Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

It's a quiet celebration in a ND blizzard for us. It would have been regardless of a blizzard. My husband had to work, so it's just me and my boys tonight. We are snuggled up on the couch with blankets, by our New Years Tree (see below), watching movies, and eating chocolate covered marshmallows & pretzels. We've played 2010 bingo featuring fun/memorable things we've done over the past year. To end the night, we're having a "sleepover" as my boys call it - which is just camping out in the fort that we made in their room earlier today.

Our Christmas tree has given way to a New Years tree.

I don't do the typical New Years Resolution thing. However this year, I'm looking forward to implementing something my dear friends Chuck and Teresa talk about - about living in manual instead of automatic. The idea is intentionality and purposefulness in life. About evaluating life and living it rather that letting life happen to you. The idea of taking every thought captive is a difficult one - but valuable. So I resolve nothing, but ask God for His strength in this endeavor.

On the food front this year, I'm back in the kitchen creating and it feels good. After months of struggling through my son's food allergies and learning how to cook with all different ingredients, I'm starting to find a grove. Also, now that we've got him into the swing of things, the rest of the family takes a more liberties in eating foods that he can't. He's done remarkably well with that... so far.

I'm looking forward to a new year, to see what may come. Our 2010 was a year of change and emotional struggles. It wasn't always pretty, but we are better on this side of the year. God has done great things, even when it didn't seem like it. My prayer for you and your family is that you can same the same thing on the other side of 2011.

Happy New Year friends.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ham Glaze

We tried something different for Christmas dinner. Yes, we did ham as usual, but we made our own glaze. It really is very simple and tastes much like a ham that you would get from an expense ham store...

Besides, who isn't going to love using a blow torch in the kitchen. You could use a long handled lighter as well, but it isn't nearly as efficient. and more likely to burn the sugar.

3/4 c Brown Sugar
1/4 t Cinnamon
Dash of Ginger
Dash of Paprika
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of Ground cloves

Place the ham cut side down on a glass or metal pan. Lightly rub the glaze mixture over the meat and pack it on to stick. You don't want large clumps of sugar because they are too hard to melt without burning. Quickly run the blowtorch over the sugar to melt/caramelize the sugars. It will darken slightly and smooth out. You can run over the sugar multiple times to get it to melt. If you leave the fire in one place too long, it will burn. Allow the sugar to cool and repeat the process.

You can then serve the ham cold or warm. I'm a fan of warm meat myself, and the glaze helped keep the ham really moist on the inside.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Let It Snow

A dusting of powdered sugar makes everything on our breakfast plates look like what we see out the window. Some pancakes, a few cookie cutters, and a shaker/sifter of powdered sugar - and you've got a party on your plate.

Welcome to winter.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows

I mentioned this in the 25 Tips of Christmas and thought I'd give you a glimpse at them with a few more details. This is about as easy and quick as it gets for a treat. It was a hit with my oldest son who we've had trouble trying to find Christmas treats that fit his multitude of food allergies.

Stick a toothpick or plastic coffee stirrer in a large marshmallow. Allow of couple minutes for the stick to adhere to the marshmallow. While you wait, melt 3/4 c of chocolate chips and 2 t of butter or shortening. Dip and roll the marshmallow in the melted chocolate, lightly wiping the excess chocolate off the bottom of the marshmallow on the side of the bowl. Rest the chocolate coated marshmallow on wax or parchment paper on cookie sheet. Refrigerate to harden chocolate.

For an added bit of fun, sprinkle chopped nuts, toffee bits, chopped up pretzel bits, or sprinkles all over the chocolate.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #25:

Thanks for making it all the way to Christmas with me. It's been fun. One last tip for you...

Eat on a small plate. It looks full with less food and you'll end up eating less. Less guilt going back for seconds as well ;)

I hope you picked up a few ideas. I'd love to hear some of your favorite tips. It would be a great present for me, to hear from you. Drop me a quick comment so I can wish you Merry Christmas individually. Thanks for reading.

Have a Merry Christmas, celebrating the birth of Emmanuel = God with us. We will never be alone, for He is with us.

Friday, December 24, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #24:

Need a quick punch? Mix Ginger Ale with your favorite fruit juice and add some frozen berries as ice and melts into flavor. My fav? Equal part of white grape juice, ginger ale, sprite, with a few frozen red raspberries.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #23:

The images from old Christmas cards are great to cut up to make gift tags for presents. Use the picture cards of family and friends to slip in a flip frame to pray for throughout the year. I keep mine in my kitchen window.

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #22:

Tired of scrapping wax out of your candle holders? Fill the bottom of your candle holder with salt (kosher or coarse salt work best) and then push/drill your candle down into the salt. When it's time to remove, the wax pull up easily and most of the salt can be retained to be used again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #21

For a quick fix treat - stick a toothpick in large marshmallow and dip it in melted chocolate and add some sprinkles or chopped nuts. Place on parchment and refrigerate to harden chocolate. Yummy. More details on making these to come soon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #20:

Trying to ice those sugar cookies, drizzle some chocolate, contain the sprinkles - fill up a resealable bag with your item and cut a tiny bit of a corner off and use it like a piping bag. Use a freezer bag to melt your chocolate chips with a couple of teaspoons of shortening or butter for pipping/drizzling.


6 - 8 Roma tomatoes
2 t garlic, minced (or 2 cloves)
1 T olive oil
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 T fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 1 t dried*)
1/2 t Salt

1 baguette, French, or Italian bread (or GF alternative)
1/4 c olive oil
1 t Salt

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and dice the remaining tomato up finely. Roll up the basil tightly and slice up the leaves and then dice them finely. *If using dried basil, add it to the 1 T of olive oil and give it a bit of time to re-hydrate. Toss the tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, and salt. Allow about an hour for flavors to meld together. Meanwhile, slice bread thinly and use a brush to lightly coat the bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until toasted.

Serve right away or refrigerate and let flavors meld . If refrigerated, allow the tomato mixture to sit out a bit to let the oils warm up.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #19:

Make a double batch for dinner. Set a bunch aside to freeze for a quick meal next week (or anytime) when you are tired and don't feel like cooking.

Check out the freezer section of Frugal Family Feasts for some tasty ideas.

Toothpicks To The Rescue

In the food court at the mall, they are always handing out samples on toothpicks at the Cajun restaurant and Chinese place. My youngest always has to try them out, and my oldest can't because of his allergies.

Leftovers again?

Make it an adventure with finger food. Following Thanksgiving, my boys were really tired of turkey, but time was short and leftovers were plentiful. I stuck a few toothpicks in pieces of turkey and broccoli and dinner was a hit.

It was a land-speed record for attitude changes around the table.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #18:

A thick ribbon for wrapping packages adds a lot of bang for your buck. Pick up a large roll(s) of neutral (white, silver, gold) in 2" - 3" on sale (most are 50-60% off right now or clearance after Christmas 75-80%) that you can use for many different occasions.

A beautiful ribbon around a mug of hot cocoa mix, to tie up Christmas goodies, or hold the ties of gift bags together - always looks nice.

Think of the packaging as adding to the value/impact of your gift. To be honest - often I think of the packaging as making up for what I lack in content. I may not be able to give much, but I give it from my heart.

