Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear 2011,

You were a year of loss.  A year of illness.  A year of surgery.  A year of anxiety disorder and intestinal distress (I know.  Gross, right?).

I learned a lot from you 2011.  I learned what it feels like to have vertigo.  I learned that I hyperventilate to the point of numb limbs when riding in an ambulance.  I learned how to maneuver through life being dizzy without falling over and throwing up.  I got so good at taking Dramamine that it doesn't even make me sleepy anymore. Thank you for my Vestibular Disorder 2011, life will never be the same.

2011 taught me that I am horrible at dealing with loss.  I am no where near being an emotionless badass.  I learned how final death really is.  I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous... but take it from me, you need to get closure.  Closure is important.  Thanks for the lesson 2011, you were a real pal.

In 2011 I said goodbye to my gallbladder.  We had always had a bit of a tumultuous relationship but it seems it had finally had enough and self destructed.  I learned that if your condition is not considered life threatening then it is OK for surgery to be postponed for up to 2 weeks while you are left to live off of water, Jell-O, and Dilauded.  Thank you 2011.  I always wanted to know what heroine was like but needles really gross me out.

I got to spend the last day of my 20's in the hospital having a bunch of blood work done that led to a CT Scan. On the last day of my 20's I got to find out that while I was in a considerable amount of pain it was not due to any strange complication from my surgery or any tumors or gremlins wreaking havoc on my insides...  this is good news.  Except for the fact that I have an anxiety disorder and immediately thought I must be going crazy.  A month later when I was finally able to get in for an upper endoscopy it was discovered that I have a hiatal hernia, GERD, Chronic Gastritis, Bile Reflux, and IBS.  Well thank God I'm not CRAZY... geez... can I please be crazy and still be able to eat tomatoes when I want?  No?... FINE 20011 but you are really starting to piss me off!

Somewhere in the middle of all of this mess we bought a house.  We didn't really mean to it just sort of happened.  These are the decisions you make when you are fueled by anxiety, dramamine, and pure mental exhaustion.  It turned out to be a good decision.  Good job Jeff.  I'm pretty sure you navigated that one for us.

The latest in the long list of diagnosis's is that I have Fibromyalgia.  The most awesome part of this is that because of my stomach issues and allergy to sulfa based drugs there isn't really much I can take.  I think this is sort of a blessing though.  After doing a lot of research and talking with my Mawmaw (she also has Fibro) it seems that all medicine does is cause a whole other set of problems.  The most annoying part of the whole thing is the insomnia.  I go through the whole day dragging ass tired (I really miss coffee) and then by the time I go to lay down to sleep I'm wide awake.  Awesome.

In 2011 I learned how much my husband loves me.  In case you were wondering... its A LOT.  I was also reminded of how much I love my husband - A LOT.  I learned that its OK for me to say no to people and to focus on my own health and well being.  I learned that this does not make me selfish or unreliable but actually makes me responsible, especially to the ones who love me. I learned how much my kids love me and that's like WAY A LOT.  I hope they remember that when they're teenagers.

I learned how much I HATE drama.  Unnecessary, ridiculous, attention seeking, selfish, feeling hurting, DRAMA.  I'm done with it.  I will not listen to, feed into, or create any drama.  I have enough problems.  Unless you find yourself in a situation where you need a kidney (found out this year that I have 3), food and or shelter because your house has just burned down, blood transfusion (hope you aren't allergic to Xanax), or in some other situation not caused by drama you just couldn't keep yourself out of... don't call me.  I'm not trying to be an asshole but its really better that I tell you now and not over the phone or snarky facebook message at the exact moment you expect me to care.  No one wants that.

I also learned in 2011 how much I love this blog.  It is nice to be falling apart and still feel like a productive member of society.  I love everyone who reads this blog.  Even if you have never commented.  I hope my ramblings and recipes help you to have a better day.

Thanks for everything 2011,


This slightly out of focus picture of me says a lot about my year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Crawling out from under all of the wrapping paper and tissues...

We're on a slow road to recovery from the holidays this year.  Pink eye is over, now it seems it is our turn with "The Cold".

How was your holiday?  Successfully gluten free?  Did you discover any delicious new products or recipes?  Would love to hear how it went!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Udi's Whole Grain Bagels

Breakfast just got a lot easier.
The wonderful people at Udi's hooked me up with several of their products to review.  I must say that I was very impressed with the Whole Grain Bagel.  When it was delivered the bagels were the softest gluten free bread item I had ever felt.  They smelled like delicious bread and they tasted like delicious bread.  While I do miss the chewy out side, soft inside, of a "real" gluten laden bagel these are by far and away the next best thing.

One of the things I truly miss about my gluten filled days is being able to go to my favorite local coffee shop and order a sandwich on an Everything Bagel.  I have big plans for putting together an everything bagel cream cheese recipe that will make rainbows and unicorns appear and all of my dreams come true.  But first I need to make it through the holidays.  Oldest daughter (Sydney, 4) just got over pink eye.  Youngest daughter (Piper, 1) decided pink eye looked like so much fun she needed it too.  If only they shared toys as well as they share germs.

Join in the fun on Udi's Gluten Free Living Community.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies

The perfect gift for all of the bacon lovers in your life.

2 cups peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
6 pieces of cooked bacon, diced.

Using the paddle blade on your stand mixer, mix together peanut butter, sugar, and eggs.  Once all of the ingredients are well incorporated fold in diced bacon.  Drop by the tablespoon on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Use a fork to flatten the dough and create hash marks on your cookies.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container... or your belly.

