Thursday, November 29, 2007

One says "Brrr..." and one says "Bring it"

I haven't been creating any new stuff lately. Most evenings this week have found me snuggled up on the couch under my favorite pink blankie, with a cat and a dog, alternately reading a book (currently John Grisham's Playing for Pizza) and staring at the Christmas tree that hasn't gotten any further than being hauled upstairs. Oh, and packing face from the big bowl of Jelly Bellys I have sitting right next to me. Addicting, those little things are.

We brought the tree up and plugged it in last weekend, but I decided to wait to decorate it until I knew what The Gidge was going to do. I already had to spray the bottom branches with Bitter Lime to keep her from chewing on them and thus electrocuting herself. We don't need any more "Christmas Vacation" scenes around here than what occurs normally.

After 6 days, she pretty much leaves it alone. But I am wondering if I am going to need a gate or something to keep her away once the ornaments go on.

The Gidge has a better wardrobe than I do. She has been wearing little dog hoodies and sweaters for several weeks now, but this morning I pulled out the big guns. And after viewing what ensued, I added a bunch of extra velcro tonight - I couldn't believe that a small was so HUGE. Mom doesn't know it yet, but when she and my father come down in December (with my dishwasher!), she is going to fix this the rest of the way.

With the area I live in, I figured I should go with the flow with the caption language.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

For the GF cookie tray: butter cookies

I have been using the gluten version of this recipe for years to make spritz cookies, which are probably my favorite Christmas cookie, next to Santa's Whiskers. Last year, I bypassed this one because I didn't really know how to play with the various gluten-free flours yet.

That was last year. This is now.

In October, Ferrara Pan's Red Hots were gluten free. So I picked some up back then with the plan to make these cookies. They may still be - I don't know. I wasn't taking any chances.

Also, you can certainly purchase colored sugar - but it's a heck of a lot cheaper (and safer - what the heck is the "wax" that's on the labeling of every package? Why does sugar need WAX?) to make your own. An added bonus is you can make only as much as you need. Just put a scoop of white sugar in a bowl, add food coloring, and stir (add more coloring to get your desired depth of color). Spread out on a plate to dry and you've got colored sugar to decorate your cookies with.

These cookies are very tender and buttery with a hint of sweetness and a kick (the red hot) at the end. If you have patience (I don't), you can press the dough through a cookie press. I started out that way but the press mysteriously grew wings and flew when the dough wouldn't stick to the cookie sheet.

Christmasy Butter Cookies
GF'd from the Vault

1 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup powdered sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Green decorating sugar
Red hot candies

In a medium bowl, sift together the white rice flour, tapioca starch, cornstarch, sweet rice flour, baking powder and xanthan gum. Set aside.

In a mixer, combine the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the egg. Mix well. With the mixer on low (unless you like the ambience of flour on your walls and cabinets), add the flour mixture by spoonfuls until well combined. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the fridge. Have a couple of nonstick cookie trays handy (ah...the reason for the dough not sticking with the press. Duh.). If you are using a press, now's the time and heaven help you.

For the rest of us, scoop small amounts of dough and roll into 3/4" balls. Place the balls about 1 1/2 inches apart on the cookie tray. When you have filled the tray, use the pads of your fingers to gently press down the top of each ball so it's flat and the cookie is about 1/2" thick.

Sprinkle each cookie with green decorating sugar and place a red hot smack-dab in the middle. Bake for 8 minutes or until the cookies are just barely beginning to brown.

Makes 52 cookies.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another turkey to remember

Happy Thanksgiving! May you enjoy good food, good friends, and wonderful family.

Some of you may remember last year's turkey debacle. If not, here's the link to that particular post.

This year....THIS YEAR....I am thankful that we again were just the three of us and not a houseful of family. Because we had another turkey issue - the opposite end of the spectrum. I bought our 10-pound turkey this past Friday and put it into the freezer.

At 5 AM on Monday, I removed it from the freezer and gently placed it in the refrigerator.

At 5 PM on Wednesday, I poked a finger into its side and it "mooshed," which told me it was defrosting nicely.

At 11 AM today, I went downstairs and got the turkey from the fridge. I carried it reverently up the stairs. I patted it as I prepared to remove the packaging.

The )(*@&#& was frozen solid. See if I am nice and gentle next year. Next year, I am giving that bastard a solid kick with a steel-toed boot before cooking it.

So, that's how the turkey saga started. There's more.