Cheesecake Quesadillas

I know I promised this recipe a while ago, but it is finally here! Think of this as more of a method to fill as your heart desires. This is a nice dessert treat or a decadent brunch goody.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Quesadillas

Strawberry Cheesecake Quesadillas

Filling - Spread on a bit of cream cheese and add with your favorite topping.
  • Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake - 1 T soft cream cheese mixed together with 1 t of powdered sugar, 1 T of pumpkin pie puree/filling, a dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
  • Strawberry Cheesecake - 1 T sweetened cream cheese, 1 T strawberry jam
  • Nutella - 1 T soft cream cheese, 1 T nutella
  • Sprinkles - 1 T soft cream cheese, sprinkles/jimmies
  • Almond - mix a 1 t of almond extract with a block of cream cheese & 1/4 c powdered sugar. Spread 1 T of mixture and top with a few chopped almonds

Tortillas - lightly spray with cooking oil and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

On a medium-high heat, slightly grease a griddle. Heat until filling is melted and sugar starts to caramelize. Be careful no to over heat. The sugar will burn easily.

Friday, December 17, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #17:

Make a few of those favorite holiday baking recipes a bit healthier by substituting applesauce for oil. Works great in quick breads, pancakes, and others. You can also substitute a mixture of 1 T of ground flax seed & 2 T of water for an egg...

Amazing Cornflake Cookies

Our friends who are working in Thailand training pastors shared this recipe with me years ago. I set it aside when my son's peanut allergy was diagnosed - focusing on numerous other fabulous recipes.

With the addition of so many other allergies, this recipe bubbled back up as a great one to tweak a bit and make it allergy safe. Oh my goodness have I missed these little treats.

1 c Sugar
1 c Peanut Butter (or Sunbutter)
1 c Light Corn Syrup
1/2 t Vanilla
1 T Butter (or vegan butter)
7-8 c Cornflakes

In a large pot, bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter vanilla, butter, and then cornflakes. Drop onto wax paper/parchment, press into 9 X 9 or a 9 X 13 pan for bars, or press into a muffin tin. Makes 24-30 cookies.

Warning: You may not want to be left alone with these little bits of heaven.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #16:

Christmas is a great time to explore the art of "dipping." Your kids will love you for it. Think of all the things you can dip - pretzels, chips, cookies, candy, veggies, crackers, meat, candy, marshmallows, etc. Then think of all the dip options - chocolate, sour cream, caramel, dill/ranch dip, etc.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #15:

Keep a stash of thank you notes in a spot easily accessible to grab as you go. Write them as soon as you can to show your appreciation, and keep it from becoming a big job.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #14:

Tis the season to be WAY TOO BUSY. Take a few minutes each day to get away from the hype and rush, even if it's only 5 minutes, even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom. In that precious time, focus on what will make a meaningful, purpose-driven holiday. Decide between what is good and what is best for your family.

Here are a few ideas to focus your festivities:
  • Re-read the Christmas story from Luke 1-2
  • Pray for military families and all those separated this Christmas
  • Make a meal for an elderly family and stop in for a visit
  • Volunteer to ring a bell for the Salvation Army
  • Share some of your treats with a group home (Ronald McDonald House, maternity home, halfway house, etc)
  • Play an extra game with your children
  • Donate time/skills/items to a homeless shelter
  • Bless your church staff with a note of appreciation or plate of goodies
  • Smile at random strangers
  • Hold the door for people
  • Give up the best parking spot in the lot to someone else and walk off some cookies
  • Donate a new toy to a toy drive
  • Laugh or be silly every occasion that you can
  • Breath, deeply
  • Leave a comment for a blogger you follow (hint, hint)
  • Make a conscious effort to chose to be grateful rather than grouchy.
What keeps you grounded and focused? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #13:

Christmas is a great time to stock up on sale items to load the pantry or freezer. Look for great deals on items like sugar, flour, spices, butter, creamer, turkey, ham, nuts, etc.

Keep in mind that you can freeze dairy items - HOWEVER, the consistency will be slightly different when you thaw them. Cheese tends to be a bit crumbly (which is great for salads or melting), cream cheese can separate slightly (which when you whip it is fine), sour cream can appear curdled but the taste is fine (good for baking or other combined recipes), and even milk & creamer.

If you are a texture eater like me, make sure you have the right preparation for these products to enjoy your end results and make the most of your money savings.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #12:

Break out your watercolor paints and let the kiddos (or yourself) paint a few clipart ornaments printed on cardstock. Cut out the artwork and hang on a piece of thin ribbon or yarn and hang as a garland.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #11:

Parchment paper is the Christmas baker's best friend. Line your cookie sheets with a piece of the parchment and it keeps cookies from sticking and keeps the bottom of cookies from over browning. Slide the paper off the baking sheet and cool/decorate/contain your mess.

Friday, December 10, 2010

25 Days of Christmas - Day #10:

Instead of just storing that tomato cage all winter long, use it to make a miniature Christmas tree. Tie the tines together with a bit of string to get the general shape of the tree. Use artificial pine garland and wrap around the cage frame. Occasionally, wrap one of the branches around the side bars of the cage to hold it together securely. Wrap some lights, a bit of garland around (ribbon/bead/etc) or add any type of ornaments/tree topper of your choice. Works great for a porch decoration (use tent stakes to make it wind resistant), in a child's room, by the fireplace, or anywhere you can think of it.

Photography by Kate Elisabeth

Thursday, December 9, 2010

25 Days of Christmas - Day #9:

Have left over Halloween candy still? Maybe a few little odds and ends? Recycle those tidbits into your Advent Calendar as a little sweet treat. Along with it, add in a slip of paper with a person to pray for, a character from the Christmas story to talk about, a character quality, a service project, or fun game to play...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

25 Days of Christmas - Day #8:

While you've got those cookie cutters broken out for sugar cookies - put them to good use. Pancakes, cheese slices, sandwiches, bread for toast, deli meat, to shape rice (press it in tight), finger jello, brownies, or anything else you can think of.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #7:

No time to bake homemade cookies? Try dressing up a break/bake or bakery cookie. Melt some chocolate chips with a tablespoon of shortening and then dip 1/3-1/2 of the cookie. Allow to cool on wax paper or parchment paper.

Monday, December 6, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #6

When rolling out sugar cookies to cut out, try using powdered sugar in place of flour to spread out and dip your cutters in. It provides the same non-stick surface and doesn't leave the "flour" taste on your baked cookies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #5:

You know those annoying plastic twist ties that hold your child's toys hostage while they bug you constantly to open? They come in really handy for decorating. They are strong/durable and work well for greenery & garlands. If they are too long, use wire cutters to trim to size.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #4

Ran out of powdered sugar? No problem. Put some white or raw sugar in the blender or food processor on high for a few minutes and you have powdered sugar. Allow the dust to settle before opening to avoid a face full (not that I learned the hard way)...

Friday, December 3, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #3:

Avoid the expense of new holiday outfits for you and the family. Think of up-cycling or adding a new accessory instead. Try a red flower hair pin, tie, scarf, hat, or jewelry. Save the money on new cloths and use it give to those in need this Christmas. No one needs another Christmas sweater... Merry Christmas!

Visit your local thrift store, embellish something you already have, pick up some hair accessories from Domestic Artistry, or jewelry from rescued trafficked women from Women At Risk.

Whichever way you go, it's more about the meaning of the season than the outfit you end up wearing. Think about living well and giving well this Christmas in addition to frugally eating well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

25 Tips of Christmas - Day #2:

Let the parade for tips for Christmas continue...