Udi's Inspired Apple Crumble

Thank You Udi's!  I received a lovely package in the mail of Udi's products to review and I decided to be adventurous and use the Cranberry Granola in an Apple Crisp recipe.

So Delicious  :)

Apple Filling:
6 Firm tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (Granny Smith or Honey Crisps would work well)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Crumble Topping:
2/3 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. To make apple filling:  In a small bowl, toss apple slices with lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. To make the crumble topping:  In another bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, and salt with a fork until uniform.  In a baking dish, melt the butter in the microwave until about half melts, 15-20 seconds on high (depends on your microwave).  Pour the liquid butter into the flour mixture and incorporate with a fork.  Leave the excess butter in the baking dish.
  4. Arrange the apple slices in the dish.
  5. Top with the crumble mixture.  Bake until the apples are cooked through and the topping is golden, about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Days 17 &18: If only kids didnt get sick during the holidays.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with sick kiddos.  Luckily I had roasted that chicken on Friday.  It made life so much easier this weekend.  Saturday chicken turned into a casserole.  Sunday, Jeff and I had chicken sandwiches after getting all of our Christmas shopping finished (YEAH!!).

Figgy Pudding was going to be this weekends adventure.  It didn't happen.  It will happen before Christmas.  I have never had figgy pudding but I am determined to make one this year.  And of course dance around the kitchen singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas the entire time.

Saturdays Chicken Casserole  ***None of these measurements are exact.

1 cup chopped roasted chicken
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 carrots chopped
2 tbs butter
1 1/2 tbs corn starch
8oz container mushrooms
1 1/2 cups Chicken stock
heavy cream
tortilla chips (crushed)
shredded cheese
salt to taste

Melt butter over medium heat.  Saute the mushrooms in the melted butter until they release their juices.  Sprinkle with just a little salt.  Add cornstarch and cook with mushrooms for about 1 minute.  Begin to add chicken stock gradually.  You don't want your sauce to become too thin.  Add tarragon and just a tiny pinch of nutmeg.  Add chicken, peas, and carrots.  Mix together well and transfer mixture to a casserole dish.  Top mixture with crushed tortilla chips and cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 16: Don't you dare microwave that chex mix!

Syd woke up feeling and looking a lot more like herself.  She was so much like herself that she refused to nap and refused to eat dinner.  **sigh**  Well at least she is sure to eat a good breakfast... and at least the kiddos are staying with my mom tomorrow (Thanks Mom!).  Looking forward to completing Christmas shopping tomorrow and having everything that needs to be shipped ready to head out on Monday.

I decided it was finally time to make Chex Mix.  I love the way the house smells when we make Chex Mix.  One of my favorite holiday smells and I am here to tell you it is worth every minute it takes to prepare Chex Mix in the oven.  Trust me.  There is a huge difference in flavor.  General Mills should take the microwave instructions off of their website.

Here is the delicious OVEN recipe for Chex Mix.  The way Santa intended.
GF Chex Mix

6 Tbs butter
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce (Original Lea & Perrins is GF)
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
1 cup mixed nuts (READ THE LABEL - I suggest getting raw nuts)
1 cup GF pretzel sticks (I used Mary's Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs)
***The original recipe calls for 1 cup bagel chips - I simply leave this ingredient out when I'm preparing this recipe.  You could replace with some sort of bite sized gluten free cracker.***

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In an ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in the oven.  Stir in Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Stir in Chex cereals, mixed nuts, pretzels and bite sized crackers (optional) until coated.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread on paper towels until cooled.  Store in an airtight container.

Here is a Chex Mix recipe it is OK to use the microwave for:

Puppy Chow
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp gf vanilla
9 cups Chex cereal (any gf flavor will work - We use Cinnamon)
3 cups powdered sugar


  1. Combine peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.
  2. Microwave for one minute then stir to blend all ingredients thoroughly.  Add 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Stir well.
  3. Place Chex cereal in a very large bowl.
  4. Pour the peanut butter-chocolate mixture over the cereal and toss evenly.  Make sure all of the cereal gets a good covering.
  5. Place powdered sugar in a large zip-top bag.
  6. Add the peanut butter-chocolate cereal mixture to the bag, leaving enough room for the puppy chow to be shaken (it may be necessary to divide into smaller batches, coating one batch at a time.
  7. Shake the CLOSED bag vigorously to evenly coat each piece of the puppy chow.
  8. Once the mixture is fully coated, place in a large serving bowl.
  9. Store in an airtight container.
When I asked Jeff this morning what he wanted to make today he hit the internet hard and went on an inspiration hunt.  A little while later he came out of the room and said Alton Brown has a gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe.  We can't not make those.  So here we are folks, I give you Alton Browns "Chewy Gluten Free".
8 ounces unsalted butter
11 ounces brown rice flour, approx 2 cups
1 1/4 ounces cornstarch, approx 1/4 cup
1/2-ounce tapioca flour, approx 2 Tbs
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 ounces sugar, approx 1/4 cup
10 ounces light brown sugar, approx 1 1/4 cups
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs whole milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat.  Once melted, pour into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, xantham gum, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.
  4. Add both of the sugars to the bowl with the butter and using the paddle attachment, cream together on medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the whole egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.  Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.  Add the chocolate ships and stir to combine.
  5. Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, approximately 1 hour.  Shape the dough into 2 ounce balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet.
  6. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pans after 7 minutes for even baking.  *** We cut the baking time to 10 minutes rotating the pan after 5 minutes.  This could totally be due to our oven needing to be calibrated.***
  7. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on the pans for 2 minutes.
  8. Move the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.  Store cooked cookies in an airtight container.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh what a day... 15: Apple Crumble

