Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Haunted Barn opens today!

It's been a very long, stressful week getting the Haunted Barn ready to open today, but we are all set.

All of the Dollinger Family Farm attractions open today, as well. For anyone in this area that's interested, here is what is happening each weekend in October. There is no cover charge to get in.

  • The Haunted Barn runs from 12 to 6 and costs $5 for 13+ and $3 for 6 to 12. Under 5 is free (if you want to be up with your kid all night!)
  • Hayrides run from 12 to 5 and cost $5 for adults and $3 for children.
  • The train runs from 12 to 5:30 and costs $3 for adults and $2 for children.
  • The Corn Maze runs from 10 to 6 and costs $3 for adults and $2 for children.

There is also face painting available; costs vary.

If you come out to the farm, please stop by the Haunted Barn to say hello!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Road trip

This past Friday afternoon at about 12:30, The Gidge and I embarked on a nearly 4 hour journey to visit the place of my birth.

Boy, that sounds pretentious.

Let me rephrase that. We went to visit my family.

I haven't been home since Dad had his bypass surgery nearly 2 years ago. I am a very very bad daughter. It was a last minute decision to go because The Man was on call and couldn't leave.

To prepare, I baked a loaf of bread on Thursday night so I could take some along. I also brought some GF pretzels and apple chips. I relied on the local stores for everything else.

All in all, it was a good trip. I didn't get sick, I got to see my parents, some relatives on Mom's side, my sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and the dogs. And The Gidge got to meet her canine cousins, Oliver and Sampson. I was proud of her; she behaved very well all weekend and didn't piddle in the house once. Or chew shoes. Although I must admit that she got into a garbage can to shred paper on Sunday morning. The turd.

I am on vacation this week. The Haunted Barn opens this coming Saturday at noon, so I need to complete the final details inside the barn, as well as clean the house - my last opportunity until November. So after this coming Friday, posts may be slim until after the last weekend of October.

Since I was visiting, I thought about another family recipe I haven't had in a while. Mom used to make this all the time and it's popular at family gatherings. Most people know this as sloppy joes, but in my family, it's...

Hamburger Goo

1 pound ground chuck (I used turkey tonight because it's what I had in the freezer)
1-6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 to 1 tsp ground mustard (to taste)
1 cup ketchup
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp distilled vinegar
2 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground chuck, onion, and celery. Cook until the meat is cooked through (10 to 15 minutes). Add the tomato paste, ground mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and cornstarch. Stir well, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Stir occasionally; simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with hamburger buns.

This is one of those foods that my family would eat "weird."

Try a few potato chips inside the sandwich. Really.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Vault

I have scads of recipes laying around here. It's an addiction - I cut them out of magazines, pull them off the web. I have a stack of old 3x5 cards that contain recipes from my Junior Chefs class in the seventh grade (everyone had to bring recipes to share with the whole class). Maybe it's not an addiction. It's probably a sickness.

My whole reason for reading magazines OF ANY TYPE is to see if they talk about food. Scientific American sitting on a doctor's waiting room table? Hm. Maybe they'll mention something Alton-Brownish. I will flip through briskly in hopes of a score. If I find something in a magazine, regardless of whether or not I will actually make the dish, I will surrepticiously tear the recipe out and stash it in my purse.

Yes, it's me doing that everywhere. It's a sickness, remember?

I have started calling this recipe collection "The Vault." Any future recipes I pull out of this monstrous pile will be marked as "From the Vault".

Without further ado, here's another one I have converted from The Vault. It's a different way to enjoy your PB&J - a recipe from my 7th grade Junior Chefs class.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars
From The Vault

1/2 cup unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapoica starch
1/4 cornstarch
2 tbsp sweet rice flour
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup jam of your choice (I used my homemade cherry almond)

Preheat the oven ato 350 degrees, Spray a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the egg and peanut butter; continue to beat at medium speed until well combined.

Sift together the salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, cornstarch and sweet rice flour. Slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture, beating on low until all of the flour is incorporated. Add the vanilla, beat to combine, and turn off the mixer.

Evenly press 2/3 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, making sure the batter is level. Pour the jam on top of the batter and spread evenly. Using the remaining 1/3 of the batter, use your fingers to pinch and drop little pieces of batter on top of the jam.

Bake 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Step away from the Dr. Pepper

It is nearly 12:30 AM. I can't remember the last time I was up this late.

I guess I should lay off the Dr. Pepper.

My normal daily caffeine intake involves 8 oz of chai tea. That's it.

