Thanksgiving: The (upside) run-down

Yes this looks almost the same as last year, but why mess with what works?

 

Whenever you cook a giant meal, somethings got to give, and depending on what that something is, you either have a giant success, or a giant mess. Before I tell you what this year’s “something” was, I will say, this year was a giant success.

 

Worth every OCD-inducing minute.

 

Here are some things I learned this Thanksgiving:

 

When you have an old oven, you must be prepared to sit there and watch as your oven thermometer goes up and down with no rhyme or reason, or concordance with the actual temperature-dial.  This oven assumes you have nothing better to do.

 

Even if you cook several things beforehand, there will be an hour when you are absolutely nuts, when you can’t stand people coming into the kitchen, and when you are a bit of a terror. It’s the price of a good cook.

 

Gravy – good, from scratch gravy – is a bitch. For those who like to have a complex savory-yet-sweet flavor, it is a long road. Also, gravy never comes out the same every year. You may find yourself putting odd things into it, but it really doesn’t matter – it’s your secret.

 

Getting baked.

 

No matter how many pies you make, they will be gone very quickly – if not that night, the next morning. (We are all animals when it comes to homemade pie. Especially pecan. Damn.

 

And finally, some things that are completely wrong come out completely right. Case in point: this year, I cooked the turkey upside-down. I shall explain: My turkey came in a bag that was hard to see through (spices and such) and when I shoved it in the oven at 9 am I must have missed the fact that it was in fact, face-down (breast-down? whatever). I didn’t notice it was thus until, whilst carving, I wondered why there was no breast meat on my turkey.

 

Ha.

 

BUT – as it turns out, this works. Cooking the turkey upside down ensures that the dark meat is done and that the breast meat is very moist – perfectly so. All the juices go to the bottom of the bag and hang out in the white meat. My fellow diners suggested that I should make this mistake next year. Who knew?

 

This year, I am thankful that my mistakes turned out to be blessings, and I had people I love to share them with – even if those people drove me crazy, I am thankful that it’s always a good day.

 

Coming up: a pie you need to make.

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Gluten-Free Coffee Cake Muffins

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Sunday mornings are perfect for muffins. Throw in an afternoon walk and eat 2. Or three. Or watch a run of pseudo chick flicks on cable. It’s that kind of day.

~ Gluten-Free Coffee Cake Muffins ~

Adapted from The Cook Book

Makes 12 small or 8 large muffins

Streusel Topping:

  • 3 tbsp gluten-free flour (1/2 sorghum, 1/2 tapioca flour)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 3 tbsp chopped pecans

Muffin Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (1/2 sorghum, 1/2 tapioca flour )
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (thinned out slightly) or soy milk

 

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For topping: In a small bowl, sir together 3 tbsp flour, sugar, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Cut in 2 tbsp butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans, set aside.

For batter: in a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Cut in butter.

In a small bowl combine egg and thinned-out plain yogurt – I used a plain lactose-free variety from Green Valley Organics. (Original recipe calls for buttermilk and plain yogurt adds an extra tang and improves texture.) Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stir until just moistened – battery should be lumpy and slightly thicker than pancake batter. If too thick, thin out with soymilk. Take care not to over-mix.

Spoon half of batter into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Top with half of streusel topping, add remaining half of batter, and top with rest of streusel topping. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes; cool on rack and serve warm.

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Product Review: The Gluten Free Bar

We all know how hard it is to find a protein or meal bar that meets all expectations – I myself usually end up eating a protein bar with dairy because there aren’t other options. The folks at the Gluten Free Bar were kind enough to send me some samples to try – and I’m always happy to try samples!

They sent me three flavors: peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, and cranberry almond. That stats for these bars are quite impressive: vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, with 12 grams of protein. They’re also a decent size, which is important. Usually bars like this are “raw-” in other words, made mostly of nuts and dried fruit, which makes them very high in calories (sometime upwards of 400 cals/bar).

If I compare them to the bar I normally eat in the morning at work (some form of this) they stack up pretty well, though clearly they don’t have as high amounts of protein and fiber. They do however have less saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates.