This day turned out to be quite a doozy.  It started out innocent enough.  I had a follow up scheduled with my GI and when the office number came up on my phone I thought for sure they were calling to reschedule.  *Sigh*  So I pick up the phone and as it turned out they had a cancellation and asked if I could come in earlier.   Sure!  That never happens for me.  Over all the appointment went well.  I discussed with her my thoughts of trying to find out if I have food allergies/sensitivities other than gluten.  I asked her opinion on going on an elimination diet to try to find trigger foods.  She was of the opinion the safest way to go would be to keep a very detailed food journal.  She felt that my already limited diet taken to another level may leave me malnourished.  No one wants that, so this is the plan we are going with.  Starting January 1.  I refuse to find out I'm allergic/sensitive to dairy, sugar, or chocolate for Christmas.  I want to eat, drink, and be merry for at least a little while longer.
At lunch Sydneys eye started running and quickly became very inflamed with sticky discharge.  I looked at her. I looked at Jeff.  I said "Well, Syd has pink eye."  went and picked up my phone and called the pediatrician.  By 2:15 we were seen and had a prescription for antibiotics.  Poor little kiddo looks so miserable.  The next few days are not going to be any fun for her.  Hopefully we can keep her little sister out of her face enough over the next few days that she doesn't come down with it too.

For dinner I decided to roast a chicken.  If nothing else we'll have something to pick on this weekend while we hang out with our goopy eyed girl.

Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken
1 lemon - cut in half
5 cloves of garlic
kosher salt
olive oil
Preheat Oven to 450

  1. Wash the chicken - make sure you remove the package of innards and discard
  2. Pat the chicken dry and place in a roasting pan.
  3. Liberally salt the inside of the chicken.  Stuff the chicken with both lemon halves and garlic cloves.
  4. Coat the outside of the chicken with olive oil.
  5. Liberally salt outside of chicken.
  6. Place in preheated oven uncovered for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove chicken from oven - tent with foil and return to oven
  8. Reduce heat to 400 and cook for another hour and 15 minutes or until juices run clear.
I decided to make a pan gravy with the juices.  I had never attempted this before and I'm sure there are tastier things to do with it but this is what I came up with for my first try.

Pan Gravy

Remove roasted chicken to a platter and place roasting pan on large burner over medium heat.  Add 2 Tbs cornstarch and whisk until smooth.  Add 1/2 cup water and continue to whisk.  Serve over chicken.  Serve over anything really.  Everything is better with a little gravy.

Dessert - Apple Crumble.  I just have to say... my house smells AMAZING right now.  This is an adaptation of Mellisa d'Arabian's apple crumble recipe.

Apple Crumble

Apple Filling:
5 rome apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
Crumble Topping:
2/3 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter

Vanilla-Cardamom Caramel Sauce:
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp gf vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. To make apple filling:  In a small bowl, toss apple slices with lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. To make the crumble topping:  In another bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, and salt with a fork until uniform.  In a baking dish, melt the butter in the microwave until about half melts, 15-20 seconds on high (depends on your microwave).  Pour the liquid butter into the flour mixture and incorporate with a fork.  Leave the excess butter in the baking dish.
  4. Arrange the apple slices in the dish.
  5. Top with the crumble mixture.  Bake until the apples are cooked through and the topping is golden, about 45 minutes.
To make the Vanilla-Cardamom Caramel Sauce:
  1. In a medium-heavy saucepan, mix the water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Allow the mixture to boil, without stirring.  - Swirl the pan if needed.  Boil until the mixture is a pale golden brown - approx 7 minutes. - Do NOT walk away.  Sugar burns very quickly.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, and stirring vigorously add the butter and cream.  The mixture will bubble.
  3. Add the ground cardamom and stir to incorporate.
  4. Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  5. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  6. Drizzle over crumble.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 14: Holiday Safe Candy List

This time of year brings out all sorts of specialty candies and limited edition flavors.  Don't forget to double check labels before indulging this holiday season.  Even if you ate it without a problem last year, it never hurts to make sure none of the ingredients have been changed.

Here is a link to a very detailed gluten free candy list at  If you don't have the time to go through an 8 page PDF I've listed candies our family usually reaches for this time of year.  If they are in Red they are known to be unsafe, if they are in Blue they are questionable.

Hershey's Kisses - Traditional Hershey's Kisses and Kisses with Almonds are gluten free.

Candy Canes - All candy canes should be gluten free.  Spangler brand have been confirmed gluten free by Every Day Gluten Free

Hard Cand - Washburn Old Fashioned Hard Candies and Filled Candies are both confirmed gluten free -

Cherry Cordials - The ONLY brand I have been able to confirm is gluten free is made by Queen Anne.  This is a link to the statement on their website -

Gum Drops - Walgreens brand gum drops are labeled gluten free.  Make sure to read the label.

Hershey's Hugs and Holiday flavors - There are quite a few lists that label these as safe.  There are even more comments on these lists from people with Celiacs who have had reactions to these candies.  Try at your own risk.

Licorice - I am not aware of any licorice rope candy that is gluten free.  All licorice rope products I have found - Including Twizzlers - list wheat in their ingredients.

