Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's the Season of Food Gifts!

I've been seeing a lot of debates on the pros and cons of food gifts.  I personally love giving food gifts for the simple reason that there are a lot of people in my life who I cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts for but who are special to me and deserve recognition.  Enter the food gift.  You can start stockpiling basics like chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, etc. in the weeks leading up to December so when the holidays are upon us you are ready to get cooking!  Before I was gluten free I often made jars of cookie, cake, and muffin mixes.  Obviously I can't do those anymore because I'm sure no one wants to make gluten free baked goods if they don't have to!  I thought about making gluten free cookies myself and handing them out but I wasn't sure how well they would be received.  Often when I eat gluten free cookies and cakes I exclaim how you can't even tell they are gluten free and I notice my husband getting a "hate to burst your bubble" look across his face! I honestly think I have been gluten free for so long that I can't really remember what foods are "supposed" to taste like. Therefore I thought it would be in everyones best interest if I made treats that were naturally gluten free!
Please pardon my craptastic picture by the way.  This ugly blob is chocolate fudge.  Naturally gluten free and almost universally loved.  I always use the same basic fudge recipe and I always mix up my add in.  This recipe I call:
Holiday Fudge

1 can nonfat sweetened condensed milk
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 shot of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup cashews

Heat milk to a slight simmer.  Stir in chocolate.  Remove from heat stir til melted.  Add Captain.  Stir til incorporated.  Fold in cranberries and cashews.  Pour into 8 in. square pan and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.  

Another option is chocolate bark.  Easy and fully customizable.  Use white, dark, or milk chocolate.  Use dried fruits, nuts, fancy sea salts, assorted crushed candies, crushed cookies, sprinkles, coconut, etc. Anything goes.  Just melt your chocolate (in this instance I used white), spread in an even layer on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with topping (I used cashews and cranberries).  Put in the fridge or freezer to harden.  Break into pieces.  Put in cute bags or boxes and distribute! 
I found these adorable boxes at the Dollar Tree.  I wrapped the fudge in foil and placed in the boxes.  Now all I have to do is give them away and hope they are enjoyed! 

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas!  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Season's Best

Winter is a great paradox for me.  I love all the seasonal foods, the parties, buying gifts, and spending more time with family but I hate slick roads and cold weather.  This weekend we are the midst of our first real snow.  Kind of late in the year for us too.  We were spoiled by good weather too long this fall.  Hopefully it doesn't snow like it did last year.  I swear it snowed every single day for three months.  It was misery.  Enough complaining...on to the things I like this season! :)
   The best cold weather breakfast?  Cream of Rice with Eggnog and homemade cranberry sauce.  So creamy and delicious with the fabulous tartness of the cranberries.  Quick to make too.  Just cook the cream of rice with half a cup of water and half a cup of eggnog.  Then top with cranberry.  I make my cranberry sauce with orange juice and brown sugar.  Just boil the cranberries in juice til they pop, stir in brown sugar, and heat til thickened.
Last weekend we had a late Thanksgiving at my mother in law's.  My contribution was the Bisquick Impossibly Easy French Apple Pie.  Everyone raved about it.  Especially my husband.  Oddly I thought it was just okay.  I'm more of a chocolate or cheesecake dessert person though.  I will say gluten free Bisquick makes life a lot easier!  I know a lot of people enjoy mixing ten different gluten free flours together and experimenting but I am lazy and I don't have room to store all those flours so I love this mix and Pamela's mixes.
Speaking of mixes I love...Chebe.  I made the cheesy rolls for Thanksgiving and they were a hit.  Another good mix is the pizza crust.  Last night we were snowed in so I whipped up a delicious pizza.  My secret is baking the crust in my cast iron skillet. I usually go non-traditional with pizza but last night I wanted it to be like classic delivery so I just did pepperoni, mozzarella, and shaved Parmesan. I need to try making calzones with the mix soon!   
It's so nice to know that so many seasonal favorites are naturally gluten free!  Like mulled cider.  I used Honeycrisp Apple Cider and Trader Joe's mulling spices and simmered for about 20 minutes.  Then I stirred in a shot of Captain Morgan's and added a festive cinnamon stick! A great drink for a cold night.  Especially soothing when you feel under the weather.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gluten Free Thanksgiving, Eggnog Ice cream, and a Mozaik Giveaway!

