Tag Archives: no wheat

Garbanzo “Meatballs” with Spaghetti Squash

I take the same route to drop my son off at preschool every morning.  Some days I consider going a different way just to make the synapses in my brain do something different (and no, I have no idea if that is what synapses actually do).  But I usually go the same way, making the same familiar turns, crossing the main roads at easier intersections with less traffic.  Something that you only do after you have lived in a town for many, many years.  I sneak through the alley ways and the back streets.  The car drives itself.

Along my way, I see the beautiful elderly woman walking her little yippy dog.  In my estimation, she doesn’t belong here.  She wears large Jackie O style glasses and is dressed impeccably for her morning walk.  This morning she had on a bright blue oxford shirt with a hot pink, tailored jacket.  Her dog is often dressed as nicely as she is.  She walks everywhere, but it seems like she should occupy the streets of the Upper East Side instead of this small town.  One day I saw her near my daughter’s school without her dog and with her hand bandaged.  I imagined what had happened and worried about her for a day or two, after which I thankfully saw her walking with her dog again.  She is always otherwise alone.

When my daughter was in daycare and I was still working, every morning we would drive past the high school on our way to her school.  Every day we saw a man walking with a newspaper that he bought at the grocery store down the street.  The weather never mattered.  If it were raining, he’d carry it in a bag.  If it were sunny, he’d hold it under his arm.  My two year old daughter affectionately called him “newspaper man” every time we’d pass.  Then our route changed.  I quit my job and he was no longer on our morning agenda.  We saw him the other day walking far from his normal route.  At 10, she still remembered him.

Yesterday, while I was walking in my neighborhood, I passed a very elderly woman slowly strolling arm-in-arm with a much younger caregiver.  I have never actually passed her while walking on the street — only by car. My earliest memories of her (from years ago) are walking while holding hands with her very elderly husband. I always noticed because I wondered whether my husband and I would still want to hold hands at that age. Was it because they were still in love or was it simply to steady each other?  One day I saw her walking and he was absent.  For the first few days I imagined he might be ill.  She needed fresh air.  I’ve never seen him again.  Yesterday, I wanted to look her in the eyes and tell her that I was sorry for her loss.

I turned 40 last week.  I just noticed that my uncle is turning 70 in a few days.  He was 30 when I was born. I was 25 when my nephew was born.  My brain furiously calculates numbers that it should ignore.  Subtractions, additions, comparisons.  I’ll be this when that.

Mid-life crisis seems too cliché.  Too self indulgent.

But I’m post-babies who need moment-to-moment care.  I have no career to speak of, having abandoned it so I could perform that moment-to-moment care.  I’m walking the same streets and I don’t know whether to rejoice in the routine or scream out loud in panic.

Garbanzo “Meatballs” with Spaghetti Squash

Makes 15 meatballs

10 ounces of green garbanzos (available at our Wegman’s in the organic frozen foods.  Could also use edamame.)
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup crushed rice cereal (Brown Rice Krispies or Rice Chex style cereal)
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
1/4 cup olive oil, plus one tablespoon
4 tablespoons marinara sauce
1 medium spaghetti squash
Additional Marinara Sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Split spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove seeds.  Rub cut surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place it cut side down in a baking pan and bake for about 45 minutes until it is tender and a knife pierces it easily.

3.  Meanwhile, combine the garbanzos, garlic, italian seasoning, fennel, salt and pepper, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse about five times.  You want to leave a lot of texture to it.

4.  Remove garbanzo mixture to a bowl and stir in crushed rice cereal, 4 T marinara sauce, and 1 T of additional olive oil (if necessary to hold the mixture together).  Season with additional salt and pepper or spices to taste.  Stir in fresh basil or parsley.

5.  Form garbanzo mixture into meatball shapes and bake for about 12-15 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven (that gives them a little “crust”). (You can also make these ahead of time and chill in the refrigerator.)

6.  When spaghetti squash is finished, use a fork to scrape the strands into a bowl.  Toss with a bit of olive, salt and pepper, and additional fresh herbs if you like.  Serve the squash with a few garbanzo meatballs and marinara sauce.

