Sunday, July 13, 2014

Remembering Back When

Here we are with almost half of July gone.  Hard to believe.  Where oh where does the time go.  

The other night Hubby and I had dinner with friends and the conversation turned to the start of a new school term.  It seems that schools are ending their summer breaks earlier each year.  Teachers in my area will be returning to school on August 1 with students soon to follow.  All of us were reminiscing and commented that for us school always started after the Labor Day holiday.   My comment to this was that we started after Labor Day because we all grew up in the south and schools of our era were not air-conditioned.

This led me on a walk down memory lane.  I grew up in North Alabama with a few short stints in Chicago.  As a child schools were not air-conditioned and neither were homes, churches or cars.  I remember an aunt who had an air conditioning unit in her home.  After a hot, hot walk to her house I would walk into a chilled house and after a visit found myself walking home in the hot, hot sun.

Churches opened windows and had fans.  No not electric fans.  Paper fans where you would cool yourself off by creating a cool breeze fanning your face with the paper fan.  Cars?  You rolled down the windows if you or the driver didn't mind getting hair mussed.  

Times have certainly changed.  I am presently sitting in my house with the sound of the air conditioner humming away.  I still enjoy shutting off the air-conditioner in the early morning or evening to enjoy the cool crisp air.  My first car was a 1963 Pontiac Catalina and yes it did have air-conditioning.  I'm not sure when things started to change but I do know that my high school had air-conditioning or we would have been goners as it didn't have any windows.  

Summer is a great time for cooking lighter.  Combine a lighter meal with the grill and you have a winner.  Today we enjoyed a delicious recipe that I found on Eating Well.  Here is my take on that delicious dinner salad. 

Buttermilk-Brined Chicken Breast Salad

 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 shallot or 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (A mixture of oregano, rosemary and thyme worked well)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (I really didn't measure just gave the bottle a couple of shakes. So I'm guessing.)
1/2 teaspoon (generous) of freshly ground black pepper

Salad and Dressing:
2 to 3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (Same mix as used for brine.)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (Again a guess.)
1 clove garlic, peeled
Pinch of sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 to 5 cups shredded leaf lettuce

In a plastic Ziploc bag combine the ingredients for the brine.  Place the chicken in the bag, seal and put in refrigerator.  Allow to marinade for 4 hours to 8 hours.  Remove chicken from brine, pat dry and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  While chicken is resting preheat grill to 400 degrees and prepare salad.  

To a large salad bowl add 1 tablespoon olive oil, red-wine vinegar and fresh herbs.  Finely grate garlic clove into bowl.  Add in sugar and black pepper.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined.  Add in washed and dried shredded lettuce tossing to coat.

Rub both sides of the chicken with a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Place on grill and cook with lid closed for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until chicken registers 165 degrees F.  Remove chicken to a clean cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Divide the dressed lettuce between 2 chilled plates.  Top with sliced chicken and enjoy.  I served this with fresh bread for a delicious and satisfying Sunday meal.

It is always fun to reminisce but I am so thankful for my modern conveniences.   

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Belated 4th of July

I know my 4-legged baby is glad that it is over.  While there are still some firecrackers going off, the major portion of the explosions are over with.  Hubby and I shared a nice quite 4th.  He worked in the yard while I cooked and typed recipes for our church cookbook.  Finally got the typing commitment completed and thought it might be nice to share dinner today.

Yes, I live in the south and can see myself reverting back to my southern roots.  Dinner around my part of the world is the mid-day meal.  The evening meal is supper.  Since we are retired we generally have the larger meal of the day around 1:00 p.m.   This time of the year fresh produce it abundant.  I grew up eating this wonderful squash casserole that of course was loaded with gluten.  The casserole had tender yellow squash, onions and some type of canned cream soup.  It was then topped with per-packaged stuffing mix that had been tossed with butter.  Yummy!

Let's see....I think the only thing that didn't contain gluten was the squash, onion and butter.  I have looked for awhile to find a nice substitute that I could do gluten free.  So many called for cracker crumbs.  Well I finally stumbled on to a recipe at Taste of Home for Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole.  Yes, I made lots of changes to the recipe and the end result was awesome!  I have now made the recipe twice and this time I remembered to take a photo of the finished dish.

Cheesy Summer Squash Modified by PaulaG

4 to 5 small to medium yellow squash
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 T. mayo
2 T. plain yogurt
1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. gluten free corn flakes, crushed slightly
1 T. butter, melted
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Hungarian Paprika

In a small saucepan add squash, onion, salt to taste and 1/4 c. water.  Bring to boil over medium heat.  Cover pan and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 5 minutes or until squash is barely tender.  Drain.

