Sunday, December 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Beef Stew {Gluten-free}

No cookies in this post! But don't you worry, there will be just one more cookie post before the Christmas holiday.

Now I'm going to be honest when I usually make beef stew, I have always used the McCormick Slow Cookers Hearty Beef Stew seasoning packet. Yeah I know, but it was quick and the flavor was good. Surprise, it is not free of gluten so I needed to come up with something else. So here is my version of gluten-free slow cooker (SC) beef stew. (Make and freeze instructions below.)

Slow cooker Beef Stew

(6-8 quart Slow Cooker, may need to be adjusted if you are using a smaller one)

2 lbs. stew beef
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 bag baby carrots
4-5 russet potatoes, small/medium
1 lg. onion
1 lb. button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef broth (I use GF bouillon, since my grocery store doesn't have GF liquid broth)
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup dry red wine (plus some for the cook)
1 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. GF flour (you can use regular if your not GF, or omit altogether)
1 cup peas
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large zip top plastic bag, add the beef, cornstarch and a little salt and pepper. Shake to coat the beef. Working in batches, brown the beef on medium high heat. (It doesn't need to be cooked through, since it will be cooked in the cooker.) Once browned, set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, dump the carrots in your SC. Peel and cube potatoes, dump in the SC. Cut the onion into wedges (I leave the pieces fairly large so a certain someone can easily pick them out). Add the beef.

Add the mushrooms and garlic to the hot pan that was used to cook the beef. Add 1 cup of broth and sherry, cook making sure to get all the little bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the rosemary and paprika. Slowly whisk in the flour. Add the remaining broth and red wine. Pour all of the broth and mushroom mixture into the SC. Season with salt and pepper.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the peas.

Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve with crusty bread or a couple slices of GF toast (I like Udi's White).

*You could do this all in a large Dutch oven, start on the stove and finish in the oven, cook until everything is good and tender.

Make ahead: Brown beef and let cool completely, put ALL ingredients into a large zip top bag (double the bag) and freeze.  When ready just dump the whole thing in the SC and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

 Recipe linked on Easy Green Mama!
Before 8 hours of cooking
After 8 hours of cooking

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More {Gluten-Free} Cookies

Since I've been experimenting with cookies, I've decided to tackle two types that are not a "traditional" cookie.

The first is Potato Candy, I never even heard of potato candy until I met my husband. His grandmother always made it when she made all her other Christmas cookies. It is really simple and would be a good way to use a little of leftover mashed potatoes. I had some natural peanut butter leftover from my peanut butter cookies and we have a lot of potatoes, so it made sense to give them a try. Now, if you want to use up a bunch of potatoes, this isn't the way to do it; unless you want A LOT of candy. A little potato goes a long way. (I used a little more peanut butter then I probably should have, other than the oozing peanut butter, no one complained.)

The second, Coconut Macaroons.  I had some coconut and just really like them, so I made them! The original recipe called for some regular all-purpose flour so I altered it to make it GF.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Salted Flourless Chocolate Cookies (and a Month Gluten-Free)

My kitchen helper
I am about a month in to not eating any gluten; it has been a pretty good adventure so far.  I will admit I have had a few setbacks, but for the most part it has been pretty smooth.  I feel like I have explained myself and my reasons many times, but most people seem to understand (after first assuming I am doing it for weight loss.) I am not going to lie; the weight loss is a plus but not the reason. 

I finally made it back to my doctor, I explained how I was getting fed up with nothing helping (I was on three different medications) I felt like I was losing a battle.  I told her how my mom brought up celiac and cutting out gluten, and that I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it.  I was concerned with what she would tell me, but it was all positive.  She explained how I still should take my one medication, since I was diagnosed with colitis, but I should keep up with the GF diet as well.  She went on to talk to me about other patients that suffer from both diseases and how they cope.  Since I haven’t been eating gluten, none of the tests would show a positive result for celiac.  But because of the family history I shared, she said there may be a chance I do suffer from it, and even if it isn’t full blown celiac, I definitely have an intolerance.  My choices would be to start eating gluten just for the test, an endoscopy, or hold off being tested but continue eating GF.  For now I am just going to continue on.  I feel better; I don’t need a test to tell me that, at least 
not right now.
Adding chocolate chips and nuts, so serious!

