Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Making Oatmeal

In preparation for a much awaited trip I am in the process of using up my perishables.  We will be going to  New York City before setting sail on our New England/Canadian cruise.  Having never been in New York City, I am just as excited about visiting the city as the cruise.  

While in New York we have made plans to visit the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and yes the 9/11 Memorial.  Since we are going with our friends for the past 35 years of course there has been numerous discussions about restaurants and food.  

I have been working hard to empty the refrigerator of perishable items and am doing a fair job.  Looks like most of the cheese will have been used, no milk will remain, eggs are gone and no lunch meat.  The produce is scarce.

So what are we eating?  On Sunday, I had a Sunday School Leadership meeting at church and was fed.  Monday I used the last of the cabbage in a delicious dish that I'll tell you about at a later date.  Today Eric and I both had Bible Studies to attend to along with lunch out.  

So what about breakfast?  I always have frozen muffins hanging out in the freezer.  They are delicious zapped in the microwave and spread with delicious and nutritious peanut butter.  Smoothies using frozen fruit really helps to clear out the milk and any remaining yogurt.  Then there is also Toasted Oatmeal

My daughter is the one that turned me on to this method of preparing oatmeal.  The oats cook in 10 minutes with a 10 minute standing time.  They are chewy and not gluey and with my current effort to rid the fridge of perishable items they are a wonderful breakfast treat.

 Toasted Oatmeal

2 tsp butter
pinch of salt
3/4 cup of rolled oats, gluten free
1 cup of water
maple syrup (optional)
brown sugar (optional)
berries (optional)
toasted chopped nuts (optional)

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter.  Add in the salt and rolled oats.  Stir and cook over medium heat until they become fragrant and turn golden.

Pour in the water, bring to a boil, cover pan with tight fighting lid and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, stir oats and add in 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup milk.  Cover and set timer for another 10 minutes.

Divide oats into 2 serving bowls and top as desired with fruit, syrup, sugar and/or chopped nuts.

Serves 2

This morning we enjoyed a warming breakfast of toasted oatmeal topped with fresh blueberries, sliced bananas, toasted pecans and a drizzle of real maple syrup.  Blueberries and bananas gone. I'm getting there.  Happy cooking!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Tribute to My Son

Hard to believe that 35 years ago today I was blessed with a true gift from God.  My baby boy who was to have been a scheduled c-section came into this world 3 weeks early.  Today I have been reflecting over that day and the years since.  I am truly a lucky person to have been blessed with such a caring and sensitive young man.

He was born on a Sunday and on the day of his birth his father went to play golf.  I was left at home with our daughter to hold down the fort.  I remember Robin and I made cupcakes.  They were either white or yellow with a 7-minute frosting which we added some food color to.  Later that afternoon I got dinner on.  I don't remember what vegetables I had planned to serve but I do remember that I had Unstuffed Pork Chops simmering in the old trusted electric skillet waiting for Dad-to-Be to get home.

For most of the day I had been having these cramps on one side.  As I was sitting in the kitchen waiting for Eric to get back from golf, I telephoned Susie, Bob's Godmother-to-be.  While Susie and I were talking I was telling her about the "cramps".  Her being an RN educated me on what those "cramps" might be.  

As we were talking I realized those "cramps" were coming pretty regularly.  By the time Eric arrived home they were like 20 minutes apart.  I called the doctor's office and was told to get to the hospital.  We did some calling and looking for people to leave our daughter with.  No such luck early on a Sunday evening in El Paso, TX.  After calling Susie, we loaded Robin in the car and headed for the hospital.  Susie, lived on the other side of town but said she would meet us at the hospital and take Robin home with her.

Not to terribly long after getting to the hospital our beautiful baby boy entered this world.  The dinner?  Oh yeah, the pork chops had been left simmering all this time and according to Eric they were really, really tender.

Not only I am remembering the day of his birth, but I have been reflecting back over special events in his life.  His Baptism at 4 months old and Eric and I as his parents taking the vows to nurture him in the church and to live a life that would set an example for him that he may be guided to accept God's grace for himself.  I remember Mike and Susie standing with us that day and taking vows as his God Parent's.  I remember Eric's parents being present to celebrate this blessed occasion with us. 