 

 

Gluten-Free Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Sunbutter Mousse Frosting

I am having a hard time listening to my own voice lately.  The words are all the same … “Eat over your plate, please. Do not get in the pool until your sunscreen is on.  Why did you just get in the pool without sunscreen? It’s not too hot. It’s summer.  Don’t come back inside.  You are not bored.  No, we can’t get donuts.  Get along.  I have no idea what we’re having for dinner.  And I don’t know when it will be ready.  Clean up the Playmobil or I’m throwing it away. Hang up your towel.  Hang up your bathing suit.   No, we are not watching TV.  If that little asshole spraying us with the water cannon doesn’t stop, I’m going to lose my shit.”

Well maybe I just *thought* the last one.  OK, I actually said it out loud just yesterday, but it was under my breath.

But I’m doing this all without beer, people.  Because, once again, I am not eating/drinking gluten and wheat (with the exception of a few I couldn’t turn down).  And it’s working — miraculously, or perhaps, predictably — and my sinuses and ears have never felt better.  I won’t bore you with the boring details though.

I haven’t done much gluten-free baking and was a little overwhelmed with the combination of flours and ingredients that one must use in order to approximate wheat flour.  Sorghum, potato, corn, xanthan gum … just not your normal pantry ingredients.  I’m starting to stock up, but I really liked the idea of a one flour, whole grain solution when I saw a chocolate cupcake recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Quinoa Flour.  I’m sure I’ll get into the science experiments eventually (when I have  a huge pantry), but for now I’m going to try to keep it simple.

Beyond, I’d prefer to take a more whole foods approach to gluten-free.  As much as I like some of the substitute products, some of the ingredient lists are terrifying.   The cookies might be good, but I think we learned our lesson with Snackwells, didn’t we?  These cupcakes utilize only quinoa flour, which is a complete protein and closer to a vegetable than a grain.  I’ve modified the recipe to include chocolate chips and frosted them with a sunbutter mousse frosting.   The texture is great and I think the quinoa flavor (which can be somewhat stronger than normal flour) is tamed by the chocolate.

And I do appreciate the irony of discussing healthy foods as I type up a recipe for cupcakes with chocolate, butter, cream cheese, sunbutter, and sugar.  It’s still not every day food — but it’s an improvement. And forgive me, a girl needs a good chocolate treat when she’s not drinking beer.

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Sunbutter Mousse Frosting

Cupcake recipe modified from Bob’s Red Mill

Makes one dozen with some leftover frosting

Cupcakes:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups quinoa flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup of chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-8 ounce package of light cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
6 T butter, softened
1/2 cup Sunbutter (or other nut butter of your choice)
1 t vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin or cupcake tin with twelve paper liners (or grease well).

2.  In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and water over medium heat, stirring until melted together.  Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder.

3.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add in the cocoa mixture along with the two egg yolks, the vanilla, and the sour cream.  Mix batter until combined well.  Stir in chocolate chips.

4.  In a separate medium bowl, beat the two egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Fold the beaten egg whites into the cupcake batter with a rubber spatula.  You want it to be well combined, but you don’t want the egg whites to deflate too much.

5.  Pour batter into prepared cupcake liners, making each cupcake about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 15 minutes until nicely puffed and crackly on top.

6.  While cupcakes are baking and/or cooling, make the frosting by creaming together the butter, sunbutter, and cream cheese until well mixed using an electric mixer.  Add in the powdered sugar and mix slowly until incorporated and then turn up to high and mix until very light and fluffy.  Mix in vanilla extract.  Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

 

Garlic Scape Pesto with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Garlic Scapes.  Who knew they even existed?  They are not the kind of thing you generally see on a grocery store shelf and people very rarely know what they are unless they garden or belong to a CSA.  I will be completely honest that I had never seen them before joining our farm share — and I love to cook with unique ingredients.  So technically speaking, the garlic scape is the green stalk of a young garlic plant.  (They continue to exist when the plant matures, they just aren’t really edible any more.)  Obviously, they have a very garlicky flavor, but are somewhat like a cross between garlic and a curly, dense scallion.