Most non-iced cookies can be frozen and thawed to use later with great results. For sugar cookies, save the frosting part for when they are thawed. Start now and pace your Christmas baking throughout the month. Eat a few and freeze the rest instead of a marathon eating through the batch (if they last that long). You can also pull our a few of several different types of cookies to enjoy rather than eating just one type at a time. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

25 Tip of Christmas - Day #1:

I'm going to count down the days to Christmas with a fun tip each day plus some yummy recipes. Coming tomorrow = Cheesecake Quesadillas

DAY #1
When measuring baked goods with your little baker, put the measuring cup/spoon on or over a small plate so excess spills can be contained or reused. An apron from Domestic Artistry helps contain the mess as well. Happy baking.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving - Turkey Brine

Thanksgiving is done. Turkey Day 2010 came and went and I got to try out my very first turkey brine. Let me tell you, once you taste a brined turkey - there is NO GOING BACK.

You might be asking by now, "What's a brine?" Think of it as a salt water marinade. The flavors and moisture is absorbed into the turkey. I found out that your brine base has three basic ingredients that you can build off - water, salt, and sugar. Here is what I came up with.

1 qt Weak Apple Juice (* see below)
1 gal. + Cold Water
1 1/2 c Salt
1/2 c Brown Sugar
2 T Peppercorns
1 t Onion Powder

Put your turnkey in a food safe container (bucket, brining bag, cooking bag, etc). You want a container large enough that the whole turkey can be covered with the liquid. mix seasoning and liquids and pour over meat. Keep in a cold place (refrigerator or garage if you life far enough north) for 12-15 hours (basically overnight).

When you are ready to roast it, drain the liquid and pat dry with paper towel. Rub a bit of oil over the skin and apply any desired herbs to skin. In the cavity I added an apple & onion (split in half and microwaved for 5 minutes in a bit of water to soften them up), and some fresh thyme and rosemary.

Bake at 450 for 30 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and roast until internal temp comes to 162 degrees. Allow to rest for 30 minutes to continue cooking and redistribute juices before carving. That's the perfect amount of time to cook a side dish - stuffing, casserole, veggies, etc.

I covered the turkey breast with foil after the first 30 minutes. After that, honestly I forgot to baste the turkey. It turned out completely moist all the way through with a mild apple flavor. My husband said it was the best turkey he's ever had.

As a side benefit - the drippings made the most amazing gravy. It was a hint of sweetness, a good balance of salt, and a bit of apple flavor. I only need to add a bit of pepper to season the gravy. A perfect match with my apple sausage stuffing.

We never got to do the kindness jar that I mentioned earlier in the week. My youngest got a case for the stomach flu. All of our plans went helter skelter. No volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House (thankful that our friends still could go and pick up my slack), no friends for Thanksgiving dinner, no lots of things. But surprisingly I was okay with all of it.

Far away from home and everything else, I had anticipated being homesick. God blessed me with a great level of contentment and peace. It was a wonderful day with my family. AMAZING food that we'll be eating for a while since it was just us, and lots of time with my boys.

I am so thankful for my family, our health, our friends, our church, a simpler life, and God's provision in our life. Oh yeah, and lots of great food. May the season and spirit of Thanksgiving last all year long.

* I actually didn't use apple juice. It was the juice produced by boiling my apple peels left over from making applesauce with a qt of water. If using regular apple juice I would use a watered down, weak version.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Apple butter is one of those great fall flavors. I've also found it INCREDIBLY easy and inexpensive to make. Break out the slow cooker and it pretty much makes itself. If you teach my kids, act surprised when you get this for Christmas...
Apple butter is a great topping for bread/toast and all those traditional uses, but I've also started using it in baked goods like the Apple Cinnamon Frosting and in pancakes. If I can use pumpkin in it, I'm trying using the apple butter in it's place for a different flavor. It cooks very much the same.

This is at the early stage of the process.

5-7 pounds apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped
3/4 c brown sugar**
3 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Place the apples in a slow cooker and toss with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
2. Cover and cook on high 1 hour.
3. Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown. (I let it go overnight)
4. Blend in either food processor or blender for a smooth consistency (or leave it lumpy if you'd like). Return to slow cooker and continue cooking on low 1 hour uncovered.
5. Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze. To can, pour hot apple butter into hot jars and process in a hot water bath for 10-12 minutes.

** I use sweet apples (Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Gala, etc.) that don't require much added sugar. Sweeten to you own liking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving - Thankful Turkeys

Okay, let's get down to turkey. It's one of my favorite meats. I cook it more than just Thanksgiving because I can't wait that long to eat it. Usually it's a hot week in the summer and I blast the air so I can handle cooking in the kitchen. Throw in a few turkey roasts in between and frozen leftovers, and I make it through the year.

I've tried several methods over the years to cook. I was brought up on the turkey bag method. It produces a moist turkey. From all I've been learning about health/food/allergies/safety I'm not really comfortable to cook things in plastic. I've become more adventuresome over the years and have basted turkeys, applied herb butter under and on top of the skin (yum), cooked it upside down (resulted in very flat and compressed white meat), and sliding bacon under the skin.

This year I'm soaking the turkey in a brine (salt water solution) ahead of time, stuffing it with apples and aromatics, and cooking it with foil tent (removing at the end to brown). My SIL brines her turkeys and they are AMAZING so I'm giving it a whirl. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tomorrow we kick off Thanksgiving week with a thankful jar. At each meal we'll put a note into the jar with something/someone we are thankful for. At the end of the week, we'll have a jar full to be grateful for. I've also planned out a theme to be thankful for each day - health/family, freedom, work, fun, faith/church, etc. I'm looking forward to the week ahead.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving - Desserts

I'm torn on what to make for dessert this thanksgiving. Typically I can make several things as we are having a big gathering. But for a family of 4 in which the boys are a bit picky about dessert, I could be left with dessert to eat forever - and NOTHING good is going to come out of that...

Here are the front runners for this year:

Pumpkin Layer Cheesecake

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Toffee Trifle
Pumpkin Cake 2
or the Pumpkin Bread Pudding from Throwdown with Bobby Flay (vs. Pioneer Woman)

Maybe I'll make a few and freeze extra portions? Maybe I'll send it to work with my husband? What's your favorite finish for your Thanksgiving feast?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving - Stuffing & Kindness

One of my favorite things about the Thanksgiving meal is stuffing. Really, we don't eat this marvelous creation often enough. Note to self - great side dish to use more often. As a child I hated stuffing. It was big pieces and soggy, and all those spices... Mom made us kids Stove Top just so she wouldn't have to hear us complain. My kids have the same opinion. I look at my kids and know that someday maybe they will change their mind too.

Now technically, I don't make stuffing. I make dressing so it gets more crispy. I'm a texture eater and slimy/soggy is the worst texture to eat. However, it was always called stuffing, so shall ever more be referred to as that.

I've got two favorite recipes that I tend to go back and forth between based on my mood. Yes, I'm admitting that I'm moody. I know - newsflash right ;)

The first is a tangy Sourdough Bread Stuffing and the other a sweet/savory Apple & Sausage Stuffing. This year I'm leaning towards the apple & sausage option, but I'm going to throw in another recipe this year. I'm going to try making a gluten-free option with a great bread from Sami's Bakery that we've found (FINALLY one that my son LOVES). I'll try to make it kid friendly by chopping the bread up small, and tossing it with simple seasoning, oil, and sausage. Hopefully it will be more successful that past years...

