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!)