I made it through Thanksgiving and now we are in full swing into the Christmas season.  We plan on having Christmas dinner at our house this year, which I am excited about since I will be controlling the menu.  I don’t plan on making the whole meal GF; I can’t deprive my husband and son of rolls that would just be mean.  I have been looking around for some different ideas for the dinner menu, but I must admit my focus has been more on the cookies.  We are suckers for cookies in our house.  Plus we are doing a cookie exchange at work, so I need to figure out what I plan on making for that.

I already tried one batch of GF cookies, in my last post, now I am going to try to venture into more…I found a lot of recipes for GF Cookies on Foodgawker, I am planning to try out a few. 

iPhone picture

Salted Flourless Chocolate Cookies

(Inspired from Meaningful Eats

3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans
Coarse Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the sugar, cocoa and salt.  Slowly add egg whites and vanilla. Once all combined, stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.  

On a greased, or lined cookie sheet, add batter a teaspoon at a time.  The cookies will spread, so unless you want large cookies, use small mounds.  Sprinkle with the coarse salt.  Bake for about 15 minutes. (I made about 36 cookies)

The flavor of these cookies were really good and chocolaty, they were chewy and crisp at the same time.  They were also very thin (they would make great ice cream sandwiches.) I am not sure if my egg whites weren't quite warm enough or what.  I may play around with them a bit to see if I can make them "fluffier".  I will make these again.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Cookies! (Gluten-Free and Peanut buttery)

This weekend was somewhat productive, I was able to finally get to the grocery store, cut my hair, hang out with friends and clean out my car. All were much needed. On a side note, before hanging out with our friends Friday evening, playing Quelf (which I highly recommend!) we ordered pizza from our favorite pizza place.  I am happy to say they now have a gluten free pizza which is pretty good, but not comparable to their regular pizza. With all that I was also was able to fit in Cookies!

Since not eating gluten I have been missing my something sweet after dinner. I am cheap frugal so I haven't been buying much in the way of pre-made / processed GF products. Therefore, no easy grab and go snacks or cookies. So, I decided to make my own! Here is a super easy peanut butter cookie with four ingredients (five if you add the chocolate chips) with ingredients that you probably already have. 

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter (I used GF natural)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp GF vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine all the ingredients except the chocolate chips.  Carefully mix in the chips.  The dough will be slightly crumbly but that is okay.  Make tablespoon balls of the dough and roll in sugar.  Place the balls on a greased cookie sheet and gently flatten with a fork.  Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on your oven it may take more or less. Makes about 2 dozen.

I wasn't sure how these would turn out, but they had a really good flavor and texture.  If I knew the dough wouldn't spread, I probably would have flattened them a little more. But they were a hit with even the gluten eaters in the house.  I had to remind them that they can have some but remember that I can't eat theirs so make sure I get some of mine.  I plan on experimenting more with cookies since it is cookie season, I also really want to try making my own GF pasta, that may happen over my holiday break from work.  


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's a soup kinda day!

Often we get together with our neighbors friends and do group dinners, this weekend was no different. We all gathered at our house for pot roast, potato soup, and of course some thanksgiving leftovers.

I made the potato soup, sorry I know the picture isn't the best, with a little help from our friend Mickey. The soup was really simple to prepare. What you need:

5 lbs. potatoes (I used russet), peeled and cubed
1/2 lb. bacon (or 2 tbsp. olive oil)
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth (gluten free of course!)
2 cups whole milk (use could use non dairy)
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste

Optional (but highly recommended) Toppings:
Shredded Cheese
Green Onions
Crumbled Bacon
Sour Cream

If you are using bacon, brown the bacon in a large stock pot, remove the bacon and let drain.  Add the celery, onion and garlic to the bacon drippings (or olive oil) and cook until soft.  Add the stock, bring to a boil and add the potatoes.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the milk and sour cream if using, let simmer until the potatoes can easily be mashed.  (You could puree the soup, but I prefer a few chunks here and there.)  Add the herbs and spices, adjust to taste. Serve with toppings.


**Linked on Gluten Free Tuesday Linky 9/24/2013 with Easy Green Mama**

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sporty 3rd Birthday!

