Friday, October 26, 2012

Straight Off the Shelf: Rotisserie Chicken

This week we are getting ready for a family vacation.  Ocean Breezes and Sunsets await us after a 6 hour drive.  We are beyond excited!  With all the organizing, cleaning, arranging of meals, and packing before the trip, regular dinner planning is sometimes overlooked.  When that happens, Costco is my friend.  Their chicken is safe for my most sensitive munchkin.  I added some leftover broccoli and pasta to the plate and viola! - dinner was served.  Tonight, I am boiling the leftover chicken/bones for a quick soup using up small amounts of vegetables still in the fridge (cabbage, carrots, squash, onion).  It makes a quick dinner and ensures that there are no science experiments growing in the fridge by the time I come home.  Happy Eating:)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Straight Off the Shelf - Pickles

Okay, well I haven't posted for a few weeks.  Life has happened around here:)  It is amazing how fast time moves before you realize "Ugh!  Three weeks since the last post?!?!"  So instead of getting all upset, I am just jumping back on the wagon and starting over.   You might even get two posts today!  

I thought it would be helpful if once or twice a month I take a quick photo of an item I am able to buy at any major market straight off the shelf for my kids.  Yes, I use the old fashioned word "market" for grocery store.  Chalk it up to living a year in Boston.  I still use the word "carriage" for cart too.   I never did say I was normal!

Pickles.  That is this weeks Straight Off the Shelf item.  These will often go on BOGO at my local Publix.  The cashier(s) will laugh when they see me come through with 12 jars of pickles.  Bread and Butter and Dills are our favorites.  Be Careful.  Some of the Mt. Olive brands contain Splenda.  We personally don't use any item containing Splenda.   (Please remember that we do use products with Corn Syrup as it does not seem to affect our son.)  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cuban Styled Black Beans and Rice

Have you ever had one of those days where comfort food is just a must?

 It has been extremely busy around here for the last month:  from the fun chaos of having our first exchange student, to having 7 extra people in the house for a week, to heading 9 hours away for a family reunion!  Needless to say, when we arrived home on Saturday we were pleasantly exhausted and looking forward to our own beds.  Instead, we were greeted by a broken AC Southern Florida that is called an emergency situation!  After much debate, we decided that calling the AC company was the only way to go.  No one could come out until the next morning.   We could survive sleeping in the heat, right?  After a night in a humid 90 degree house, we woke exhausted and bedraggled.  We eventually had to abandon house and stay at a friend's house for two nights.  After over a week from home, comfort was definitely on the menu!!!  This is one of my son's favorite comfort foods and I win multiple "Mom, you are the BEST MOM EVER!" comments when I pull this out of the oven.  

No pics this week. Upon taking the large cast iron dutch oven out of the oven, pictures were the farthest thing from my mind:)  

Cuban Styled Black Beans
 Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish

1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and picked over.  (I really enjoy the Goya brand of beans.  They cook up tender and do not turn mushy.  They even hold up to rewarming well.)

2 cups of Kitchen Basics Beef Broth.  (Kitchen Basics is a great brand of broth.  Allergy free broth is hard to find!)

2 cups water

2 large green bell peppers, halved and seeded.  (I actually use red bell peppers.  It adds a little extra color to the dish.)

1 large onion, halved with the root end still intact.  (Carefully peel the onion and keep the root end.  I usually rinse it to make sure no dirt is stuck in those little roots!)

1 head of garlic.  Remove 5 cloves of garlic and then cut the remaining garlic head in half.  

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups of long grain white rice  (Be careful when buying rice, most brands of rice carried at normal supermarkets contain gluten.  Asian Markets are your best bet.  Granted, I have found gluten free rice at Walmart.)

2 T. oil

6 ounces of lean salt pork, cut into small (1/4") pieces.  (This is sold in 12 oz. packages.  Thus, I double the recipe and use the whole package.)

1/2 tsp. dried oregano flakes

4 tsp. ground cumin

2 T.  unflavored rice vinegar

Green Onions and Limes for topping.

1.  Place beans in a pot and cover with cold water.  Soak for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24 hours.  If like me, you forget to start them the night before:)  You can bring the beans to a boil.  Let them boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow them to soak for 2 hours.   After soaking, rinse well and drain.

2.  In a large Dutch oven with a tight fighting lid, stir together the beans, broth, 1/2 a pepper, the split garlic head, the half onion, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and then cover.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes.  How soft you cook your beans is a personal preference.  We prefer ours softer, so I cook to the 45 minute point.  

3.  After the beans are cooked, remove all the vegetables from the cooking liquid.  When you drain the beans, you will need to reserve a total of 2 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.  Please be careful!  If you don't have enough liquid, add water to the cooking liquid so it equals 2 1/2 cups.  Do NOT wash out the Dutch oven!

