and an apricot glaze. The original recipe is still being served at the hotel. When you wish to create your own brownie magic, consider the following tips for baking brownies.

1. Even-Textured Brownies

If you want to make brownies with an even texture, use the correct sized pan stated in the recipe. If you use a different pan, the brownies will form a different texture.

2. Moist and Chewy Brownies

If you over-bake your brownies, they will become dry. Make sure to follow the recommended baking time listed in the recipe to enjoy moist and chewy brownies.

3. Mixing Your Brownies

For better results, it is suggested to hand-mix your brownies and avoid using an electric mixer.

4. Easy Cleanup

To minimize the amount of clean up after making your brownies, line your pan with aluminum foil. Once the brownies have cooled, they will lift straight out of the pan, which makes it easier to cut into uniform squares.

5. Avoid Crumbly Brownies

Not only are crumbly brownies messy, but they also lessen the overall appearance of a fresh plate. To prevent crumbling, completely cool your brownies before cutting into squares.

6. Smooth Sides

To make brownie bars with smooth sides, make sure your treats have thoroughly cooled before cutting with a plastic knife.

iconicon7. Brownie Toppings

To add a little something extra to your brownies, there are many different toppings to consider. For starters, you can sprinkle powdered sugar on unfrosted brownie bars. Chocolate curls on top of frosted bars add a hint of elegance. Other toppings for brownies include mini chocolate chips, nuts, and colorful sprinkles for kids.

8. White Chocolate Brownies

If you’d like to make decadent brownies for your next get-together, combine 1/3 cup of coarsely chopped white chocolate and two teaspoons of vegetable shortening in a small, heavy saucepan. Melt the ingredients over low heat – making sure to constantly stir. Drizzle over your brownies.

9. Blonde Brownies

Use brown sugar and no chocolate to create a ‘blondie.’

10. A la Mode Brownies

A popular dessert offered at restaurants is brownie a la mode, which means that your treat is warmed and served with ice cream topped with whipped cream.

International Sweet Treats: Russian

Whether you enjoy international holiday customs or like discovering the sweetness of another culture, Russia is certainly a prime candidate for sampling unique desserts. A great deal of Russian desserts display influences from Western European countries – a trend jumpstarted during the 18th century by Peter the Great’s affection for the history of the Dutch, Germans, Swedes, and the French.

Paskha

Served during the Easter season, Paskha is a traditional dessert comprised of soft cheese and dried fruit. The whiteness of the soft cheese is used to symbolize the purity of Christ and the Pashal lamb. Other ingredients added to the dessert may include butter, eggs, sour cream, almonds, vanilla, raisins, spices, and candied fruits.

Vareniki

Baked desserts are also popular in Russia. Vareniki are small sweet pies and dumplings filled with preserved fruit (or tvorog – a dry soft cheese). Vareniki are often served as a sweet luncheon dish or as an accompaniment for afternoon tea. It is suggested to serve this treat with sour cream and sugar.

Vatrushka

A ring of dough offers the shape of a cake called vatrushk, which possesses a center made out of tvorog (cottage cheese). Sometimes, raisins or small pieces of fruit are part of the ingredient list. The cake can measure from around five inches to two and a half feet in diameter.

Blini
Blini. Photo credit: Andrevan
Blini

Also called a “Russian pancake,” blinis are a thin creation that looks much like a crepe. However, yeast is used to make blini, whereas crepes do not possess this ingredient. Traditional Russian blini use yeasted batter, which is left to rise, and then later diluted with cold or boiling water (or milk). The pancakes are then baked in an oven or pan-fried. The pancakes are often served with sour cream, jam or condensed milk.  An example of fried blini is shown above.

Syrniki

Another fried pancake dessert in Russia is called syrniki (also referred to as “tvorog burgers”) because they are made of tvorog cheese, and then fried in a saucepan – like a hamburger. Sometimes, raisins are added to the cheese mixture for extra flavor. Syrniki is usually paired with honey, sweet dressings, apple sauce, or jam.

Cooking with My Honey Bear Recipe Contest

Honey is making a splash in the culinary world this year thanks to its versatility and recipe-boosting benefits. The world’s top chefs use it; now the National Honey Board wants to hear from cooks of all abilities about their favorite ways of incorporating honey into dishes and treats.

The contest kicked off August 2 and runs through September 15. To enter, just visit Honey.com and submit your original or favorite recipe that includes 100% pure honey by 11:59 pm on September 15, 2010.

photo courtesy of the National Honey Board

Prizes

Winners will be chosen randomly to take home one of three Le Creuset® cookware prizes!