This year was a fun year for my sons birthday, this was the first year he really understood what was going on and he talked about for weeks before. Every morning he would talk about his party and who he wanted to invite, he told me what kind of cake he wanted, and he told us (what seemed like every minute) what toys and games he wanted. He was ready to turn 3! (It meant that he wasn't little anymore.)

Daddy and the birthday boy!
We originally wanted to have the party at the local fire house, but supposedly there was an event that day (I don't recall anything going on, which is very disappointing, hopefully it was just rescheduled). So we switched gears and went for a Sports Themed All-Star Party. We used our church fellowship hall which is also a gym, so there was plenty of room for kids to run. There was also a playground outside that we ended up using also. My son had a blast! He told us how much he liked it, it was great!

Here is what we did, the invitations were from Simone Made It, I really recommend her products, they were really easy to use and she has a pretty large variety of different party themed packages.

This is the one we used, the ticket invitation is what sold me!
Even though I made up everything, I ended up only using the invitation and the bag toppers.  I ran out of time setting up and I decided I wasn't going to try to control a room of 2-3 year olds.

The cake is always my favorite part.  My son loves chocolate and that is all he wanted, I decided on doing half chocolate and half yellow.  He kept telling me he wanted a tiered cake like on the cover of Dr. Seuss' Happy Birthday to You!  But I wasn't going to make a tiered cake for a 3 year old.  I was looking on Pinterest, like I do way too often, and came across a really neat cake in the shape of a 3, so I used that as my inspiration. You can see my inspiration here.  It was really easy, make two bundt cakes and cut to form a 3, (I used boxed cakes so no recipes sorry.)  I decided to ice the cake to look like balls to keep with the theme. 

 I wish it was a little cleaner, but I must admit it is was hard to ice the inside of the bundts. No one seemed to mind other than me, or at least no one said anything.  

When it came to the other snacks, we decided to keep with ball park flavors.  We had "nachos", Corn dog bites, peanuts, and just for a healthy alternative, a veggie platter.

Since I couldn't eat the cake, I decided that I wanted the snacks to be GF so I could enjoy them also.  For the nachos, I made a really quick queso of Velveeta and Ro*tel served with corn chips. For every 16 oz. of Velveeta I used one 10 oz. can of Ro*tel.

The corn dogs, I must admit I was really excited about these.  I used a mini muffin pan, you could use a larger one but I wanted hot dog in each bite.  I made corn muffins, using Bob's Red Mill GF Corn Bread Mix and added a piece of hot dog to each muffin, about 1/2 inch slice.  Baked them according to the package, they only took about 12-15 minutes. They were so good, I could have eaten the whole batch! 

I think the party went well, my son told me he had a great time with his friends.  I will definitely have his parties some where other then our house from now on, or at least until he decides to only have a couple friends over (which hopefully will be soon.) I have a lot of ideas for future parties, granted if he will think they are as cool as I do, well that is a different story all together.  

Some random birthday pictures:
Getting ready to blow out the candles!

Outside playing with friends!

Friday, November 23, 2012

My First Gluten-Free Thanksgiving (with recipes)

I have to admit I was kind of dreading and excited for this thanksgiving. I love thanksgiving, all the great food that usually triggers memories. I love spending the day with my family, kids running around, drinking wine and eating too much.

Since I have been married we have tried to alternate holidays with both our families, sometimes it works well and sometimes things come up that make it a little harder. There have been a few years where my husband has had to work on thanksgiving and he always has to work the day after so traveling is usually out of the question. This year we did something different and spent the day with our good friends.

Our wonderful hosts!
We didn't realize where we were going to go until a week before, I knew out of our options what I would be able to eat would be limited and therefore had it in my head what I was going to make no matter where we went. Stuffing and gravy. There ended up being about at least 30 people (including kids) so I made two different stuffing's  one that was gluten free and the other was not, but both were very similar.  I also can't do a Thanksgiving without a pie, so I also made a GF Apple Pie. (Recipes below)

GF Apple Pie and GF Pear & Raspberry Cobbler
Buffet Table
The menu included the normal staples for a Thanksgiving meal (or at least what I am used to); there was a 25 lb. turkey, two hams, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, stuffing, a broccoli casserole, mac-n-cheese and of course pies. The only thing that I missed, that I thought I wouldn't ever miss was cranberry sauce. There was a lot of food, I knew that I couldn't eat most if any of the casseroles but I did taste the sweet potato.  I also brought along my own gravy, which was not the same as homemade with the drippings. 