As we focus on the meaning of the Thanksgiving, the boys and I talked about kindness tonight. That's a tough topic for 6 and 4-year-old brothers who would rather fight than do anything else. Then again it's tough at any age.

After a great devotional the other day on this character quality (coming from Colossians 3), we "clothed ourselves in kindness." The boys put on their favorite costumes and I tried to figure out what they were clothed as. The ninja was pretty easy. The Canadian Cowboy was a bit harder to figure out. That little man has one heck of an imagination.

From there we talked about people knowing that we are a child of God by our kindness. They see us for who we are. We can choose to clothe ourselves in kindness and look like God - or we can act without kindness. It clicked with them and they were kind (mostly) for the rest of the night. Here's hoping that it still sticks with them when they wake in the morning...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kitchen Disasters & Giving Thanks

I've not posted lately because the few new things I've tried have been COMPLETE disasters. I've been focusing on gluten-free baking to reduce our grocery costs. I've been using several mixes for baking, but it gets pricey. A collapsed and under-cooked cake, and tasteless biscuit, and cookies that stayed in a hard ball instead of spreading.

So be encouraged - we all have kitchen disasters. If you've made a mess of things, we all do. Keep on trying, because the tasty rewards are worth it.

This week, I'll take a look back at a few of my holiday favs along with many reasons to be thankful.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Donut Muffins

Donuts with Dad is coming up at school and I was trying to figure out what I could make to send with my son (who has multiple food allergies). I found the recipe for Donut Muffin at GFCF Frugal Abundance. I substituted almond milk for the soy milk, an egg replacer, and used a soy-free vegan butter spread. My boys and I devoured the entire first batch. And we have a winner.

I'll let you visit GFCF Frugal Abundance for the recipe, but here is a picture to drool over first. I'm going to try to make them in mini-muffin tins to make them more bite-size like a donut hole.

These are amazing as gluten-free, so I can only imagine that they would be fantastic with traditional flour - simply omit the xanthan gum. Her GLAD flour mixture is probably the best GF flour I've tried so far.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Cake 2 - Healthier & Allergy Friendly

Last year I made a fun "pumpkin cake" that my boys have been begging me to recreate. I put my researching hat on and modified a few things to make it allergy-friendly for us and came up with a good cake that we enjoyed with friends today. We'll be making this one again this fall season.

3 eggs (or egg substitute)
1/2 c Applesauce
1/3 c White sugar
1 1/2 c Pumpkin puree (or one 15-ounce can)
1 t Cinnamon
1/8 t Nutmeg
1/8 t Ground Cloves
1/4 t Ground Ginger
1 pkg Yellow cake mix (or 2 Betty Crocker Gluten-free mixes)
Shortening & Flour

Blend together eggs, sugar, applesauce and pumpkin on medium for 1 minute. Add spices and cake mix and continue to blend for 2 more minutes. Grease and flour a bundt pan (or 9 X 13) and pour in mixture. Bake for 45 minutes (35-40 min for 9 X 13) or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 3-5 minutes. Invert on to a wire cooling rack until completely cooled.

Slightly melt frosting (white or orange) and pour over cake on the wire rack over wax paper. Slightly bounce the cake to allow the frosting to spread evenly. Scoop up extra frosting from the wax paper - slightly reheat - and repeat process until cake is thoroghly coated to give a "pumpkin" like appearance. Frost an ice cream cake cone with green and insert into the hole of the bundt cake.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Allergy-free Hospitality - Pt 2

Here's part 2 - the next edition of learning how to love on people with food-allergies by speaking their food-love language. Think of it as allergy-free hospitality.

If you are new to cooking for friends/family/self with food allergies, you probably start thinking about expensive and exotic foods that can only be purchased at a health food store.

True, the health food store will help you find an abundance of great products that can help address almost any food restrictions. The short-cut mixes and kits can be extremely healthy.

False, the health food store is not the only place to shop for foods that are allergen-free. A less expensive place to start is on the outer ring in your grocery store. Along the exterior walls, you will usually find the produce, meat, and refrigerated sections. These departments are where you will find the majority whole foods (name given to foods that are in their natural state/not processed with other ingredients). Serving green peppers (and other fruits & veggies) to someone with a peanut allergy is a safe bet (as long as you are handling the ingredients in a safe way). Roasted meat (look for proteins that is not injected with solutions, marinaded, or processed) is a tasty and gluten-free dinner choice.

The inner isles of the store contains most of your processed foods. You can find great options there as well, but CAREFULLY read the whole label (and save the packaging for your friends to double check).

Here's a list of foods that I suggest to family/friends when they ask what to serve:
  • Grilled/roasted/baked chicken, steak, roast, pork, etc (watch seasonings)
  • Hamburgers (not served on a bun)
  • Plain white or brown rice
  • Potato
  • Veggies
  • Fruit
  • Plain potato chips (watching for oils & flavorings)
  • Tortilla chips (watching for oils & ingredients) & salsa (look for fresh)
  • Rice noodles
  • Air popped or stove popped popcorn
  • Popsicles
  • Applesauce
  • Mexican and Asian recipes are often free of allergens or easily adapted to make them safe
  • Etc
There are plenty of great options that are inexpensive and very simple to make. Summertime is the easiest season when everything can be thrown on the grill.

You can do it. In fact, you may often cook this way and never realize that it is safe for those you love with food intolerances and allergies.

Next time we'll take a look at pitfalls and things to look at - many of which you would have never guessed. It may be a bit overwhelming, or a lot. Even being well educated and fairly carefully, I still miss things and make unsafe choices for my son. Everyday is a learning process and a chance to enjoy the wonderful foods that are good for our bodies

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Flourless Peanut-free Peanut Butter Cookies

This is about as simple as it gets in allergy-free baking. It requires NO specialty flours and the finished results are very tasty. They are a bit crumbly due to the lack of flour, but have a smooth texture.

1 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 c sunbutter (or almond butter)*
1 egg (or egg replacer)
1 t baking soda
1/2 t vanilla extract
3/4 c chocolate chips (or morsels)

Stir together first five ingredients with a wooden spoon (It's sticky, you'll want a good stiff spoon. I tried a thick spatula with sad results and moved on to the wooden spoon). Stir in chocolate chips/morsels. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until golden (cookies will be soft, but firm up as they cool). Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, remove to wire rack. I just slide the parchment paper over to the counter.

*I found a similar recipe to this made with peanut butter and thought - that would be easy to tweak. If you can eat peanuts, feel free to substitute that for the sunbutter or almond butter.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Allergy-free Hospitality - Pt 1

I've been asked a LOT lately for some simple recipes that can be made as a treat for their friends/family who are gluten-free (or other food allergies). So I'll be devoting a few posts here for simple/easy/quick fixes that can allow you to entertain GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY-FREE, and even EGG-FREE.

I know we could delve into more allergies and diet restrictions, but we'll start with these.

First of all, let me say bless you to anyone who is willing to attempt allergen-free cooking and baking for a loved one. It REALLY does give the person a feeling of belonging and being cared for when you work hard to make them included. As a mom, it speaks volumes to me that you've put the thought and care into making my son's life a little more normal.

That being said - I'll gladly bring my son his own food to get-togethers, and it is NOT an insult. It's part of our life. If you are uncomfortable/uncertain that the foods you serve are not safe, than I'd rather have your company with our own safe food.