As I was making the pesto last night, I began to think of the many uses for it.  It is truly delicious and I think I like it more than regular basil pesto.  On the simplest level, toss some of the warm scape pesto with hot pasta and you have a treat.  We did that last night with some local asparagus, which made a great, light dinner.  (BTW, I am not eating wheat right now, so I had the Bionaturae gluten-free spaghetti and it was delicious.  Highly recommend it for those off gluten or wheat.)  The kids absolutely devoured it and wanted more.

But other than pasta, the possibilities are endless — mixed in with sour cream and/or cream cheese for a dip or spread, as a sauce on a white pizza with fresh mozzarella, in omelets, mixed into soups or tomato sauces, extended with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar for a salad dressing, tossed with veggies for roasting, mixed with white beans and sausage for a warm salad, used as a basis for a pasta salad, spread on toasts or bruschetta for a quick appetizer (or on a sandwich), or mixed into hummus or white bean dip, etc.

The pesto keeps well in the refrigerator and it is also easily frozen so you can enjoy it when the garlic scapes are no longer around. This version is nut-free for my allergic daughter, but I love the richness of the toasted pumpkin seeds. I’m sure any type of nuts or seeds would work, however.

Get to the farmer’s market now and ask around for garlic scapes.  If you are like me, you will want to eat this directly off the spoon.

Garlic Scape Pesto with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

15 garlic scapes, trimmed and roughly chopped
3/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 cup olive oil
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1.  In the bowl of a food processor, add garlic scapes, toasted pumpkin seeds, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Process until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.

2.  Place into a small bowl and stir in parmesan cheese.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

 

Banana Pudding Popsicles

Maybe it’s been the heat, or my lack of air conditioning during the heat, but I’ve been thinking about Jell-O Banana Pudding Pops lately.  I generally believe that the entirely random thoughts that breeze through our brains are on their way to the discard pile — unless we pay attention to them.  Then they are preserved for a new period of time.  I am not a neurobiologist, but I’m pretty sure that this is how it works.  And I think that the period of time is approximately 28 years, because there is no way I’ve enjoyed a Pudding Pop since I was about 10 or 11.  You can confirm that 28 year time period with your “science” if you like.  But I prefer to trust Bill Cosby.

So, I actually sort of forgot that Jell-O Banana Pudding Pops even existed (and how much I loved them), but I did confirm with the Internet and it is clear that I did not dream this. There were multiple flavors — chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate-vanilla swirl at the basic level.  But I remember loving the banana ones.  And my friend Beth remembers that there was something printed on the popsicle sticks.  Was it a contest?  A fortune?  We clearly let go of that piece of factual information sometime in college when we were killing brain cells with ridiculous amounts of Yuengling Lager.  Anyone else remember? Or have more energy than I do to perform a Google search to find out? Good for you.

When I decided to replicate the pudding pops, every recipe that I found (surprise!) started out with Jell-O Pudding. This is all well and good — but it’s not really recipe worthy. So I made a simple homemade vanilla pudding and then pureed ripe bananas into it.   It would be equally good with any flavor of pudding (chocolate, caramel, etc.) or with any type of fruit pureed into it.  Strawberries would be great.  But that’s not how Bill envisioned it.  So I’m sticking with an original flavor.

It’s not an original method because I made it from scratch, but I think Bill would be OK with it because we generally agree on most topics.  Namely, Donald Trump.

Banana Pudding Popsicles

Makes about 12 popsicles (or 4 cups of pudding)

1 cup milk (I had 2%)
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup sugar
3 T cornstarch
1/4 t salt
2 eggs
2 T butter
2 t vanilla extract
3 bananas, ripe and mashed

1.  In a medium heavy saucepan, whisk together the milk, half and half, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and eggs.   Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly (and scraping out corners of pan with a spatula to get any trapped parts), for about 5-7 minutes until the mixture is bubbly and thickened.  Remove from heat immediately and stir in butter and vanilla extract.

2.  Pour pudding mixture into the bowl of a food processor and add mashed bananas.  Process until completely smooth, scraping down sides as necessary (and being careful to let steam from the hot pudding escape).  Pour pudding into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 6 hours until completely hardened.  (These will keep a few days, at least, in the freezer.)