GF Stuffing with Sausage

Gluten-Free Stuffing with Sausage

(Both stuffing recipes were adapted from my dads traditional stuffing recipe) 

For the gluten-free stuffing:

1/2 loaf GF bread (I used Rudi's)
1 box of GF Cornbread prepared (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 pound pork sausage (make sure GF, I bought mine from a butcher)
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage
3-4 cups GF chicken broth
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the cornbread, (I only used half, save the other half just to enjoy), cube the breads and place on a cookie sheet, bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes just until dried out, but not brown. Set aside to cool.

Brown the sausage in a large skillet, once it is cooked through carefully remove the sausage to let drain.  Add the celery and onion to the sausage drippings and cook until tender. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir to combine.  Add the thyme and sage.  Add about one cup of the broth and stir picking up any bits that may be left on the pan.  Put sausage mixture aside to cool, just until it can be handled with out burning your fingers.

Once the sausage mixture is cooled, add the eggs and about another cup of the broth, mix well.  I used my hands.  Pour over the bread and toss to combine, depending on how moist you like your stuffing, add a little more broth over the whole dish.  Bake covered at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, uncover and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes.

For the Regular (non-GF) Version; do all of the same except use a whole loaf of old old white bread, or your favorite type of bread, instead of the GF bread.

GF Apple Pie

GF Apple Pie

This is my recipe, it is never the same because I never really measure anything, I will do my best, but the flavors can be adjusted to your liking.

For the GF Crust

2 cups GF All Purposed Four Mix (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp. Xantham Gum
1/2 tsp. salt
1 and a half sticks of cold butter (3/4 cups), cut into cubes
ice water (about 2-3 tbsp.)

Put the flour, xantham gum and salt in the food processor (feel free to do this by hand but the food processor makes it so easy), add the butter and pulse until the butter in combined. Slow stream in a little of the water, add just about a tsp at a time.  Keep pulsing until dough is formed, remove and separate into two flattened balls, cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  (You can make this a head to save time)

For the Apple Filling

8-10 medium apples, I usually use a mix of different apples, I have even added firm pears, use what you like.
juice of half a lemon
1 cup white sugar
3 tbsp. ground cinnamon, (more or less depending on your taste)
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup apple cider or juice (optional)

Peel and thinly slice the apples. Place the apples in a large bowl, squeeze the lemon over the apples (to keep from browning).  Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg over the apples, toss to combine.  If you plan on doing this the day before, add the cider.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  

Prepare the pie, remove the dough from the refrigerator   Roll one dough ball out to about a 1/4 inch thickness, and place on the bottom of the pie pan.  Add the apples, there will be a big mound. Roll out the second dough ball, place on top of the apples and pinch the edged sealing both the top and bottom crust together.  Poke a few hole on top using a fork, you can brush the top of the crust with egg yoke or butter if you would like, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees, for 60-70 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil, remove the foil for the last 20 minutes just to make sure it browns.  You don't want to burn the crust!  Note: You may want to line the bottom of the oven with foil, in case of juice drips.

Now for some random pictures...

My wonderful husband after dinner

Me and my son

First round of after dinner wrestling

Round two

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Moms Meet: Zevia Natural Soda Review & GF Mountain Zevia Cupcakes

First off this has been a busy weekend, we have been ripping up the flooring out of the basement and keeping up with our other normal weekend activities.  Two of our neighbors came over to help my husband and they really knocked it out, while I was upstairs with four boys.  Early in the day I decided to test myself with some gluten-free baking (don't get too excited I used mixes.)  I made a Banana Apple Bread (which I will post later) and Mountain Zevia Cupcakes. I knew the cupcakes were a hit when I needed to keep all the boys (big boys included) away from them. They also had a chance to try the Zevia soda, they had mixed feelings about the sodas flavor and tried adding some mix-ins  to help. But that review will come in a minute...

