Monday, October 29, 2012

Gourmet Gluten Free Low Carb Almond Flour Cracker Tutorial

Paleo diet friendly, diabetic friendly crackers that are gluten free, sugar free, natural and delicious are few and far between. Am I right? If one does find such a beast...they are usually ridiculously expensive and will make anyone omit crackers from their diet forever, rather than try to buy them. Most of the ones I've ever tried that fit those guidelines have been very flavor and appeal. They were great for Chinese throwing-stars though...(now there's a visual). Have you ever seen me in my ninja mode? You know, complete with baguette-nunchucks, poison dart-shooting pastry bags, and sharpened spatula daggers?  No? That's right. You never will. I'm too amazing of a ninja for anyone to ever actually see me in full ninja-garb. Be afraid.

 I was completely blown away when I attended an almond flour cracker class with fitness coach and wellness instructor  Laura Madden and saw the 4 ingredient simple recipe for almond flour crackers! It was from the The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam and I fell instantly in love with the crackers. By the way, the book is a must-have read if you're wanting some practical and delicious options for baking low-glycemic gluten free foods. I've been impressed with all the recipes in her books that I've tried! Visit Amazon's Elana Amsterdam Page for more information on her books. I'm a big fan.

 Have you ever met my favorite Almond Flour? On this one I'm brand specific for a reason. This is the finest milled almond flour I can find and it has remarkable texture in baked good. I didn't want almond meal. I wanted a flour that would bake remarkably well. Thank you Honeyville! 

Basic Nutritional Information and General Facts:

  •  Almond flour is a great alternative for those who are going gluten free and still wanting to watch their carbohydrate intake.
  •  It is a source of “good fat” as detailed by the American Heart Association, and is an ideal recovery food for athletes.
  • It keeps you full longer and helps maintain weight loss as well as assist in weight loss.
  •  It is proven to help maintain good blood sugar levels.
  •  In 2003 the Journal of Obesity said, “Adding a daily ration of almonds to a low-calorie diet enhances weight loss as well as significantly improves the risk factors associated with heart disease.”
  • 100% pure skinless almonds, no additional ingredients added.
  • Blanched Almond Flour is simply skinless almonds that are milled into fine flour.
  • The only process that occurs, other than pasteurizing and milling, is a hot water bath to remove the skins from the almonds.
  • Store in the refrigerator after opening and keep in a cool dry place.
  • Use your flour within a year at the most.

Almond Flour Crackers
adapted from the recipe by Elana Amsterdam
yield 30 crackers

1  3/4 cup blanched almond flour
1 egg
1 1/2 Tablespoon flavor infused Lucero Olive Oil

Directions:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients until a thick dough is made. Place dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baker's mat. 
Cover the dough with non-stick parchment paper.
Roll thin between the sheets using a small rolling pin or pressing with your hands. I have a rolling pin that I love and it works great for crackers. 
Remove the parchment. Lightly cut crackers into 1 inch squares. If you use a baker's mat you can use a simple pastry roller that won't cut the mat.  Roll to 1/16th of an inch thin. 
Bake 350 degrees 12-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the crackers).
Store in an airtight container...if they survive that long. I'm not using them as ninja-stars. They're making snack-fest status for sure!

There you go! Make some Almond flour crackers!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Float Fishing. Did You Love Me?

Sunday is a day I share a little of my soul. Enjoy.

 I, Chef Tess, went float-fishing with my glorious and fearless sister Auntie Em on my last trip to Utah. If you've never been, it is probably one of the coolest things I've ever done...with a fishing pole. It involves  a float able personal chair-type raft, strapping flippers on your feet, and wearing wader plastic pants.  Yes. I wore plastic pants.

Fashion-wise, it isn't glamorous. Relaxation wise, it is the best thing ever!  Early in the morning before the sun ever peeks over the horizon, Em was up. Quietly we drove to a nearby lake and unpacked the floaters from our cars. I had been non-stop for 5 days and it was a much needed and welcomed adventure with my dear sister.
 I call her my fearless sister for a reason. Worms fear her.  She's got a hook-baiting gift.
 She also floats with two fishing poles. I'm lucky to keep track of a one.
  We floated on a quiet and peaceful lake in the early morning for just over 2 hours. Fish were jumping and dancing all around us and it was remarkable to be in that serenity...and never catch a single fish. Nope. Not one. Mind you, it was amazingly relaxing to float. I loved every minute. I didn't love that my sister, who loves fishing more than any woman I have ever met...wasn't catching fish.   Even as we watched on the lake as other dear souls around us were pulling large and delicious fish out of the water, Em cheered for them. Em asked what kind of bait they were using. We kept fishing. Even when we were at the end of our adventure and I was unstrapping flippers from my feet...Em had her poles still in the water. Not a single fish. No. Not one! 

