Food

Gluten-Free Caramel Nut Brownies (a.k.a. Failed Rocky Road Brownies)

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Who doesn’t like a good brownie?  I know I do.  This is my take on a good brownie recipe with a little twist.  Originally I had wanted to do a Rocky Road recipe but it didn’t quite work out.  So this really turned out to be more of a Caramel Nut Brownie, which is still good and tasty!  See, what had happened was I had added the marshmallows to the recipe, but in the process of baking they had melted down to form a caramel-ly nugget in the brownie.  It tasted great, but not exactly the intent.  But that’s how we got penicillin, right?  Well, not really but same principle.

Caramel Nut Brownies!
Caramel Nut Brownies!

On another good note, these are actually gluten-free.  Brownies are one of those things that are easier to make GF since the ratio of flour in the recipe is quite low when compared to a cake.  So you could just swap out the flour with anything that you have on hand, like bean or coconut flour.  I had some GF flour and some xanthan gum on hand so that’s what I used.  Yay me!

Breakfast of champions!
Breakfast of champions!

This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten / Barefoot Contessa and you’ll need a half sheet pan.  Here’s what else you will need:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 lb., plus 12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 7 large eggs
  • 3 T. instant coffee granules
  • 2 T. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. gluten-free flour
  • 1/4 t. xanthan gum
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 2 c. mini marshmallows
  • 2 T. cornstarch

1.  Preheat your oven to 350  degrees F.  Now butter and flour your half sheet pan and set aside.

2.  In a heatproof bowl, melt the butter, 1 lb. of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a double-boiler.  Allow to cool.

3.  While the chocolate is cooling, in a large bowl mix the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla, and sugar.  Once combined, gradually add the cooled chocolate mixture.  Let cool to room temperature.

4.  In a medium mixing bowl, sift together your flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Add this to the chocolate mixture and stir to combine.  In a small bowl, toss together the walnuts, marshmallows, and cornstarch.  Add them to the batter and incorporate.  Pour into the prepared baking sheet.

5.  Bake for 20 minutes, then gently drop the baking sheet onto the oven shelf to help any excess air escape from the pan.  Finish baking for about another 15 minutes, until done (test with a cake tester).

6.  Allow to cool completely.  Cut and serve.  You could dust with a little powdered sugar if you like.

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Here you can see what I mean about the marshmallows melting down into a caramel nugget, right in the center of the picture.
Here you can see what I mean about the marshmallows melting down into a caramel nugget, right in the center of the picture.

Spotlight on local coffeehouses

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Here’s one of those “lost posts” that I had mentioned before.  This was originally scheduled to go out last year so it may be a little bit dated.  But it’s still applicable since students are coming back into town and the coffee shops are going to be even more packed.  Anyhoo, these are a couple of my favorites.

Just a quick post here.  The site Serious Eats just did a spotlight a few weeks ago on where you can get some good coffee here in Michigan.  And two out of the four selected just happen to be in town!  I happen to love both of these places for two completely different reasons.

So let’s start out with one of my favorite hang outs — the Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti, MI.  This place holds a special place in my heart because it was the first coffee house that I found when I first moved to the area that didn’t begin with a “Star” and end with a “Bucks”.  But besides that fact, they brew a damn good cup of coffee.  It’s a down-home, down-to-earth kinda place where they happen to roast beans on site — huzzah!  It’s just a couple of blocks from Eastern Michigan University and is loved by locals and visitors alike.  What’s great is that they also host a series of different events, ranging from workshops, to art shows, to tastings, to poetry readings.  And if you are having some problems with your own home brewing equipment, staff will be more than willing to help you out as best as they can.  Be sure to visit their Flickr account on their Links menu and check them out on Twitter.

It’s the Ugly Mug!
He helped make the coffee.
I usually get the Almond Joy

The other local coffeehouse found in the fabulous Nickels Arcade landmark is Ann Arbor’s Comet Coffee.  This place is relatively new, being around for a couple of years, and it has a completely different feel from the Ugly Mug.  It has a modern, sparse feel which is set up in a small store front in the Arcade.  What makes this place unique are the methods that they use to make their coffee.  Each cup is brewed individually at specific temperatures, and what you get is one of the best cups of coffee around.  The coffee isn’t brewed, but “pulled” through a porcelain cones into individual cups.  Since everything is done on a individual basis, there is no risk of having a cup of coffee that has been sitting in a carafe for a few hours.  Plus, following this method helps preserve some of the more subtle notes and flavors in each cup.  And being literally across the street from the University of Michigan helps foster a strong following among students and faculty.  But non-students, and even Spartans (Go State!) love this place 🙂

Yay! Comet Coffee!
Japanese Iced Coffee — so good!