Shortly before Bob turned 3 the family relocated to Dallas, TX.  With his birthday and Poppy's birthday being so close together we were going to celebrate the birthday's together that year.  While I was prepping food for the party, Bob came running into the kitchen.  He was wanting to wear his hiking boots.  I told him no because they were to hot.  I went on about my business and upon opening the door to the refrigerator shortly I found a pair of hiking boots sitting on the shelf cooling.

There was the Mother's Day lunch at his preschool.  The children had made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which they were to share with their moms.  Well Bob had the sandwich but wasn't open to sharing.  His rational was that he had made it and if I had wanted a sandwich I should have made me one.

There was his first day at school.  The day I went to school to fly kites with him.  The lunches special school lunches that I got to share with him.  There was the day that he told him he was glad I could pick him up from school and that I would take him to TCBY if he wanted.  He said not all mother's could do that.

There was his karate, confirmation classes, his football games, high school graduation and college graduation.  There was the morning that I fixed him french toast before he set out on his drive to Atlanta.  He was leaving El Paso and relocating.  It broke my heart to see him leave but I knew it was time to let him spread his wings and fly.  

The good times and the sad times.  His heartache when Grammy passed on.  The Homecoming Dance.  His first car and his first accident in that car.  Vacations with red pet rocks.  Fishing, camping, hiking.  Looking for diamonds.  So many memories.  It is really hard to believe that 35 years have past.  I am so lucky. 

Son, I have not always been perfect, nor done the right things but know this for sure that through it all I have loved you with my whole being.  I thank God each day that He saw fit to let me be your mother.  Happy birthday to a wonderful young man that I am proud to call my son.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Muffin Time

I started blogging in 2010.  That was shortly after I dived in and tried a gluten free diet.  The diet seemed resolve so many of my issues and it has taken me this long to really accept my need for a gluten free lifestyle.  I had a very bad habit of cheating and then paying the consequences for that decision.  A few months ago when my knee joints swelled I decided that maybe cheating wasn't the best way to go.  Since then I have been much more conscientious about my diet with very good results.

When I first entered the gluten free world I tried converting recipes sometimes with success and sometimes with some really big mistakes.  There was the time I forgot to add the Xanthum Gum to a loaf a bread.  The bread was beautiful but I stood over the trash and crumbled it bit by bit.  There was nothing to hold it together!  Duh!!

There was also the buying frenzy.  I wasn't sure what flours to use and at one time or another I think I have bought most of the gluten free flours on the market.  Since then I have settled in with King Arthur Flours and Pamela's Products.  While there are advantages to buying certain flours and granted there are some that I just have to have for one recipe or another, King Arthur and Pamela's pretty much satisfy my basic baking needs.

I am having much more success with converting my old recipes.  Yesterday someone had reviewed Banana-Buttermilk Muffins.  There were 2 overripe bananas that had been lying on the counter for a day or so getting to the point of no return.  I bit the bullet and made a gluten free version this morning.  While I think I filled the muffin tins a bit to full, the muffins were moist and tender.  Instead of 12 I think the recipe would work better making maybe 14 to 16 muffins or at least making 12 regular muffins and making minis with the remaining batter.

Banana Yogurt Muffins (Gluten Free) 

1 cup Pamela's Artisan Flour Blend
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup King Arthur Ancient Grains Flour Blend
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup water
2 medium bananas, ripe, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I use pecans)
coarse sugar 

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray 12 regular muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. 

In separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, water, mashed banana, oil, egg and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir just until blended.  Stir in nuts until well blended.  Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling about three-fourths full.  Sprinkle tops evenly with coarse sugar if desired.

Bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 20 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely.

These muffins freeze well and can be warmed in microwave.