I am loving my Thanksgiving holiday!  First off I get a four day weekend which is always a great thing and I got two great dinners in as many days! :)  In my family we go to my in-law's houses on Thursday and we celebrate with my family on Friday.  This is because I'm an only child and my husband isn't so this just works better for all involved.  Dining with my husband's family is trickier because I am at their mercy as far as gluten goes.  Sadly it is never 100% safe to eat food prepared in a non-gluten free kitchen.  All it takes is a little flour or a bread crumb to drop into an otherwise safe dish and contaminate it.  Someone stirs with the wrong spoon.  Tons of room for errors.  It really depends on how sensitive you are whether or not you want to chance eating anything at all.  Yesterday I felt brave so I made a plate. For today's dinner I did a lot of the cooking.  I made sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, wild rice stuffing, chebe rolls, pumpkin cheesecake struesel bars, coconut pie and eggnog ice cream.  Basically I was in the kitchen for over 5 hours!  I love cooking so that was good with me! :)

First up was a Sweet Potato Cranberry Bake recipe I found on All Recipes.  I followed the instructions exactly except for subbing pecans.  I'm not crazy for walnuts. This was so good and different from the usual.  I LOVE cranberries and orange together.
This dessert doesn't look wonderful but it tasted heavenly!  I found this recipe on the Live Gluten Freely website and I used the Betty Crocker yellow cake mix I received from My Blog Spark to make it.  Pumpkin Stuesel Cheesecake Bars.  Everyone claimed this as their favorite dessert.  So good.  I made a second recipe from the same site and it was also very tasty.
Impossibly Easy Coconut Pie.  This uses gluten free Bisquick and it is impossibly easy.  I think I will definitely be taking this to potlucks in the future!
I made Chebe cheese rolls.  They are small but so, so good.  No one missed the gluten! They are kind of more like hush puppies than rolls in size though.
 Strangely the most popular recipe of the night is the one that all pictures of disappeared!  Well unless you count this one.  See that little black dish behind the ham?  That would be the Wild Rice, Sausage, and Apple Stuffing.  It was so delicious!  I could've eaten the whole pan, I just love rice.  I left the onion and celery out of this recipe because we don't like them.  Onions are known as the Devil's Fruit in our home.  :P    Also I used country style ground sausage instead of Italian and Lundberg's wild and brown rice blend. It was kind of like dirty rice with a granny smith apple.  So delicious!!!

Mom made the turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and green beans.  Everything was so good! I love Thanksgiving and I was hardly deprived due to gluten issues that's for certain!

Notice the plates and silverware in this picture and the platters for the turkey and ham above?  These are all plastic ware!  My Blog Spark send me this Mozaik 8 piece place setting, serving plates, a serving bowl, and serving spoons free to try.  Mozaik is perfect for events where you want something classier than paper plates but don't want to break out the fine china.  These are durable enough to wash and reuse but inexpensive enough to be thrown away.  I am going with the wash and reuse because I'm thrifty and it's more environmentally sounds to reuse them.
Here is the smaller dessert plate.  Featuring a scoop of my eggnog ice cream!  I say it all the time but my ice cream maker has got to be the best kitchen appliance I have ever bought!!!  Ice cream is so easy to make!


1 cup of low fat eggnog
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 cup of half and half
2 tsp of rum extract
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of nutmeg

Stir all ingredients together and pour into ice cream maker.  Process for 25-30 minutes.

So as for the Mozaik Giveaway....Nothing complicated.  Just leave a comment telling me when and why you would choose to use Mozaik.  A winner will be chosen at random.  Enter by next Friday December 3rd at midnight!

I hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving!  I sure did!  I am so blessed with an amazing family and terrific friends! :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Average Gluten Free Day

