Tag Archives: gluten free

cookies cookies and coconut

9 May

photo 1You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.

Wow. Those words are so true. That quote is from the late, great, amazingly great, Steve Jobs. What a motivator. Not only did he make the RADDEST computers, phones, what have you, on the planet, with the most efficient processing features that last forever, but he was smart. He basically came form nothing, and then was even kicked out of his own company for a little while, but overcame all of it, to achieve greatness. There are so many amazing things he has said, you should check some of his other quotes out.

This quote was sent to me at the perfect time. I’ve been really struggling with not being in control of my future. In searching for internship placement, a new apartment, figuring out how I will still work and intern and just determining how to get through my last year of graduate school, I’ve been so focused on that, and my future, that I haven’t taken not only time for myself, but time to enjoy the things I love to do again. I’ve been so overwhelmed by making others happy, that I have forgotten about myself. So it’s nice to know that not all the dots are connecting now, but they will. It’s all about faith. Faith and Grace, as my Auntie Jeannie would put it….and a little chocolate and wine…. I mean those two never hurt!

So. In terms of chocolate, I have TWO cookie recipes for you, but the first one, chocolate whoopie pies, aren’t done yet. I still need to frost them. It’s been SUCH a long time since I have posted a sweet recipe! It’s amazing how much I don’t bake anymore. Not only is is extremely challenging to bake gluten free, but there are so many flops! I have flopped so many recipes, what a waste! I have cut sugar out, a lot, so it’s rare I want something sweet! Which is HUGE since my family calls me “the Cupcake Queen.” Haha! I went to a gluten free bakery the other day and ordered a lemon tart. AMAZING. BUT, I ate like two bites and was done! One small step for Natalie, a huge step for my waistline!

COCONUT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted or coconut oil (I uses coconut oil, melted)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix coconut oil or butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste, the link to an AMAZING homemade vanillaphoto 2 company is below), eggs, and salt together. Then add your coconut flour and mix really well. You can do all of this with a hand mixer if you’d like. Next take a wooden spoon and add all of your chocolate chips. I used the mini ones from the bulk department at Whole Foods.

Next take your dough and roll it into about golf ball sized dough balls. These cookies do not spread, so as you put them on your cookies sheet, line it with a silpat or parchment paper, they can be fairly close. Then smash them down with your hand. Place them in the oven and after about 5 minutes, take your spatula and smash them down a bit further. This is a very dense dough. Let them cook until you can see that the edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

 

pasta pasta pasta. or anti-pasta if you choose.

25 Apr

photo 1I can’t BELIEVE today is the end of my second year of graduate school! Thank the universe! This is…..A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! (inside joke, I’m a weirdo, you’d get it if you knew me). Haha. This has been by far the most grueling semester in graduate school and tonight’s last class and the knowledge that I handed in all of my papers, massive papers, and projects and am officially done is really satisfying. Now onto the important stuff, internship, and more importantly, how the H-E-double hockey sticks am I going to afford to live during internship year! Aye yey yey. One more year left, one more year.

Speaking of one more year, I don’t know if you live in Chicago, or the midwest, but can you believe this weather!? Um it’s almost May for crying out loud! We need some warmth! I feel likephoto 3 not many of my recipes have been anything but warm, hot, comforting food lately because it’s so cold. That also is because I have been in graduate school hell, so something warm and comfy always helps. Funnily enough, the recipe I am sharing with you today I am actually eating the leftovers for breakfast this morning! I am a firm believer that you can eat veggies and meat at any time of the day and it doesn’t have to be in the form of a frittata or breakfast hash to be breakfast food. If you want some kale, acorn squash and sausage for breakfast, go for it! Hmm….that may be a new recipe to try and make, kale and sausage stuffed acorn squash….that sounds delicious!

Also, at the end of this recipe, I want to talk about gluten free pasta types and share some articles I found that are useful. I don’t really eat much pasta, but when I do, like the brussels sprouts and bacon pasta recipe from a week or so ago, I like to make sure it is minimally processed, gluten free pasta. BUT, most gluten free pastas are AWFUL. God awful. They get gummy and mushy in about 2 seconds flat while boiling, and just taste disgusting. So I am listing my two favorites, and also a couple resources on gluten free pasta. Now onto the good stuff, the yummy food!