The Man and The Stepson went for a free breakfast and planned to be home by noon. The Man had a grill to fire up.

At 10:30, when I began to prepare the dressing, I pulled the celery out of the fridge. It drooped like a bassett hound's jowls. What the hell. So I called The Man, who had to stop and get libations anyway, to pick up some more celery. I called every 10 minutes for the next hour and a half.

At noon, he called and said they were on their way home (the place that they were at is a half hour away) and that he would get the damn celery, damn it.

At 12:45, the two walked in the door. I immediately went to work chopping and slicing onion and the damn celery. I put together the dressing and scalloped corn and finished prepping the %*#@&^ turkey (which I defrosed in the microwave, by the way) with butter under the skin, oranges, garlic, and onion in its butt (it deserved it, don't you think?), and olive oil, salt and pepper on the outside of the skin. I handed it off to The Man to place on the grill.

An hour later, The Man came in the house and said, "honey." Oh, hell, now what?

The grill had dropped down to 175 degrees. Yes, people - instead of baking in an hour, I had an essentially raw turkey after an hour over the coals. I had already preheated the oven in anticipation of baking the side dishes, so I hauled out the roasting pan, trudged outside, and grabbed the $%&#@ bird. And put it into the oven. At which time I noticed that nothing else was going to fit with the huge roasting pan I just bought (premonition, perhaps?).

Good God. Is this day over yet?

Thank goodness I sprung for the convection oven/microwave two years ago. I heated that gift from heaven up to 425 and put the dressing in it. Then I fired up the toaster oven to 425 and popped in the scalloped corn.

And prayed.

It all worked out in the end. The Man, The Stepson and I are all rotting on the couches, watching "Christmas with the Kranks." We are recovering from pigging out and I am already contemplating the pie to come.

Sure as heck hope that your Thanksgiving dinner went a little better than mine.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One recipe leads to another

I had a taste in my mouth. Have you ever had that happen? You start thinking about something you want to cook or bake and you just...taste it.

Most of this was due to Alton Brown's Good Eats show on pomegranates. I love pomegranates. On the show, he makes pomegranate molasses. Since my local grocery stores don't run to that wonderfully thick, sweet syrup, I decided to follow his recipe and make myself some.

And then smear it, with a few additions, on a pork tenderloin. Oh, my goodness, was it good. The only fly in the ointment was a overly-large piece of black pepper that lodged itself in my throat about halfway through dinner. I coughed and wheezed and sweat and cried. And my throat and tongue swelled - not enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, but enough to cause painful swallowing and tongue movement for a few hours. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to pop an allergy pill and snort some antihistamine as soon as I got that piece of pepper gone.

And then I took a warm tea bath to soothe myself.

And sipped warm apple cider while reading a rot-my-brain romance novel while relaxing to the sound of the ocean (thanks to my alarm clock).

I have a tenderloin left. I am almost afraid to eat the leftovers LOL.

Pork Tenderloin with Black Pepper and Pomegranate Molasses

2 pork tenderloins
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp horseradish
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Either oil a baking dish or place a layer of foil in the bottom (I missed this all-too-important step and had a hell of a time getting my Le Creuset baking dish clean - don't forget to do this!) before laying the tenderloins (slightly spaced apart) in the dish. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the molasses, pepper, dijon mustard, and horseradish. Brush a generous layer on the tenderloins and then place the baking dish in the oven. Every 15 to 20 minutes, brush some more of the molasses mixture over the tenderloins. Bake until cooked all the way through (185 degrees) - time will depend on the thickness of your tenderloins. Mine took an hour and 15 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I hate carbs

As you may have noticed, I have been eating a lot of them lately. With the holidays just around the corner, I better cut way back - now. Because I weighed myself today and I have gained five pounds.

Oh, the horror.

And I have such wonderful goodies planned, too. So if I manage to control myself, I will ease back on the sweet stuff for a few weeks and see if that's going to fix the weight issue.

We worked on barn teardown yesterday morning. I had to leave at 10:30 because of the whole cooking-for-the-boss thing, but I got in a solid two and a half hours. The guys got the rest of the walls torn down and all we have left now is to pick up garbage.

Thank heaven. I am ready for it to be over.

While doing prepwork for the boss' menu yesterday, I prepped this for myself. I had seen something similar somewhere on the web and thought it sounded good, but naturally I had to do my own thing.