Now if you include Astro Coffee in Detroit, three out of the four coffeehouses featured are here in SE Michigan.  Kudos to us!  So if you’re ever in town, be sure to visit these local gems and get yourself a cup.  And get yourself a t-shirt.  And tell them I sent ya!  And (as always) don’t forget to visit and like my Facebook pages for Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen.  Shameless self-promotion endures!

Notes — Since I first wrote this, I actually have gone to Astro Coffee in Corktown, Detroit.  Amazing cup of coffee!  And the pics of Comet Coffee I picked up from their Facebook page.  I did double-check and get permission, but that was about a year ago so they probably don’t remember.  At least I asked first!

Where the hell have I been?

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Alright, so it’s been some time since I’ve been writing.  I know, I know — I am ashamed 😦  But things happen in this thing called life.  Not to make excuses, but I was trying to adapt to the new schedule caused by my new job.  Then I got a weird volleyball injury that took up my time trying to rehab that.  Then I got really sick really fast around Christmas and found myself admitted to the hospital several times.  Lucky for me this happened in December and January so I got to fulfill two massive deductibles back to back.  Hurrah!  And hospitals are not fun — especially when you get the bill months later and can’t decipher what charges came from where and from whom and for how much.  I will say to my insurance company that your estimate on what a CT scan costs is sooooo completely off from what the hospital says ($800 estimate vs. $1700 charge).  All that fun and the multiple docs couldn’t even tell me what was wrong; just treated the symptoms and see what could be managed.

Then after getting to know the hospital, I got a weird infection that sidelined me for over three weeks.  Meds didn’t work, I was weak all the time, I couldn’t walk without getting dizzy (which is a challenge if you have to navigate stairs to get to your truck — not that I could drive anywhere even if I managed to make it to the garage).  Things eventually cleared up, but since I missed so much work, I ended up losing my job.  Which I guess is alright aside from the fact that I am penniless.  I don’t blame them for firing me; it just sucks for me.  So much for my first stint in Corporate America!

But losing my job meant that I could focus on the physical therapy for the injury that happened months ago.  And lucky for me (or unlucky for me), I met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year back in January so no charge!  Well fast-forward a couple of months and my knees are still shit.  I can’t afford COBRA anymore so I guess I will have to tape them up and just go on with life.

And that is what I am trying to do — go on with life.  I think I’ve done enough wallowing in self-pity and it is time to git goin’!  I’m finally able to work out again (with some obvious limitations) and I’m getting back to what I love — FOOD!  And booze, of course.  Actually, right now I am in the Corner Brewery here in Ypsilanti trying to raise my spirits.  Some pulled pork tacos and a Buzzsaw IPA can sure help with my mood, but more on that later!  Although it is a bummer that no one wants to join me here — stupid friends and their stupid jobs and families and prior commitments!

But in all seriousness, I plan on getting back to blogging and sharing my foodie adventures.  I did just take another trip up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and found some amazing pasties, and breweries , and wineries, and distilleries. . . . I’m also trying to make a theme cake (note the emphasis on trying).  What’s wrong with a round cake?  I can do those, no problem.  Dinosaur shaped?  Ugh, I need to practice this.  A lot.  Plus I have some posts that should have gone out last year (oops!), but they’re still relevant.

So Stay tuned!  More food and booze and hijinx heading your way!  And for no good reason — here’s my sweet idiot dog Cooper enjoying the summer sun!

 

Cooper luvs summer!
Cooper luvs summer!

 

For those that think all Pit Bulls are mean -- you are wrong!
For those that think all Pit Bulls are mean — you are wrong!

Steamed Mussels with Andouille and White Wine

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Wow.  It is definitely weird how much having a new full-time job affects your life.  There’s a whole new schedule to figure out, there are weeks of intense training, there’s tests, new policies and procedures, new people, new office. . . well, you get the point.  So my mind has been preoccupied lately, which explains the dearth of postings lately.  Sometimes you just have to make a paid gig a priority!  But I am sad that I’m probably gonna have to close up the bakery at this point.  Just a sign o’ the times!  Maybe I’ll just go super-super small-scale, although there is a limit to the amount of downsizing that you can do, especially if your workforce consists of one.

I could eat this everyday!