However, the big difference here is the ingredients: the gf bar is dairy-free. This is huge – it is extremely different to find a protein bar that doesn’t use dairy. I can tolerate small levels of dairy, but there are days when I just can’t add any extra irritants into my system (don’t we all have those days). They’re also quite tasty, with a texture that falls somewhere between a lara bar and a power bar. The bars are chewy and slightly-sweet – the peanut butter chocolate and the peanut butter are the best flavors. What I also liked was that they were rolled out into a large, thin squares which took longer to eat than the typical bar-size. They kept me full till lunch, and no stomach ache!

The only con: they aren’t available in any stores in the bay area yet, so you have to buy them online, and they are a little expensive – about $28 for a box of 12. I imagine if you find them in stores they will cost you more. But if you have the means, definitely check them out.

In all, a strong A.

Buy them here

And Now for Something Completely Frivolous: Gluten-free Marshmallow Cereal Squares

Oh Pinterest, sometimes you are silly (see this for proof), but sometimes you are genius. Because without you, I never would have thought to make a batch of these last Friday.

They are super colorful, not all that good for you, and full of sugar.  (Though they’re pretty low on fat, if I stop to think about it.) In other words, fun.

~ Gluten-Free Marshmallow Cereal Squares ~

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan (if made with vegan marshmallows)

I used Trix, but you can use any gluten-free cereal you like. I was THISCLOSE to using Reece’s Puffs (for obvious reasons – they are puffs of Reece’s), but opted for the Trix because it had 1.5 grams less fat per serving, because that matters when you’re making something that is 85% sugar.  (Ssssh. It does.) Also, the squares come out looking like something straight out of a Lisa Frank-themed party, which makes this very sneezy-itchy-allergy time of year seem a little better.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups gluten-free cereal of choice
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance
  • 1 bag marshmallows

Melt Earth Balance over low heat in a non-stick skillet, add marshmallows. Stir occasionally until marshmallows are completely melted (a silicone spatula works wonders here), mix half of the cereal into mixture while pan is still over very low heat.

Once incorporated, add remaining cereal and smooth out into a lightly-greased pan (a few sprays of Pam will do). A baking pan about 10 x 10 will work. Let sit till cooled, cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

A Note: If you make these with a gf rice cereal, there is a certain one that many health food stores sell in bulk that doesn’t work as well in this recipe. They look like Rice Crispies (without the malt) but they’re much harder and crunchier, and don’t soften up as well after being combined with the marshmallow – they come out more crunchy than chewy. Last summer we were promised a GF version of Rice Crispies, but I have yet to see them on shelves. In the end I think you’re better off with a fun cereal. Kix would be good too!

Gluten-Free Rum Balls (or Easter Eggs!)

These rum balls, while traditionally made around the holidays, are a perfect “adult” treat for Easter – if you’re feeling particularly grown-up you could even dip them in dark chocolate. This recipe is easily adaptable if rum isn’t your thing, though coconut rum sounds perfect for Easter!

 ~* Gluten-Free Rum Balls *~

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan

A food processor is the quick way to go here, but if you don’t have one you could try crushing the  cookies/nuts with a mallet.

Best made a couple days in advance

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten-free wafers (or other crisp gf cookie)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup powdered  sugar, plus sugar for coating
  • 1/3 cup rum (spiced, coconut, etc.)

I doubled the recipe, hence 2 cups of crumbs

Begin by pulsing cookies (I used GF animal crackers in a pinch, though I think there are better alternatives out there) into large crumbs – make sure you do not crush them too finely! I made this mistake initially and it made for a very gooey rum ball that wouldn’t firm up until I added extra powdered sugar. You want large crumbs, not flour. Same goes for the walnuts – if you even just chop them with a knife that works too.

Once your cookies and walnuts are ready, assemble them in a separate bowl (again, if you process everything together it’s quicker but you run the risk of chopping everything too finely); add powdered sugar.

Pour in corn syrup, and slowly mix in rum, taking care that the mixture does not become too wet or sticky. (Conversely, if it’s too dry you can add more rum.) Using a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop, form the batter into small balls and roll in powdered sugar. Let sit on parchment paper to set. If you’re having trouble working with the dough, set it in the fridge until if firms up a bit.