I wonder how late I will be up after drinking 4 more- yes, FOUR - caffeinated beverages.

To kill time, I created an Amazon wish list and an Amazon store. Even The Gidge has gotten bored with me and slipped off to sleep on the couch next to me.

I tell you what - if I had Donald Trump's credit card, I would do some serious damage at Amazon.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Just too cute to resist

Delicious days of almost-fall

I love fall. Well, mostly. The weird temperature changes I can do without. But the changing leaves, fall fruits and vegetables? Those I adore.

The Man was supposed to take me out (for the first time in a year) for dinner tonight at a place in Naperville that can supposedly prepare a GF meal. Last night, he reneged. Bastard. The meal was to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary, which is the 18th.

So in place of the not-made-by-me dinner I was supposed to have, I went a little nuts in my own kitchen. Lots of goodies below, my friends.

But first, a little puppy porn. The Gidge is now 6 1/2 months old. Here she is, stylish in a new pink sweater, showing off the hack-job Momma did on her face. I guess she better learn quick to not move when Momma has the clippers in her hands.

It is such a beautiful day - The Gidge spent a good part of the afternoon outside (because I was in the kitchen working), thinking dog thoughts, barking at everything that moved, and wrapping her dopey ass around the support posts under the deck. The deck that only has 2 ways underneath, and those two ways underneath are barely big enough to let HER in. Momma had a scary moment this afternoon LOL I didn't think I'd get her out!

I look around the house and think of all the stuff I should be doing - putting away clean clothes, cleaning the fish tank, doing a few loads of laundry, vacuuming...but I chose to nap and cook instead. Oh, well. Tomorrow's another day - a day that will be spent out at the barn.

The second level's walls are basically built. I can probably start decoring up there tomorrow while the guys get the walls up on the first level. For anyone local, Dollinger's Pumpkin Farm opens for business two weeks from today. They are open during the week, but the Haunted Barn (my pride and joy) is only open on the weekends from 12 noon to 6 PM.

Back to food. It always comes back to food, doesn't it?

Tonight's special dinner consists of oven-fried chicken, potato-zucchini-tomato galette (just potato for Mr. The "Picky" Man), and butternut squash and red pepper casserole (plain ol' boring corn with butter for Mr. The "Picky" Man).

I found the recipe for the squash and pepper casserole here.


Oven-Fried Chicken

1 pound chicken parts of your choice; I used boneless-skinless thighs and breasts
1 quart buttermilk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
1 egg
1 tbsp water
2 cups GF cornflakes, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil

Place the chicken parts in a large bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the top, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by laying down a layer of aluminum foil, then spraying it with cooking spray.

Set up a workstation by doing the following:

Bowl with chicken/buttermilk------>Bowl with egg whisked together with water and olive oil ----->Bowl with cornflakes, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, parsley, paprika---->Prepared pan for baking.

Work with each piece of chicken by removing it from the buttermilk, dipping in the egg mixture, dredging in the cornflake mixture, and placing on the baking sheet. When all pieces have been coated, sprinkle any remaining cornflake mixture over the top of the chicken pieces.

Place into the oven and bake until brown and crispy, about 30-40 minutes.


Potato, Zucchini & Tomato Galettes
Based on a recipe from Martha

Makes 2 small galettes

2 baby yukon gold potatoes
2 baby red potatoes
1/2 a small zucchini
2 slices of a pretty tomato
Grey salt
Ground thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spray two small shallow baking dishes with cooking spray (I used creme brulee dishes!).

Slice the potatoes into 1/8" thick pieces. Do the same with the zucchini.

Starting with the reds, place an overlapping layer of potatoes on the bottom of a baking dish, covering the entire bottom. Then do the same with the gold potatoes. Then place a ring of zucchini slices around the outside of the baking dish. Place a tomato slice in the middle, sprinkle with sea salt and thyme, and set the dish aside. Repeat with the other baking dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and the edges begin to brown.


And the piece de resistance...

Apple Dumplings

Makes 3 dumplings

3/4 cup + 5 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp + a pinch of cinnamon
1/8 tsp + a pinch of nutmeg
1 cup water
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 tbsp sweet rice flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
3 small apples - peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

To make the syrup: combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg and the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in 2 tbsp of the butter. Set aside.