 

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

I remember being in about 3rd or 4th grade and getting a C in handwriting.  I was crushed.  The only grades that ever graced my report card were A’s.  But something about cursive writing wasn’t clicking with me.  My handwriting was ugly and awkward and certainly not the least bit artistic.  I received C’s in only two other courses during school:  1) Home Economics (during the sewing unit, which is not at all surprising considering I still can’t figure out how to thread my machine) and 2) Gym (during the basketball unit, which is not surprising considering I could only make 3 out of 10 free throws — a skill [or lack thereof] that thankfully hasn’t affected me in life . . . yet.)

I can distinctly recall bringing home that report card while my grandmother, Grace, was visiting.  We talked about it and she quickly told me that it didn’t matter.  This was crazy talk, from my vantage point.  She told me how her father once said to her that everyone develops their own unique brand of handwriting, and that making it perfectly beautiful according to one person’s definition was not only impossible, but not the least bit interesting.  I am blessed to still have my grandmother in my life at 96 years old.  Arthritis has crippled her imperfectly beautiful, but truly unique, handwriting — but I still get a chance to talk with her and that it something I treasure.

My mom recently gave me a stack of her recipe cards and I studied them for nearly an hour.  There were clues in that handwriting somewhere.  I could imagine any one of those cards being out on the counter when I was visiting her as a toddler. I could imagine her writing recipes down in her old house.  I could imagine her pulling them all out in anticipation of Christmas, or just a weekend visit.

And I didn’t have to imagine the memories of her making many of the recipes — I can remember coming into her kitchen at breakfast time as she was pulling her special meringue cookies out of a cold oven — a cold oven with a heavy door.  They were like a magic trick — you put them in a hot oven, turn it off, go to bed, and wake up to beautifully crusty meringues with a somewhat creamy interior, loaded with chocolate chips.

When I see in the recipe that she says to line a baking “tin” with wax paper, I remember she had the coolest wall mounted wrap dispenser that had three (I think) covered segments that held paper towels, foil, and wax paper.  Each one had its own little door and cutting edge.  I remember her glass jars (some of which I have on top of my cabinets now) filled with spices, and especially cinnamon heart candies.  I remember her geranium out front and the seemingly mile-long hallway to her bedroom.  I remember making paper dolls to count the days down until my parents would return from a trip.  I remember her making trip activity books with cryptoquips and crossword puzzles (that she would make herself) and riddles for me to solve.  I remember going to painting class with her and trying to be an artist — a skill she had, that I did not.  And I remember sitting with her at the piano and getting giddy with excitement as she would play Scott Joplin.

But mostly, I remember her telling me that I was me and that was the only person I ever had to be.  Eventually, my handwriting went from awful, to beautiful, and back to awful again — it seems now I am always too rushed to make perfectly formed letters.  But I think about those physical artifacts and wonder if reading a blog post will ever substitute for holding a grandmother’s recipe in your hands, studying the words that she wrote, and seeing yourself in her life.

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

A few notes:  The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, but I found 1/2 cup to be plenty.  Also, she always used regular chocolate chips, but I used white chocolate for a nice all white appearance.  Both are delicious.  And one food safety note, I am not a food scientist so I am not sure if these get cooked hard enough to eliminate Salmonella.  As with any dish where eggs are gently cooked, please only use the freshest eggs from responsible farms and take care to not serve to those who might be very young/old or immune-suppressed if Salmonella is a concern.

Makes about two dozen

2 egg whites
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of chocolate chips (white or semi-sweet, mini chips are nice too)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Gradually beat in sugar until the mixture is very glossy and holding nice, stiff peaks.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips.

4.  Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and place into hot oven.  Immediately turn the oven off and leave overnight, or at least 6 hours.  Remove and store in a tightly sealed container.

Crispy Split Pea Burgers

So I’ve been trying to do some extra clean living lately.  I think the overindulgence of the holidays pushed me over the edge.  On top of eliminating gluten/wheat, I’ve stopped drinking wine, and have been trying to go without alcohol at all.  Crazy talk, you say?  Probably so.  But something has been crying uncle (crazy uncle, perhaps?) and I’m trying to figure out what the hell it is.