So this is my attempt at achieving some sense of normalcy — a return to blogging, a return to working out, a return to volleyball (that is, if my injuries would stop lingering).  I would like to stress the word “attempt”.  It may take me some time to really figure out how to balance everything.  What makes it more challenging is that my work schedule isn’t exactly always set in stone.  Eh, it’s a work in progress, much like everything else in life.

Anyhoo. . . on to the recipe!  Now mussels are one of my most favorite things to eat.  Just throw them into a pan with some white wine and dinner is ready in like 5 minutes!  Really.  It’s not the most user-friendly, mainly because you have a whole bunch of shells to deal with when your done.  Which is why I try to schedule meals like this the day before trash day.  I don’t need bits of shellfish lingering in the trash for several days.

Now that I’ve gotten that lovely image out of the way we can get back to the recipe.  It’s relatively simple and it’s easily changed to fit whatever ingredients you have around.  This time around I had some onions, garlic, celery, Roma tomatoes, and some basil.  Throw in the little bit of Andouille that I had bought specifically for this and you get one of my most favoritest dishes.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 lbs mussels, cleaned and beards removed
  • 1/4 lb. andouille sausage
  • 1 rib of celery, 1/4 in. diagonal slice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 c. basil, chopped
  • 1-2 c. white wine
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In a large pan, sauté the Andouille for about 3 minutes.  Add the celery and onion and sauté for about 2 minutes.

2.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, and half of the basil.  Cook for another 2 minutes.

3.  Throw in the mussels and white wine and cover.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Then remove the cover, stir the mussels, and return the lid.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.

4.  Top with remaining basil.  Serve over pasta, or rice, or with crackers, or with a straw (or just slurp it out of the bowl).

Notes — If some of the mussels don’t open, throw those out and don’t eat them.  Bad things might happen if you don’t!. . .  Don’t forget to visit Jereme’s Kitchen and Daisy Cakes on Facebook. . .

An experiment with Honey, Raspberries, and Cream Cheese

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Alright so this isn’t all that much of an experiment, but I’m doing this in a different way.  But what I wanted to do is try to make some mini cheesecakes and clean out the pantry at the same time.  I had a bunch of cream cheese in the fridge, but not enough to make a whole cheesecake; I had some raspberry coulis left over from the Marquis Roulade I made a few weeks ago; and there was some honey that I was just tired of looking at.  Throw in some graham crackers and some frozen raspberries and it all made sense.

Definitely looked better with the pink liners

Actually there is a little bit of an experiment going on here.  Instead of making the filling using a stand mixer, I tried to make everything in the blender.  I was thinking to myself that this should work, in theory.  It actually didn’t work out too bad.  There was a little bit of work trying to get the blender going at first, but the batter was very smooth.  Doubt that I could do this for a full cheesecake recipe though — my blender is too small.

There were really stuck in there. So use liners!

It’s hard to figure out a recipe here.  Like I’ve said before, I do have a specific formula for cheesecakes that I like to follow, so I just used that as a guide.  I cut down a graham cracker crust recipe in half which I just sprinkled on the bottom of the tins or cupcake papers.  My serious recommendation that I have for a recipe like this is to definitely use paper liners.  One of the pans that I used is non-stick which I also generously sprayed with cooking spray — I still had to dig the cheesecakes out with a fork and spoon.  Here’s what you need:

For the crust:

  • 6 graham crackers
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted

Pulse the crackers and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs.  Mix in butter and set aside.

For the filling:

  • 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • about 4 oz. frozen raspberries
  • raspberry coulis

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line standard cupcake pans with liners.

2.  Throw the cream cheese, eggs, and honey in a blender.  Or you could beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth.  Add the honey and combine.  Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  (See!  Using the blender is easier).

3.  Place a couple of tablespoons of the crust mixture on the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Lightly press down and place 1-2 of the frozen raspberries on the bottom.  Fill about halfway with the cheesecake batter.  Add about 1 t. of the coulis and carefully fill the liner about 2/3 full.

4.  Bake in the over for about 30 – 45 minutes, until the middle is set.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Random Foodie Funnies

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It could just be me, but I need a break from the Olympics.  So instead I’m up watching the NASA channel on updates about the Mars Rover, well that and reruns of Futurama.  I guess I need to feed my inner nerd.  Sure I could be studying up on Policies and Procedures, but science is important.

And as another break from the Olympics I thought I’d just post some random things that I find funny that are food related.  I was thinking about trying to make this a regular feature, but that requires extra work that is difficult right now with all the training and studying I have to do.  Hell, I can’t even keep up with my regular blogging duties.