Place rum balls in a parchment-lined cookie tin or container and – here’s the hard part – let sit for a few days for the best flavor. If you like a very firm rum ball, you can keep them in the fridge, though honestly they get better with time if they sit out on the counter.

How many is too many? Up to you!

If you’re making Easter eggs, roll balls into egg-shapes and decorate with chocolate. You can also add cocoa powder for extra chocolate flavor!


Yes I’m still alive, and here’s a recipe! (Gluten-free lemon layer cake)

Oh my, how the weeks fly by when you are busy. Sometimes it’s a blessing, other times… not so much. I haven’t had a day with nothing to do in quite awhile. But on a happier note, good things are going around and it’s nice to be employed and living in a beautiful place. And since I moved last weekend, I now have a new kitchen to play with – if I ever have the time! For now, here’s a recipe from a month or so ago…

~* Gluten-Free Lemon Layer Cake *~

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

 This recipe has a lot of steps, but it’s completely worth it. It works best if you make the cake and lemon curd the night before so everything has time to cool. Freezing the cakes overnight will help keep them from crumbling or falling apart during assembly (as some gf cakes tend to do). You don’t have to use greek yogurt here, but it adds tangy moisture to the cake. The lemon curd is absolutely fantastic- use it in any recipe for lemon tarts or with fresh scones! (put in link)

For the filling:

  • Zest from two lemons
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks (reserve whites for the cake)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen

For the cake:

  • 1 cup sorghum flour, plus more for dusting cake pans
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup millet flour
  • 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter substitute) cut into tablespoons, softened

For the icing (“seven-minute” recipe):

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Tip: when working with lemons, always use non-reactive cookware and utensils!

 For the filling: Soften gelatin by measuring 1 tbsp lemon juice into small bowl and sprinkling gelatin over top. Heat remaining lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high hear, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolved and mixture is hot but not boiling.

Separate 6 large eggs, saving whites for the cake. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg yolks together, temper the mixture by slowly pouring hot lemon-sugar mixture into eggs, and then return the mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with heat-proof spatula until mixture reaches 170 degrees. It should be thick enough to leave a trail on the spoon and across the bottom of the saucepan. Watch out for sputters once the curd gets hot!

Quickly remove pan from heat and stir in frozen butter until melted; continue to stir until smooth. Pour filling though a fine-mesh strainer into a non-reactive bowl – definitely don’t skip this step! A smooth curd is especially important when you’re using it as cake filling. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate till its firm enough to spread; at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour two nine-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper (trust me, with a sticky gf cake you do not want to skip this step!)

Whisk together Greek yogurt, egg whites, and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing mixture, mix flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt at low speed with the paddle attachment. With the mixer running at low speed, add butter one chunk at a time, and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs with no large butter pieces (like a scone or biscuit dough). Add all but ½ cup yogurt mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed till batter is pale and fluffy, about 1 ½ minutes. With mixer running at low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture; increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium speed and beat 20 seconds
longer. Divide batter evenly between cake pans, even out tops.

Bake on center rake, rotating cakes halfway through, until toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto greased wire rack; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again; cool completely on rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight if desired. (Freezing often improves gf texture)


Now, the fun part! To assemble: Mix chilled curd with spoon until spread-able. With a serrated knife, cut each cake into 2 even layers, taking care not to break layers. Brush off crumbs. Place bottom cake on cake plate/cardboard, and spread 1 cup lemon filling evenly on cake, leaving a ½ inch border around the edge. Gently add second layer, spread 1 cup filling on top. Repeat with third layer. Place fourth layer on top, smooth out any filling that has leaked out from the layers. Refrigerate while making icing.

For the icing: Combine all ingredients in bowl of standing mixer or large heatproof bowl and set over medium saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture registers 160 degrees, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and transfer mixture to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, 5 minutes longer. Using a spatula, spread frosting on cake, starting with the top layer, working icing down the sides.