Unfortunately, the thing that has made me feel the best is giving up wine.  So that sucks.

Fortunately, I have very little sticktoitiveness so it probably won’t last long.

The biggest hassle with giving up wheat is the inability to cook a quick pasta dinner — which is generally a favorite with the kids and can be a good and easy meatless dinner option.   I know there are gluten-free pasta varieties, but I haven’t found one that’s decent (any recommendations?) and I can’t tolerate sitting around the dinner table WITHOUT A GLASS OF WINE when everyone starts complaining about how much they hate the fake pasta.  I have limits, you know.

So, I was digging deep into my brain (trust me, you don’t want to go there) and deep into the pantry (it’s not too pretty, either) to figure out a meatless dinner last night and came up with these crispy burgers made from split peas.  They are sort of a cross between a veggie burger and a falafel, but the kids devoured them and came back for more.   The boy even wanted the leftovers for lunch.  We served them bunless with some homemade Russian dressing and beautiful salad greens from the solar powered greenhouse at  Village Acres Farm.   I think they would also be great made into smaller fritters for a delicious appetizer.

They are filled with all the best things — split peas (which are full or protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals), brown rice, butternut squash, garlic, onions, and some shredded cheese right inside the burger.  Give them a try and don’t be scared off by the deep frying.  You don’t need any special equipment.  And for the fat phobics, just make sure your oil is at the right temperature and very little will be absorbed into your food.  (I should add that if you are willing to use a non-stick pan, you could probably just pan fry these in much less oil — but I’d rather deep fry than use non-stick.) The other great thing about these is that the filling can be made up way ahead of time and you can fry them whenever you are ready.  Plus they make great leftovers (cold or warmed up).    Feel free to modify the spices and experiment with different sauces — I am definitely going to try a spicy curry variety with raita.

Crispy Split Pea Burgers

Makes about 10 burgers

1 cup of chopped onion (from about 1/2 of a large onion)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup of butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (from 1/2 of a small squash)
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 t smoked paprika
1 t ground cumin
1 cup of dried green split peas (yellow would probably be fine, and lentils might work too)
1/2 cup of brown rice
3 cups of vegetable broth (other broths would work too)
1 cup of cheddar cheese (packed), grated
2 T cornstarch (plus about 1 cup more for breading)
Canola oil (for frying)

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Cook onion and garlic over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until just softened.  Add in butternut squash cubes, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cumin.  Cook for 2-3 minutes more.

2.  Add in split peas, brown rice, and broth.  Stir well to loosen any carmelized bits in the pan and cover.  Cook for one hour or until peas and rice are soft and nicely cooked.  Give it a stir every once in a while so it doesn’t stick.   Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

3.  Put pea mixture into the food processor (or use a masher if all else fails) and process for 5-10 seconds.  If your mixture is still warm, make sure you leave the feed tube open so steam can escape.  You don’t want a total puree — it’s best if it’s still a little chunky.  But make sure the peas are blended well.  Taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.   Transfer to a bowl and chill for 30-60 minutes (the more the better).

4.  When ready to cook, stir 2 T of cornstarch and grated cheese into pea mixture.  Stir well to incorporate evenly.  In a deep saute pan, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil to 375 degrees F.

5.  Place about 1/2 cup of additional cornstarch on a plate.  Shape pea mixture into small patties and dredge in cornstarch.  Pat gently to remove any excess.  Gently place into hot oil and fry about 2-3 minutes until golden.  (I found they held together much better when formed into smaller patties and I cooked about 3 at a time.  While they cook, use a metal spatula to loosen them from the bottom of the pan if they stick.)

6.  Carefully flip them over (away from you so you don’t splatter hot oil on yourself) and cook for 2-3 additional minutes until golden brown on second side.  Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven while the remainder cook.

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Cream Pie

So I have been entertaining like a madwoman lately.  It seems that once spring hits, the pace of life quickens even beyond its normal speed.  Family comes back north, end of the year activities are rolling, and we all climb out of winter’s woodwork and feel more free to invite friends over on a whim.  It makes for a lot of fun nights (and some not so fun mornings), but I will say that my brain starts to lose a bit of focus when I am planning so much stuff (actually, that might also have to do with those not so fun mornings).