Zevia sodas are a natural, zero calorie soda that is naturally sweetened by stevia.  You can find them at most grocery stores that have a selection of natural foods. When I receive the package from Zevia, it contained 24 soda; 12 different flavors, an apron and a spatula  So with that I felt I needed to bake.  The cake recipe that they sent with everything called for cake mix and a soda, those were the only two ingredients. Since I am gluten-free I was weary about just using the GF cake mix and soda so I did a little research and settled for this: 

1 box cake mix (I used King Arthur's GF yellow cake)
4 eggs
1/2 cup vanilla pudding (GF of course)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
8 oz. Mountain Zevia

4 oz. Mountain Zevia (the remaining from a 12 oz. can)
3-4 tbsp. powdered sugar

Mix all the cake ingredients together, and pour into greased muffin pan. (This made 12 regular size cupcakes and 36 mini cupcakes.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 min for the mini and 20-25 for the regular.

While the cakes are cooking, make the glaze.  Heat the soda in a small sauce pan over medium heat until simmering.  Whisk in the powdered sugar.  Spoon over the hot cakes.

Now for the review...the overall review was that some flavors were okay some were a fail, and they were not worth the cost (about $6+ for a six pack).  The sodas all had an after taste that we just didn't seem to care for, I don't know if it was the stevia or what.  I feel like if you are a true soda drinker, you will not like these. If you don't ever drink sodas then you may enjoy them, they are sweet, wet and carbonated.  All have natural caffeine (except the caffeine free ones).  Now if you are like me, I don't drink a lot of sodas but occasionally I do crave a dark soda.  My usual go to's are Dr. Pepper, Birch Beer, or just a diet Coke.  These sodas aren't able to fulfill those cravings. 

Here is a quick run down on each flavor we tried...

Cola - we all though it seem flat and watered down
Dr. Zevia - not anything like Dr. Pepper, so don't get confused. 
Mountain Zevia - to drink, Fail. To cook with great. 
Grape - that one was pretty good, but it did taste a little like medicine
Black Cherry - We liked this one, it still had the after taste but I would drink it if some one handed it to me.
Lemon-Lime - uh, could take it or leave it.
Grapefruit - personally this was my favorite, it was refreshing
Orange - we never actually opened it. Sorry.
Caffeine Free Cola - same as the cola
Ginger Root Beer - this one was disappointing, it smelled really good but the flavor was off.
Ginger Ale - this one was ok, but I was expecting the bite you get from a real ginger ale (like Reed's)
Cream Soda - same as the root beer, disappointing. Only my husband seemed to like this one.

So if I had a really good coupon, I may purchase one or two of the flavors but if I want a soda, I want a real one, one with all that syrupy goodness.  I know that is awful, but oh well.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sandy and Vegetable Quinoa Soup (GF)

So this post is a little later than I originally wanted but we have had a lot going on, like a lot of the northeast we were also affected by Sandy. Granted, we had minimal damage compared to A LOT of other people and for that we are blessed. (Please realize that I am not complaining we have nothing to complain about.)

Knowing that Sandy was coming we took precautions and froze water in all our water bottles and some Tupperware, we bought extra non-perishable items and even moved a few things out of the basement all just in case we lost power. And, we lost power. We luckily only lost power for something like 29 hours and just like I feared the most, our sump pump (which is electric and we didn’t have any back up) went out also. Because the water table was so high, we [as in my husband] was not able to keep up with bailing the water. Once we realized that we were going to have a mess, we and some wonderful neighbors help moved anything we cared about or that was laying on the floor to higher ground. With our fingers crossed, we called it a night.

Meanwhile, my parents who live in Delaware on the bay decided to ride out the storm (even though we all thought they should leave.) They too were lucky and any only had minimal damage. The water never made it in to the house, only the garage. Here are some pictures from their house…

Back to our house, when we woke up we didn’t have as much water as we thought we might, only an inch at the most. But still without power there was little we could do. The water level went down in the pit but because of some great design, our pit is not located in the low part of the basement, therefore the water didn’t drain to it. We mopped up what we could, our wonderful neighbors helped out again, and we were able to use a generator for a couple hours and shop vac the standing water. We will need to remove some if not much of our flooring and just work on drying out the concrete, keeping our fingers crossed we don’t get mold.

