The Daring Bakers July Challenge - GF Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

Wow!  This challenge almost got the best of me!  It comes from a recipe found in Great Cakes by Carol Walter.  I was excited to bake a cake made with hazelnuts and chocolate, one of my favorite combinations, but felt pretty overwhelmed by all the steps.  My husband stepped in as sous chef just to help me make sure I didn't forget something! And did I mention the dishes? Even with the use of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and my electric beaters and my food processor, I still needed them all at least twice so I was washing dishes as fast as I was using them.  But the real test, that first bite resulting from my laborious project, was it really worth it? Will I make this again? I really want to say yes, but in all honesty the jury's still out on this one. The ganache, which I love, was just a little too much for this cake.  The hazelnut flavor was weak and the flavor from the peach glaze was nonexistent.  Don't get me wrong, the cake was delicious, but I can get similar results with a lot less work.  I'm hoping that a night in the fridge will help enhance the flavors so I'll be able to post an update about how amazing this tastes 24 hours later.  We'll see.

Even though this didn't turn out the way I hoped, I learned so much throughout the process and I'm happy that I took the challenge.  Some things I did for the first time during this challenge were clarifying butter, roasting hazelnuts and removing their skin, and making Swiss Buttercream.  Now I won't be so intimidated the next time I come across these things in a recipe (although I'm still a bit scared of the Swiss Buttercream!)

I followed the recipe as direct substituting a gluten free flour blend for the flour and adding a 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum to the cake batter.  I also did not use any alcohol flavorings and I used a peach glaze as opposed to the apricot used in the original recipe.  You can find the entire recipe here.

Pasta Fresca

This is my spin on the Pasta Fresca dish served at Noodles and Company.  Not only is it delicious, but it's a great way to use some of the zucchini and cherry tomatoes we have growing in our garden.

Pasta Fresca
(serves 4)

8oz GF pasta (I like Trader Joe's organic brown rice pasta)
1 medium zucchini cut into bite size pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup baby spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon better than bouillon chicken base
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Get your pasta water going first so that you can get everything else prepared and cooked while the pasta is boiling.  Cook pasta as directed on package.  Steam zucchini for 5-7 minutes (while the pasta is cooking so they finish together.  You could boil you zucchini with your pasta if you'd like, but sometimes it gets a bit mushy for my taste.)

In a saute pan on medium heat, heat oil and add minced garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  You don't want the garlic to burn.  Add onion, balsamic vinegar, water, and bouillon. Reduce heat and simmer until onions are soft, about 7 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  

When pasta is cooked, drain water.  Add pasta, zucchini, tomatoes and spinach to the balsamic vinegar mixture and combine. (Spinach will wilt from the heat). Serve with parmesan cheese.

Cucumber Alert!

Our garden is being overtaken by cucumbers!  While we enjoy a good cucumber now and again we’re running out of ways to eat them.  Vinegar cucumbers makes a refreshing side but gets a little old after serving it 3 days in a row!  Please share your ideas before we run into a cucumber emergency!!!

Santa Fe Quinoa Salad

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has a very similar size and texture to couscous. This recipe is from Donna Klein's cookbook "The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Kitchen" and it's our go to salad for summer BBQ's and potlucks. It's fresh and flavorful and especially delicious with home grown cherry tomatoes. I follow the original recipe with one addition- the juice of 1/2 a lime. It adds a bit of freshness and brightens up the salad quite nicely.

Santa Fe Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup mild or medium picante sauce
1 cup quinoa, rinsed under cold water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn (sweet white tastes best)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil (I don't usually add this)
juice from 1/2 a lime (not in original recipe)

In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the water, picante sauce, quinoa, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and toss with a fork.

Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Add remaining ingredients to the quinoa, tossing well to combine. Serve slightly warm or let cool to room temperature. Alternatively, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and serve chilled.

Sticky Caramel Popcorn

This ooey, gooey, sticky, and oh so delicious recipe hails from my friend Ellen who happens to be one of the best cooks I know! It's quick and easy too!

Sticky Caramel Popcorn
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter (1 cube)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 Cups popcorn kernels

Bring to boil over medium heat brown sugar, corn syrup and butter. Boil for 1 minute, turn heat to low and add sweetened condensed milk. Meanwhile pop popcorn kernels and place in a large paper sack or very large bowl. Pour caramel sauce over popcorn and shake/stir until caramel is evenly distributed. Store in a covered container.


I'm a bit of a banana snob. I eat a sliced banana with my corn crunch-ems every morning for breakfast and when I take each bite there is a specific flavor that I am anticipating. I won't eat green bananas in my cereal and if there's even a touch of brown on the peel it's past it's breakfast due date. Two things I learned growing up with 9 brothers and sisters are #1 bananas rarely are around long enough to go bad and #2 with 12 mouths to feed there is no wasted food (a mantra that I still live by , much to my husbands chagrin!). I've got a pretty good banana system going for me. Green bananas sit on the table until they reach the perfect yellow shade. At this point I've got 2-3 days (4-5 in the winter) to eat the bananas and then the day I can tell is their last before brown spots appear I peel and freeze whatever is left for smoothies. Because the bananas are frozen at the peak of ripeness sugar is not needed for a delicious smoothie. And don't worry, banana bread is one of my favorites so any banana that starts going brown still has a beautiful ending to look forward to!

Here are my two favorite smoothie recipes:

Banana Berry Smoothie
1 cup milk or vanilla soy milk
1 frozen banana
1 cup fresh or frozen berry of your choice (blueberry is my favorite)

Put ingredients in a blender, mix until smooth and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 cup mil or vanilla soy milk
1 frozen banana
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
2 Tablespoons chocolate protein powder

Put ingredients in a blender, mix until smooth and enjoy!