RUSTIC SAUSAGE AND BACON BOLOGNESE WITH VEG AND ACORN SQUASH

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 lb ground italian sausage, if incased, re move casings
  • 5 slices of super thick cut smoked bacon
  • 1 onion, diced
  • one container of sliced portabella mushrooms
  • one container of fresh spinach (or about 3 handfuls)
  • 1 jar of organic tomato sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil, chiffonade and chopped (about 1/3-1/2 cup this equals out to)
  • salt to taste

photo 2Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Cut your spaghetti squash in half and place fresh side down on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the flesh is fork tender. Then you can either fork out all of the squash “meat” or you can fork it around so it’s easy to access and leave it in the shell so it can be eaten right out of the shell.

While the squash is cooking, heat a large skillet and add your ground sausage and diced bacon. cook thoroughly until the sausage is brown and the bacon is to your liking. The bacon I buy is pretty thick and meaty, so I cook it down until it is crisp, but also fleshy. Next, add your diced onion and mushroom and cook down until soft. Add your tomato sauce, black pepper, cayenne photo 4pepper and oregano and cook down all together. Then, chiffonade your basil and dice up your fresh spinach and add that. I chop my spinach up so it doesn’t cook into those long stringy spinachy things. Cook the basil and spinach until still bright green, but tender. Taste and add more salt, oregano, pepper or cayenne if needed. That’s it! SO easy!!!! Dish over your squash or into your squash “bowl” and eat up! The squash acts like the noodles. This is such a flavorful dish that noodles aren’t even really needed! You could eat this even plain or over some fresh kale. That’s how I ate my leftovers this morning, I heated up my half of squash, heated up my chunky rustic bolognese and then added some fresh kale to it. YUM!

NOW onto pasta. Gluten free pasta is a real pain sometimes. It’s taken me many messed up mac and cheese and spaghetti recipes to find the right ones that actually work. I try and make spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles, but sometimes I eat pasta, and my friends ate this bolognese over pasta, so I want to make sure they are getting healthy food in them as well! Spaghetti squash is super easy and zucchini noodles are made via the link below. These pastas are minimally processed and more importantly, I’ve found that they do NOT turn into a mushy mess like other gluten free and brown rice pastas do.

photo 1Trader Joe’s brown rice penne, is THE only brown rice pasta I have found that doesn’t crumble into a mushy mess when you cook it. This is great because it can be used for mac and cheese recipes or baked vegetable ziti, or whatever have you. Pasta salads with fresh veggies, I mean any place where you would use normal pasta as a shape. Trader Joe’s corn spaghetti is also not bad. I have found that corn pasta tastes exactly like regular pasta and it also does not cook up into a mushy mess. Trader Joe’s and Archer Farms Organics at Target are the easiest ones to get. I’ve tried brands from Whole Foods and most of them are mush.

DO NOT BUY TINKYADA pasta. That stuff is crap. Pure crap. It goes from not cooked to complete gummy mushy nastiness in literally 3 seconds. So if you need and want to eat pasta, get these brands! BUT my ALL TIME FAVORITE gluten free pasta is the Quinoa brand blended pasta. It is in an aqua box and there are a large variety of shapes. It is a quinoa blend and they sell it at Whole Foods, Mariano’s, I’m sure other grocery stores as well. It is absolutely the best tasting and best made pasta.

I’ve heard Cappellos gluten free pasta is good and even a couple people in the paleo world havephoto 2 tried it and liked it. It’s crazy expensive, though, and I’ve found in Chicago that nowhere sells it so I’d have to order it online. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard it’s fantastic. Below are links to some gluten free pasta options, a guide to cooking gluten free pasta and the Cappellos website. Eat well, healthy and enjoy! We all indulge sometimes, so make sure it’s at least gluten free and healthy! Eat up, buttercup!

http://cappellosglutenfree.com/home

http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/consciouscook/2010/01/top-3-gluten-free-pasta-brands.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/67786-glutenfree-pasta/

http://nomnompaleo.com/post/5695132949/zucchini-spaghetti-zoodles-meatballs

shaved brussels sprout and bacon gluten free pasta

21 Apr

photo 1Isn’t it crazy how time escapes you!? This insanely grueling semester is FINALLY over. (Well…..it’s over next week, but I am 97% done with my massive paper due, just have to edit it and turn it in, so I mean I consider myself done haha!) This semester has taken over so much of my time that I haven’t exactly been amazing with the blog. I have so many recipes sitting in the wings and this is one of them! This is amazingly easy and would actually probably even been good if made with spaghetti squash or zucchini noddles. If anyone has a good idea or tool they use to make zucchini noodles, send it my way because I’ve been looking for one for a while!