To make the dumplings: combine the white rice flour, sweet rice flour, xanthan gum, tapioca starch, baking powder, salt, and 2 tbsp sugar in a large bowl. Add the shortening and mix until the flour resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once and stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Pat into a ball, split into 3 parts, and wrap each part in plastic wrap (form each into a ball and then flatten into a disk). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

On a white-rice-floured-surface, roll out each dough disk into a 6" circle. Place a third of the chopped apples into the center of each dough circle. Top the apples with 1/3 of the remaining 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Using a spatula (the easiest way I found to keep the dough from tearing during this part), gently fold up all sides of the dough over the top of the apples. When all sides are folded up, use your hands to gently press the dough closed and sealed. Place the completed dumplings in the prepared baking pan.

Pour the syrup over the top of the dumplings. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. When removed from the oven, spoon some of the syrup over the top of the dumplings and then serve.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Feeling sorry for myself

I hate being sick.

We have been enjoying the cooler weather by sleeping with the windows open, so when I woke up with a slightly sore throat today, I figured it was related to the open windows and fans running and went on my merry way.

After eating my breakfast scone, I noticed that my throat was hurting twice as bad as it was when I woke. An hour or two later, after eating my sandwich at lunch, I noticed that my left ear was really starting to ache. Well, hell.

So I have an ear infection and strep.
I hate being sick. Oh, wait. I said that already.
Two things have made me feel marginally better. The first was coming home to my Timber Creek Farms and Natural Farms orders. Aren't all those organic veggies pretty? I love TCF. I got 3 different kinds of beets, red onions, tomatoes, kale, leeks, zucchini, lettuce, apples, some plum-like fruits, red peppers, broccoli, squash, radishes, 3 packages each of Grandma Ferdon's hamburger and hot dog buns, a box of Pamela's shortbread cookies, and a case of Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix.

The second was having everything on hand to make pea soup. I know, I know. It was nearly 70 degrees today and NOT soup weather. But illness justifies having soup, doesn't it? Besides, I froze my damn ass off at work because I forgot to turn off the A/C before I left yesterday. Once my feet or hands get cold - that's it. My only options are to warm up from the inside out or soak in a steaming bubble bath.

Pea Soup
Adapted from somewhere, but I can't remember where
1/2 pound split peas, rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced red potatoes
3/4 cup diced ham
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 cups vegetable broth

Rinse the peas well, then place in a pot. Add enough cold water to cover, then bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for an hour.
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, potatoes and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 15 minutes).
Drain the peas again and then add them to the vegetables in the stock pot. Add the stock to the pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer until the peas are completely soft (45 minutes or so). Remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Now the fun part. Be very careful when you do this! Transfer half of the soup to a blender and pulse until mostly smooth. Remember that the soup is DAMN HOT and IT WILL BURN YOU. Do NOT ask me how I know this.
Pour the blended soup back into the stock pot and turn the heat to low. Add the ham and stir well. Continue to heat on low until the ham is warmed through (about 10 minutes).

Serve with crusty bread. I used a Pamela's Amazing Bread Mix to make a baguette because, well, making soup and rice pudding in one day when you feel like crap is already pushing it. One day, Mike, I will make your baguettes!

The bubble bath might still happen tonight. The Man is out of town for work, so it's just the girls: me, The Gidge, and the cats (they're so girly they count as girls in this case IMHO).
And there will be tropical rice pudding. Because, you know, I'm sick.

Tropical Rice Pudding

1 1/2 cups cold cooked rice
2 cups skim milk
1 1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp banana extract
8 oz crushed pineapple, drained
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Combine the rice, milk, coconut milk, sugar and salt in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir often, until thickened (40 minutes or so). Remove from the heat; add the extracts, pineapple, and nutmeg. Serve warm, sprinkled with brown or turbinado sugar.

Eat leftovers for breakfast.


I am still smoke free - 17 days now. I was getting a buzz from the patch I was using (step 2 of 3), so after the first 2 weeks, I dropped down to the last one instead of waiting 6 weeks to do so. No more buzz when I put on a new patch. And I have twice gone all day without a patch.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Yes, We Have No Bananas

And here's why!

I have been burning through the bananas lately. I should really switch to a different fruit before I get sick of them. This week, I have eaten 2 batches of banana coconut muffins, had a double-banana poundcake recipe TOTALLY FAIL (grrr...), eaten a banana a day with lunch...and now this.

I have been on a childhood-food-memory kick. I am remembering foods that I hadn't thought about, much less eaten, in twenty years! Today's memory is something that I always looked forward to in my lunch bag during school when I knew Mom and Dad had gotten their hands on some....banana flips.