People always tell me how they feel so sorry for me because I can't eat gluten and I'm always explaining how it really isn't that huge of a deal.  There are tons of great things I can eat and I rarely feel deprived.  (Don't ask me on Thanksgiving though!  lol) So here is a rundown of what I eat in a day.
Here is a typical breakfast.  Fage 2% mixed with Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter and a sliced banana.  High protein and delicious.  This keeps me full til lunch!
Lunch was leftovers of maple roasted chicken and veggies.  This is a recycled photo...I didn't eat rice today actually.  Just chicken and veggies.
 Snack was a honey crisp apple and some delicious blackberry mojito green tea.  Amazing stuff.
Dinner was a comfort food classic.  Meatloaf with mashed potatoes.  Please disregard the mustard greens in the picture.  Those landed in the trash.  I love turnip greens and collard greens so I thought I'd enjoy these.  Ummm not so much.  Literally it took a sheer force of will not to spit them back onto the plate like a bratty 4 year old.
No day is complete without dessert.  Tonight I made chai spice cookies.  Sadly I got creative and made these with coconut flour.  I would definitely recommend using a GF all purpose flour blend.  These were edible but not anything to brag about.  Too coconutty and the texture was almost powdery.
If all else fails you can't go wrong with an eggnog latte! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maple Roasted Chicken and Veggies

I made the best fall dinner Monday night.  Maple roasted chicken and vegetables.
I love nice, caramelized roast veggies.  So yummy and such a simple dinner. 

1.5 lbs chicken (legs, thighs, breasts, or a mix)
1 very large sweet potato
2 carrots
3 cups of brussel sprouts, halved
maple syrup
olive oil

Chop the veggies and spread on a baking sheet with the chicken (you'll probably need two or a large roasting pan).  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, maple syrup, and olive oil.   Cover with foil.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.  Stir the veggies and bake 15 additional minutes uncovered.  Remove from oven, recover with foil and let sit 5-10 minutes.  Serve with brown rice.

The best part is that you have time to squeeze in a workout video while dinner bakes! :) 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gluten Free Bonanza!

The weather changes and dropping temperatures have really got my sinuses acting up.  I've had a headache by the end of the workday almost daily for two weeks.  Therefore I was super excited to come home to a package full of gluten free goodies!
This was received courtesy of My Blog Spark and General Mills. 

As you can see it came with a large variety of items for me to sample.  Though I must say my husband has claimed the Fruit by the Foots for himself and that is perfectly cool with me.  I don't love the ingredient list on those plus they've never been my thing. As for Todd, they bring him great joy.  I did eat a pack of Gushers just because I hadn't had them since I was a kid.  

The only product in the package that I was completely unfamilar with was the Potato Buds.  I usually make homemade mashed potatoes.  So I decided that trying those was first on my agenda.  Turns out I had already planned to cook shephard's pie for dinner so I subbed the Potato Buds for my usual potatoes.

It turned out quite good.  Both my husband and I enjoyed it.  The texture of the potatoes were a little weird compared to fresh but that could have been because I used less better than the instructions indicated. 
Overall I was pleased and it got dinner on the table way faster which is great for a weeknight after work. I always come home starved!

As for the other products, I have made and enjoyed the brownies numerous times.  The whole family loves them!  I have used the yellow cake mix to make Irish Cream Cake on St. Patrick's Day.  I live on Larabars, especially when traveling or in a situation where I can't be sure of getting gluten free food.  Lastly, Gluten Free Bisquick is a new breakfast staple in our home. So basically this package was pretty exciting for me!  I kind of wish there was something in the box I didn't like so I looked more objective! lol

I do have the opportunity to give a reader this same box of goodies.  I'm pretty sure I only have three or four readers so your odds of winning are good!  I'll make this simple and just say if you leave a comment by this Friday 11/19/10 letting me know which product you'd be most interested in trying and why you are in the drawing.  The winner will be picked at random.  :)

Summer in Baltimore

In August we had a super fun long weekend in Baltimore.  I kept meaning to blog about it, and never got around to it.  Since the temperatures are dropping and winter is on the horizon I decided I'd post them now!

We stayed in Fells Point with a friend in the most gorgeous row house. We walked so much that weekend, I love walkable cities! :)  I was excited to see the site where Homicide was filmed because I used to watch that show every week with my dad.  
We walked all around the harbour and toured the Seven Foot Knoll lighthouse.  I think lighthouses are so neat!

We saw the National Katyn monument.  Very pretty!

I was excited to see the Domino Sugar plant because who doesn't love sugar?  Well aside from Dr. Adkins...

We had the best dinner at McCormick and Schmick.  This is a crab and avocado tower.  So good! :) 
I love see murals painted on the sides of buildings.  It's such a fun idea!