Second of all, have packaging and recipes ready for your guests to look at, and don't be insulted if your guest with an allergy asks questions about what is in it. They are just trying to eat clean/safe. While you have done your best to make something that meets the dietary restrictions, you may not realize the entirety of your guest's food restrictions. Double checking is a must in many people's worlds.

Third, allergy-free cooking doesn't have to be just for the guest with allergies. There are great, tasty, and frugal ideas that the crowd will enjoy. Think of it as culinary exercises - you are strengthening your cooking/baking skills, which will only serve to make you stronger in the end.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cookies - Playing With Your Food

I love sugar cookies and so do my boys... so why limit them to one holiday a year? We make sugar cookies for all kinds of holidays, occasions, and just because. Last Christmas we iced little light bulbs and strung them together with licorice strings. (The lights have a bit of frosting on the back to help hold them to the string.)

Some of my favorite ways to use cookies - footballs. Great for MNF or Super Bowl parties and takes almost no icing (just a little white for the laces). Works great with the brown sugar cookies because they are already brown.

We make hearts for Valentine's Day, Shamrocks for St Patties, flowers for spring, pumpkins in the fall, snowflakes for the first snow fall, and all sorts of shapes just because (cars, animals, planes, circles/squares/triangles, etc). What can I say? We enjoy playing with our food.

Now I just need to work on a gluten/dairy/egg/soy free version that my oldest can enjoy. That's gonna take a bit of tweaking.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Bit Of A Different Format

I've been wondering for a while on how to transform a blog of just recipes into more. It lacks the soul, art, and life in the kitchen. There is more to the love of cooking than just the recipe to produce.

So hopefully a bit of humor, struggles with food allergies stories of kitchen tragedies, and few slanted looks at life will personalize it a bit.

So what am I up to lately? I've been working in the kitchen on creating homemade sausage. I've been struggling to find a good quality sausage without gluten and dairy that doesn't cost a fortune. Can I just mention how much my boys (including the grown up one) love sausage? For breakfast, on pizza, in spaghetti/lasagna/pasta/etc... Okay, I enjoy it too.

So my frugal solution? Learn how to make my own. I picked up a lunch of pork on sale ($1 - $1.50/lb) and on clearance ($.80/lb) and we've been grinding it up (love my Kitchen Aid attachment). Texture is good, but the spice blend is still in the tweaking process.

So wish me well and pray for my boys that they can handle the concoctions being sent their way.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Freezing Green Peppers

Here's another installment in the much delayed series on "How To" process fall produce and seasonal favorites.

I found a great deal on peppers and bought way more than I could (or should) ever use by time they would go bad. Here's a great way to use them and process them. I diced them up and spread them out over top of some plastic wrap. Then "flash freeze" (spread out to freeze them individually and then store together) them for a couple of hours.

After the fast freeze, remove the peppers from the pan/plastic wrap and store them in a freezer bag. You can pull them out and use them as needed. **

Because when the thaw, the frozen peppers will be a little soft. Wouldn't recommend using these in a raw preparation, but works perfectly for spaghetti sauce, fajitas, stir fry, and anything else you could think of.

You can freeze the colored peppers separately if you want, but I like to mix them for color and flavor.

**I'm the only one in my family that enjoys peppers much, so this method is cost effective. I can grab a few peppers at a time for what I need.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chicken Fiesta Enchiladas

A bunch of leftovers was combines to make these amazing enchiladas. I used the base recipe from my Creamy Chicken Enchiladas and tried to make it a bit healthier and fresher. We've also been looking at cutting back our meat consumption to help control grocery costs and focus on eating more fruits and veggies. This meal does both. My husband likes these even better than the original.

10 - 12 Tortillas
1 c Chicken, cooked and shredded
1 c Sour cream
1 t Taco seasoning
1 sm can Green chilis, drained
8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded & divided
1 c White rice, cooked and cold
1 c Corn
1 c Bell pepper, chopped
1 can Green enchilada sauce

Mix together the soup, sour cream, taco seasoning, and green chilis. Add in the chicken, rice, corn, peppers, and 3/4 c of cheese and mix together. Spoon about 1/3 - 1/2 cup of the mixture into each tortilla and lay in a 9 X 13 baking pan*, seam side down.

Pour the enchilada sauce over the filled tortillas and top with the remaining cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 - 40 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is lightly browned. Serve with lettuce, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, or other garnishes of your choice.

* I usually split this into 2-3 meals for my husband and I since it isn't a favorite with my kids. It freezes well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Newest Endeavor - Etsy

I've taken a bit of a break from the kitchen to spread my creative wings in another way.

I am very excited because I just launched a store on (similar to ebay but they host sellers of handmade and vintage items). So far I just have aprons up there, but soon hope to be adding collections of baby items, blankets, quilts, holiday decor, linens, etc.

I called it Domestic Artistry because I love the idea that my home and family are a canvas. The art that I create (cooking/baking, sewing, scrapbooking, decorating, kid ideas, etc) is meant for making life more beautiful and memorable - and hopefully enjoyable.

Check it out on Etsy under DOMESTIC ARTISTRY

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apple Sandwich

For dinner tonight, my friend Trista and I made these yummy (and messy) apple sandwiches. We put two apples through my handy-dandy apple/peeler/corer/slicer and than cut the apple into rings. If you don't have one of these devices, than simple core the apple and slice the apple into thin rings.
  • Lay out each of the rings, and spread your favorite nut butter (sunbutter, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, etc) on each slice.
  • Sprinkle your favorite toppings on on the sunbutter (which we used) - like chocolate shavings or chopped chocolate chips, raisins, chopped nuts, seeds, or pretzel bits.
  • Lay a sunbuttered apple slice on top of the sprinkled apple to make the "sandwich"
The kids all gobbled them up. Think this may become a new favorite after school snack. Sorry no picture. The kids were WAY too hungry (okay, and the moms too) to wait for a picture. I'll try to get one next time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

This is one of the treats I love about autumn. If you've processed pumpkins to puree or have seeds from the pumpkins you've cut into jack-o-lanterns... then this is your reward.

Remove the strings and pulp and rinse thoroughly. I usually let mine soak overnight. Some boil theirs for 5-10 minutes to soften the shells. After patting the seeds dry, drizzle with a bit olive oil. Toss seeds (2-3 c) with the following mixture:

1 1/2 t Sea Salt
1/4 t Paprika (or chili powder if you want some kick)
1/4 t Garlic Powder

Spread out on a cookie sheet or cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown (10-15 minutes). Remove from oven and loosen with a spatula. All to cool completely. Store in an air tight container. Snack away.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Evidently there was a pumpkin shortage last year. I've been unable to get any canned pumpkin in quite awhile. I got tired of waiting so I made my own...

My favorite organic stand at the farmer's market had pie pumpkins for $1 each, so we snatched up three of them. From those pumpkins I now have about 16 cups of pumpkin puree. Not bad for $3 and just a little bit of work.

Start by washing off the pumpkin and cutting it in half. Scoop out the seeds (save for roasting) and strings and place cut side down on a baking dish. Pour water into the dish to about 1/4" depth. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Test with a knife to see if the skin and flesh can be easily pierced. Note: the pumpkins may appear "caved in" but that's good. Allow to cool slightly and scoop out the flesh. Discard the exterior shell. In a food processor or blender add a small of water at a time to pumpkin to bring to a smooth consistency. You don't want lumps, but you don't want it thin and runny either.