I skipped the banana flavoring (I assume extract) in the cream in favor of....yes, you guessed it...sliced banana. I also noticed that my sponge cake isn't as sweet as I'd like it to be, so if I make this again I will definitely up the sugar.

Banana Flips
From my head

For the "flip:"

4 eggs, separated
10 tbsp sugar (add more if you like your sponge cake sweet)
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 tbsp potato starch
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream
A bunch o' bananas (or 1/4 tsp banana extract added to the heavy cream before mixing)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a jelly roll sheet by spraying with cooking spray, then laying down a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the entire pan, and the spray the parchment paper (this will ensure the paper stays in place when you put the batter on and spread it out). Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, half of the sugar, and vanilla together until well blended. In another large bowl (preferably the one on your stand mixer), whip those egg whites with the remaining sugar until they reach the hard peak stage. Take a small scoop of the whites and gently fold it into the yolks (fold, not stir!) to lighten the yolk mixture until all the whites are blended in. Then add the remaining whites in thirds.

Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and gently fold it in.

Scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the batter onto the prepared pan. Using an offset spatula, spread the batter out to a 6" circle. Repeat, leaving at least an inch of space between each batter circle. Bake until the center of the circles spring back when touched and the edges are just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Allow the sponge circles to cool for a minute or two on the pan and then quickly, while they are still warm!, drape them over a rolling pin so they bend in the middle. Allow them to cool in that position.

Shortly before serving, whip the whipped cream (and banana extract, if desired) until it holds soft peaks. If you are like me and prefer the real thing, slice a banana; lay the slices on the inside of the flip and then fill with the whipped cream.

Because I got a new nutmeg mill today, I felt the need to sprinkle a little on my banana flip. Anyone else like that? Do you feel a burning need to use a new appliance, toy, whatever as soon as you get it out of the box?

Heaven. I think I know why I was always a little heavier when I was a kid. Knee caps and banana flips.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A skeptic says "bondo"

Whatever the heck bondo means.

I made The Man try a knee cap. And we recorded it.

Body parts never tasted so good

After the meeting yesterday, I got a craving. I sat in front of the boob tube and mindlessly entertained myself until I determined what the craving was for. When I figured it out, I called my mother and she emailed me the original recipe.

Where does the body part reference come in? Why, the sweet I wanted is named a knee cap.

After taking a good look at the recipe this morning, I had a basic plan on what I was going to do. I then called L, a woman I met yesterday, to see if she wanted to come over and learn how to bake GF. And did we - not only did we make the knee caps, but we had pizza made with my favorite Arrowhead Mills pizza crust and taquitos! I think we both ate enough samples to make ourselves sick. You see, L has only known about her CD for about a month. I hope she takes the fun we had today to heart and understands that being gluten free can completely ROCK!

Any gluten-eating person who doesn't enjoy these - you're cracked. Loony. Crazy. Someone call the paddy wagon and take that person off to the funny farm.

I chose to use regular sugar instead of the powdered sugar in the original recipe to coat them.

Knee Caps

2 tsp yeast
1/8 cup warm water
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar + 3/4 cup
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 cups rice flour
3/4 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp + 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
Fruit jam of your choice (I used my homemade cherry-almond)
Whipped cream
Canola oil for frying

Combine the yeast and water in a bowl; let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to allow yeast to bloom.

In a bowl, combine the rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, cornstarch, xanthan gum, and baking powder. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream together the shortening, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing well. Stir the milk and yeast mixture into the sugar mixture. Slowly incorporate the flour mix, bit by bit, until all of the flour is added.

Lightly butter a large bowl; place the dough into the bowl, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour to an hour and a half, until the dough has doubled to nearly half.

When the dough has risen, roll it out to 1.2" thickness and cut with a 1-1/2" round biscuit/cookie cutter. Cover the rounds with a towel and allow to rise again for another half hour.

With a round spoon (we used a measuring teaspoon), gently push an indentation in the center of each knee cap.

Pour the remaining sugar into a bowl and place near where you will be frying the knee caps.

In a deep pot, bring 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Drop the knee caps indentation-side-down into the hot oil and flip when golden brown. Remove from the oil when both sides are golden and allow to drain for a short time on a couple layers of paper toweling. Then drop them in the sugar and coat them thoroughly.

When all knee caps are cooked and cooled, place 1 tsp of fruit jam in the indentation, then top the jam with a dollop of whipped cream.

Bet you can't eat only one.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hello out there!

Hi, hello and how are ya to all the great people I met at the Gluten Free Wikiduke meeting this morning! I look forward to getting to know all of you better.