  • The sweet grand prize is a nine-piece Le Creuset® cookware set with a retail value of $1,600.
  • Second prize is a five-piece Le Creuset® cookware set valued at $500.
  • Third prize is a Le Creuset® Dijon Honey Pot and honey gift basket, approximate retail value $200.

To learn more, including entry directions and contest rules, visit Honey.com.

I hope you’ll take this opportunity to enter and share a recipe and perhaps invite your friends and family to do the same.

photo courtesy of the National Honey Board

The Endangered Honey Bear

Overlooked in the pantry in recent years, the iconic honey bear is reestablishing itself as the #1 secret ingredient for foodies everywhere. The Food Channel even named honey as a top food trend (check out the declaration here!). To help bolster the honey bear’s comeback and ensure it stays off the “endangered” list for good, the National Honey Board is encouraging everyone to use more honey. If you’re looking for 100% pure honey, make sure the label only has one ingredient: honey. Your local grocery store and farmers markets are perfect places to find 100% pure honey.

About the National Honey Board

The National Honey Board is a federal research and promotion board under USDA oversight that conducts research, marketing and promotion programs to help maintain and expand markets for honey and honey products. These programs are funded by an assessment of one cent per pound on domestic and imported honey.

Desserts and Drinks with Benefits

Whether you’re looking to feed your stomach or fuel your brain, there are many foods and ingredients that come with benefits. From loads of antioxidants to natural energy boosters, plenty of items allow you to indulge in Mother Nature’s deliciousness. Below you will find a collection of desserts and beverages that let you to tap into the healing and healthy power of food.

Nuts: Overall, nuts are loaded with essential fatty acids like Omega-3s, and depending on the kinds you eat, there are other advantages to gain. Nuts also make delicious toppings for any of your favorite dessert recipes.

Cashews are high in magnesium, which provide an increase of oxygen-rich blood to your brain. Your brain function becomes enhanced when you eat foods that contain choline, and pecans can provide you with this essential nutrient. Almonds not only provide brainpower, but also help to stabilize your mood. You can think more clearly and stay focused when eating walnuts packed with Omega-3s.

Suggested Desserts: Cashew Coconut Pudding, Almond Bars, Walnut Balls, Maple Pecan Pie

Raw Carrots: We’ve all heard that carrots are beneficial to the eyes, but the raw vegetable also delivers a steady level of blood sugar that caters to the brain. A couple of ways to incorporate raw carrots into your sweet treats is to shave the vegetable as a fresh topping for Carrot Cake, Carrot Bars, and Carrot Muffins.

Berries: Fueling your brain with energy, berries are high in complex carbohydrates and possess their own health factors depending on the variety. Blackberries are packed with stress-preventing anthocyanins that work towards calming your brain during tension-filled situations. The antioxidants found in strawberries can boost your cognitive functioning. Cranberries have a high concentration of antioxidants that contributes to preventing brain cell damage associated with free radicals. The antioxidants in blueberries have been proven to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Suggested Desserts: Blackberry Pie, Strawberry Tarts, Cranberry Squares, Blueberry Muffins, Raspberry Trifle, Berry Cobbler, Berries and Cream, Berry Crumb Cake

Yogurt: You can improve your neurotransmitters with yogurt, as well as gain calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin and iodine. Get your fill of this low-calorie ingredient by making Berry Parfaits, Yogurt Cake, Yogurt Pops, and Frozen Greek Yogurt.

Oatmeal: Apple Crisp topped with oatmeal or a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies delivers a boost in energy, as well as promotes better memory. The low-calorie raisins in the cookies also serve as a high-energy ingredient packed with antioxidants.

Bananas: Banana cream pie sounds even better when you learn that bananas possess a decent source of antioxidants and potassium. Other dessert ideas include Banana Bread and Banana Pudding.

Dark Chocolate: The possibilities are endless when you think of all the desserts that include dark chocolate. Not only can you actually stop cravings with a small bar, but also receive a burst of healthy antioxidants. Consider dipping pretzels and frozen bananas and into melted dark chocolate for a tasty sweet treat.

Watermelon: Watermelon is a low-calorie treat that increases energy levels and provides the body with nutrients. Perfect for warm weather days, consider transforming your watermelon slices into a Watermelon Cooler – often made with fresh lime juice.

Hot Cocoa: An intense surge of antioxidants comes when you drink a steaming cup of hot chocolate made with pure cocoa powder.

Peppermint Tea: Enhance your productivity with peppermint tea, which increases your focus and performance.

Green Tea: To relax your mind and jumpstart mental alertness, consume green tea with honey or drink an ice-cold glass with a sprig of mint.

Coffee: The caffeine found in a cup of coffee is known to encourage improved short-term memory when consumed in moderation.