Happy Holidays!
and don't forget to read your labels!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Comfort food and Day 13: Surviving Holiday Parties

It has been raining all day.  Not just a little rain here and there but steady, at times down right torrential downpours.  The only thing I could think of that would warm our bellies today - Potato Soup.  I don't have an exact recipe I follow when I make potato soup so I'll just post what I happened to come up with this evening.

5 potatoes - diced
5 slices of bacon - cut into small pieces
1/2 medium onion - diced
1 box Imagine chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
salt to taste
  1. In a dutch oven cook the bacon pieces until crunchy - remove and save for garnish.
  2. Add onion to the bacon grease and cook until translucent.
  3. Add potatoes and cook with onions for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add box of chicken stock and cook until potatoes are tender.
  5. Once potatoes are tender add spices and heavy cream.  Simmer for 15 minutes and then serve.
We had Chebe focaccia bread to go along with our soup.  If you haven't tried Chebe mixes yet, you should.  They are delicious.

I have seen a lot of posts lately about what to do at holiday parties, and lots of questions about what you would serve at a party you are hosting.  I have a few suggestions for these situations.

Parties hosted by others:
  1. Make sure the person hosting the event is aware of your allergies.  They may or may not be willing to make changes to their menu to accommodate you, but at least they'll know there is a legitimate reason you are not eating any of the food they have prepared.
  2. Offer to help with food preparation.  Everyone appreciates help when organizing functions, you may just save your hosts sanity.
  3. Offer to bring a dish - at least you know there will be something there for you to eat.
  4. Eat before you go.  You never know when someone may get the crazy idea to dip a Ritz cracker in the dip you so lovingly prepared.  Try not to get too offended by the action - no one is trying to gluten you.
When entertaining in your home:
  1. Serve gluten free food.  Take this opportunity to broaden your friends perception of what gluten free food is and what it tastes like.
  2. If you keep a 100% gluten free home, specifically ask guests not to bring food.  The most well meaning friends in the world who wanted to bring Chex mix but forgot to check the Worcestershire label for gluten would feel really awful if they made you sick.
  3. Don't make a big deal out of the fact the food you're serving is gluten free.  All that matters is that your guests are fed delicious food and have a good time.
I have posted about fun appetizer options and will be posting more ideas for holiday meals in days to come.

Now I'm going to go curl up with a cup of friendship tea and read The Hunger Games.  People have been raving about these books and now its time to figure out what all of the hype is about.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 12: Turkey and/or Ham

Time to start planning the big meat portion of the holiday meal.  What is your family's tradition?  Turkey?  Ham?  Both?  The following is the recipe we use for our Thanksgiving turkey every year.  For Christmas I think we'll be going with something a little less traditional like Chicken Tikka Massala but... that recipe will have to wait for another day.

Poultry Brine

1 gallon water
1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs Pickling Spice
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp tarragon


  1. Dissolve salt and brown sugar in water in a large pot.  Add vinegar and spices.  Allow to cool.
  2. Brine for 1 hour per pound.
  3. Thoroughly rinse all the brine from the turkey before cooking.  Otherwise there will be a salty flavor to the turkey.
Best Turkey EVER!

We rub the turkey with a stick of butter (don't look at me that way).  And then stuff the cavity with 2 packages of fresh "poultry seasoning" herbs prepackaged from the grocery store and another stick of butter (stop looking at me that way!  It's Thanksgiving!).  We cook the turkey in an infrared turkey fryer and it comes out perfectly EVERY time.

If country ham is more your thing here is a link to Alton Brown's recipe -
We don't dig on pig but I have never had a complaint with any of the Alton Brown recipes I've tried.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 11: Popcorn Balls

I LOVE POPCORN!  I really do.  This evening I decided to make popcorn balls and they turned out beautifully.  I was a little nervous because I decided to use my dutch oven to pop the corn.  I had never done this before, but it turned out so well I don't think I'll pop corn any other way again.  So easy.

Caramel Popcorn Balls

2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 cup unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown brown sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Add 1 Tbs of the oil to a dutch oven, and heat over high heat.  When oil is hot, add 1/2 cup of popping corn.  Stir kernels to make sure they are coated with oil and place lid on dutch oven.  When corn stops popping remove from heat.  Place popped corn in the oven to keep warm.  Repeat until all corn has been popped.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer inserted, combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup.  Stir well and bring to boiling over medium heat.  Stir in condensed milk;  simmer, stirring constantly, until thermometer reads 235 degrees F.  Stir in vanilla.
  3. Pour caramel over popped corn and stir to coat.  Butter hands lightly; shape popcorn into balls about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 10: Appetizers

Today's blog post was inspired by a discussion thread started on Udi's Gluten Free Living Community.

The question:  What are some of your favorite gluten-free party finger foods?

I gave it some thought and came up with one idea that has always been gluten free - hummus and veggies.  Most of the other foods I enjoy can be hiding places for gluten unless very strict attention is payed to label reading.  These recipes are some of my favorite party foods ~ when I use a specific brand name it is because I know it to be gluten free.  With that being said I still read the label EVERY TIME I purchase these products to make sure none of their ingredients have changed.