By the way, I was thinking the other day about making photos as I go and that might be a goal I want to go for someday.  But today wasn't it.  I'm still thinking about it and will see what I can come up with.  Hope you enjoy the muffins.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Culinary Quest

Two posts in such a short time is really amazing.  This is what happens when you are on a Culinary Quest.  Somewhere around 2004 I began embarking on an amazing virtual journey.   Once a year I have traveled the world and sampled culinary delights from India, China, Greece, Spain and my neighbors to the north, Canada, and so many more.  Zaar World Tour, ZWT as it was called, was a great time to enjoy and experiment.  

This year we started a new journey, Culinary Quest.  So far we have visited Russia where I enjoyed borscht (Chicken and Vegetable Borscht) for the first time.  I hopped back and forth from Russia to the southern states of the U.S.  While in the south I sampled Country Fried Pork Chops with Cream Cream Gravy, Country Fried Meatloaf Sandwich and found an another amazing sandwich, Fried Green Tomatoes BLT.  All of these wonderful dishes I have been able to make and enjoy gluten free.  

The road on my virtual journey has now taken me and others to South America and Italy to enjoy, sample and create.  Each country, each cuisine offers it's own challenges.  While in Italy I enjoyed Simple Puttanesca Sauce, one of the 9 nine amazing super sauces commonly used in Italian cooking.  In South America we were given the challenge of creating a dish using the Grain of the Gods, Quinoa.  

Quinoa has been dubbed a "Super Food".  The crop is grown for the edible seeds which can be quite bitter if not washed thoroughly.  Fortunately, most producers wash the grain to remove the bitter coating.  The coating is natures way of protecting the crop.  

Combine the Grain of the Gods with black beans and you have an amazing and nutritious meal.  Black beans are common throughout Latin America, Cuba and even Creole Country in Southern Louisiana.  Black beans are low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein, fiber and potassium.  

My creation for this challenge combines quinoa with black beans and the abundance of the summer with fresh corn, peppers and tomatoes.  First, I assembled all the ingredients and went to work, chopping and dicing.

 Quinoa and Fresh Vegetable Salad

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 ear fresh corn, husked, silks removed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 vine ripened tomato, seeded, diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 small to medium jalapeno pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely minced
1/3 cup black olives, sliced
 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
 1/2 cup Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa under running water.  Preheat a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add quinoa and lightly toast grains until dry and fragrant.  Add in the vegetable stock, bring to a low boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Water should be absorbed and the grains will fluffy nicely with a fork.  Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

While quinoa cools.  Wrap corn in parchment paper and microwave for 2 minutes.  When cool enough to handle cut the kernels as close to the cob as you can without scraping.  Do not scrape the cob.

To the cooled quinoa add in the fresh corn kernels,  black beans, tomatoes, diced bell pepper, onion, jalapeno pepper, chopped basil and black olives.  Toss to combine.  With a citrus reamer, extract the juice and pulp from the lime and drizzle over the salad.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Add crumbled cheese, tossing to combine.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to blend and serve chilled.

Serves 4 to 6

Hubby and I had a discussion on whether this should be served at room temperature or chilled.  I enjoyed it both ways but I think he may have been right with chilling first.  Please don't tell him I said so.  We enjoyed this last night for a light supper served on baby mixed greens with Gluten Free Brazilian Cheese Buns.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crock Pot Apple Butter

I have been in Atlanta the past several days doing Grandma duty.  It is awesome to live closer and be able to be more involved in the lives of my grandchildren.  I had planned to take the camera and work on a blog post while there.  That didn't work out as planned since the camera was still sitting in the dining room when I returned.

Somehow I managed to accumulate a ton of fresh apples.  Fresh only means fresh for a short period of time.  What to do with apples that may be getting a bit past their prime?  Apple Butter!  I remember the first time I made apple butter.  Don't ask me what possessed me to do so.  The first go at apple butter was a bit more time consuming than what I do today.  

Thanks to my Vita-Mix the apples are washed, cored and cut into eights.  They then go into the crock pot and are tossed with the sugar and spices.  The lid to the crock pot is left slightly ajar to allow some of the steam to escape.  After cooking overnight on low, the apples are given a quick stir and then cooked an additional 3 to 4 hours on high.  