I know it was just "one of those fishing trips" that ends up without a catch. Even with the best intentions and bait, you sometimes don't bring home dinner. However, when I listened to a sermon about the ancient Apostles-gone-Fishermen on the subject of  Love given by Jeffrey R. Holland called The First Great Commandment. it all became very personal. Any fisherman who's ever caught a fish, can relate to it. Any Christian who's ever lived can relate to the deep and abiding question, "Lovest thou me more than these?"


"My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.”13 And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,”14 Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without “a single synagogue or sword”15 to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live."
I'm thankful for each new day...and more importantly, for the love of God that passes all my limited understanding. It allows me to move onward, look upward and do all that I can to serve my God. It is my trust in abiding Grace that helps me want to live a good Christian life and follow my Savior.
There it is. Have a wonderful new week.
Always My Very Best,
Your Friend in Christ, Chef Tess.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The 3 Best Fall Apple Cakes and Pies (Healthier Versions)

Tomorrow morning at 9:15 I'll be on our local 3 TV here in Phoenix for a segment on how to make some healthier choices for Fall cakes and pies. I'm using a lot of apples!  I'm sharing the recipes today so that everyone will be able to access the deliciousness in one post! Now, these recipes use organic sugar or can also use granulated natural sugar sweeteners instead. I've made them using stevia and haven't found one that I really like. The sweeteners that I really like for lower sugar and lower GI are:

  • Fructose Sugar
  • Granular Erythritol

  • This cake used organic cake mix and pudding mix. I make my own Chef Tess Bakeresse: My Yellow Homemade Cake Mix as well as Chef Tess Bakeresse: Homemade Instant Pudding Mix and use them instead. The cake mix I make uses 6 grain flour and natural Granular Erythritol.

    Chef Tess Mulled Apple Cider Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze
    4 cups organic white cake mix ,
    ½ cup organic vanilla pudding mix (1 box),
    1 ½ tsp Chef Tess Wise Woman of the East Spice blend.Chef Tess Spices
    Glaze mix: 1 cup organic powdered sugar, 1 T lemon zest
    To prepare cake you will need: 1 cups high quality apple juice concentrate, ½ cup Myer lemon infused olive oil, 4 eggs, 1 Bundt pan, flour for dusting the pan. To prepare glaze you will need: 2T hot water.
    Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist Bundt pan with non-stick spray and dust with flour. Shake out excess flour and set aside. Place the cake mix in a mixer and combine with apple cider and olive oil, and eggs mixing on low speed 30 seconds and then increase to medium speed 2 minutes, scraping down sides again. The batter should be thick and well combined. Pour into pan, place in oven and bake 42-48 minutes. Remove pan from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Meanwhile prepare the glaze by combining the mix with 2T hot water and mixing until smooth. Inver the cake onto a platter while it is still warm and pour the glaze over the cake. Garnish with spices, and fruit if desired. Slice and serve.

    Chef Tess Natural Fall Apple Cake

    Cream together:
    2 cups natural sugar replacement (Granular Erythritol or Xylitol)
    1/2 cup butter (or heart-healthy butter replacement)
    ½ cup egg beaters
    1 tsp double strength vanilla

    Sift together:
    2 cups 9 grain cake flour or organic cake flour
    2 tsp Chef Tess Wise Woman of the East Spice Blend ( Chef Tess Spices)
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp soda

    Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternating with 1/2 cup soy milk or low-fat buttermilk.
    Add: 3 granny smith apples (peeled, and pared and and diced)
    Bake at 350 degrees in a greased 9 by 13 inch cake pan (about 40 minutes) or 2 8 inch rounds (20-25 minutes). Frost generously with cream cheese frosting. I also add a tsp of crushed lavender petals to the sifted ingredients.

    This I did in 2 8 inch cake pans. I grease and flour the pans to keep them from sticking, but you could just line them with parchment paper.
    Cream cheese frosting (optional, not pictured above)

    1 stick (1/4 pound) regular butter, softened
    1 package (8 ounce) light cream cheese, softened
    1 pound powdered sugar (about 3 cups)
    2 teaspoons vanilla

    In large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla and blend until smooth. Don't over mix as cream cheese will separate and become runny.