Taco Dip

1 package of McCormick's Taco Seasoning
1 can Ortega refried beans
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 16 oz. package of sour cream
Pico de gallo - recipe to follow
one head of lettuce - shredded
1 6 oz can black olives, drained, and sliced
2 cups shredded cheese
1 lb ground beef (I use venison)


  1. Prepare the taco meat the same as you would for making tacos using the McCormick Taco Seasoning.
  2. Spread the refried beans as the bottom layer in your serving dish.
  3. Spread the taco meat evenly over the refried bean layer
  4. In a medium bowl mix together the package of cream cheese and the package of sour cream.  Spread evenly over the taco meat layer of the dip.
  5. Layer the Pico De Gallo on top of the sour cream/cream cheese mixture.
  6. Layer Black Olives, Lettuce, and top with shredded cheese.
  7. Serve with corn tortilla chips
Pico De Gallo

1 blister pack of cherry or grape tomatoes - diced
1/2 medium yellow onion - diced
1 bunch of fresh cilantro - chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt - to taste

Mix tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and lime juice in a medium bowl.  Add salt to taste.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
1 1/2 cups thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1 cup mozzarella

  1. Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 cup of water until tender and then drain.  Discard liquid.
  2. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft.
  3. Mix cream cheese, chopped spinach, chopped artichoke hearts, sour cream, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, pepper flakes, salt, and garlic powder.  Place mixture into an oven safe serving dish.
  4. Top the mixture with mozzarella bake at 400 until cheese is bubbly (approx 10-15 minutes).
Serve with GF toast points or tortilla chips.

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce


1/2 cup Heinz chili sauce
1/2 cup Heinz ketchup
3 Tbs prepared horseradish
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce (Original and Low sodium are both GF)
1/4 tsp Tobasco sauce

Combine all ingredients and served chilled along with shrimp.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 9: Rice Pudding

Cutest Owl Ever.
Yummy rice pudding recipe.  This is a great dessert any time of year.

Rice Pudding

1 cup cooked long grain or basmati rice
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 coconut milk
1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped unsalted pistachios

  1. In a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat, combine the cooked rice and milk.  Heat until the mixture begins to boil.  Decrease the heat to low and cook at a simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently (approx. 5 min.)
  2. Increase the heat to medium, add heavy cream, coconut milk, sugar, and cardamom and continue to cook until the mixture just begins to thicken again (approx. 5-10 min.).  Use a whisk to help prevent the cardamom from clumping.  Once the mixture just begins to thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the raisins and pistachios.  Transfer the mixture to individual serving dishes or a glass bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.
For dinner we had festively shaped meat loafs, quinoa, and curry coriander butternut squash, YUM.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 8: Christmas Cookies

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband!  What better way to celebrate than to start making making Christmas cookies?  These are the delicious recipes we made today.

Peanut Butter Cookies

2 cups Peanut butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a stand mixer with paddle attachment.  Drop dough by the table spoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Use the tines of a fork to create hash marks and flatten the cookie dough.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds
3 cups confectioners sugar, divided
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp almond extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place almonds on a baking sheet, and toast for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  2. Decrease the oven temp to 325.  Place almonds and 1 cup confectioners' sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and chop almonds finely using on and off pulsing.
  3. Scrape almond mixture into a mixing bowl, and add remaining sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk well, and stir in chocolate, egg whites, and almond extract.  Stir well.
  4. Drop dough by heaping tablespoon portions onto the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart.  Bake cookies for 20-25 minutes, or until cookies are dry.  Cool cookies for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Do you have a favorite Christmas cookie recipe?  I would love to give it a try ~ please feel free to share in the comment section.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 7: Gingerbread

I have been looking forward to making this cake ever since I stumbled across Tara's blog A Baking Life a month or so ago and OH MY GOODNESS it is delicious.  I included the recipe for the cinnamon-brown sugar caramel she served hers with and I included the recipe for the lemon syrup I served with mine.  There is just something magical about the combination of gingerbread and lemon.

Gingerbread Cake

1 1/4 cups Tara's all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1/2 cup Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 fluid cup dark molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 fluid cup safflower or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 fluid cup boiling water
2 large eggs
3 Tbs finely chopped crystallized ginger
powdered sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line with parchment, and butter the parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, xanthan and guar gums, spices, salt, and pepper.  In another bowl, whisk together the molasses, sugars, and oil.  Whisk the liquid mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and boiling water.  Whisk this into the batter.
  4. Add the eggs to the batter, whisking until smooth, then stir in the chopped crystallized ginger.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Cake may be made up to three days in advance.  Wrap airtight and store at room temperature.
  6. To serve, dust cake with powdered sugar, and serve with drizzle of cinnamon-brown sugar caramel or lemon glaze. ~ Recipes follow
Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Caramel

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs + 3 Tbs cold water, divided
1 Tbs cold unsalted butter

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp water.  Whisk to combine.
  2. Set pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, and quickly whisk in 3 Tbs cold water and butter.  (Be careful - the caramel will sputter the steam, so stand back!).  Pour caramel into heat-proof jar, cool to room temperature, and cover.  Caramel can be made in advance and stored at room temperature for up to a week.
Lemon Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup water
2 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbs lemon juice

Cook cornstarch, sugar, nutmeg, and water until thick and bubbly.  Stir for an additional 2 minutes and then remove from heat.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well until butter melts.
    Serve warm over slices of gingerbread.

    I was planning to make gingerbread cookies today, but after Syd took a spill at school our plans changed a little for the day.  Only our Lil' Miss Syd could end up with an injury from hugging her friend.  She was super brave and doing just fine.  Plan is to put gingerbread cookies on the list of cookies we're making tomorrow... if we have time.  If you give these a try let me know what you think!  If you have a super tasty gingerbread recipe please feel free to share.