Anyhoo, I thought this was funny.  It was making the rounds a little bit ago along all the Interwebs, so I’m a little late with this one.  I have no idea on the source, but if anyone knows, drop me a line.

You cannot argue with the accuracy and validity of this interpretation of data

Grilled Beets with Micro Greens and Feta

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Gonna slice me up some beets

Beets.  Now who doesn’t like beets?  Actually, I didn’t for the longest time (skip this if you already know this story 🙂 ).  The taste was odd to me — kinda like an earthier carrot.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But it just seemed weird.  Maybe it’s because I wasn’t exposed to them as a child.  Actually I don’t think Brooklyn had any beets at the time.  Sure, that’s probably not accurate and my memory is somewhat foggy.  After all, I was only like five years old at the time and that was like 100 years ago.

I admit, I did not dress the greens on this one

But I digress… This I served as a side, but it is easy to turn this into a full vegetarian course.  And again, this is hard for me to quantify because I grilled some beets and served it with a handful of greens and topped it with some feta so ingredients are just a guestimation.  This is easy-peasy lemon-squeezy; here’s kinda what you need:

Just another way of arranging the beets.  I did dress these greens.
  • 1 beet, sliced about 1/4″ thick
  • vegetable oil, for brushing the beets
  • 1 c. micro greens or baby greens (I used daikon and chard)
  • 1/4 c. feta, crumbled
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • salad dressing, to taste

1.  Prepare your grill, as needed (again, I use hardwood charcoal).  Brush the beets with the vegetable oil on both sides.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2.  Grill the beets until tender over direct heat, about 2-3 minutes a side.  Remove from the heat to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, lightly dress the greens

3.  Arrange the beets on the plate.  Top with the dressed greens.  Sprinkle with the feta crumbles.  Add salt and pepper if you like.

Yay for beets!

Notes — for the dressing, I just drizzled some olive oil and lemon juice on top of the greens to dress them

Grilled Corn with Radish Butter

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Mmmm, tasty!

Corn, a grill, and compound butter.  How can that combination be wrong?  I love grilling corn and I’m on the side of the spectrum that grills the corn without the husks on.  In my opinion, if you grill with the husks on you’re really not grilling the corn but steaming it.  I, for one, like a nice, smoky char.  And I like nice, simple, summer recipes.  You can’t get much simpler than this — corn, butter, radishes.  That’s essentially all you need.  I just add some herbs for some additional flavor (just some basil and parsley, but use whatever you want).

We were grilling those peppers, too. Can’t waste that fire on the grill!
Oooooo — action shot!  Threw that squash on the grill, as well.

I would serve this as a side, but it is easy to get full from this because you can get carried away.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 -2 radishes, chopped
  • chopped herbs, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 – 8 ears of corn, husks removed
  • vegetable oil

1.  Prepare your grill (I use charcoal).  Meanwhile, combine the butter, radishes, herbs, salt, & pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Brush the corn with the oil and place on the grill over direct heat.  Grill until nicely browned, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Turn the ears as needed to cook evenly.  Transfer to a serving plate.

3.  After the corn is removed from the grill, brush with the radish butter.  Sprinkle on a little salt & pepper if you like and serve.

Don’t know why I like this shot
That chopper makes things so much easier.

Notes — You can bush the radish butter on the corn while it’s on the grill, but I’d wait until the last couple of minutes because the radishes could burn. . . You can keep the husks on.  Peel them back and tie them to make a handle.  Just keep the husks off the heat — hang them over the edge of the grill. . . Make some extra radish butter — it’s great on a nice toasty baguette!

Aerial shot
Built-in handles!

Vanilla Cheesecake with Strawberries

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Alright, I gots power back (huzzah!)  And I gots a job offer (another huzzah!).  So let’s celebrate with a pretty cheesecake!  This is definitely one of the prettier cheesecakes that I make.  Of course, it is one of the more labor intensive ones to construct, but it’s easy to switch it up by using peaches, oranges, kiwis, or what’s ever striking your fancy that day.  And the cheesecake recipe is such a great staple to have.  This particular recipe is a little bit extra special because I do use a vanilla bean here instead of the extract.  Just a nice touch that really stands out.   Plus you see all the nice tiny vanilla beans, which I just love.