In a medium bowl beat the mayo, yogurt and egg together.  Add in drained squash/onion mixture and cheddar cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper and pour into a 1 quart casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Toss the corn flakes with the melted butter and sprinkle over casserole.  Lightly sprinkle with Hungarian Paprika.  

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  

This makes 2 to 3 nice servings.  I served it with southern fried okra, pickled beets and cornbread with green onion on the side.  Pure comfort food.   Make sure to use tender, young squash that is small to medium in size. 

May have to do a post with the gluten free southern fried okra and cornbread.  I'll save that for another day.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Cost of Being Gluten Free

WOW!  What a whirlwind month.  I have had the amazing opportunity of being with my granddaughters for 3 weeks this month.  Tiring but oh so fun.  The oldest was here the first of the month to attend Aquarium Camp.  After the first day she was planning on attending next year and her enthusiasm continued throughout the week.  Money well spent.

I had a week to rest up before I headed to their place for the week and then I brought them back home with me for a week of fun, sun and Vacation Bible School.  I have some wonderful childhood memories of attending Vacation Bible School or VBS as it is often referred to.  We had arts and crafts, a Bible story or 2, sang songs and had cookies with Kool-Aid.  This was the days before food allergies.  The staff this year had a real challenge and with the number of food allergies the children had.  They handled it very well and deserve a round of applause.  While VBS has evolved somewhat the principle is pretty much the same.  The girls had a great time and I am so thankful to all the volunteers who made this a positive experience for them.

On Thursday night it was Family Night.  A great time for family and friends to learn about the VBS process.  What the children were doing and for the children to share with their families the fun times they were having.  When there are 300 or so children enrolled there is a potential of 600 plus individuals at Family Night or even more if the grandparents attend.  

The adult helpers were asked to help defray the cost of Family Night by bringing a couple of packages of cookies.  Being gluten free I am sympathetic to the needs of people on special diets.  A package of gluten free cookies is very pricey.  A small package with maybe 18 cookies or so is well over $5.  Ouch!

Thanks to King Arthur Flour, I always have cookie dough preformed and in the freezer.  King Arthur has a cookie mix where you beat in butter, egg, water and your own add-ins.  Depending on the size of the cookie and the amount of add-ins it will make several dozen cookies.  In my opinion nothing beats a deliciously gooey chocolate chip cookie warm from the oven.  Nestles  has semi-sweet chocolate chips that are gluten free and since I love chocolate I usually buy a large bag at Costco and store in the freezer. The price of the chips is around $9. 

On the King Arthur Flour website the price of the mix is $6.95.  Often times the mixes can be purchased with 20% off or free shipping is offered making the cookies more economical than store bought gluten free cookies plus they are better tasting.  To make the cookies, simply follow the directions on the box, use a cookie scoop and form into balls which can then be placed on a cookie sheet and frozen.  When firm I put them in a ziplock baggie for storage.  Warm cookies anytime!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Frozen Dough

1 box of  King Arthur Flour Cookie Mix 
1/2 cup butter, vegetable oil or coconut oil; softened
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons water
1 to 3 cups add-ins (I usually use 3 cups.)

Using a stand-mixer and large bowl beat half a box of the mix with the  butter or oil.  Add in egg and water, beat until fluffy.

Beat in the remaining cookie mix, scrapping sides and bottom of bowl to make sure it is completely incorporated.  Stir in your add-ins.

The add-ins can be chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit or a mixture depending on dietary restrictions.

Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, form the dough into balls, place on cookie sheet and freeze until firm.  Package dough into ziplock bag, label and date.  When ready to bake, remove the quantity desired, place on parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between and allow to defrost for 20 to 30 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake in preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until browned.  Allow cookies to cool on pan for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.  

Cooking the well chilled dough makes for beautifully formed cookies.  

Well, VBS is over for this year.  The girls are back at home with Mom & Dad.  The house is super quite.  Yesterday we were able to take them to church with us.  It was wonderful.  Thank you Mom & Dad for allowing us to have this special time with them.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

WOW!  I am so overwhelmed at the response on Moving Forward.  It goes to show how much we all loved the forums and how much they will be missed.  I wanted to take a little time to remember the special times we all shared on Zaar and then later on

I joined Recipezaar to learn and expand my culinary skills.  A group of non-judgmental people gave me some wonderful recipes to try and through the discussions I gradually participated in I learned so much.  The first recipe I posted was a super simple recipe for Vegetable Soup on The Double.  The recipe was a collection of leftover items plus a bag of boil in bag brown rice.  A friend on mine on the site made the recipe look so inviting.  Thank you Annacia.