I have to admit to a deep sigh when I looked at the potato-less plate. But there are other wonderful nummies out there for me to eat, too.

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Chicken for One
adapted from the web - somewhere

1 good-sized boneless, skinless chicken breast
5 large spinach leaves, rinsed and dried well
1 ounce Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
1 roasted garlic clove
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

Place the chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and take out your aggressions on that bad boy - pound it flat, to about 1/2" thick. Remove the top piece of wrap and lightly sprinkle the exposed side of the chicken with salt.

Squeeze the roasted garlic on top of the salt and spread across the chicken. Then layer the spinach leaves and Fontina on top of that. Using the piece of wrap that's under the chicken, tightly roll the chicken, twist the open ends of the wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish. Remove the chicken from the fridge, take off the plastic wrap, and place in the baking dish, rolling all sides of the chicken in the oil. Bake for 15 minutes.

Serve with wilted napa cabbage...or a baked potato...or a rice dish like risotto...or another tasty carb...


Saturday, November 10, 2007

A pain in the rear becomes something good

The Gidge had to go. At 4:30 this morning. I took her out and because we don't allow her outside alone when it's dark, I stood outside and froze while she debated if she was going to step paws on the frosted grass to actually GO. The answer on the first round was "hell no." So we came inside, put on a little pink and brown coat and her pink booties and tried again. And again, "hell no."

So we came in to take off the booties, hooked up the retractable leash, and went for a walk. Still nothing.

It had been 45 minutes of mostly being outside by this point. I was starting to get seriously ticked with The Gidge. My ears were frozen, my nose was running, and my toes were cold. When we got back from the walk, I hooked her back up to the lead and prayed.

Still nothing. Good God.

Out of desperation, I fed her an hour early, which I am probably going to regret later. But by golly, SHE POOPED.

While all of this was going on, I came up with an adaptation of a Vault recipe and once I had feeling back in my fingers, started making a delicious breakfast.

Baked Banana Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze
from The Vault

2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/8 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup slightly warm milk
1/6 cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup mashed banana (about 2 large)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 tapioca starch
1/2 cup teff flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
2 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Pour the water into a mixer bowl and add the yeast. Allow to bloom for 2 minutes. Add the milk and shortening; mix for 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, teff flour, sweet rice flour, and xanthan gum. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the mashed banana and egg. Pour into the yeast mixture and mix for 2 minutes. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until all of the flour is incorporated. The dough will be somewhat loose and sticky.

Line your working area with plastic wrap; spray it with cooking spray. Place the dough on the prepared plastic wrap and then cover with another large piece of plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray (spray side down). Use your hands to pat the dough down to 1/2" thick.

Spray your doughnut cutter/2 different size biscuit cutters/drinking glass and shot glass with cooking spray. Cut the doughnuts, removing the centers. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the doughnuts for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Glaze with chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla

Put the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 seconds, until all is melted together. Add the vanilla and stir. Dip the doughnut tops into the glaze while it (and they) are still warm.

I got 16 doughnuts out of this batch. You may get more or less depending on how large you make them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ah, hell

I am a bad, bad daughter. Not only did I forget (without forgetting - does that make sense? Got busy and forgot to call, but I didn't FORGET) my mother's birthday just over a week ago, but I forgot to mention this:

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Yes, I was born on my my parent's first wedding anniversary.

A timely song to sing

Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Just ate a lot of really good pork roast,
Happy Birthday to me.

I am now 36 years old. My body feels at times like it's 90. Right now, with this nasty cold that won't go away (I am back in the head-cold-phase of this entertainment), I fully expect body parts to curl up and fall off a la Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin in"Beetlejuice."

And anger is building. Can't wait to see how it's going to explode (grin). The Man parked his ass on the couch and allowed me to do the dishes from my birthday dinner. He yelled at The Gidge too...for barking. She's a dog. A little dog. That never sees The Man because he's never home. Hm. Think she's trying to get his attention or something?

End of snarkiness.

Back to dinner. Seriously, this is an excellent glaze - and the roast turned out incredibly tender and juicy.

Pork Roast with Brown Sugar & Persimmon Glaze
From my head

A 2-pound pork roast
A pinch of kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1/4 cup persimmon pulp
1/2 tsp cinnamon
A slight pinch of ground cloves
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the roast in a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place into the heated oven.