    Gingerbread Cookies

    1 cup superfine brown rice flour
    1 cup arrowroot starch
    2 tsp ground ginger
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp guar gum
    1/2 cup dark, unsulfered molasses
    1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
    1/4 cup softened butter (1/2 stick)
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Extra rice flour for dusting when rolling and cutting out cookies

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease.
    3. Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside.
    4. Cream butter and sugar, beating on high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.
    5. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until combined.
    6. Slowly add dry, sifted ingredients to butter mixture and beat just until a stiff dough forms.
    7. Place dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap lightly dusted with sweet rice flour.  Roll out to 1/8 inch thick.
    8. Dip gingerbread cookie cutter in sweet rice flour and cut out gingerbread men.  Use a flour dusted spatula to transfer cookies to baking sheet.  If the dough should get too soft while you are working with it, just place it in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
    9. Bake for 10 minutes in preheated oven, or until cookies are firm to the touch.
    10. Make sure the cookies are completely cooked before decorating.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Day 6: Gluten Free Salt Dough Ornaments

    Kid craft idea!

    These salt dough ornaments are fun for the whole family.  They are priceless keepsakes for parents and they give kids a chance to help make something fun in the kitchen.  Paint names of family members on the ornaments and use them in place of paper gift tags.  Paint the year on your ornaments and start a new tradition for your children to give hand painted ornaments to grandparents.

    We hope you enjoy this craft project as much as we do!

    Salt Dough:

    1 Cup Cornstarch
    1 1/4 Cup Brown Rice Flour
    1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
    1 Cup Salt
    1 Cap full of Peppermint Extract
    3/4 - 1 Cup of water

    Mix ingredients together in a stand mixer.  The dough will look crumbly but should hold together nicely when pressed together into a ball.

    Roll the dough out and use cookie cutters to form your ornaments.

    Place ornaments on a parchment lined baking sheet.

    Use a drinking straw to put a hole in each or your ornaments for a string or hook.

    Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

    Let the ornaments cool completely before decorating with craft paints or glitter glues.

    **Long Term Storage**
    Make sure you store these ornaments in an air tight container wrapped in paper towels.  The trick to keeping these looking great year after year is too keep them away from high humidity.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Day 5: Christmas Marshmallows

    We decided to have fun with our marshmallow recipe and doll it up for the holidays.

    I crunched up 5 candy canes in the food processor and coated the bottom of a glass baking dish.  I did not coat the candy canes or the bottom of the dish with powdered sugar and cornstarch but I should have.  The marshmallows did stick a little more than I anticipated.  These make a delicious holiday snack and an excellent addition to a nice cup of hot cocoa.

    2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
    1 1/4 cups warm water, divided
    2 cups white sugar

    1.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, stir together gelatin and 1/2 cup plus 2Tbs water.  Set aside to set up.

    2.  In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and remaining 1/2 cup plus 2Tbs water, over medium heat.  Stir until    sugar reaches soft-ball stage.

    3.  Combine gelatin and sugar water, and beat with electric mixer on low until foamy.  Increase to high speed and beat for 12 minutes.

    4.  Pour into a 9x13 glass dish that has been lightly dusted with powdered sugar.  Allow marshmallows to come to room temp and them move them to the refrigerator for about an hour.

    5.  Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar or cornstarch.


    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Day 4: Hard Candy

    Jeff and I decided to stray a little from the following recipe and the results were some interesting sugar sculptures that we broke into pieces instead of cutting into uniform sizes.  Also instead of mixing the food coloring into the sugar in the pot we decided to put a few drops of coloring on the sugar once it was in the baking pan and used toothpicks to make swirly designs.  I'm looking forward to making this recipe again and using different flavorings (this time we used peppermint).

    Hard Candy

    2 cups white sugar
    1 cup water
    3/4 cup light corn syrup
    1/2 tsp peppermint extract
    food coloring (optional)
    1/8 cup confectioners' sugar

    1. In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup.  Cook, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved; then cook without stirring, lowering the heat and cooking more slowly during the last few minutes, to the hard crack stage (300 degrees F), If sugar crystals form on the sides of pan, wipe them off with a damp brush.
    2. Remove from heat, add oil flavoring and enough food coloring to color; stir only to mix.  Pour into 2 well buttered 9 inch pans.  Set one pan of candy over a sauce pan containing hot water (unless you have a helper to cut the candy).  As soon as the other pan of candy is cool enough to handle, cut it with scissors into 1-inch strips.  Then snip the strips into pieces.  Work fast.  Drop the pieces onto a buttered baking sheet.  If the candy cools too quickly, set it on a saucepan over hot water to soften it, but if it gets sticky return at once to the work counter.
    3. Toss in a small amount of powdered sugar to keep from sticking together.  Repeat with the second pan of candy.

    A fun candy project to do with kids:

    Rock Candy

    Rock candy is a simple sugar candy that can double as a science experiment.  This is a time consuming process as it can take up to a week.  Please note:  If you want to make several pieces of rock candy, you will need to use multiple jars and skewers, and double or triple the sugar syrup solution.