Place puree in a strainer lined with cheesecloth to allow the liquid to drain from the puree and give a good thick consistency. The liquid drained can be used to puree more batches of pumpkin rather than water.

Use in your favorite pumpkin pancakes (Gluten-free version), pumpkin apple muffins, pumpkin trifle, pumpkin cheesecake or other fall delight. Can be frozen in muffin tins or in freezer bags.**

**Tips: Pictured from left to right. When using freezer bags, roll the zipper portion over the outside of the bag when filling. This keeps from getting puree in the tracks and making a mess. When you're ready to close it up unroll the zipper part to stand upright. Seal the bag 4/5 the way and roll out any air in the package. Lay the package flat to freeze.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Homemade Chicken Broth

So if you are looking for exact measurements, this is not the post for you ;) but keep reading anyway. I greatly dislike paying large amounts of money for flavorless chicken stock in the store. And guaranteeing that it is gluten-free is another thing. So I've decided to make my own. I've frozen and canned it and find benefits to both methods. More on that later. Let's start at the beginning.

First I start with 1 onion, 2-3 stalks of celery, and 3 carrots (all roughly chopped) in a large stock pot with a bit of olive oil. Over medium heat, I soften the veggies and let the little bits of brown bits (caramelized goodness) collect on the bottom, stirring occasionally.

At that point I add 2 cups of water and use a wooden spoon to loosen any of those bits and color from the bottom of the pan. Then I add chicken bones (just the ones left over from dinner) and another 14-22 c of water to the pan. Season with 3 t of salt and 1 t of pepper.

Bring the pot to a rolling boil and then reduce to medium-low heat. Stirring occasionally, allow to simmer 2-3 hours.

When it's finished you have a beautiful broth. Strain out the veggies and bones and allow to cool completely, and refrigerate. You can freeze it in jars (be sure the lid isn't closed tightly because the jar with break - not that I learned by experience or anything), 1/4 c portions in muffin tins (pop out and store in freezer bags), or can it.

For canning, reheat the broth and pour into a hot jar. You'll need to process it by using a pressure cooker. I learned the hard way that hot water baths don't kill the bacteria and you end up with nastiness in a jar.

This is any easy production following dinner. I through everything in the pot after dinner and let it simmer away for the evening. I stash it away in the fridge and then either can it or freeze it the next day. It costs almost nothing and is a great way to use up those wilting veggies left in your refrigerator door.

At this cost I use it to cook rice in and sometimes pasta. Bring on the soups now at half the cost.

** Note: Another great way to make broth is not only to use the bones, but a the chicken on the bone. That will give you the richest possible broth. In the winter I do this method. But while the weather allows, I would much rather eat grilled chicken.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Freezing Sweet Corn

There is nothing like the taste of fresh summer sweet corn. Sorry Green Giant and other manufactures... it's just not the same. So I'm stock piling the summer goods to get me through the long winter.

It's SUPER simple. Put a couple of big pots of water on to boil while you husk all of your corn and get it ready. Fill a large bowl of cold water or a clean sink water plus ice. Put the corn in a boiling pot of water for 4-5 minutes to partially cook it. Then submerge it in the ice water to stop the cooking. When it is completely cooled, set it aside to dry.

Here's my tip to start with - be prepared with LOTS of ice. Get your ice maker pumping it out in advance and bag it up or head on out to the convenience store and pick up a bag. It will make your life a lot easier. The hot corn heats up the water quickly.

When the corn is cooled and dried off, Cut the corn off the cob and set it aside to bag when you are done. I package corn in serving size for our family 2-3 c in a freezer bag.

Then seal up the bag except for a about 1 inch on the end. Roll the bag to squeeze out as much of the air as possible and finish sealing the bag.

Finish by flattening out the bag and corn so that it lays flat. Takes some squishing and moving around to even it out.

By freezing the corn laying flat, you can than stack them upright in a tote or box and save yourself much of the room in the freezer.

When you feel like some sweet summer corn, heat on the stove top with a bit of water or in the microwave for about 5 minutes.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How to Series

I've been busy putting up summer produce and getting my oldest off to school. That has meant not much posting and definitely not much in the way of cooking and creating new recipes. The good news is school has started and life is SO much easier with one (who starts pre-school next week) than two who've had a very long summer together. Hopefully that gives kiddo #2 and me more time in the kitchen to play.

In the process of putting up all sorts of goodies, I've had several requests and questions about "How did you do that?" referring to canning and freezing different items. So here are a few things to look forward to attempting to answer those questions.

Sweet Corn
Bell Peppers
Chicken Broth
Green Beans
Pumpkin Puree

Chicken Broth

Chicken broth
Pumpkin puree
and more.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Apron Model

The apron giveaway winner Shirley was willing (only because I asked really nicely) to show off her new apron that's she's already put to good use. Thanks for sharing Shirley and hope that you put it to good use.

I'm considering opening an store on Etsy to sell these aprons along with some of my other creations. Any thoughts? Ideas for a name?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Apple Carrot Slaw

I made this for dinner tonight. I really enjoyed it, my husband and kids - not so much. None of them are much of salad fans though.

It was a nice light side dish and I'll make it again. I might play with the recipe a bit. Next time I might try adding some coconut or almonds. I also might swap apple cider for the lemon juice.

3 Carrots, grated
2 Apple, peeled cored and grated
1 1/2 T Olive oil
1 T Lemon juice
2 t Sugar or agave
Salt to taste
2 T sunflower seeds
1 t Sesame seeds

Toss together carrots, apple, and seeds in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together olive oil, sugar and lemon juice. Add salt to taste. Drizzle dressing over carrot and apple and toss to combine well. Allow to marinade for 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Frosting

OH MY YUMMINESS! I didn't have all my usual ingredients for frosting, so I played with what I have... and found a new favorite. I'm gonna have to try this with Applesauce cake or Carrot cake.

1/2 c Shortening (or butter)
1 t Vanilla extract*
2 c Sifted confectioners' sugar
1 T Milk (cow, nut, rice)
1 T Apple butter
1 t Cinnamon

* I used a butter flavored extract because I ran out of vanilla on the cupcakes - and it tasted wonderful.

Whip together all ingredients with a blender for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. This was enough for cupcakes or a 9 X 13. For a layered cake make another 1/2 recipe or double it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Frugal School Lunch Ideas

You stare at your kiddos lunch box/bag and try to think of what you have on hand that you can fill it with that (A) your kid will eat (B) is fairly healthy & (C) don't have to work more than a couple minutes to put together. It's the joy of school lunches. Time to get creative.

Due to allergies, we have no choice but to send a packed lunch with my son to school. While many of these ideas we can't use - this is a big list that we can all refer back to during the school year when our creativity is waning.

  • Lunchmeat
  • PBJ or use Sunbutter or Almond Butter**
  • Carved meat - leftover ham, turkey, chicken, etc
  • Wraps - pizza, lunchmeat, taco, fajita, etc
  • Cheese
  • Subs
  • BLT
  • Cream cheese & jelly (think on a tortilla)
  • Instead of bread - use a tortilla, flat bread, pancake, waffle, crackers, English muffin, bagel, biscuit, pizza crust, pita, etc

  • Sandwiches
  • Wraps
  • Cut up with crackers & cheese (think homemade lunchables with ½ the sodium)
  • Wrap around a piece of string cheese

  • Peanut butter, sunbutter, almond butter, nutella** (With pretzels, apple slices, vanilla wafers, carrots, etc)
  • Salsa & chips
  • Hummus
  • Ranch or veggie dip
  • Yogurt

OTHER - Great way to use leftovers.
  • Salad
  • Waffle
  • Lasagna rolls
  • Pizza
  • Hot dog
  • Quesadillas
  • Meatballs
  • Chicken Strips
  • Spaghetti (unless they are a messy eater)
  • Soups (Use a good insulated thermos/cup and make sure your kid know they HAS to bring that part home.)