4.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse the rice in a very fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear.  (Not rinsing the rice will cause the rice to be sticky and not fluffy.)  Cut the remaining pepper and onion into small pieces.  If you have a food processor, run it until the pieces are about 1/4 inches.  If you are cutting by hand, enjoy the process:)  Mince the remaining 5 cloves of garlic and keep separate from the onion and pepper.

5..  Place 1 T. of oil in the Dutch oven along with the diced salt pork.  On medium-low heat, render the salt pork.  Rendering means you need cook the salt pork at a low temperature until the fat is melted and the remaining pieces have started to brown.  This takes approx. 15-20 minutes.  Remember to stir frequently!!!

6.  Once the salt pork is rendered, add the remaining 1 T. oil and the diced pepper, onion, cumin, and oregano.  Turn the heat up to medium.  Cook the vegetables until they are soft and starting to lightly brown.   Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.

7.  Add the rice to the mixture and coat with all the yummy goodness!  Finally add the beans and cooking liquid and stir well.  Bring to a boil on the stove top and then cover with the tight fitting lid and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

8.  After removing from the oven, remove lid and fluff the rice with fork.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Serve from Dutch oven or move to your favorite serving dish.  Allow each person to top their portion with green onions and lime juice.  


(This recipe was adapted from a recipe originally published by Cook's Illustrated.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Brownie Thing!

Last night my husband, kids, and exchange student all decided to go fishing.  Um, fishing is not one of my top 10 fun activities to do.   So while they went fishing, I figured I could relax and watch a movie.  Um, well that didn't exactly happen.  BUT!  While I was at home, I could hear a commercial from the 80's running through my mind.  Does anyone remember this?

Nothing says I love you like......cookies.  Who knows why this was running through my mind, but it made me want to bake cookies for my kids.   I have tried on multiple occasions to bake cookies like the old fashioned gluten days.  I have learned that eggs are essential.  Without eggs, you end up with puddles that look like caramelized sugar blobs worthy of the local trash dump.

I found this recipe at one of my favorite blogs.  True, I can't claim credit for this recipe:)  But it is really amazing and the closest thing I have found to Nestle Toll House Cookies.  It resembles a yummy bar cookie with a slightly brownie like texture.  I have noted my changes below. 

So, when the kids returned last night after being feasted on by no see-ums, they were delighted with the "Nothing Says I Love You" allergy friendly substitute.  

Interesting side note:  Our Chinese exchange student says they don't eat soft and gooey cookies......he was appalled when I said we even eat the dough raw:)  ::Cough::  I would "never" lick the bowl at my age!!! 

Coconut and Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies
Chill before eating for best texture. or go the other route and zap in the microwave briefly to melt the chocolate chips. Life is short.

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch baking pan with vegan shortening. Dust with a bit of gluten-free flour.  (I skip this and line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and double the recipe.)

Whisk together dry ingredients:

1/3 cup coconut flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup tapioca or potato starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a separate bowl, beat to combine:

2/3 cup organic brown sugar
1/4 cup organic unsweetened applesauce (If you double the recipe, this equals one small container of applesauce ...the kind for a lunchbox.)
2 1/2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla
1 tablespoon agave  (you could sub honey)
1/4 cup light olive oil  (I use Coconut Oil) 
1/4 cup warm vanilla hemp, coconut milk or rice milk, more as needed  (I used Blue Diamond Almond Milk)
When the wet mixture is smooth, slowly add in the dry ingredient mix and beat just until combined.

Add in by hand:

2/3 cup shredded coconut  (I use unsweetened dessicated coconut.)
1/2 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips.


Dump the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread it evenly. Sprinkle on extra chocolate chips if you like (and press them gently into the top).  (I never do this part...)

Bake in the center of a pre-heated oven until the batter is set and slightly golden brown - anywhere from 22 to 30 minutes, depending upon altitude (at high altitude these took almost 35 minutes to bake). The surface should be slightly firm, like a blond brownie (if a finger touch leaves a dent, bake a tad longer).

Cool completely on a wire rack; chill before cutting and wrapping for storage.

These bars are moist and chewy, and are best eaten chilled. Hot from the oven they fall apart.

Makes 15 cookie bars.
Alexander enjoying the bounty! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Easy Crockpot Pulled Pork

If you are like me, your days are beyond full!  A typical day for me could include a full day of homeschooling, laundry, a Dr. visit, various emails and phone calls, and to top it all off music lessons for both kids.  On days like this I can't be cooking a three course meal! LOL:)  With multiple food allergies, I just can't run to McD's for dinner either.  Prepacked food?  Nope....nothing there either.  For days like this, I love to use the crock pot.  Easy, nutritious, and satisfying, crockpots save the day!  This is one our families favorites.  I usually keep a pork roast in the freezer as a backup.  This recipe is excellent for the freezer in case you do once a month cooking. 