I am so pumped this semester is over. I can’t WAIT to intern and be done with grad school. There are lots of little infants and toddlers who need my help! (Entire superwoman Developmental Therapist with a hot pink cape and aqua knee high boots). I mean that’s the plan, right?! Do what you love and I am finally almost there to be finally doing what I love. The universe is amazing.

So anyways…the good stuff, the food. Here is a really yummy recipe that I know you’ll love and it’s super easy! I made it for lunch one day and ate it for a couple more meals. You know me…. with with and graduate school, I seriously need to make sure I have food that is versatile for many meals! Also, have you ever heard of shaved brussels sprouts!? I got a bag of them at Trader Joe’s. You can use them for salads and for this recipe! So awesome and then you don’t have to chop and shred them yourself!

SHAVED BRUSSELS SPROUT AND BACON PASTA

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
  • 6 slices bacon, cubed (or use pancetta if you’d like)
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti GLUTEN FREE (the quinoa corn blend is amazing)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese, fresh grated

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season generously with salt. Grab your bag of brussels sprouts, if you want to use regular ones and shred them yourself, trim the ends off of the brussels sprouts and remove the toughest outer leaves. Shred them in a food processor, using the slicing attachment (not the normal chopping blade). You can also slice them as thin as possible with a knife.

Heat a large skillet pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil or coconut oil. Add the bacon and cook until fairly crispy and cooked through.photo 2 Clear some space in the middle of the pan and add the shallots and garlic. (If you don’t have enough room in your pan to create space, you can remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and add it back in when you add the sprouts.) Cook until the shallots are soft. While the shallots are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.

Add the brussels sprouts and the chicken broth to the large skillet, season with salt and pepper, and toss all of the ingredients together. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the brussels sprouts are tender but not too soft, about 5 minutes.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add it to the skillet. You can add a splash of the pasta water (or more broth) if the mixture seems dry. Add the pine nuts, toss everything together, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. NOTE: You can certainly add some freshly grated parmesan on top. We also think a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (added with the brussels sprouts) would be nice.

corned beef, cabbage and pumpkin bolognese random cooking day

29 Mar

photo 5This last Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to make one of my FAVORITE meals, corned beef and cabbage. I love St. Patrick’s Day! Green EVERYTHING. Green beer, green clothes, whiskey, people out having fun, it’s a really great holiday! It’s particularly fun in Chicago. On St. Patrick’s Day here, EVERYTHING and it’s mother is green. AMAZING. Seriously amazing….except the green beer, which if you’re like me and gluten and food coloring bother you, you end up puking on the side of a dumpster in the middle of the day….whoopsies!

I also, then decided to clean out my fridge and pantry, in some ways, and made pumpkin bolognese. For some god awful reason I bought a ridiculous amount of ground beef when it was on sale sometime ago and froze it. Like an ENTIRE freezer of ground beef. I don’t even like ground beef that much haha! So I had to find a way to use it! So….we have Irish and Italian here, best of both yummy worlds if you ask me.

FYI – If more of you lovely readers could spread my blog around (the earlier ones are WAY funnier), that would be great! I’m hoping to become rich and famous off of it so I can quit grad school. HAHA!

