Monday, August 22, 2011

The Eagle Has Landed...

It's about dang time. I can't wait to make rice krispie treats with these. They also really do Snap, Crackle, and Pop just like the original! I think I bought these at my WalMart Neighborhood Grocery store or Harmon's. Enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy New Year! Better Known As: Back to School!

For those of us with school aged children, right now we're either feeling elation or depression that school is about to start. Or maybe a mixture of both. I always struggle with both feelings, since we have a great time all together in the summer and it's hard to be alone when they leave. However, I can't say it's not going to be nice to have a few hours a day where I don't have to listen to the Angry Birds theme song. School starts for us Monday, and here's a quick recap: we've been making rock collections, going to the zoo, going to see the "Up" house in Herriman, chasing a puppy, and generally laying around.

When it gets time to send my children back to school, I find myself in the midst of preparations of Herculean proportions to bring order back into the chaos that summer inevitably falls into. I make detailed checklists of morning, after school, and bedtime routines so people know what to do when (I have yet to have a year where my checklists actually improve the morning rush), clean off the backpack/coat hangers, haul in boxes and boxes of food from Costco as though "The Big One" is coming over the horizon, and take stock of large and small things in a feeble attempt to make the morning rush and afternoon free-for-all easier. Ha. At least I'll get an "A" for effort.

This morning I made crepes for my daughter who was going to her first day of middle school, and I thought I would just make a few for her and do the rest of the batter later, because I was for sure going back to bed after she left. But the gluten free flour tends to thicken the batter as it sits, so I ended up making up the rest of them, and then another batch on top of that, and put them in the freezer for a quick on-the-go breakfast option for me or the kids. (Tip: I put paper towels in between each crepe so I can just pull out as many as I need without defrosting the whole batch. 20-30 seconds in the microwave should defrost them.) I thought this was a clever time saver, if I do say so myself. I've also learned that the best way for me to utilize big meat purchases from Costco is to break them up into dinner-sized portions, wrap them in foil, and label with the ever-present Sharpie.
Usually I make up a weekly meal plan right before I go to the grocery store, taking stock as I make the list. This year I decided to try something new. I divided the days into meal types, and then listed five or six meals for each day that could fit with my schedule and my plan. For example, Monday I always do a dinner with rice as the side dish. Tuesday is Mexican-ish, Thursday is Breakfast for Dinner, Friday we usually go out so the kids make their own dinners. I wrote down what the evening activities are on each day, so I can keep in mind if I need something everyone can eat at different times, or if we have time to sit and relax. In my Excel sheet I used cute colors and fonts, and since I just barely figured out how to use Scribd, hopefully you'll be able to get an idea of what I'm talking about.
Weekly Meal Plan

Basically, my idea was that as long as I knew what options I had for each night, I have a little more flexibility and can still roll with the punches. Then when I do my grocery shopping, I have a little more of the big picture so I can shop for sales on things I use all the time, plus staples for the week. Maybe this will help some of you out this fall if you're struggling getting back into the groove of making dinner. Conversely, some of you may be suffering from convulsions looking at my detailed spreadsheet. That's ok, too. How do you get ready for the fall rush? Do you have any special gluten free traditions or shortcuts that make your heart rate slow down? Please share in the comments box if you do!

Happy eating (and reading, and writing, and arithmeticing...)!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brands Matter...Especially Gluten Free Ones

I have been making these Gluten Free Lemon Ricotta Cookies for a long time. They are one of my favorites, adapted from Giada deLaurentiis' recipe, and I almost always use Grandpa's Kitchen flour, and Micelli's whole milk ricotta cheese. I'm not sure why, but this time when I made them I chose King Arthur's Gluten Free Flour, and WalMart brand original ricotta cheese. Epic fail. Whatever! There's nothing I hate more than wasting ingredients, but I hate almost as much using the wrong ones! Don't think this is a negative review of King Arthur at all, I actually really like their gluten free products. But for this recipe, I don't know if the flour or the cheese caused the pancake-like cookies and dry flavor. I blame WalMart. They're an easy target. But it got me thinking: how many people out there have tried my recipes and think they are gross because they don't have the same brands that I do? How many people have quit reading because they're tired of hearing how great something is and their roomate told them it tasted like sticks? I hope not many. But I am feeling sensitive to brands lately. I think I'm going to try to make an effort to use the most widely available ingredients to everyone, and then I can sleep at night. So, I confess, I am a brand snob when it comes to my food. Are you a brand snob, too? What brands of gluten free food can you not live without? Leave me a comment, I'd love to know if they are the same as mine. And, as I was looking through the archives to link back to this recipe, I noticed I haven't ever published my version of them. So here it is:

Gluten Free Lemon Ricotta Cookies
adapted from Giada deLaurentiis' original recipe

2 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I like Grandpa's Kitchen...they are light and fluffy when you use it)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick soft butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta (it has to be whole milk or they won't turn out)
zest of 1 lemon
3 tsp lemon juice (about the juice of 1 lemon)

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat. In a medium bowl mix together gluten free flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. Combine butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each one. Add ricotta cheese and lemon zest and juice. A little at a time, add flour mixture. Spoon dough onto cookie sheets or use a small scoop. Batter will be thick but moist. Bake 15 minutes, let rest on cookie sheet for 12 minutes before removing. Cool on a wire rack. Spread glaze on top of cookies with back of a spoon and let harden, about 15 minutes.

Happy eating!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eat Your Cruciferous Veggies! Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

Summer never fails me. I always crave fresh fruit and veggies all season long, and they happen to always be available. Funny how that works! I also never want to eat anything hot for dinner, which is actually a problem because I only know how to make hot dinners. I'm not saying this salad could replace dinner, but it's a pretty good way to fill up your plate. Also: my favorite kind of recipe as well...naturally gluten free! I'm giving credit where credit is due for this recipe, which comes from Traci's mom, who recited the whole thing to me without blinking an eye. She has made it that many times. It's pretty easy, and it makes a lot, so if you need to take something to a pot luck or family reunion, this is a good one.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Salad

3 stalks of fresh broccoli, cut into small florets (bite sized)
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets (bite sized)
1/2 to 1/4 red onion, minced
1 pound cooked, crumbled bacon
8 ounces shredded mozzarella

1 1/2 cup Best Foods light mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dressing together until sugar dissolves. Assemble salad ingredients and pour dressing over the top. Mix well and cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to give flavors a chance to meld.

Happy eating!
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