Enough about that…on Monday before our power went out, I stayed home with my son and we decided to make soup. It was starting to rain harder and the wind was picking up so soup just seemed like a good idea. I rummaged in our refrigerator and decided on a vegetable soup. I used what I had on hand, so it can easily be altered. I invited our neighbors and we had soup and salad for lunch. {Have I mentioned we have awesome neighbors!}

Vegetable Quinoa Soup (aka Sandy Soup)

(I didn’t measure anything so the measurement may be off, but should be close.)

2-3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2-3 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 medium shallots, roughly chopped (or regular onions)
½ head of cauliflower, broken into florets
3-4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cubed
6-7 cups chicken broth (I used gluten-free granules and water; you could also use vegetable broth)
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. dried thyme (I really wanted to use fresh, but I wasn’t going outside)
2 bay leaves
1 to 1 ½ cups of uncooked Quinoa
Salt and pepper to taste

(I used a food processor for almost everything, but you can use a knife if you would rather.) Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Pulse the chopped carrot, onion and celery in the food processor until finely chopped. Add to the hot oil, and sauté until just tender.

While the vegetables are cooking, shred the cauliflower using the food processor. Add to the vegetable mixture, stir to combine. Add the broth and potatoes bring to a simmer. Then add the thyme, curry, turmeric and bay leafs. Let simmer. Add the uncooked quinoa. Let the soup simmer until the quinoa is cooked. Enjoy! Serves about 8.

Halloween Party...the Friday before the storm (Great friends!)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

One Week Down: Gluten-free

I am one week into my Gluten-Free (GF) diet; and just as a reminder, I am not doing this for fun, this is out of a need to heal my body. It hasn't been as hard as I originally thought it would be. I find that I am just eating more naturally GF products (with a few corn chips and GF pretzels thrown in.) I have stopped looking at this change as a bad and disappointing thing but more of a change for the better. I am already noticing that I am making better food choices and my body can tell the difference. I figure it will take a few more weeks to really notice a change but I know my mornings haven’t been as painful. I will still get an upset stomach after eating some things that I thought were GF or anything with too much dairy, but still it hasn’t been as bad. I know I have a lot more research to do to fully understand the GF lifestyle and I am prepared for the challenge adventure.  I am starting to see this as a life change, and not just a hump in the road, I have to admit it is a little scary but like I just said, I am prepared for this and having my family's support really helps.

I have been looking at different blogs, through different books, trying to get inspired for different food ideas. This past week, I ate a lot of salad with all my favorite add-ins, well except the croutons but nuts and seeds make up for the crunch. Some of the other foods I ate/made were: egg muffins with sautéed kale and mushrooms, that were great as a grab and go morning breakfast along with a banana; pumpkin and sweet potato soup, I froze some and the rest brought to work for lunch; tacos! {I love tacos} in corn shells of course and had left overs for lunch. I also snacked on grapes, multigrain corn chips, GF pretzels, hummus and vegetables like cauliflower and celery. I got to try Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix, for one evening we did breakfast for dinner. I personally really enjoyed them. It was a combination of different flours which included almond. There was a chocolate chip cookie recipe on the side of the bag that I would like to try at some point.

I have two parties to attend this weekend, the one I know that I will be bringing at least one dish (maybe two) but the other is a kids party and will probably not have too much for me to nibble on.  Both parties I will probably eat at least something before I go, just in case. [Side note: this wasn't posted until after the parties, I gave in and tried a piece of an awesome Mushroom Marsala Tart and I am not sure how much it did to me because I also drank too much wine and that usually bothers me, but either way my belly was NOT happy with me in the morning.]

Okay, so enough about that and now on to the recipes.  I mentioned this soup on an earlier post, it was originally from The Gluten-Free Goddess, I made a few changes due to what I had on hand.  The flavor was really good, not too sweet, not too spicy. I also try not to over puree soups because I like a little texture.  The egg muffins on the other hand were inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, I like having things I can just grab and go in the mornings.  And these freeze really well.

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup

(adapted from the Gluten-Free Goddess, see the original recipe here)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Dash of salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
2 small sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, cubed
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry

In a heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until softened. Add in the chopped carrots and celery, and stir in the spices. Lower heat and gently cook for about 10 minutes.