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE

Ingredients:

  • 1 giant slab of corned beef, you can use your discretion here on how big you want it
  • 2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 or more stalks of celery
  • 12 whole carrots (or whatever comes in 2 bags of carrots, you can also use a large bag of baby carrots)
  • 1 bag of red skinned potatoes
  • lovely whole grain mustard
  • 1 handful of while peppercorns
  • 1 stick of butter
  • kosher or sea salt and pepper

In a giant stockpot, put your celery stalks, 4 potatoes from your bag, cut into quarters, and about a handful or two of carrots, or if you are using wholephoto 1 carrots, cut them into 4 inch chunks; then add your corned beef in on top of your veg. Add your pepper corns, and one tablespoon of the whole grain mustard and cover with the 2 quarts of stock. Bring to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, turn the heat down to low. Cook for 4.5 hours. Once the meat feels tender and almost fork-pull-apartable (YES, that is a valid term, thank you very much), quarter the rest of your potatoes, cut the rest of your carrots, and quarter your head of cabbage. Add all those amazing veggies in and cover with water (the stock won’t be enough to cover all of these veggies). Cook for another hour to an hour and a half.

Next. Heat your oven broiler to high. Pull everything out and put it on a sheet pan. Yea, this is where the good part happens. Take all those veggies and the corned beef out and place on the sheet pan. Cut pats of butter and put them on the veggies, then put a nice, thick slathering of the whole grain mustard on the top of it. Put the veggies and corned beef under the broiler. The butter will melt into the veggies and the mustard will crust and seal into the beef. This doesn’t take long so watch it. Pull the sheet pan out, dust the veggies with sea salt and pepper. SERVE UP and enjoy the yumminess!

PUMPKIN BOLOGNESE

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
  • one large white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can of organic pumpkin puree, or make your own
  • 1 large large large, or 2 small, cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato puree, or puree your own tomatoes in your food processor!
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • salt to taste
  • a large bunch of fresh basil, chiffonade that stuff!

photo 3NOTE: If you do not know how to chiffonade herbs, I have a video on my first blog post back in August. But, also, below, at the bottom,  is a lovely blog post by The Pioneer Woman, she knows what’s up! WATCH it! East peasy, lemon squeezy.

Take your lovely large stock pot and heat it up. Add the tablespoon of olive oil. Heat that up. Add your onions and cook until translucent. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Next, add your garlic, cook it down a d bit and add the ground beef. Cook the ground beef and continuously scrape down your pan to get all of those lovely brown bits on the bottom.

Next, add your pumpkin and tomatoes, a pinch of salt, black pepper, chili flakes and oregano. photo 4Let this cook down together for about 15 minutes. While this cooks, chiffonade your basil. Add your basil and mix in thoroughly. Let this cook down again for ten minutes. Next, taste it and add salt and more pepper to taste. Let it cook about 10 more minutes.

Serve over your favorite gluten free pasta, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash and ENJOY! Also….you could chop zucchini and add that to this sauce too, that would be lovely! So would spinach!

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/09/how-tochiffonade-basil/

for bean’s sake and some life lessons

23 Sep

Who is ready for FALL!? This girl. I love cold weather. I like big fluffy vinyasa scarves, hoodies, pumpkin EVERYTHING, runs that you aren’t dripping with sweat, walks in the leaves…..I love everything about Fall. I love that soups, stews and baking are now the thing and yummy warm food coating your tummy. Fall is where it’s at in my book.

This week has been amazing, hard, fun, eye opening and crazy all at the same time. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons this week and honestly. I’ve had a GREAT week with the little ones I nanny for and they are the joy of everyday, that’s for sure. I have no qualms about my childcare and cooking abilities! But, it’s those little other things in life that I sometimes am too hard on myself for. Take running, I’ve kind of taken a step back from it so I need to get back at it in full gear for the 15K and then the Disney Half so….basically…get it, girl! It’s amazing how a surgery can change your life. I used to be a eensy weensy teeny little runner and gymnast, now I am trying to get back there after being not able to workout for 6 months due to my surgeries last year. Oh well…. I LOVE running, so it’ll happen!!!

I am reading a new book, that you all should, called DARING GREATLY by Brene Brown. She is amazing. It’s all about vulnerability and how to basically love ourselves and not worry about being vulnerable or too hard on ourselves. This book totally came out at the right time.

With that being said, curling up in bed, with a hot bowl of stewy soup and this amazing book with brownies cooking in the oven….I mean sounds like heaven right!? So here goes, some yummy, gooey almond butter swirl brownies, navy bean, spinach and bacon soup and then kale salad. I wanted to post this kale salad because it is simple and I eat it quite a few times during the week. It’s a great way to get lots of vitamins in and just some yummy veg!