Saturday night we went out to a few bars and just walked around exploring the city at night.  I was very excited to find B.O.P. Brick oven pizza...gluten free!!!  It was probably the best gluten free pizza I've ever had.  It made we want to consider moving to Baltimore!  lol!  There is nothing like having a few drinks and then eating way too much late night pizza.  I've really missed that since going gluten free!
The funniest thing was we were approached by this crazy lady who was obviously on some sort of drugs.  She had a crazy convoluted story about why she needed some of our pizza.  So we shared.  Then she walked off.  A few minutes later we heard crazy screaming and cussing.  She got in some sort of altercation with a cop and was arrested. Well at least she got some awesome pizza first! 
Our last night in Baltimore our host took us to her favorite Mexican restaurant...
Arcos in Fells Point.  Very good.  I got the lamb barbacoa.  I also got a flaming Mexican coffee.  So cool to watch them make those!
Todd got a flaming fried ice cream.  I couldn't eat it but everyone else enjoyed it immensely.  I don't know why food on fire is so fun!

Well obviously these are not the best pictures or the most comprehensive.  We did so much shopping, eating, sight seeing, and walking that weekend.  The best part?  I ate gluten free with no issues whatsoever!  I can't wait to go back to Baltimore! It meets all my criteria, historic, near water, fabulous food, and cool people! :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Cafe in Town!

I love to try new restaurants so I was excited to hear that a new cafe had opened near the house.  First I had to call and make sure that they would be able to accomodate a gluten free diet.  Luckily the answer was yes! So we headed off to the As You Like It Cafe.

I thought the decor was pretty cute.
Very clean and comfortable. 
 The staff was extremely friendly!  They have a pretty good variety of menu options like steak, chicken, meatloaf, various pasta dishes, soups, and salads.  Everything is homemade.

 I had rosemary grilled chicken breast with homemade mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and cheese.  Believe it or not the cheese sauce was homemade!  Not cheez whiz!  It was a really good meal.  Very flavorful.
Todd got a slice of cheesecake for desert.  I naturally couldn't eat it due to the crust but Todd assures me it was delicious! :) Never fear!  I enjoyed a dessert too!  A butter rum latte.  Oh so good!  I think we may become regulars!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Fun and Festivities!

I love fall!  The weather is mild, the trees are gorgeous, and fun stuff like Halloween happens! I love scary movies, haunted houses, creepy tales, and kids in cute costumes.  Sadly I also love the comfort food that goes with cooler weather.  Nice crisp salads no longer sound good but awesome pasta dishes do!

These were some cheese stuffed chicken meatballs.  Pretty tasty.  The recipe called for chicken sausage but I had to use plain ground chicken and spices.  I'd recommending going with the sausage as these were a bit bland.

I have a new breakfast sensation!  A gluten free Bisquick biscuit with melted white cheddar cheese and autumn olive  jam.  So good.  Also a great source of lycopene from what I've read.  The autumn olives not the Bisquick! ;p

To get even more into the Halloween spirit I got this cute coffee mug at Kmart for less than $3!  Score!  I have a somewhat serious addiction to purchasing coffee mugs.  I really am running out of cabinet space.


The real excitement in my life lately is my new phone.  For two years I've been stuck with the boring phone while my husband enjoyed his iPhone.  Now I too have a fun phone!  The HTC Desire.  My husband is terribly underwhelmed with it and is giving serious consideration to going back to the iPhone but I am easily amused and it suits me fine! :) 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Weekend adventure!

In WV there is not a lot to do on the weekends except eat and watch movies. However we do have a plethora of scenic parks and hiking trails! I am always bugging my husband to go walk at a park with me. This weekend he finally agreed! So we harnessed the dog and took off!

We headed to the nearby Grandview park. It's very scenic with many overlooks where you can view the New River.

There are a lot of nice trails to hike! They range from easy walks though the woods to somewhat strenuous rocky, hilly trails. There is one that goes through a neat little tunnel. It's a fun place.

We may or may not have gotten slightly lost in the dark. No comment!

Another thing that made this weekend exciting was biscuits!!! Gluten Free Bisquick has recently come available in my area and I have been dying to try the biscuit recipe on the back. Sooooo good. My husband who can eat gluten loved them too! I made a fun sandwich for lunch of turkey, pepperjack cheese, and pepper jelly on a biscuit!
I served the leftover biscuits with last night's dinner.  I made cornmeal crusted baked catfish, Annie's gluten free mac and cheese (the new creamy kind, YUM!), green beans with lemon and feta, and cooked apples. 
Quite a feast for a Monday night! :)