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Case in point:  I had planned to make a chocolate cream pie for dessert the other night and forgot to buy chocolate wafers for the crust.   I am not sure how I missed it, but I am thinking it occurred between the time my two year old dropped his bagel and I realized I had forgotten to buy lemons and limes.  (Note to self:  when you realize you have forgotten one thing on your list, that might be a good time to actually check for other things you have forgotten, rather than just staring at the words brainlessly.)

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So, I get home and realize I have no chocolate wafers.  Oh well.  Not that big of a deal, I’ll just make a graham cracker crust.  I reach for the box of graham crackers and instantly knew that there was not one graham cracker in that box.  Yep, just a shell and an empty wrapper.  (Thanks kids.)  So, on to Plan C — which I was coming to realize would have to involve something a little wacky.  After passing over the stale Wheat Chex leftover from making party mix, I settled on Brown Rice Krispies.   I did a little searching and realized that rice krispie crusts have been done before, so I figured it was worth a shot.

I made a wonderful chocolate filling sweetened with agave nectar and flavored at the end with a bit of brandy.  And I crunched up some of that brown rice cereal, made a pretty standard crust, and then sealed it with some melted chocolate because I wasn’t sure if it would get soggy under the chocolate filling.  All in all, I would say it was a successful experiment.  We had eight people at the dinner table and there was only one tiny piece left over.  Actually, there were two pieces, but I ate one piece for lunch the next day.  Don’t tell anyone.

So, here you go.  A somewhat healthier version of chocolate cream pie — mostly agave sweetened, 2% milk (which made me feel better when I topped it with whipped cream), and a brown rice crust.  Seriously, I meant to do it this way.

(I should add that if you wanted to make a version with no sugar at all, you could use unsweetened chocolate and just up the agave a bit.)

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Cream Pie

Serves 8

Crust:
4 cups of Crispy Brown Rice Cereal (available in our natural foods section)
1/2 cup of butter (one stick), melted
1/3 cup of sugar (could also use agave or honey if you like)
3 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted

Filling:
1/2 cup of agave nectar
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/2 t salt
4 egg yolks
3 cups of milk (I used 2% and it was great)
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 T butter
1-2 T brandy (could skip it and just use some vanilla extract if you like)
1 cup of heavy whipping cream (and sugar/sweetener to taste)
Extra chocolate for chocolate shavings (if you like)

1.  In a medium saucepan, whisk together the agave nectar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks until there are no little lumps remaining.  Add in the 3 cups of milk and whisk well to combine.  Turn on heat to medium low and bring to boil, whisking very frequently.  When it comes to the boil, let it simmer for about one minute as it gets very thick.  Whisk constantly at this point so it doesn’t curdle.  Remove from heat.

2.  Stir in 6 oz. of chopped chocolate, 2 T butter, and 1-2 T brandy.  Whisk every few minutes until chocolate and butter are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Strain the filling into a bowl through a fine sieve to remove any lumps.  (If yours is perfectly lump-free, or if you enjoy lumps, skip this step.)  Place a sheet of parchment or plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling so a skin doesn’t form.  Chill for about an hour.

3.  Make crust by first crushing or processing the rice cereal into crumbs.  I thought it would be good to leave them more whole for the crunch, so I only smashed them up a bit.  Mix rice crumbs with melted butter and sugar and press into a deep dish pie pan or springform pan.  Freeze for 15 minutes.

4.  Drizzle melted chocolate (3 oz.) over the chilled crust and spread it around the best you can using a pastry brush.  If the crust is not cold enough, the crumbs will mix with the chocolate.  But you should be able to spread it pretty evenly and up the sides of the crust.  Place back in freezer for another 10-15 minutes (or even until filling is cool.)

5.  Whip one cup of cream until stiff peaks form.

6.  When filling is cooled, pour into crust and spread evenly.  Top with dollops of whipped cream (or pipe using a pastry bag and decorating tips) and sprinkle chocolate shavings all over the top.

7.  Refrigerate the pie for at least four hours before serving.  (Not sure if I would do it a full day ahead, though, because the crust might get soggy.  Try it out and let me know.)

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