    2 cups water
    4 cups granulated sugar
    1/2-1 tsp flavoring extract or oil (optional)
    food coloring (optional)
    glass jar
    skewer or thread


    1. Prepare your materials: wash a glass jar thoroughly with hot water.  Cut a length of thick cotton thread a few inches longer than the height of the jar, and tape it to a pencil.  Place the pencil across the lip of the jar, and wind it until the thread is hanging about 1 inch from the bottom of the jar.  Attach a paper clip to the bottom of the thread to weight it and ensure it hangs straight down.  Althernately, you can use a wooden skewer as the base of your rock candy and use clothespins balanced across the top of the jar to clip it into place.
    2. Wet your thread or wooden skewer and roll it in granulated sugar.  This base layer will give the sugar crystals something to grab when they start forming.  Set the thread or skewer aside to dry while you prepare your sugar syrup.
    3. Place the water in a medium-sized pan and bring it to a boil.  Begin adding the sugar, one cup at a time, stirring after each addition.  Continue to stir and boil the syrup until all of the sugar has been added and it is all dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat.
    4. If you are using colors or flavorings, add them at this point.  If you are using an extract, add 1 tsp of extract, but if you are using flavoring oils, only add 1/2tsp, and make sure you don't stand right in front of the pan - the sent can be very strong as it rises in the steam.  Add 2-3 drops of food coloring and stir to ensure even, smooth color.
    5. Allow the sugar syrup to cool for approximately 10 minutes, then pour it into the prepared jar.  Lower the sugared string or skewer until it hangs about 1 inch from the bottom.
    6. Carefully place your jar in a cool place, away from harsh lights, where it can sit undisturbed.  Cover the top loosely with plastic wrap or paper towel.
    7. You should start to see sugar crystals forming within 2-4 hours.  If you have seen no change to your skewer or thread after 24hrs, try boiling the sugar syrup again and dissolve another cup of sugar into it, then pour it back into the jar and insert the string or skewer again.
    8. Allow the rock candy to grow until it is the size you want.  Don't let it grow too large, otherwise it might start growing into the sides of your jar.  Once it has reached the size you want, remove it and allow it to dry for a few minutes.  Enjoy or wrap in plastic to save for later.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Day 3: Mixed Nuts

    Another fun gift idea!

    Make sure when you are buying nuts to read the label to make sure they aren't coated with anything at the factory or that they don't share a line with anything that may cause a cross contamination issue.  The easiest way to make sure you aren't going to run into hidden gluten is to get nuts still in the shell.  It adds some extra work to the project but it can be fun.  Not to mention a great way to relieve some holiday stress.


    1 Large egg white
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp all spice
    2 cups pecan halves or assorted nuts (unsalted, preferably raw)


    1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Beat egg white until soft and foamy.  Combine all remaining ingredients except nuts, whisk into egg white.  Stir in nuts until well coated.  Spread mixture in single layer onto an ungreased baking pan.

    2. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven.  Using a metal spatula, toss, stir, and separate nuts.  Reduce oven temp to 250 and return nuts to bake until medium brown (about 10 minutes).  Remove from oven, toss, and stir again.  Place baking pan on wire rack to cool (they will crisp as they cool).  Break up any that stick together.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Day 2: Friendship Tea

    I grew up enjoying this drink around the holidays and love the opportunity to share with friends.  This is perfect for soothing a sore throat or sipping on a cold day.

    Friendship Tea (Russian Tea)

    1/2 c. instant tea powder - Nestea Instant Tea Powder is Gluten Free
    1 c. sweetened lemonade powder - Country Time Lemonade is Gluten Free
    1 c. orange-flavored drink mix - Tang is Gluten Free
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground cloves


    In a large bowl, combine all ingredients well.  Store in an air tight container.  I like to make several batches and give the mix in small jelly jars as gifts.

    To Serve:

    Put 2 to 3 teaspoons of mix in a mug.  Stir in 1 cup of boiling water.  Adjust to taste.

    If you have a favorite holiday beverage recipe I would love to try it.  Please feel free to leave it in the comment section.

      Friday, November 25, 2011

      Day 1: Cookie mix in a jar

      Cross contamination can be a big concern when preparing gluten free recipes in a kitchen that is not 100% gluten free but with a few simple precautions it can be done easily and safely.

      1. Read labels.  Read labels.  Read labels.  Even if it is a product you have used before.  You never know when a formula will be changed.

      2. If you plan to sift your ingredients get a new flour sifter and clearly label it for gluten free use only.  It is impossible to be sure that a sifter is clean enough to prevent cross contamination.

      3. When baking cookies, line your pans with parchment paper or use dedicated pans or all of your gluten free baking.

      GF M&M Cookie Jar

      1 3/4 C. Gluten Free Flour Blend ~ I used Bob's Red Mill
      3/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
      3/4 tsp. GF Baking Soda
      3/4 C. Packed Light Brown Sugar
      1/2 C. Cane Sugar
      1 C  M&Ms

      Mix Gluten Free flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and then pour into a clean 1 quart jar.  Next, layer the brown sugar, chocolate chips and then top with cane sugar.  Seal the jar and decorate ~ Make sure you include the following directions with your gift:

      Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Beat together 3/4 cup softened butter, 1 egg, and 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract in the bowl of a mixer until creamed.  Add cookie mix.  Blend well making sure there are no lumps (other than M&Ms).  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Bake for 9-11 minutes until lightly browned.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes before moving to cooling racks.

      Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

      Sugar Cookie Mix in a Jar

      1 1/2 cups superfine brown rice flour
      2/3 cups arrowroot starch or cornstarch
      1/3 cups tapioca starch
      1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
      1/2 tsp guar gum
      1 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp cream of tartar

      Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and use a large whisk to blend.  Sift mixed ingredients (be sure to use a dedicated sifter whenever making gluten free recipes to insure no cross contamination).  Transfer mix to a quart jar.  Make sure to include the following instructions with your gift:

      You will need:

      1 recipe of Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix (Dry Ingredients)
      1 cup cold, cubed butter (2 sticks)
      1 egg
      1/2 tsp lemon extract
      1 tbs freshly grated lemon peel (takes about 2 lemons)

      1. Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Place the cover on the processor and pulse about 3 times.