I haven't bought boil in bag rice in years and it is truly amazing how much my pantry changed and my spice cabinet bulged.  As you can tell by the photo, we not only had some amazing home cooks, but we also had some amazing home cooks that are fabulous photographers.

 Then there were the games.  The first game I checked into was Newest Zaar Tag.  The game was designed to get recipes without reviews a review.  This game also encouraged us to continue to post new recipes.  I remember how nervous I was stepping into the game and making my first tag.  I also remember well receiving my first review as a result of the game.  It was so exciting.

Of course once you have a review on the recipe what comes next.  1-2-3 Hit Wonders.  That game was followed up with Give Me Five and then Zaar Starz where recipes with more than 5 stars could be tagged.  Over the last 10 years I posted over 700 recipes, reviewed and photographed over 3,000.  My first food photos were a little pathetic but just like everything else I got encouragement from people on the site and in the Photo Forum.  Leslie gave me a real boost when she thought one of my photos looked like a "Rita" photo.

The first cooking competition I entered was Ready Set Cook aka RSC.  I think that was around RSC number 5 in June of 2004.  I developed several recipes for that contest as we didn't have a limit on the number that could be entered.  Wonders of wonders, I didn't win that contest that honor went to Susie D and Tejas Chipotle Pizza.  I did get an Honorable Mention for Summer Squash Slaw.  I entered RSC up until number 18 when claimed the contest.  I never won but I did have loads of fun and September of 2005 I developed the winning Best Vegetarian Recipe, Mediterranean Pizza with Caramelized Onions

There were many more contests and events over the years.  Pick a Chef fondly known as PAC. My 3 Chefs and of course Zaar World Tour (ZWT).  Zaar World Tour was the brain child of NcMysteryShopper and Leslie with help from lots and lots of people.  I participated in ZWT from the first year through last year when I was a second year Tour Guide.  The most memorable year for ZWT was the second year when I was on The Pantry Raiding Divas.  We were a wonderful group of women that bonded.  We didn't win the contest but we had so much fun.

As it turns out yesterday Liza Schattenkek, Director of Digital Programming, sent out an email.
To all my loyal hosts past and present,

I have some news I need to share with you before it gets out to the rest of the world: The Forums are not coming back. As we've all known for a long time, the Forums software was outdated and simply too old and they finally, completely and utterly broke down. The team tried to resuscitate them, but they were too far gone. Right now the curtain page (with an updated message soon) will be up for 3 more weeks and then the Forums will be back, but as a read-only version. We want you guys to be able to get all your stuff, copy and paste what you want, etc…before they are gone for good so we are going to put them back up, but we don't have the ability to make them interactive anymore.

I know this is beyond frustrating for all of you who have given so much time, love, care, energy and cooking smarts to the site and also made so many great friends. We do plan to bring you a new community experience, but it's not ready yet and the timing is unfortunate that there has to be a gap between the two things.

I'm sending this to all of you from my email account because I felt you deserved a personal explanation and definitely needed to know before word is communicated out to the masses. You are all really special, hilarious, hard-working amazing people and cooks and I feel lucky to have worked alongside you for so many years.

For some of you, I'm sure this will be the straw that broke the camel's back and if that is the case, I get it, and I hope to see you on Facebook or some other external site. If you do decide to stick around for the recipes, reviews and other exciting things to come (and I hope you do!), then I'll enjoy seeing you here too.

THANK YOU for always, always, always making Recipezaar and then a better place.

Yes, the forums are broken.  They will not be returning as the interactive forums that I will always remember.  I made wonderful friends along the way and I am so looking forward to the next chapter in Food Friends and Fun.  Susie D will be doing some Beta testing starting this coming week.  If you are interested let her know.  She is looking for a good mix of people from various places.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Moving Forward

I guess a blog post a month isn't to to bad.  :)  Only kidding.  It has been an interesting month.  Somewhere in May my 7 year old computer died.  It was sent off for examination and it was going to cost $300 to get it up and running.  Well instead of putting the money into a computer that could no longer be updated I opted to purchase a new one.  This post is being written on my new MacBook Air.  So far I'm loving it.

After replacing the computer it was Grandma Time.  My oldest granddaughter spent the first week of June with me.  She attended Aquarium Camp for the first time and fell in love with it.  She was making plans to attend next year after the first day.  The second week of June was spent recovering from the first week and catching up on things around the house.