  • Veggies - raw carrots, celery, green beans
  • Fruit - apples, pears, peaches, bananas, mangos, melon, strawberries, pineapple, grapes, blueberries, cherries, etc
  • Pretzels
  • Pita or bagel chips
  • Banana or zucchini bread
  • Breakfast cookies**
  • Cornbread
  • Dried fruit or fruit leathers
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Pasta
  • Rice or quinoa
  • Potato - hash browns, mashed, etc
  • Parfait - yogurt, fruit, granola
  • Yogurt
  • Jello
  • Rice, wheat, saltine, or whole grain crackers
  • Granola bar
  • Occasional sweet treat - cupcake, cookie, chocolate, fruit snacks, pudding, brownie, etc
  • Energy bar**
  • Cereal
  • Popcorn
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Cheese
  • Nuts **
**(use caution with potential allergies of classmates)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mojito Melon

I found this recipe at the Betty Crocker website and served it at my son's birthday party over the weekend. It was wonderful. The lime and mint adds a great contrast to the sweet cantaloupe that it topped. This is definitely worth making again.

2 Limes
5-6 c Melon or Pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 c Sugar or agave
1/3 c Limade, mojito mixer or dark rum
3 T Fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Put melon in a 1-gallon plastic bag or large sealable container.

Grate the peel from limes. Cut each lime in half and squeeze to remove 6 T of juice. Wisk together lime peel, lime juice, sugar, juice/rum and mint. Pour over the fruit and turn to coat.
Refrigerate 1-6 hour to meld flavors. To serve, drain marinade or push fruit cubes onto skewers. Discard marinade.

*Note, this picture was taken the day after the party. In the craziness of company, taking pictures of food wasn't on top of my list. Still tasted good, but the mint isn't vibrant green like it was the first day and the melon has started to get pretty soft.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Construction Cake

My baby turned 4 today and we celebrated his birthday over the weekend. My in-laws had flown in for a long weekend and we pulled together a collection of people - of which no one knew each other. But that's what a party is for right? Celebrate and meet people?

It was Construction bliss for a little boy. We had stick the stop sign on the octagon (like pin-the-tail on the donkey), construction bingo, and cake with excavators and loaders tearing a hole in the center of the grass. Cake bits from the center along with Joe-Joe crumbs (Trader Joe's version of oreo cookies) made the "dirt" for the excavator and loader to scoop.

I let my son pick most of the menu - which was hot dogs, chips, and tortillas (he means quesedillas). To that I added Apple/Pear/Cashew Salad, Chips & Salsa, a veggie tray, Mojito Melon, and a construction version of the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake (butter cream frosting rather than the one listed with the recipe).

Happy birthday to my little man.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Summer zucchini is here! This is one of the best veggies to slip into cooking that the kids like and adds a bit of nutritional boost to what you are eating. This is a lot like my Zucchini Bread recipe that I love. It was a great breakfast treat.

1 1/2 c Flour (or GF Carol Fenster blend)
3 T Sugar
2 t Baking powder
1 1/2 t Cinnamon
1/2 t Salt
2 T oil
1 1/2 c Milk (cow, rice, nut)
1 Egg, slightly beaten (1 T milled flaxseed, 3 T water)
1 Zucchini (about 1 1/4 c)

In large bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients; add oil, milk and egg and stir until flour is moistened. Grate a whole zucchini (peeled) and add to the pancake batter. Stir until well mixed.

Heat grill pan to medium heat and add batter to greased pan. Flip pancakes when bubbles come to the surface of the pancake. Serve with syrup, powdered sugar, or favorite topping.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Double Roasted

I thought I was so clever with this one and you might be rolling your eyes at me with a "well duh" look. I like to use roasted garlic and roasted peppers in lots of my Italian cooking. All I had on hand was minced garlic (I usually like to roast the whole bulb usually). I was really sick of washing dishes by this time, so I cut off a piece of pepper for my salad, put a couple of tablespoons of garlic in it, and drizzled a bit of olive oil over the garlic.

I loosely wrapped the pepper in tin foil so the oil wouldn't leak all over, set it in a baking pan, and roasted it for about an hour at 300 degrees. It turned out great and worked nicely in my spaghetti sauce. Oh, and I didn't have to wash anything extra. Bonus.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

So I've been researching breakfast cookies for a while. I knew that they would be an easy sell for the kiddos. A cookie for breakfast? They thought they had died and gone to heaven. I kind of mixed up a whole lot of recipes and added a few things of my own.

These taste great. But I need someone to explain the science to me about why the batter when contacted with air the batter started to turn green. The first batch turned out with just a green tint (pictured). The second set of cookies to go in were quite green from the sitting out in the air for 20 minutes while the first set baked. They taste completely fine and no one is sick, but something about the combination is making a green color. Maybe a fit for Christmas or St. Patty's???

1/2 c Sunbutter butter (or any nut butter)
1/2 c Applesauce
1/2 c Brown sugar, packed
1 Egg (or 3 T water/1 T flax meal mixed)
1 t Vanilla
2 ripe Bananas, mashed
1/2 t Baking soda
1/2 t Salt
2 c Flour (or Carol Fenster GF mix)
1 T Flaxseed, ground
2 c Old Fashioned oats*
1 c Dried fruit or chocolate chips

* I only have GF rolled outs so I pre-moistened them with about 1/2 c of apple juice and stirred it until the juice was absorbed.

Beat the sunbutter and applesauce until combined. Beat in the brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add in the bananas, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour and ground flaxseed, mixing until combined. Stir in the oatmeal and raisins/chips.

Drop 1/4 cup dollops of batter four inches apart onto parchment paper. Bake for 15-18 minutes at 350. Let stand 1 minute on the tray, then remove to a wire rack.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Quinoa Apple Salad

I've head a lot about quinoa (KEEN-wah) lately. The newly marketed superfood that the Incas survived on. If you aren't familiar with it (which I wasn't until this summer), it's actually a seed, not a grain. It's high in protein, has a bit of a chewy texture and nutty flavor. It's mild enough to be really versatile for a salad and side dish.

I found an intriguing recipe for it in Family Fun magazine and adapted it to my own tastes.

1 c Quinoa, rinsed
2 c Apple juice (or water)
1 T Honey*
2 t Sugar
1/4 lemon juice
1/2 t salt
2 T Olive oil
1 c Apples, peeled & finely diced
2/3 c Celery, finely diced
1 T Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 Almonds, toasted and chopped

* I'm not a fan of the flavor of honey and for me it was a bit overwhelming. Next time I'll probably replace this with agave or sugar.

Lime juice, diced Mango, Cilantro, Jicama, Water (replace apple juice)
Apple juice, diced Pear, Cashews, Parsley
Lemon juice, Basil, Walnut, Water (replace apple juice)
Coconut, cilantro, lime, coconut milk (replace juice)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Apple Bars

It's almost apple season, and here is a sweet treat to help make the most of the upcoming apple season. This was a major contender for a Holiday Hints
treat, but was a bit much work for mass production. I don't remember the source of the recipe, but I do remember how good they tasted.