Add in the pumpkin, sweet potato, broth and sherry; stir together. Cover and bring to a slow simmer, cooking the soup for about 25-35 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.

Remove from heat, and puree the soup. (I used a my blender, and pureed it batches filling only about half way full. Put the pureed soup back into the pot and continue to cook on low. Taste and adjust the seasonings.  This made about 6 servings or so and seems to freeze well.

Read more:

Egg Muffins with Kale and Mushrooms

(makes 12 muffins)

2 cups Kale, chopped (spinach would work also)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (use your favorite)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
6 eggs
3 tbsp plain yogurt
pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent  Add the chopped kale and mushrooms toss to coat in the oil onion mixture, sprinkle with the salt and cover. Let cook until the kale had wilted and the mushrooms are tender.

Spray the muffin pan with cooking spray, fill each cup about half way with the kale and mushroom mixture.  Let cool slightly.

Mean while, whisk the eggs and yogurt together. Fill the muffin cups with the egg mixture. Bake  at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or so until the egg is firm to the touch.

*I didn't add cheese but you could easily add different ingredients. However, I do add a little bit of cheese on top when I heat them in the microwave. They only take about 30-45 seconds to heat through in the microwave from a frozen state.  You could also use a mini muffin pan to make little appetizers. The options are endless!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Compliments of Nic

(Late sorry.)

In case you have been wondering...

Fall. It is hands down my favorite season; it is also my least favorite. Go figure. It is funny how one can look forward to and dread something all at the same time, but I do. It is a struggle every year.

I love the crisp air, sweat shirts and jeans, bonfires, the color change, the smell in the air, the food...oh sweet warm and comforting food and fall produce, just to name a few.

I hate (and I don't like to use the word lightly) the short days, fall allergies, depression, my car (oh wait that isn't just because of the fall) and those sneaky winter like days. Granted this season is feeling a little worse due to my continuous flare up (yeah, yeah it may get to be a little TMI but it is my blog right? Right.) It is causing me to be a little more bummed then normal and is literally draining the life out of me. Not to mention it is also putting a damper on my personal and work life.  The mornings are hellish, and I must admit as cute as it is, it bothers me that my almost 3-yr old is concerned about me.

I have talked about changing up my diet before and I have gone through periods of time doing so. But this time is more of a need then a want. I don't like that I will need to give up certain foods or change at all but I am at a loss. Medication alone isn't helping enough. So with the support of my wonderful family I am going to eliminate things from my diet, and hopefully slowly introduce them back to see if and what may affect me. Worse case, I will be on a quest to make bland food not as bland. I know this isn't going to be easy, and will take a lot of planning on my part so I don't deprive my family of what they want.

Knowing I am going to struggle with this, I at least know I have great support; which I know is really important. Of course I am also doing this close to the holiday season, so temptation is going to be knocking all the time! But I need to listen to my husband and think before I just grab. "Think about what the effects will be, is it worth it?" the words of my wonderful husband.

So my plan for this weekend is to go through what we have in the house already. Make a "Catherine" spot, a place I can keep any special food, my snacks (in both the cabinets and fridge). Make some lists, and come up with substitutions for some of our regular dinners. I currently try my best to plan dinners but there are still days that we forget to take out meat from the freezer or just run out of time and opt for something quick and easy. Since my husband is the one who usually makes dinner {love him!}, I need to make sure whatever changes I make doesn’t affect his schedule and is or are easy to incorporate with whatever else he is making.

My mom told me she bought me a book, so hopefully it will be here soon and will have some other ideas to make the transition a little easier. By the way, if you are my friend…try not to offer me any food. I am really going to be working hard on not just giving in. I thank you in advance! I just needed to get this all off my chest and I am sure I will keep posting about my progress along with some of the recipes that I have tried or altered. But, for now I am going to end this with something that I look forward to trying!

Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Soup from The Gluten-free Goddess, see the recipe here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Moms Meet: Stonyfield Organic Yogurt {recipes}

I can't believe it is already October, I need to start posting my wordless Wednesdays again, fall is such a great time of year for pictures.  Plus, my son has his camera so there are some great 2-year old pictures! It is already seems that it will be a busy month.  We are booked every weekend, between bocce and parties, plus I need to start thinking more about my son's 3rd birthday that will be here before I know it.  But the real reason for this post...