      2. Add the cubed, cold butter and pulse about 10 times.  The mixture will be crumbly.

      3. Add the egg, lemon extract and lemon peel and pulse about 5 times.  The mixture will look crumbly but should form a ball when squeezed together.

      4. If the mixture is too dry to form a ball, add 1 tbs milk and pulse about 5 more times.

      5. Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of waxed paper and squeeze the dough into a ball.  Use hands to shape the ball into a long cylinder, about 2 inches in diameter.

      6. Wrap the sheet of waxed paper around the cookie dough log and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour or freeze to use later.

      7. When you are ready to bake the cookies, remove from refrigerator or freezer.  slice in 1/4 inch rounds and roll each section into a ball.  Place 12 balls on each prepared baking sheet.  Dip a glass in fine sugar and press each ball of dough into a flat circle.

      8.  Alternatively, cut chilled dough rolls into 1/4" slices and bake.  This method makes a slightly thicker cookie.

      Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until light golden brown around the edges.

      Gluten Free Snickerdoodle Cookie Mix

      1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
      3 c gluten free flour mix
      1 tsp baking soda
      1/2 tsp baking powder
      2 tsp cream of tartar
      1/4 tsp salt

      Mix in a separate bag and attach:
      2 tbs granulated sugar
      2 tsp cinnamon

      Attach these instructions to your gift:

      Whip 1 cup of butter, softened with 2 eggs and cookie mix.
      Shape dough into 1-inch balls and drop into cinnamon-sugar baggie, shake to coat.
      Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.

      Yeilds: 6 dozen cookies.

      Wednesday, November 23, 2011

      Thanksgiving Breakfast

      These pancake recipes will be showing up again for breakfast Christmas Eve morning.  We served the pumpkin pancakes with maple syrup and the gingerbread with lemon syrup.  Huge hit with the kids and the adults.

      Pumpkin Pancakes

      2 eggs
      1 1/2 cups oat flour
      1 tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
      1/4 cup oil
      1/4 tsp salt
      2 tbs sugar
      1 1/2 cups milk
      1/2 tsp xanthan gum
      1/4 tsp vanilla extract
      1/2 cup pumpkin puree
      1 tsp allspice
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1/2 tsp ginger

      Place all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl.  Mix very well.  The batter will thicken a bit as it is mixed.  Heat a pan or griddle to medium heat.  Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom is slightly browned.  Flip and continue to cook until lightly browned on both sides.

      Gingerbread Pancakes

      2 eggs
      1 1/2 cups oat flour
      1 tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
      1/4 cup oil
      1/4 tsp salt
      2 tbs sugar
      1 1/2 cups milk
      1/2 tsp xanthan gum
      1/4 tsp vanilla extract
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1/2 tsp ground ginger
      1/4 molasses

      Place all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl.  Mix very well.  The batter will thicken a bit as it is mixed.  Heat a pan or griddle to medium heat.  Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom is slightly browned.  Flip and continue to cook until lightly browned on both sides.

      Lemon Syrup

      1/2 cup sugar
      1 tbs cornstarch
      1/8 tsp nutmeg
      1 cup water
      2 tbs butter
      1/2 tsp lemon zest
      2 tbs lemon juice

      Cook cornstarch, sugar, nutmeg, and water until thick and bubbly.  Stir for an additional 2 minutes and then remove from heat.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well until butter melts.  Serve warm.

      Thankfulness Day 22

      I am thankful for Piper Grace Kitchen.  I have so much fun watching her figure out the world around her.

      Thankfulness Day 21

      I am thankful that 4 years ago today I became a mommy for the first time.  I can't imagine my life without Miss Syd's spunky, creative, wide open personality.

      Thankfulness Day 20

      I am thankful for conveniently located stores and the ability to purchase what we need.

      Thankfulness Day 19

      I am thankful for warm clothes and big fluffy blankets.

      Thankfulness Day 18

      I am thankful for quinoa.

      Saturday, November 19, 2011

      Birthday Baking

      On Monday Sydney will be 4 years old!  This is the first year she has had specific requests for what she would like served at her party so we have had a fun time doing some experimenting in the kitchen.

      Strawberry Cupcakes:  I used a Pamela's Products Vanilla cake mix and followed the directions for a light fluffy cake (4 eggs) and added 2Tbs of Strawberry flavored Jell-O.  I had to add 5 minutes on to the cooking time and the tops split a little bit but hey... that's what frosting is for!
      Frosting Recipe

      1/2 cup frozen strawberries thawed and pureed.
      1 cup (2 sticks) butter - firm and slightly cold
      Pinch of coarse salt
      3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
      1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

      In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioner's sugar, beat until well combined.  Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining puree for another use), mix until just blended.  Do not over mix or frosting will incorporate too much air.  Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.

      I am very pleased with the way these turned out.  Sydney's response was "Oh Mom!  These are scrumptious!".  Pretty high praise from an ALMOST 4 year old.

      Our other experiment was using a box of Gluten Free Pantry's muffin mix to make a savory pizza muffins.  We mixed in cheese and pepperoni and added 3 minutes to the baking time.  They're pretty darn good.  The plan is to serve them with pizza sauce to dip them in at the party.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the short peoples reactions are.  Who doesn't love messy food?