During this process the jars are sterilized and readied for the butter.  Since the jars are 8 oz jelly jars, the pasta pot makes a wonderful alternative to the water-bath canner.  After the apples are cooked, they are tossed into the Vita-Mix and processed.  The end result is a nice thick apple butter that has the added plus of the fiber from the peel.

Crock-pot Apple Butter
10 medium size apples, washed, cored
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Place washed and cored apples in crock pot.  In a 4 cup measuring cup mix together the sugar, spices and salt.  Cover and cook overnight on low.  Next morning stir, turn up heat to medium, leave lid ajar to allow evaporation and cook for an additional 3 hours or until soft and nicely colored.  Put cooked apples in Vita-Mix container and process until smooth.

Return apple butter to saucepan and bring to a boil stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.  Fill 4 half pint sterilized jars with hot apple butter.  Leave a 1/4 inch head space and remove air bubbles with a dull knife.  Wipe jar rims clean. Place lids and rings on jars.

Process in a water bath as per your local Extension Office recommendations.  Remove jars and allow to cool.  The lids should seal as the jars cool.  Test seals and store in a cool, dry place.

The recipe was found at Simply Canning and was adapted by me.  For my purposes a cup of sugar is plenty.  Depending on the variety of apples, you might be able to get by with 3/4 cup of sugar.  I do like the idea of leaving the peel* on and cutting them into eights really speeds things up.

The yield on this recipe was 4 wonderful 8 oz jars of rich fruit butter.  Enjoy! 

*A friend of mind got a really good laugh at the missing "l".  Glad I could help brighten your day.  :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fresh Baked Sourdough Biscuits (Gluten Free)

Have you ever wandered down the grocery isle and gazed upon all the varieties of frozen biscuits?  Those things bake up fresh and hot with no real effort.  They are great when you have company and want to have hot biscuits and gravy.  

Last year at Christmas, I prepared brunch on Christmas Day.  My daughter loves biscuits and sausage gravy.  I used those frozen biscuits and in no time at all had wonderful hot (gluten filled) biscuits to go with my gluten free gravy.  Typically when I make biscuits I always take leftovers, wrap them in foil, freeze and then reheat.  They are good but nothing beats piping hot biscuits fresh from the oven.

Several months ago I started using Gluten Free Biscuits Made with Baking Mix by King Arthur Flour.  They are the best!  The recipe makes 8 biscuits so I always have "frozen" pre-baked biscuits in the freezer.  Someone on the King Arthur site asked if the biscuits could be frozen before baking and Jon@KAF said that the biscuits could be frozen before baking without a problem.  This got me to thinking.  How about making sourdough biscuits that are gluten free and freeze those before baking.

Flourish had a recipe and directions for making sourdough using Floarapan. I bought the Floarapan and in no time at all I had this beautiful and active gluten free starter.  The starter has been going strong for months and I am getting back into gluten free baking.  Earlier this week I got my courage up and made biscuits, froze them and this morning had a fresh baked gluten free sourdough biscuits and all I had to do was pop it into the toaster oven at 400° for about 20 minutes.

I had tried this several weeks ago and it wasn't until last week, quite by accident that I discovered if you let the biscuits begin to defrost before putting into the preheated oven they bake up high and proud.

Sourdough Biscuits (Gluten Free) 

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup  King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix*
1 cup  Gluten Free Sourdough Starter (King Arthur Flour)
2 large eggs
1/8 to 1/4 cup cold milk 

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment combine the baking mix with the freshly fed starter.  Add in the butter a bit at a time and pulse just to combine but leaving small butter "chunks" in the dough.

Add in the eggs and enough milk to make a biscuit like dough, pulsing until combined.  The dough should be stiff enough to gently fold other itself and knead but not sticky.  Turn dough out on a lightly floured board and fold over a couple of times.  Gently flatten the dough to about 3/4 inch thick.  Lightly flour a biscuit cutter and press straight down.  Scrapes of dough can be reshaped, flattened and cut into biscuits.