    Chef Tess' Fall Natural 6 Grain Apple Pie
    5 large Jonathan or Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
    1 tsp Wise Woman of the East spice blend  (Chef Tess Spices)
    2T fresh lemon juice
    2T flour or 1T cornstarch
    2tsp double strength vanilla
    ¼ cup honey (I use flavor infused)
    Combine in a large bowl until well coated. I put the bowl in the microwave for 5 minutes on high and stir well. This helps the apples to partially cook and reduces the baking time. This may also be done on the stove-top. Once partially cooked, transfer into a 9 inch uncooked pie crust.
    For the crust you will need:
    2 1/4 cup 6 grain pastry flour (all purpose will work)
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 cup shortening (non trans fat try Spectrum organic brand)
    3 T cold water
    3 T white distilled vinegar

    Crust: Combine the flour and the salt in a large bowl. I keep the fat pretty cold. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender. combine lightly until the mix resembles course meal or tiny peas: its texture will not be uniform, but will contain small crumbs and small bits and pieces. If you don't have a pastry blender, you can certainly use the wire whisk from your mixer.Or, my personal favorite...the techno-chef fingers. Just make sure your hands are freezing cold. It's winter, I'm sure you can work that out. I use vinegar in my crust. I have for years. It helps with the flaky texture and it actually does make an amazing crust. Make a well in the dry stuff and add 3 T cold water and 3 T vinegar. You may need more or less, so go with 2 T of vinegar at first...but I can't think if the last time I needed to change the recipe and add more water or vinegar than what it says. Lightly combine, just until mixed. Over mixing the dough will always result in hard non-flake-like crust. Kneading it only a few times and making into a ball. Refrigerate about 30 minutes. It will be easier to work with, and it gives the gluten (protein in the wheat) time to rest so the dough will roll out easier. Take half of the dough. With your hands form it into a patty. I put my dough between two pieces of wax paper. I've used this method since my granny W. Forever. It's never failed me. Lightly...and I do mean lightly...wipe the counter top with a lightly damp clean washcloth. Place a piece of wax paper down, about 1 foot by 1 foot. Put the dough down. Top with another piece of wax paper of same proportions. Wax paper helps contribute to a tender crust, using extra flour on the counter instead may lead to a dry crust if overdone. Roll the dough out into a circle. This may take practice to get it just right. Take your time.
    Once to the edges of the wax paper, remove the top piece of paper. Place crust, uncovered side down in the pan, with an inch or so of crust hanging over the edge of the pan. Now remove the second piece of paper.Trim the edge so it hangs over about 3/4 inch, then fold it under so it leaves a little rim on the pan. This one comes up about 1/2 inch.

    There you go! Make some gorgeous things with apple!

    Always My Very Best,
    Your Friend Chef Tess

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Sweet Potato Biscuits 2 Ways (Video Segment)

    Here's today's segment on NBC 12 with my darling friend Syleste Rodrigez! I had such a wonderful time with these folks!

    Sweet Potato Biscuit Recipes are:  Here. In the segment I said 2 cups buttermilk, it was early. That should only be 2/3 cup buttermilk. Sorry about that. There's 2 cups of buttermilk in the gravy!

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    NBC Segment Monday with Sweet and Savory Fall Recipes and Two classes Tuesday!

    Monday morning at 5:50 AM I'll be joining my darling friend Syleste Rodrigez on NBC 12 Morning. Every time I see her I'm reminded why I love her! She's just amazing and completely real. I'm so thankful and excited to be part of the morning show! That will be here in Phoenix for some amazing Fall sweet potato biscuit variations both savory and sweet! We'll be starting with this divine sweet potato biscuit base...

    Tess' Sweet potato biscuits 
    yield 8 large or 16 small
    Dry ingredients:
    2 cups all purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
    1/2 cup butter or (organic vegetable shortening)
    1/2 tsp salt
    2T sugar (or granulated fructose)
    5 teaspoons baking powder
    1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
    Wet ingredients:
    2/3 cup milk or buttermilk
    1/3 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
    Directions: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. I cook the sausage gravy at the same time I make the biscuits.
    First you will need to mash some sweet potato. It takes about 1/2 a small sweet potato to make 1/3 cup mashed.
    Combine the sweet potato with buttermilk or milk (or water if you are vegan). The colder the liquid the better.
    In a separate bowl, combine the shortening or butter with the dry ingredients. Mix until the shortening has been cut into tiny pieces, the size of a pea. Once the liquid ingredients are combined, add them to the flour/shortening mixture. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix very gingerly Until a light dough is formed. There will be lumps and pieces of sweet potato. Knead the dough 4-5 times, then roll out on an floured counter top 1 inch thick. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes.
    While they bake you can make the sausage gravy.