Cake can be refrigerated up to one day before serving, and be aware that once the marshmallow-y icing sets, you won’t be able to smooth out any nicks.

A perfect Spring-y birthday cake!

Holiday Photo Overload!

qGluten-Free Rum Balls

photo4 Gluten-Free Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

1 Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies

7The Before

m Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie

photo 2    Gluten-Free Checkerboard Cookies

Recipes coming soon!

An Especially Tasty Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole

dinner2I spotted this recipe on Oh She Glows, one of my favorite food blogs, last holiday season, and little did I know what an impact it would have on this year’s Thanksgiving! Seriously, it turns regular yams/sweet potatoes into magic.

It’s sweet, but not too sweet to be a side-dish, and the topping is crispy and delicious. It’s also pretty darn easy to make. Perfect for breakfast the next morning too!

While you can make this while your turkey is cooking, I baked it the night before and reheated it at 350 while the turkey was resting; it took around 30m – just keep an eye on it. You don’t have to add the pecans, but I firmly suggest you do; they lend a very tasty pecan-pie flavor.

~* Gluten and Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Casserole *~

(Vegan Too!)

adapted from Oh She Glows

Oven Temp: 350, Pan Size: 2 quart casserole dish

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans

cass2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and boil sweet potatoes/yams until tender. Drain and mash the sweet potatoes with Earth Balance until smooth – leave a few chunks to keep it “rustic.”cass3

Whisk together the maple syrup, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; add to sweet potatoes. Transfer mixture into a lightly-greased (with canola oil) casserole dish.

Using a fork (or your fingers), mix together the topping ingredients until well combined; it helps to have softened butter. Add pecans last. Sprinkle topping over sweet potatoes and bake for 50 minutes, checking to make sure topping does not burn. cass5

This dish is ridiculously versatile; it works for breakfast, brunch, potlucks, dessert. Dessert especially if you are someone who likes their desserts without overwhelming sweetness. Something about the twice-cooking/baking of the sweet potatoes really improves the sweet potato texture too.

And if, when shopping, you get confused about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, usually what is labeled as a yam is actually a sweet potato. The USDA now requires the “yam” label to always be accompanied by “sweet potato.” It’s very unlikely to find a real yam here in the U.S. Bottom line is to look for the ones which dark orange flesh and reddish-brown skin.

2sweetpotatovsyam SweetPotato2

Creamy Vegan and Gluten-Free Potato Soup

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Yesterday I had lunch with my mom at Slice of Life, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Sebastopol, and we had a very tasty blended potato and vegetable soup. It was so tasty, in fact, that I decided to make my own version. 

This recipe has many lovely attributes: it’s gluten and dairy-free (of course), vegan, filling, low in fat, high in nutrients, and cheap economical. If you buy all these items in bunches, you can even get another full recipe out of it.

~*Creamy Vegan Potato and Veggie Soup*~

Makes a medium pot of soup, or around 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 small, fit-in-your-palm size yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1/2 of one large yellow onion
  • olive oil
  • soup seasoning mix, or veggie/chicken broth (obv. chicken is not vegan)
  • any other desired seasonings; salt, pepper, etc.

Peel and wash potatoes; cut russets into 2-inch pieces and yukon’s into 1-inch chunks. Chop peeled carrots and 3 of the celery stalks into 1-inch long pieces, and dice the remaining stalk into small pieces, the same size you normally use for aromatics. Slice onion so the layers are in 2/3 inch-long pieces. image

Drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom of your pan; sauté the diced celery and onion for a few minutes over high heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the onion starts to get transparent, add the potatoes and remaining veggies, along with a healthy sprinkling of your seasonings.

I used a no-salt mixture along with a seasoning/soup mix and water in lieu of a broth. My favorite kind of soup mix is Vegeta, which I was turned onto by my boyfriend’s Russian mother. You might have to go to a European grocery or store like World Market to get it, though I haven’t actually looked for it in the regular grocery. Per the directions, you add about a couple spoonfuls to the pot of water. It’s quite tasty, but you can use bullion or broth if you like.