As some of you may be aware, a little over 10 years ago I found a wonderful recipe site.  Initially I stumbled onto it in the summer of 2003 when I was looking for a Peach Cobbler recipe.  This was during my glutinous eating days.  In the spring of 2004 I once again found myself on the site while looking for a soup recipe.  Eric was going to have shoulder surgery and I was looking for a soup recipe to make in the crock-pot so that dinner would be ready when we got home.  That turned out to be a turning point in my cooking experience.

Hubby's shoulder surgery turned out to be more complicated than expected and he ended up spending a night in the hospital.  When I got home the night of the surgery I walked into the house with the tempting aroma of split pea soup.  The soup was a hit and even delicious warmed up in the days to come.  

The site I had found was called Recipezaar.  I was home from work with Hubby a few days while he recovered and I returned to the site and somewhere during that time I joined.  This was my first on-line experience and I was somewhat reluctant.  When joining I had to select a user name.  I grew up in the south and as anyone from the south knows a person almost always has 2 first names.  I took my first name Paula and added the first letter of my middle name to the end.  This resulted in PaulaG.  The site referred to everyone as Chef.  Chef PaulaG came into existence.

If anyone would have told me that what I was getting into I wouldn't have believed it.  Recipezaar turned out to be more than a cooking site.  It truly was an on-line community of friendship.  Over the years I spent many long hours on the site chatting, playing games and yes cooking.  I also had the wonderful pleasure of meeting in person many of the people I meet on-line.  There was Kim D, PanNan, Longhorn Mama, Bayhill, Sharon123, NcMystershopper and many many more. 

In 2007 Recipezaar was purchased by Scripps.  In May 2010 Scripps announced that the name of the site was being changed to  There have been many changes along the way.  Some good and some...well let's just say I was hanging in.  A lot of the people I befriended on the site moved on.  I stayed in touch with some through Facebook and other social media sites.  The biggest draw that Recipezaar had for me was the community.  When the name change announcement was made Scripps said
We are a site that, at its core, is about two things: Food and community interaction. What better way to embody that spirit — our people and the conversations they're having around food — than with a name that says it all? is that name. It's who we are — we're Food + Com(mmunity).
Earlier this month the community interaction was "broken" and as I write is not operational.  The loss of the community is sad.  It came to mean a lot to so many people.  It was a great place to gather and discuss recipes and life events.  It was also a great place to keep cooking alive and exciting through tag games and ZWT (Zaar World Tour).   On the Happenings Blog for  an update was done mid-month.

UPDATE 6/16/14 – The forums are still broken and we unfortunately have not been able to get them back up and running despite best efforts. An additional update will be posted here once we have a better idea of what to do going forward, in the event we are unable to fix the forums 100%. We understand this is frustrating, but unfortunately outside of an immediate fix, the best we can advise is to sit tight while the outage is investigated further.  -The Team
As of today the forums are still down.  I don't know what the future holds for our beloved forums but there is a new place in town, or should I say on the internet, where we can once again come together for Food Friends and Fun Forum.  

Come on over, pour yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and visit awhile.  We would love to have you join in the conversation.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Of course I'm going to celebrate.  I lived out west way to long not to.  For over 19 years we lived and thrived in El Paso, TX.  El Paso food is more Tex-Mex but something I have grown to love.  For those who might not know what all the celebrating is about, May 5 is Cinco de Mayo which simply translates to Fifth of May.

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration not to celebrate Mexico's Independence but originated with the Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War.  Today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.

Today the weather is warm and I wanted something quick and easy that wouldn't heat up the kitchen to much.  Of course it needed to be gluten free.  I made a recipe that was first introduced to me during my days with Girl Scout Day Camp--Girl Scout Tacos.  Easy, delicious and they don't crumble when you bite into them.

Now before we get into the directions I am going to give you a crash course on gluten sensitivity.  Ground turkey is pretty safe right?  Well maybe not.  A few things to consider is cross contamination, seasonings, etc.  Jennie-O Products provide information on their ground turkey and state that their ground turkey is gluten free.  

I typically purchase Butterball ground turkey at Costco.  Prior to this I had done some research and learned it was gluten free.  As processing and ingredients sometimes change I wanted to make sure I wasn't giving out past dated info.  I looked on the label and couldn't find anything giving it an all clear.  Butterball does provide an on-line chat and the representative was quite knowledgeable.  They do list "natural flavoring" which could be a flag.  The representative said that their ground turkey is gluten free and the flavoring is a rosemary extract.  If you are ever in doubt it's always best to ask.

Taco seasoning might be surprised.  I found several on Gluten Free Foodlist that are safe.  For years I had made my own mixes not just to eliminate gluten but because I typically have the ingredients on hand as part of a well stocked spice cabinet and have 2 cookbooks for making homemade mixes. Important thing is to read the label and if in doubt ask questions.