Place cut biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Preheat oven to 400°.  Lightly brush tops of biscuits with milk or melted butter.  This will help to promote browning.  Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes.

Yield:  8 (2 1/2 inch) biscuits

Now I can have this

with these fresh from the freezer to the oven.

Please note that the recipe lists the milk as 1/8 to 1/4 cup.  If you have ever done sourdough baking you know that starters differ in consistency.  I would suggest starting with the lesser amount and going up from there.

What's fresh biscuits without sausage gravy?  Here is the recipe for the gluten free sausage gravy that is so quick to make and can be ready in less time than it takes to bake the biscuits.

Sausage Gravy (Gluten Free)

1/2 lb lean bulk pork sausage
 2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 tablespoons gluten free flour blend
2 to 3 cups milk
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Over medium heat, brown and crumble sausage.  When sausage is browned, add in butter and allow to melt.  Sprinkle with gluten free flour blend, salt and pepper.  Stir until combined.

Gradually pour milk over sausage mixture stirring constantly.  Add a pinch of sugar and allow to bubble and thicken.  When gravy is thickened to desired consistency remove from heat and serve over fresh baked hot biscuits.

So yes you can make biscuits, freeze and enjoy later.  You can also have a delicious gluten free sausage gravy and enjoy pure comfort food while being gluten free.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cornbread is King

Cornbread is truly King in a small town just north of me.  South Pittsburgh, TN is the home of the National Cornbread Festival.  It is held the last weekend of April each year.  The first year we lived in these parts it rained and we opted not to attend.  This year we had the opportunity to visit the festival.  My husbands and I both really enjoyed Hammer's Cornbread Alley.  Were the recipes gluten free--NO.  I did pay the price and leanred that my decision to be gluten-free was the right one.

Nine different organizations in the area competed for the honor of having the best original recipe for cornbread.  For the price of $4 you were given a plate and an opportunity to take a stroll down Cornbread Alley.  At the end of your stroll there is a place where one can savor the samples and add a dollar or two vote to the individual  jars set-up for each entry.  This year Hubby and I enjoyed everything from Lemon Coffee Cake to Timber Hushpuppies.

Currently, there are many of us creative cooks, traveling the globe together on a Culinary Quest.  Our challenge is simple, to develop an original "cornbread recipe" and share it with others.  Well I took up that challenge.  With blueberries being in season I couldn't resist.  We love blueberry muffins.  But how about Blueberry-Lemon Cornbread Muffins that are gluten free? Yesterday, I put on my creative cap and went to work in the kitchen.  I came up with a delicious muffin that is slightly sweet and loaded with juicy, plump blueberries.

Blueberry-Lemon Cornbread Muffins (Gluten Free)

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (Stone ground adds more texture.)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 t. grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons King Arthur Cake Enhancer (Optional) 
1 cup organic plain yogurt
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled or
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon zested lemon peel 
Cooking Spray
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
coarse sugar (Optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

In the medium bowl to a stand mixer add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg.  If you are using the King Arthur Cake Enhancer add it now.  Whisk together at medium speed to thoroughly combine.

Add in the yogurt, coconut oil or butter and eggs.  Beat with paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.  With a spatula fold in blueberries and lemon peel.  Divide batter between a 12 tin muffin pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Lightly sprinkle tops with coarse sugar if desired.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 210°.  

Yield:  12 muffins

The muffins were made with a coarse grind cornmeal and polenta could probably be used successfully.  Also, the flour was Artisan Flour Blend from Pamela's Products.  The flour blend can be used on a cup for cup exchange for all-purpose flour and has the starches and binding agents added.

The King Arthur Cake Enhancer is listed as optional.  I have found that using this in gluten-free baked goods helps to extend the shelf life.  Also, I love the crunch that the coarse sugar gives to the muffin tops.  

My youngest granddaughter loves blueberries.  As she has said over and over "They are my favorite."  I may save her a muffin or 2 or at the rate they are vanishing it may be necessary to make another batch for my next Grandma Visit.