This I made for my Summer Mullet Party / Wine Tasting (you know — business in the front, party in the back).  Unfortunately I was not able to take any pics of any slices, but it was a big hit from what I understand.  I was too preoccupied tasting wine at the time.  And rum.  And bourbon.  Anyhoo, here’s what you need:

For the crust:

  • 12 big graham crackers (before you break it into four pieces)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 6 T. butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wrap the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan with heavy-duty foil.  Lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  Slightly break up crackers and place in the bowl of a food processor with the sugar and salt.  Pulse until fine.  Stir in butter well, and transfer to prepared pan.  Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides of the pan.

3.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until crust starts to brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Set aside.

For the filling:

  • 5 8-oz. packages cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
  • 1 c. sour cream

1.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees F.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Gradually add the sugar and salt while mixing on low, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  Now add the vanilla seeds and mix to combine.  Stir in the sour cream, again scraping the sides to mix well.

3.  Pour the batter into the cooled crust.  Place the pan in a roasting pan.  Now fill the roasting pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake.  Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until set in the middle.  If the top browns too quickly, cover with foil.

4.  Remove from the oven and run a pairing knife around the edge of the cake to help release it.  Cool completely and then refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

For the topping:

  • 1-2 pints strawberries, hulled & sliced thin, leaving one whole
  • 1/2 red currant jelly
  • 2 t. water

1.  In a small saucepan on low heat, combine the jelly and water.  Gradually melt until mixture is easily spread with a pastry brush.  Set aside to cool but still stay liquid.

2.  Brush the edge of the top of the cheesecake with the warm red currant jelly glaze and make a ring of the sliced strawberries around the edge.  The glaze should re-set when chilled which helps hold the strawberries in place.

3.  Start layering overlapping concentric circles of strawberries, brushing each with the glaze.  Once you get to the middle, place the whole strawberry and brush with the glaze.

4.  Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours to set.  Then you can slice and serve!  And then you visit Jereme’s Kitchen and Daisy Cakes on Facebook and tell me how the recipe went for you 🙂

Notes — I’ve found it helpful to sort the strawberries according to size first before slicing.  I use the slices of the larger strawberries on the outer layers, saving the smaller ones for the inner circles. . . Try different patterns.  Instead of pointing the tips of strawberries out, have the points run along the edge of the cake.  You can then alternate directions with each successive circle.  I really hope that I explained that well.

Rhubarb Pearl Empanadas

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So this is another one of those clean-out-the-pantry kind of recipes.  I had some fresh rhubarb to use up so I thought to myself, “Waterlily, how should we handle this?”  So looking around, I found some shredded coconut left over from some German Chocolate Cakes and I had some Tapioca pearls that I had no idea that I had.  Let’s throw this all together and make some empanadas!  But somewhere along the line, I lost track of how big things should be and ended up making a half-pie or a calzone kind of thing.  Just think of it as a “family sized” empanada!

Yay! Empanadas! And there’s some peonies in the background!

And I was surprised with how they turned out and how the flavors worked together.  You get some tartness from the rhubarb, some sweetness from the coconut, some chewiness from the tapioca, and the crispy, flaky crust.

Again, since the recipe falls under the category of clean-out-the-pantry, it’s a rough approximation, at least for the filling.  The crust does have exact measurements, but like with any pie crust, it will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen.  Here’s what you need.

Now that’s a “family sized” empanada!

For the crust:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks cold butter, cubed
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. cold water, at most

1.  In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together to combine.

2.  Add the cubed butter and cream cheese.  Pulse until the mixture becomes coarse, maybe 15 seconds or so.  With the processor on, gradually stream the water through the feed tube until the crust starts to form a ball.

3.  Turn the crust out onto a work surface and form into a ball.  Divide the ball in half and form both halves into discs.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

4.  Roll out the dough into a rough circle about 1/16″ thick.  Return to the refrigerator to chill whilst you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 2 c. chopped rhubarb
  • 1 c. shredded coconut
  • 1 c. unprepared tapioca pearls.
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour

1.  Prepare the tapioca according to package directions (although I think I made up my own directions).  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, place the rhubarb, coconut, and tapioca.  Sprinkle flour and sugar on top and toss to combine.

So there might be a little bit more coconut than I thought

Make your empanadas:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In your prepared crust, spread about half the filling onto on half of the dough.  Lightly brush some water onto the edge of the crust.  Gently fold over the other half of the dough onto filling and crimp the edges or roll them over.

2.  Brush the empanada with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut some vents in the top to release some steam.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Notes — I didn’t add a lot of flour because, in theory, the tapioca should help absorb the liquid released by the rhubarb. . . I thought that this would be good with just the coconut and the tapioca. . . Still working on taking nice pictures, but I was excited to include my peonies.  They didn’t bloom last year. . .