Then there is black beans, tomatoes and would you believe yogurt!  Again read the label.  Eden Farms does have gluten free black beans.  They might appear a little more pricey than the store brand but I did do a comparison several years ago.  The can is really beans and not a lot of liquid.  They are excellent quality so I don't mind paying a few cents more.

Hunt's canned tomatoes are also identified as being gluten free.  The chips are Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips which are marked gluten free on the bag.  I buy a lot of products at Costco and they do an excellent job of having items marked properly.  And yes, I have discovered that some yogurts have gluten in them.  I typically use Chobani but I did find Fit&Active at Aldi's which is gluten free as well.  The salsa is another great gluten free find at Costco.  So with that being said let's move on to the recipe. 

Girl Scout Tacos

1 pound ground turkey
1 taco seasoning pack (Recipe to follow.)
1/4 cup water
1 (16 oz) can diced cut tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (13 1/2 oz) bag tortilla chips
shredded lettuce
grated cheddar cheese
plain yogurt or sour cream

Crumble and brown the ground turkey in a skillet over medium heat.  Add in the seasoning and 1/4 cup water.  Stir to combine.  Stir in the canned tomatoes and beans.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  

Crumble tortilla chips in the bottom of a serving dish, top with a couple of spoons of meat mixture, top with shredded lettuce, grated cheese, salsa and plain yogurt.  This should serve about 4 adults.  Enjoy!

Taco Seasoning

1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Read, read, read labels!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Gluten Free Hot Dog Buns

If you are on a gluten free diet you know how expensive it can be.  I have purchased gluten free hot dog buns in the past for about $5 for 6 buns compare that to the fact that glutinous buns come in packs of 8 and can be purchased for less than a dollar.  This week my local grocery has a buy-one-get-one price on freshly baked French style buns with an 8 pack going for $3.99.  That is 12 buns at a cost of 33 cents each where as the gluten free buns are a fraction over 83 cents each.

Several weeks ago I was browsing the internet and found a recipe on Pamela's Products for Artisan Hot Dog or Slider Buns.  I use Pamela's Bread Mix to make hamburger buns as well as bread.  It has always worked great and I thought why not make my own buns.  Not being able to find the flour locally I did order it from Amazon at a cost of $11.37 for a 4 pound bag.  The only thing that I added to Pamela's recipe was 3 tablespoons of King Arthur Gluten Free Cake Enhancer.  

The buns are amazing!  For my first time out I was very excited how they turned out.  The hardest part of the recipe is filling up the decorating bag.  The buns are the perfect size for a hot dog and instead of 6 I got 12 beautiful buns.  Below is the recipe from Pamela's site along with my addition of the cake enhancer.

Artisan Hot Dog or Slider Buns
by Pamela's Products
  • 10 oz. club soda- room temperature
  • 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites - room temperature
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3/4 cups Pamela's Artisan Flour
  • 1/4 cup dry buttermilk powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP sugar 
  • 3 tablespoons King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer
  • 1 TBSP plus 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • Large disposable pastry bag or equivalent
  • Disposable aluminum pans - 2 Broiler Pans 11.5 x 8.5
In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, egg whites, oil, honey and cider vinegar.  Whisk the flour, dry buttermilk powder, salt, sugar and Cake Enhancer in a separate bowl to combine.  On low speed of your Kitchen-aid, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.  It will be clumpy.  

Gradually add in the club soda beating until smooth.  Once smooth mix in the yeast.  Turn the Kitchen-aid up to medium-high speed and beat for 4 minutes.  Now the fun part starts.

Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment and spray with gluten-free non-stick spray or prep aluminum pan by depressing every other ridge with your finger, making a larger space for the hot dog buns and spray or oil well. I used the disposable broiler pans with excellent results.  The pans can be washed and reused.
Fill pastry bag with dough. Cut off tip so you have about a 1-1/4" opening.  For hot dog buns: Squeeze dough out in 5" tubes.  Even as a beginner I was able to make some very nice looking buns.  I think that with more practice it will get better.  I ended up using 3 disposable pastry bags.  What a small price to pay for delicious buns.  

Important step: Once all laid out, brush dough with bristle pastry brush dipped in water to help shape, elongate and smooth dough.  This step really helps to even out the dough and shape the buns.

Like I said the perfect amount of bread for the dog!  Use Hebrew National Hot Dogs and Koops Dijon Mustard for a delicious gluten free meal.  For directions complete with photos, check out Pamela's site.