KALE CARROT BEET AND PEA SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups kale, washed and patted dry with a paper towel
  • beets, however many you’d like (I have about 3)
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

This is SUPER easy! In a small bowl, squeeze the juice from your orange, add your olive oil, salt and pepper and wisk to emulsify. Set aside. Take your kale and toss with one tablespoon of the olive oil and orange liquid, set aside. Then, take your frozen peas and run them under hot water until defrosted. Take your shredded carrots from your fridge, or shred your own carrots, about 1-2 carrots will be great. Next, either you can roast your own beets, or buy them, already roasted, peeled and cut from Whole Foods.

To roast your own beets:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths). Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender.

After this is done, put them in a large bowl and add the orange juice and olive oil vinaigrette you just made. Let them sit and soak up the goodness!

After the beets have cooled, assemble your salad. On a plate, Put down your kale down on the salad plate. Next add your shredded carrots, beets on top of that, then your peas. DEVOUR the goodness!

FUDGY YUMMY GLUTEN FREE BROWNIES WITH A NUT BUTTER SWIRL

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, or extremely dark chocolate, or super natural bitter chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce, unsweetened and not the cinnamon kind
  • 1/2 cup nut butter of choice

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8×8-inch metal baking pan across the bottom and up two opposite sides with parchment paper or spray it with olive oil cooking spray or grease it. I greased my pan with a little coconut oil. You can use whole almonds and add them to a food process with the rice flour and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. If using almond flour, mix it with the rice flour. Set aside.

Place the chocolate, butter and salt in the top of a large double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the honey and vanilla. Stir in the applesauce. Add the almond and rice flour mixture and stir until moistened, and then mix briskly until really well combined.

NOTE: You can make these without the nut butter. You can add nuts, more chocolate chips, the sky is the limit!

Take your nut butter of choice. I use almond butter or a nut butter that has a bit of sea salt in it. You can find GREAT nut butters with sea salt at Trader Joe’s. That way these aren’t overly sweet. This is a peanut butter and almond butter mixture, but feel free to use just almond butter, cashew butter, peanut butter, sun butter, what have you. Place it in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds so it gets a little gooey and creamy. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Spoon dollops of the nut butter onto the brownie batter. Using the spoon, swirl the nut butter into the brownies. This is done the easiest by taking the spoon and bring it down the length of the batter, then across and keep doing it until you like the swirl. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the brownies are slightly puffed all over and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out moist but clean. Cool and get your EAT on!

NAVY BEAN AND SPINACH SOUPY STEW

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 lb grassfed pork bacon, about 8 slices of thick cut (or regular if you prefer and don’t care about where your meat comes from)
  • fresh savory herb
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans organic navy beans
  • 1 can organic black beans
  • 1 quart of homemade chicken bone broth or organic free range chicken broth
  • 2 handfulls of fresh spinach (or KALE!!!!)

Slice and cube your bacon. In a dutch oven, place your bacon in on medium high heat and cook until brown. While the bacon is cooking and browning and smelling lovely, you can cut your veggies. You want to have uniform cuts so that the mirepoix (fancy French word for carrots, celery and onion, the base of LOTS of dishes) can cook together and soften. Add your onions while the bacon is cooking and let them soften in the bacon fat. Add your carrots, celery, chopped savory herb (if you do not have this or can not find it, just use fresh thyme, rosemary, another type of savory tasting herb), dried thyme and the black pepper and cook until the veggies are soft, but that the carrots and celery still have a little crunch.

Drain and rinse your beans. You want to rinse off the starchy liquid that they come canned in. Add your beans and cook for about 2 minutes so the beans are warm. Add your chicken broth and simmer until bubbly. Add your salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer. With soups I’ve found that adding the salt last, and letting it cook a bit before tasting, helps out a lot. If you add too much salt, there’s no going back. So add a little at a time. Plus, for this recipe, the bacon adds a bit of a salty smokey flavor (DELICIOUS), so you want to hold off on the salt until you’re ready and the flavors have simmered. So basically, add about a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt at a time, let it simmer, taste it, then add more if needed.

Take your spinach and put in as much as you want. I used about 2 large handfull, maybe 3. Let is cook down  a bit in the soup. Bowl the soup up and eat nice and hot on a cold blustery day!