In a small saucepan, combine the persimmon pulp, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and water; whisk over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove the roast from the oven and pour the glaze over the top. Cover the pan with foil and return to the oven. Bake until cooked through (185 degrees), about an hour and a half.

These things actually happen in this house

From one minute to the next, I do not know what is going to come out of The Man's mouth. This morning, I was standing at the stove preparing my breakfast when he came up and said, "What are you doing?" Because I just love stating the obvious, I replied, "Cooking." His next question? I sit here shaking my head while remembering this one - "Cream of Wheat?"

Cream of Wheat.


I swear - he really does know about the gluten thing. He brushes his teeth and rinses before he kisses me. But oh my God, sometimes the brain and the mouth just DON'T connect.

It was Cream of Rice with turbinado sugar and currants, by the way.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I could have named this post a number of things

Sheri and Shauna

The first post title could be "If you don't know how to drive safely in a construction zone, stay the hell off of the highway."

The second post title could be "Overdosing on damn good chocolate-banana bread causes coma."
The third post title could be "Successful first gluten-free dining experience in a restaurant."

The fourth post title could be "I laid around and did mostly nothing on this vacation but I did think about this."

Now, the explanations for all of these.

The first actually kind of goes with the second and third. I was on my way to Chicago to meet up for dinner at Vinci with Shauna James Ahern and two other wonderful women, Cari and Tina. What should have taken just under an hour to drive took over two hours because of a nasty accident 17 miles from my home. Yes, it took me an hour and a half to go 17 miles. Thank goodness that Shauna, Cari and Tina were willing to wait to have dinner until I finally got there. I always feel horrible when I see an accident like that but more than likely, the people involved in the accident were driving well above the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic. There's a reason for the reduced speeds in construction zones - the lanes are usually narrower and rough, people. End of rant.

I sincerely hope that the people involved in the accident are okay.

I ate well, even though I was stressed to the max. Their panna cotta was amazing (I ate one bite and fell in love with a dessert that I had never been terribly impressed with - I made a batch for my dessert tonight LOL) and the hen cooked under a brick was succulent and delicious.

Tina and Cari
Since Shauna was in the area, I decided to make her chocolate-banana bread (in her book) on Friday. Big mistake. I ate half the pan in the first sitting and another big wedge yesterday afternoon after pigging out on gluten-free goodies at the monthly Gluten Free Wikiduke meeting. I forced myself to put the rest in the freezer and have had to repeatedly tell myself to STAY OUT OF THE FREEZER.

So that basically covers possible post titles 1 through 3.

I had mentioned at some point last week that I had recipes brewing, which was true. I just didn't have the motivation to make anything other than that banana bread. For the last two weeks, I have had a cold that started in my head and dropped with the weight of an elephant into my chest. I spent most of Thursday sleeping - slept most of Friday afternoon, too. Yesterday I spent chasing around doing stuff and today I had to do my cooking thing for the boss.

I did manage to clean my kitchen and bathroom. I also started the closet changeover from spring and summer clothing to fall and winter.

I decided that enough was enough and that I was going to make myself something good to eat. There's nothing like a good steak, roasted brussels sprouts, and potato pancakes to make your cold sit on the back burner for a little while.

Potato Pancakes with Green Onion and Gruyere
From my head

4 large potatoes, peeled and grated (about 4 cups total grated)
2 eggs
2 tbsp potato starch
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil

Grate the potatoes and chop the onions. Place into a colander and press to push out as much moisture as possible. Set aside, allowing to drain.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, potato starch, cheese, salt, and pepper together. When the potatoes and onions are drained well, place them into egg mixture and fold to combine.

Melt the olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. When the mixture is hot but not smoking, drop the pancake mixture by 1/2 cupfuls into the skillet, pressing with a metal spatula or the back of the measuring cup to flatten them out. Cook on the first side until golden brown (about 5 minutes), then flip and do the same on the other side.

Makes 6 to 8 pancakes. If you are making more than one batch, keep them warm by placing them in a 200 degree oven until ready to eat.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween at Our House

October 31st is a very fun day around here. We get to scare kids for one more day.

I put The Gidge in her witch's costume, but 30 seconds after my hands left her body, she tore it. Go figure.
The Man and I dressed up as well. Instead of a mask, he chose to have me paint his face, which turned out very ghoulish. I did my standard witchy thing and since I have worn this twice now, I really need to get a new costume.

Food and recipes in the works, people. I have been laying low, cleaning house, and trying to get over this nasty chest cold.