    To the savory biscuits I'll be adding some Southwest seasoning, cheese and bacon! Then making this buttermilk chipotle Turkey Gravy.

    Tess' buttermilk chipotle Turkey Gravy
    1 lb lean mild turkey sausage
    1 T minced chipotle pepper (optional)
    1/4 cup minced onion
    2T minced garlic
    1/4 cup flour
    2 cups buttermilk
    1 tsp baking soda (you only need the baking soda if you use the real buttermilk here...)
    2 cups milk (You may need a little more if you prefer a gravy on the thin side.)

    In a large 16 inch family skillet with deep sides, cook the sausage over medium heat along with the chipotle pepper onion and garlic. When turkey is cooked through, add the flour and cook 3-4 minutes until dark. Add the soda and buttermilk (soda neutralizes the acid in the buttermilk so it doesn't curdle and you still get that nice slightly tart taste of the buttermilk...nice.) Add the rest of the milk stir constantly. Simmer 10-15 minutes, stir periodically. Serve over hot sweet potato biscuits. Wonderful with cranberry relish, smoked cheddar cheese and jalapeno.

    Then I'll be making some sweet shortcakes:

    Sweet Potato Breakfast Shortcakes:
    Prepare biscuit dough above, using ½ cup sugar in the dry ingredients and 1 ½ tsp cinnamon or pumpkin spice blend. Add ½ cup chopped pecans, hazelnuts or dried fruit of your choice to the biscuits as well as ½ cup chopped dark chocolate.

    Sweet Grilled Apple filling:
    2 large apples, peeled, cut and cored
    ¼ cup sugar (optional)
    ½ tsp cinnamon spice blend
    2T melted butter
    Mix apples with sugar, spice and butter. Grill on low heat with a grill pan until slightly softened and beautifully grilled. Place apples inside sweet potato breakfast shortcakes and top with a drizzle of caramel sauce, fresh whipped cream and chopped nuts if desired.

    I'll be topping ours with this:
    Orange Whip Cream
    2 cups Fresh whipped cream
    1 tsp orange zest
    ½ tsp almond extract.  

    Tuesday's classes will be:
    Honeyville Farms
    33 S. 56th Street
    Chandler, AZ. 85226 Phone:(480) 785-5210
    Creative Halloween Decorative Breads and Treats

    Tuesday Oct 23rd  10 AM 
    What is your favorite Halloween treat? I have some favorites and don't of them is decorative edible spider bread! Plus...we'll be making some spooky popcorn! Come see me! Class is free!

    Preparing Wisely 
    144 S Mesa Drive Suite D
    Mesa, AZ  85210
    (480) 964-3077

    Homemade Tortilla Tutorial Workshop

    Come join me for homemade tortilla basics using corn and flour ingredients as well as some samples of fantastic roasted corn and black bean chicken quesadillas made from 100% food storage! You'll never look at your pantry the same way a good way!

    I hope you'll join me!

    Always My Very Best,
    Your Friend Chef Tess

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Million Plus Mark Giveaway Winners!

    A few weeks ago we celebrated our first million hits and I wanted to say Thank you to all of you for your love, support, kindness, and for sharing the love with all your friends and family! The giveaway ended last night at midnight! Are you ready to see who won prizes?


    4 people will won one each of 4-Pack Spice Blends from me:
    10 Chef Tess E-books, one to each of the following:

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Food Saver Vacuum Packing Meals in a Jar Tutorial and New Louisiana Chicken Gumbo Recipe