You could also add KALE to this. And for those doubting kale, and my love for it. Here’s a great infographic!

http://nutribulletblog.com/all-hail-kale/

30 years and some cuppy cakes

8 Sep

WOW. I’m 30! I can’t believe it. What an amazing 30 years this has been. I can’t believe that yesterday, September 7th, 30 years ago, I was born at 2 lbs., 9 ounces and about 3+ months premature. From what I hear, I was supposed to be born around Christmas. It’s amazing that I am here everyday and for some odd reason, this 30th birthday has really made me reflect on what I am thankful for and how lucky I am. I have a great family, great friends and great puppies. I’m extremely lucky. The last 30 years have been a bit of a rollercoaster, lots of twists, turns, ups and downs, but I keep reminding myself that if I keep working extremely hard and keep going for my goals, I’ll make it. I already have one year of graduate school under my belt, 2 more to go and I can work and cuddle with babies FOREVER!

I was really lucky yesterday to get to spend my birthday with one of my parents, my Dad, which never happens. I never see my parents on my birthday since we all live all over the country, so that was awesome. Then I got to make all KINDS of new friends as my best friend Kelly and I celebrated her birthday as well as my birthday. It was one of the best birthdays I have ever had. I can’t believe how much love poured out to me right when it was the perfect timing. That universe, it works in mysterious way. Speaking of love, this brings me to cupcakes. Who DOESN’T LOVE cupcakes on their birthday!? Particularly, ooey gooey, gluten free, pumpkiny, gingerbready cupcakes!?

Well, I decided to try out a new recipe for these birthday cupcakes and it was SUPER easy and everyone went crazy for these! I sent the boy to work with some and his office said they were the best cupcakes they ever had! Not to toot my own horn, but I also make the best variations of cream cheese frosting EVER. People tell me they can eat it by the bag full!

PUMPKIN GINGERBREAD GLUTEN FREE CUPPY CAKES

Ingredients for cupcake batter:

  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I like the organic cane sugar, it’s pure and simple)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract PLUS 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 can of organic pumpkin (I used to pumpkin pie pumpkin because it added extra flavor, but plain is fine since we’ll add more)
  • 1 package of PAMELA’s gluten free vanilla cake (this is rice flour and potato starch, baking powder and salt, all together already so no need to buy ALL of those flours! She really makes it easy. She also sells bags of gluten free flour and all kinds of stuff, which is really handy so you don’t have to buy xanthum gum, potato starch, rice flour, almond flour….etc. because they are expensive!)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (Penzey’s is the best. Frankly their the best for ALL spices!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1/4 cup white chocolate pieces
  • 1/2 cup soft, room temperature butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (possibly more if your frosting isn’t thick enough)
  • 1 cup cold cream cheese (right out of the fridge)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean extract

Let the fun begin:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. This is an easy one, so unlike most cake recipes, just literally dump all of the ingredients in the bowl for the batter and mix! Can you believe it? Told you it was easy! Then line your muffin tins with fun papers and scoop batter into them, filling them 3/4 of the way high. Gluten free cupcakes do not rise as high as regular cupcakes, so filling them a little higher is fine.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-35 minutes. You’ll be able to tell when a toothpick comes out clean; each oven is different so temperatures vary.

For the frosting, mix together the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes until creamed together well. Add the cream cheese, by pinching off pieces of the cold cream cheese, vanilla and maple syrup and continue to mix. You want to frosting to be almost like stiff peaks, so if you need to add more sugar go on ahead!

Now here’s the easy part, after the cupcakes cool, fold down a gallon sized freezer bag and scoop the frosting into it. get it all into one corner and twist the bag like a pastry bag, cut off the tip and WALA! your own pastry bag! Now, if you want to mess with pastry bags and tips, go on ahead, but this is an easy to frost without using those. To frost, I start at the edge and circle around to then make a little round mountain of frosting. Sprinkle with nutmeg if desired.

EAT UP and try to share, please!

simple flavors jamming together

3 Sep

This week has been all about discovering what I do and do not love, so naturally, I decided to work with some simple flavors and a big fat grill today. It’s been an interesting week looking for a new job. I went on random interviews and loved all of them, but the choice right now is, what do I want to do. Right now, I’m not sure, so experimenting in the kitchen gave my mind some time to relax from graduate school and job hunting.