3/4 c butter, softened
1/4 c Sugar
1 Egg
1 t Vanilla
2 1/2 c Flour
1/4 t Salt

Blend with mixer on low until mixture starts to hold together. Press into a greased 10 X 15 inch pan.

5 c Apples, sliced thin
2 T Lemon juice
1/2 c Sugar
3 T Flour
1/2 t Cinnamon
1/4 t Salt

Mix together and pour over crust.

1 c Flour
1/2 c Brown sugar
6 T Butter

Mix flour and brown sugar together. Cut in the butter and mix until the mixture becomes crumbly. Sprinkle over the filling. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Apple Juice Oatmeal

Ever wanted to eat apple pie for breakfast. Okay, confession, I have eaten pie for breakfast a few times. So here's my solution for enjoying those flavors without the guilt or having to hide in the closet with last night's dessert leftovers to avoid being seen by your kiddos.

You want to use old fashioned oats rather than quick oats. The thicker texture makes it so much better.Instead of cooking the oats in water, use apple juice and 1 t of cinnamon to cook the oatmeal according to package instructions. Bob's Red Mill has g-free oats that I used to makes this. A-MAZ-ING.

Living on the wild side? Top with a dollop of whipped cream and call it a bit of dairy for your breakfast.

Maple Syrup
Whipped cream
Diced Apples
Chopped Nuts: Almonds/Peanuts/Walnuts/Pecans

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Roasted Chicken

For some reason, the idea of roasting a whole chicken sounded intimidating to me. I'm not sure what that I was. I could roast a whole turkey and chicken pieces, but a whole chicken. Hadn't gone there.

About a year ago, I found this recipe at and I've changed my mind. I no longer am dependent on grocery store rotisserie chicken. My father-in-law couldn't stop eating it. It was incredibly moist with hints of the flavors it was stuffed with. **I tweaked it a little my tastes.

1 (3-4 pound) whole chicken, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
1 sm onion, quartered
1/4 c chopped fresh rosemary (I just threw in a few sprigs)
**I also added 1 small chopped apple

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff with the onion and rosemary. Place chicken in a 9x13 inch baking dish or roasting dish.

Roast in the preheated oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Cooking time will vary a bit depending on the size of the bird.

The Frugal part of this is that whole chickens go on awesome sales and can hang out in the freezer until you need them. Great with mashed potatoes and veggies.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Famous Dave's Coleslaw Copycat

I'm not a big fan of coleslaw, but after eating at Famous Dave's restaurant I knew I had to try to recreate it at home. I found several recipes online and tweaked it to what I had on hand. It's not exactly the same, but still tastes pretty good, and I don't have to splurge on Famous Dave's to get it. Great for a party/picnic dish.

10 c Cabbage, chopped (finely diced rather than shredded)
1/3 c Carrot, grated
2 c Mayo (or veganaisse)
1/2 c Sugar
1 T Mustard
1/2 t Pepper
1/2 t Salt
1/4 t Garlic powder
1/4 t Celery seed
2 t Horseradish (optional)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze

A friend shared this recipe from a spot on Good Morning America. I tried it this spring for our small group and it went over really well. Can't wait to try it again this fall in peak apple season.

1 c Light brown sugar, packed
1 c Granulated sugar
1 1/2 c Canola oil
3 Eggs
3 c Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t Baking soda
2 1/2 t Cinnamon
1/2 t Nutmeg
1/2 t Salt
7 apples, diced into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 c Pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
2 1/2 t Vanilla

6 T unsalted butter
1/3 c Granulated sugar
1/3 c Light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 c Heavy cream

To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
In a mixing bowl, beat sugars, oil and vanilla until well-blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and
salt and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well-blended. Fold in apples and nuts and pour into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan.

To prepare the glaze:
In a medium pan, melt butter and add sugar and slat and cream. Stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Increase heat to boil for 2 additional minutes (large bubbles will form on the top). Remove and cool slightly. The glaze should thicken upon standing. Pour over the top of the cake.

Eat, enjoy, repeat.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Buckwheat Waffles

Another success in gluten-free, egg free, dairy free cooking for me!! I made waffles that everyone liked. These came out really crisp and pretty lightweight. Make them g-free or with standard ingredients. Either way they are going to be good and really filling.

1/2 c oat flour flour*
1/2 c buckwheat flour**
1 c Flour (GF mix)
2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t xanthan gum (only for GF mix)
1/4 c raw or brown sugar
2 eggs (EF, use use replacer)
2 c milk (cow, rice, nut, hemp)
1/4 c Oil (I used sunflower)

Combine all dry ingredients together with a whisk. In a separate bowl, slightly warm milk (not hot) and whisk together with oil & egg yolks (skip for egg free), then add to dry mix. Separately, whisk egg whites (or replacer) unto fluffy. Fold egg (replacer) into other ingredients. Heat and oil your waffle maker and cook until crisp

* Don't bother buying oat flour, it's expensive and easy to make. Stick a bunch of oats into the blender, food processor, or coffee grinder (cleaned) and powderize it. For GF, grind up Bob's Red Mill gluten-free oats.

** Don't let the name fool you, Buckwheat contains no wheat and is actually gluten-free. Thanks to the pediatric nutritionist for filling me in on that.

TOP THEM: with maple syrup, jam, fresh berries, pie filling, compote, whipped cream, or whatever you like.

Feel free to freeze the leftovers. Pop them into the toaster for a quick breakfast.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Apron Giveaway Winner

Congrats to Shirley who was randomly selected to win an apron. Thanks to all who entered. This was fun, I'll have to come up with another one.

Last Chance To Enter

... for the great apron giveaway HERE. Entries are accepted until this afternoon, Wednesday, July 14th at 5 PM (central).

Remember these are just a few samples. You get to pick color/pattern if you win.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes

1 1/4 c GF Flour Mix (I used 1/2 c millet, 1/2 c potato starch, and 1/4 c oat flour)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t Xanthan gum
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
2 T raw or brown sugar
7 T pumpkin puree (about 1/2 can of pumpkin)
2 T oil
1 c milk (cow, rice, nut)
1 egg (or replacer)

Stir dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, wisk the wet ingredients. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Heat your a griddle and oil it with coconut or canola oil. Pour about 1/3 c of batter and cook until bubbles start to burst and the better stiffens. Flip and cook the other side for another minute or two.

These will have a slightly moist consistency to them but the flavor is great. My allergy son, who hasn't seemed to like much of anything I've made gluten free, loved these. Yeah for one small success. Oh, my husband and non-allergy son liked them too.

** Sorry no picture, they were eaten too fast and I was just overjoyed they were being eaten. I'll get a picture next time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What My Kids See

After months of taking pictures of what we were eating, my boys have decided that their food needs to be photographed as well. Every time the camera comes out "Can I take a picture of my food too?" So here is a salute to my budding photogs.

My 6-year-old's view at lunch. The kid loves his carrots. These were extra special ones from the farmer's market that still had the green tops on them.

So this isn't actually on their plates, but what we were growing to go on their plates. (notice the sand that made it from the sandbox to the plants. Love my little helpers. We ate the lettuce out of these and now beans and peppers are growing in their place.

My three-year-old almost did in the camera lens when he fell taking this picture. Camera just about ended up "milked" to death.