    I shared my favorite  Paula Deen Gumbo Recipe a little while ago here on the blog as I visited my son's 4th grade class and taught some Regional foods of America. That lead to me searching the world over for some freeze dried okra so I could convert the recipe into a shelf-stable meal! Yup. I found it! Now, mind you, you don't need to use the okra. I think that it is remarkable. I've heard both sides of the okra debate. Some can't live without it. Some think it is "of the Devil." I'm with the former in my gumbo. I think it adds just a really cool depth. The freeze dried version of this gumbo cooks in 5-7 minutes. I've added instant rice to the mix so it will be thick. You can adjust the heat according to your family's tastes but I like mine hotter than my kids so this is a mild recipe and I just keep some hot sauce around for me.  I've included the links to ingredients in the recipe so if you're not sure where I normally find some specialty items, click on the ingredient. Most of my powdered sauces come from Firehouse Pantry. They're really fast with shipping and excellent with customer service. 
     Chef Tess Louisiana-Style Chicken and Rice Gumbo with Okra
    1 cup Freeze-dried Chicken (one can makes 12 quart-sized meals)
    1 cup instant rice
    1 cup  freeze-dried Okra(optional)
    1/3 cup  Freeze-dried sausage (optional)
    2T  cornstarch
    1/3 cup dehydrated onion
    1/2 cup Freeze-dried bell peppers
    1/4 cup tomato powder
    2T powdered butter
    2T Worcestershire Sauce Powder
    2T dehydrated parsley flakes
    1T  dehydrated minced garlic
    1 tsp Buffalo Wing Sauce Powder
    1 1/2 tsp chicken bullion powder (optional)
    1/2 tsp Hickory Smoke Powder

    To prepare meal: Add 4 1/2-5 cups boiling water to the meal mix. Simmer 5-7 minutes until rice and vegetables are tender. Yield 6 cups prepared gumbo. 

    Yes...this is what the freeze-dried Okra looks like! Isn't that just crazy?! I had to stop myself from eating it just like popcorn! Love it. Love. 
     Special shout-out to North Bay Trading for this one! I ordered it and got it within 3 days so it was a really fast turn-around on the shipping. I got the 1 lb bag...and it was about 2 gallons full of okra. I always forget how lightweight freeze-dried food is!
     Vacuum Packing meals:
    In the past, as today, I've been very frank about the food safety of these meals. Please be very careful to use an oxygen absorber for these jars OR a vacuum packing machine. With the use of the freeze dried meat they are not optional. They are for your safety.  Now... the Oxygen Absorber is a one time use. I've given tutorials for using those in many of my posts. Wikipedia says: "An oxygen absorber is a small packet of material used to prolong the shelf life of food. They are used in food packaging to prevent food color change, to stop oils in foods from becoming rancid, and also retard the growth of oxygen-using aerobic microorganisms such as fungi... Oxygen supports the growth of microorganisms and causes changes in color and rancid odors in packaged foods. Plastic packaging is less able to exclude oxygen from packaged foods than are the older glass and metal containers. Oxygen absorbers absorb oxygen and effectively reduce the aerobic environment to 0% oxygen. Therefore aerobic bacteria and fungi are unable to grow in this environment. This will extend the shelf life of a food product for years. The advantages of oxygen satchels versus vacuum packaging are that the food products are not crushed or squeezed, as some products are of high value and are fragile, and its simplicity of use."

    Many people have asked about using a Food Saver Vacuum Sealer. In the past I've said that this is a good idea but not really gone into the simple basics on how to use this machine. You can thank The-Mega-Mom and the Pansy Man  (aka my mom and dad) who sent me this new FoodSaver® V3835 Vacuum Sealer Kit for Christmas last year. I don't know why it took me so long to post this tutorial. Forgive me. It is a really easy tool. 

     The FoodSaver comes with a retractable hose attachment that can be used with their jar attachments. 
     Do FoodSaver® Jar Sealer attachments work with all mason jars? Food Saver Vacuum Sealer  Jar Sealer is designed for Ball® and Kerr® brand wide-mouth and regular mason jars. Wide-mouth Jar Sealers can only be used with wide-mouth jars. Regular Jar Sealers are only for regular mason jars.
    They have a Lid Sealer Accessory Kit that has attachments for both wide and regular mouth jars as well as stoppers for bottles. 
    The rubber seal on the inside looks like this...
     The retractable hose fits in the top of the attachment.
     Put your mason jar lid on top of your jar (not the ring, just the metal lid),

    and then fit the entire vacuum lid unit over the top of your jar lid.
    Obviously this isn't a picture of the Gumbo...but this is how it works.

     Turn on the sealer using the "attachment" mode. It will vacuum all the air out of the jar and shut off automatically when all the air is out of the jar. Label the jars clearly with cooking instructions. I personally prefer to tighten the metal ring onto the jars after they are sealed. This just makes them more secure for transport. 
     If a meal has a lot of powder ingredients, you can still use the jar attachment. 
     I personally prefer to cut a coffee filter down to fit inside the jar or you can also use a cupcake liner. 

    This Food Saver Vacuum Sealer is really simple to operate.  There are many different models. Just make sure that the one you use for meals in a jar is designed to use the hose attachments.  

    There you go! Make some gumbo!

    Always My Very Best,
    Your Friend Chef Tess