Easy Crockpot Pulled Pork

1 Pork Roast
 (I normally use a pork shoulder roast.  I have been known to use a Boston Butt Roast.  If you are looking for a leaner pulled pork, you could use a Sirloin Roast.)

1 bottle of GF Beer ( or substitute 12 oz of Beef/Chicken Broth)

Salt to Taste

The extremely "complicated" instructions:)

Place the roast in the crockpot.

Pour beer/broth over the roast. 

 For this batch I used Hard Apple Cider.  I thought the flavor of the apple would taste wonderful with the pork. 

As you can see, the beer/broth does not cover the roast.  The beer is only about 1 inch deep.  This roast is approximately 4lbs.  If I was using a larger roast (i.e. 8 lbs), I would use 2 bottles of beer.  

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.

After 10 hours, your roast should know look like this:


Remove from the crockpot and shred with two forks.  (Take the forks and pull them in opposite directions to "pull" the pork.)

Final Results:

Place the pulled pork back into the crockpot to soak in all of the juicy goodness of the beer.  Salt to taste.  I also add garlic powder too.  Because we drench with BBQ Sauce, I use a light hand with the seasoning.  

Our BBQ Sauce (I only find this at Wal-Mart). 

This sauce does contain High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  My children are fine with corn syrup - not corn proteins.  I will post a recipe for homemade HFCS-free  BBQ Sauce soon.  



Friday, August 3, 2012

Yummy Real Life Doughnuts!

When was the last time you had a doughnut?   I mean a "real" warm out of the oven doughnut.   I remember eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts before I turned gluten free 12 years ago.  ::Whisper:: Wanna know a secret?  I could eat an entire dozen by myself!!!  (Especially when they were hot!)  I thought the days of eating doughnuts were a distant memory.  My kids longed to know what a doughnut tasted like as they drooled over their friends treats.  Enter Babycakes NYC!    

I know you are thinking great - NYC!  I know what that means....New York City.  Never in my life will I eat them then.   True and not true:)  There are three Babycake Bakeries in the United States.  One is in NYC, one in LA, and one in Orlando.    Last year when we were in Orlando for a conference, going to Babycakes was at the top of my agenda!  No way was I leaving without a doughnut!  

It was gluten free allergy free heaven!!!
Did you know all of their baked goods are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free, and most are corn free too?  (The only corn is in their baking powder and confectioners sugar as corn starch.  I have been told they occasionally have cornbread also.) 

These yummy gems come at a price though.  Six doughnuts or cupcakes for $18.00.  Yes, you read that correctly:)  Take a moment to breathe and then continue reading.....

Better?  Good.  The good news is that Erin the owner wrote a cookbook with the recipe in it.  So not only can you have the yummy doughnuts, you won't have to take out a second mortgage to afford them.  

Not only that!  She did an interview with Bon Appetit and they were allowed to post the recipe on-line.  Since, it is legally on-line I will not reproduce it here.  

You can find the full recipe here:

Couple of Hints for you though:

1.  I have found using spray oil (Crisco) rather than swiping the pans with straight oil works the best.  I found the nifty doughnut trays online at Amazon. 

2.  I use a tablespoon to measure the dough into the pans.  I place 2 tablespoons in first and then divide the remaining dough evenly.

3.  The recipe says to use a toothpick to evenly distribute the dough in the mold.  Um, well, I haven't found that too effective.  I just wash my hands well and use my finger.  A lot less time consuming!

4.  This recipe uses A LOT of vanilla.  One recipe uses one 2 oz bottle from a normal market.  May I suggest, a large bottle from Costco/Sam's.  I have used both the Kirkland brand and the Tones brand of PURE (NOT imitation) Vanilla successfully.

5.  One note on the cookbook.  Not all the recipes are gluten free.  Just didn't want you to be disappointed  when you cracked open the book and found a glutenous recipe.  

6. Enjoy:)

Here is a final picture.  These are the true gems from Babycakes. Mine look almost as good.  Better yet, they don't break the bank!

Friday, July 27, 2012

When you fall off a horse.....

You get back on, right?  That is what I was taught growing up on a small hobby farm.  Um, hmm...nowadays it would be called homesteading.  Oh wait that was a rabbit trail. Realty is I haven't posted for a long time!  Two years - even I was shocked!   After several friends and my sister mentioned doing a blog again, I figured there is something to this.  So without further ado, I *will* be posting once a week for the near foreseeable future.  

T:) - off to bake bread for the kids!