I had a massive batch of super ripe strawberries that needed to be used, so I decided to hop over to Whole Foods and get some pectin and jar up some yummy jam, but make sure that it was simple and wholesome. I never realized how easy it is to make jam! Can you believe from masher to jar it took about a half hour!? So simple. For some reason I always thought jam was a lengthy process. Super jazzed that it was so quick and easy.

For dinner, I decided to go with some simple flavors. I had chicken drummies (which also is what we call Dexter Doodle Puppy) in the freezer from U.S. Wellness Meats. I don’t know if you’ve heard of U.S. Wellness meats, but they are grass fed yumminess that you order online and the prices are unbelievable!

I picked up some sweet potatoes, for a healthy super food starch and hericot vert. I love hericot vert (for those that need the translation, hericot vert are green beans, and yummy ones at that). So here is my homage to simple flavors on the grill. By the way, sweet potato is a GREAT superfood for puppies and they gobble it up!

JAMMY JAM JAM

Ingredients:

  • two large pints of strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 3/4 cup sugar in the raw
  • 1.5 tablespoons pectic (I got the all natural, no preservative, no sugars pectin from Whole Foods)
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon

Easy Peasy:

Wash and hull your strawberries. Take your orange and slice out the sections. Pour the strawberries and oranges in a large dutch oven. Turn the heat on medium to warm up the berries/oranges and start mashing away! Mash to your heart’s desire. Some like chunky jam and some like smoother jam. Once they are all mashed, turn the heat up to high and mix in the honey and sugar and mix until well incorporated and dissolved. Add pectic and bring to a boil. Boil all together for 2 minutes on high, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off, ladle into your jars, cap the jars, let them sit until at room temperature and you’re done! You’ll hear  a pop after about a half hour meaning that the jars sealed. This makes about 1.5 jars of jam, or 2 small jars. You can put it in the fridge and use it over the next few weeks. YUM!

CHICKEN DRUMMIES HERICOT VERT AND SWEET POTATO MASH

Ingredients for sweet potato mash:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon grass fed butter (Kerrygold or regular butter if you aren’t into grass fed)

HEAT UP THAT GRILL! Turn the grill and place it on high. Take the three sweet potatoes, prick them with a fork and wrap them in foil. Place on high heating grill for 1 hour. These are what take the most time. The drummies and sweet potatoes will cook together at one point, so the rest of the steps are below.

Ingredients for chicken drummies:

  • 6 chicken drummies
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion
  • 1 tablespoon oregano

Ingredients for hericot vert:

  • hericot vert, about 50 beans, or a small bag
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Take a gallon sized large plastic bag and pour in the chicken drummies. Pour in all of the ingredients listed above; olive oil, salt, pepper, dried onion, oregano, parsley, balsamic and work for a couple minutes so it is all mixed well and coating the chicken. Place in a glass bowl in your fridge, or if cooking soon, place on your counter for the meat to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour. If placing in fridge, it can marinate for up to 24 hours.

After the sweet potatoes have cooked for about 45 minutes, place the chicken drummies on the grill. They take about 8 minutes on each side, but you can determine based on your grill temp since this is a dark meat. Your grill should be placed at medium heat now. Therefore, the sweet potatoes can still cook and the drummies can cook evenly. Pour the leftover marinade on the drummies and save a bit for when you turn the drummies over.

After about 8 minutes, turn the drummies and pour on the rest of the marinade. Take off your sweet potatoes and set them to cool. Once the sweet potatoes are cool, peel off the skin and cut off the nubby ends. Mash the sweet potatoes with a fork and add the butter, salt, pepper and honey. Cover with foil to stay warm while the hericot very cook.

Take the drummies off of the grill and place under a foil tent to finish steaming and stay warm. To prep hericot vert, wash and cut off the ends. place on foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, balsamic and a nice lump of stone ground mustard. Pack them all up in the foil and place on grill. These take only about 6 minutes. Carefully open up the packet and mix the green beans so that the warm mustard coats them all. I like my hericot very al dente, where they are bright green and hot, yet not fully cooked so they have a nice snap!

PLATE YOUR FOOD AND EAT!

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