Add enough water/broth to just cover the ingredients, and stir in the seasoning. Cover and simmer the soup over medium-low heat until the veggies and potatoes are soft and cooked, around 20-30 minutes. Check halfway to see if you need to add more salt, seasoning, etc. Tip: if the soup has too much of a salty-vegetable flavor add something sweet, like juice or a teaspoon of sugar.

1 To blend the soup using a blender, fill it up and add just enough  of the broth for it to blend; mix on high for a few seconds until it’s smooth. If you like your soup with a little bite like I do, only partially blend the rest of the soup so that there are still chunks of the veggies and potatoes, and mix it in with the smoother first batch.

There’s something about blending the potatoes with the veggies that makes this magic; it’s thick and creamy comfort food without that heavy feeling. And the best thing? Leftovers!

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Forget Ramen noodles and all that other cheap crap people are forced to eat when they’re short on cash; this is the kind of inexpensive food that not only fills you up, but keeps you healthy too!

Gluten-Free Date-Meringue Bars

19 It has been interesting around here lately, but some things are certain; the seasons will change, you will get that back-to-school cold (even when you are no longer going back to school), and you will get the urge to bake. And if you’re like me, that cold-thing will make you scour the cabinets for ingredients instead of making a trip to the store. 

It began with a bag of bulk-medjool dates. They have haunted my cupboard for longer than I care to admit, so I googled “date bars” and discovered this little gem of a recipe on food.com. Using online recipes is always a risk when there aren’t photos or many directions to go with it, especially when it’s on one of those huge submission-based sites. This recipe had only one review, but the person gave it five-stars so I figured I’d give it a go. The nice thing about these bare-bones recipes is that you can work easily with them once you’ve gotten familiar with your basic ingredients.

So the moral is, for every chocolate-coffee cookie flop (yep, that happened) you get lucky with a bar like this. I think I knew it would be fabulous when I caught a whiff of the dates in the saucepan; who knew dates were such chameleons? The result is a bar with the taste of pecan pie, the crunch of walnuts, and the fluffiness of a meringue topping.

In short, it tastes like Fall.

~ Gluten-Free Date-Meringue Bars ~

There’s something about the richness of the filling with the lightness of the meringue that is a match made in dessert-heaven.

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Ingredients

For bottom layer:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter substitute
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tbsp molasses (optional, but adds nutrition and deep flavor)
  • 1 1/4 cups GF flour (whatever mixture you like best; I happened to have about  1/4c sorghum, 1/2c tapioca, and the rest brown rice flour.)

For date filling:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • handful of raisins

For meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional, but helpful if your whites ever happen to collapse of if you’re using a hand-mixer)

1 Beat together butter and granulated sugar, add egg yolks, vanilla, and molasses. Mix in flour and blend until batter comes together; it will look much like a shortbread dough.

3

Press into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Keep in fridge until filling is ready. 

6

Add water, chopped dates, raisins, and brown sugar into medium saucepan, cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened (about 10 minutes).

 7 Once mixture starts to bubble about halfway in, add chopped walnuts. Mush up the dates a bit with your spoon; watch as your dried-out dates turn into sweet, gooey deliciousness.

10

Pour filling over bottom layer; spread evenly.

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For meringue: beat egg whites  and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar until frothy, slowly add brown sugar one tsp at a time. Once all sugar is added and you’re at soft peaks, add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and crank up the speed!

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Beat to stiff peak stage, or when the meringue stand up on top of the whisk, and spread over filling.

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  [Image this peak flipping up and curling]

15

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. If meringue begins to brown too much, cover with aluminum foil partway through.

Let cool on a wire rack until meringue is cooled and starts to pull away from the pan; serve warm!

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Notes:

  • If you view the original recipe, you’ll see I added a few things to it, which you can just as easily take away if they;re not your thing. The molasses, however, is seriously delicious. Pecans could be substituted for the walnuts.
  • If you only have dates, increase amount to 1 1/2 cups and cut out raisins and walnuts.
  • Recipe calls for a 9 x 7 inch pan, but really who has that on hand? 8×8 is much more accessible, in my opinion.

 

Overall, not bad for a scrounged-up recipe, I must say.

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