We ended the month with a Moms Meet, I say we because a fellow Mom Ambassador and I joined together this time.  We sampled Stonyfield Organic Yogurts, and my cohort handed out Ecover samples for everyone to take home and try. (Which so far, I really like! It left my clothes soft and for an unscented detergent, left my clothes smelling clean and fresh!) But I am here to talk about yogurt... 

A little about Stonyfield...Stonyfield is based in New Hampshire and started off making yogurt just to support their farming school. It has since expanded and now is sold in most large grocery chain stores. Stonyfield now also buys there milk from family farms, supporting the local farms. (How that came about is kind of interesting, I would suggest checking out their website.) The yogurts are all organic. Here is their mission statement: "We’re committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy business."

We sampled all the types of yogurt that our local grocery store carries, I am sure the check out girl thought I was crazy buying so much yogurt!  The ones we tried; YoBaby, YoToddler, YoKids, Greek, Smoothies, Squeezer, and just regular fruit on the bottom.  Everyone really enjoyed them, we were all really happy that they weren't as sweet as some of the other kids yogurts out there and they weren't full of artificial colors (no neon pinks and purples here!) It took everything I had to keep my son from drinking all the smoothies before the sampling.  He loves his yogurt!  I know I will buy these from now on for him.  You can tell they don't have crazy stuff added, and that makes them really good.  They do have a Kids Greek also, but of course our local store didn't carry that.  It also didn't carry as many flavors as there are actually available which is also a bummer. 

The YoBaby, YoToddler and YoKids are made with your child's needs in mind. The baby and toddler are made with whole milk while the kids is low-fat.  All three have less sugar than the other brands.  The toddler also has added DHA I have nothing bad to say about them.

And of course, you can cook with yogurt so I made two different things using the yogurt. 

Lasagna Primavera
(adapted from Stonyfields recipe Lasagna Primavera)

2 c carrots, shredded
1 c finely chopped kale
2 c chopped mushrooms
1 q Stonyfield Organic Low Fat Plain Yogurt (to make 1 cup yogurt cheese)
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs
2 1/2 c mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
12 lasagna noodles (I used no boil noodles)*
32 oz pasta sauce

1. For Yogurt Cheese: Using layered cheese cloth, strain the whey from 1 quart of yogurt overnight in the refrigerator. This should yield 1 cup of yogurt cheese. (I used a pitcher and a chop stick, put the yogurt in the cheese cloth and tie, like a hobo sack. Stick a chop stick or pencil throw the gathered cloth, not the yogurt part. The stick will keep it from falling in the drained whey.)

2.Preheat oven to 375°.

3.Using a large mixing bowl, fold the vegetables, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, herbs, salt, pepper and eggs into the yogurt cheese. In a 9"x13" pan place a couple of tablespoons of sauce on bottom, spreading evenly.

4.Place a layer of noodles in the pan, top with half of the vegetable filling, then half of the sauce, then some cheese. Repeat for the second layer. Finish with the remaining noodles and cheese. Bake covered with foil for 1 hour. Remove foil for the last 10 minutes for cheese to brown. Serve warm.

*For Gluten Free option: use gluten free lasagna noddles, or even zucchini thinly sliced long ways instead of noodles

Coffee Cake
(adapted from the Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe from The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking by Martha Day)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2/3 cups sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup Stonyfield Organic French Vanilla Yogurt (plain or Greek would work, I just happened to use French Vanilla)

crumb (if you like a lot of crumb topping, feel free to add!)
1 cup brown sugar (I used just a little more)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (you can use any nut combination, I just had these on hand)
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 375°, prepare a 9"x9" cake pan.

2. Make the crumb mixture, combine all ingredients until the butter is about the size of peas. Set aside.

3. Start the cake batter. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth.  Slowly add one egg at a time until well combined.

4. In a medium size bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

5. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the yogurt, slowly add to the butter mixture. 

6. Pour half the batter into the prepared cake pan, followed by half the crumb mixture. Repeat. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*Gluten Free Option: use an all-purpose Gluten Free flour blend and add 1 tsp. xanthan gum. 

Label It Now – What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Foods