Monday, August 25, 2014

Immaculate Baking Company Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've had this cookie mix sitting on the shelf for a while, and I was glad for an opportunity to try them out. I made the chocolate chocolate chip cookies over the summer, and we enjoyed them, so I had high expectations that weren't disappointed.

The additional ingredients are butter, an egg, and vanilla. I like that it also gave instructions for oil - I've been caught low on butter before - and it makes them gluten-free and dairy-free.

I had to use my hand to get the ingredients well-blended. Butter is that way sometimes. But over all this was easy to do and I would recommend this product for a nice treat.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Easy Slow-cooker Spaghetti Sauce

Why make it in the slow-cooker? It doesn't *exactly* save time. And, let's face it, it isn't a long process to make spaghetti - even if you make your own marinara. So why bother?

Well, as for time, you can do all the prep the night before - brown the meat, add the pre-made sauce, or add the tomatoes and spices - and put it in the fridge to be put in the slow-cooker the night before. It takes the same amount of time technically, but when I only have to prepare the noodles and a quick salad, it saves me time when I need it.

Another reason is for the taste. Cooking marinara all day long enhances the flavor of those wonderful spices, and by the time you serve it up the flavor is divine.

I'm not a huge fan of ground meat, but cooking your meat in the sauce all day means that not only does your meat soak up all that wonderful flavor, but it also is very tender by the time you serve it up in for dinner.

I've been buying cheap sauce for a while now, but I am going back to making my own because it only takes a few extra minutes and it saves me a few bucks. Buy organic canned tomatoes on sale and it still saves you money. Gotta love spending less on organic than non-organic.

Lastly, I have read that the more you cook tomatoes, the more lycopene they produce (look it up to learn more about this fabulous nutrient). Most veggies (and fruits, if you want to get technical) are the opposite. Thank you, tomatoes!

So here is my quick and easy spaghetti sauce recipe:

Easy Slow-Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

1 pound ground turkey, pork, or beef (actually, most any ground meat will work - pick your favorite. I used turkey), crumbled and browned.
1 29 oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 heaping tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons minced onion (dried)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Brown your meat and drain fat. In your slow-cooker insert, add the tomatoes and spices, then stir. Stir in the meat. Put the insert in the slow-cooker and turn on low 6-8 hours.

Perfect amounts aren't overly important in this recipe. You can add other spices if you like, or use a favorite Italian seasoning. Using fresh garlic, onions (or shallots), basil, and oregano is great if you have the time. Oh, and many people like a tablespoon or two of sugar (and if you do, I suggest brown sugar).

I use Tinkyada brown rice noodles, spirals so it is easy for my two-year-old to eat, and I cook them a few minutes longer than instructed. It's one of the reasons I like these noodles. You can cook them a little longer, making them softer, and they don't fall apart.

One of these days I'm going to pin my bestie (who just so happens to be of Italian descent) down to make an actual recipe for her "gravy" as she calls it - marinara to us - and share her recipe with the world. It's what we are all going to eat in Heaven, anyway. Until then, this recipe will suffice - at least my kids say so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gluten-free Banana Oat Muffins - An accidental recipe improvement

These muffins are a family favorite, and I have been making them for years. I didn't feel there was any need to improve this recipe because it was already so tasty, but accidents happen, and sometimes they happen for the better.

This happened a few weeks ago when I was cooking in a hurry and I was out of canola oil. The hurry part caused me to grab a half-tablespoon instead of a teaspoon, and being out of canola oil meant that I had to use coconut oil instead.

I've heard for a while now how coconut oil is thought to be really good for you, but often times I don't use it in a recipe because it solidifies and I don't have the time to warm it (i.e. don't feel like warming it). I solved that problem by keeping some in a small ceramic container that I can stick in the microwave for a few seconds. Also, if you have a warmer spot in your kitchen, keep your jar of oil there.

Now these muffins, with coconut oil and an extra teaspoon of baking powder, have a better texture and taste than ever. They do not have a coconut flavor, however the oil seems to add to the fluffy texture, which is also aided by the extra baking powder.

So here is my new recipe:

Banana Oat Muffins

2 1/4 cups gluten-free oat flour
1 tablespoon tapioca starch/flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons coconut oil (I like it warmed to liquid form)
2 tablespoons agave nectar (honey or maple syrup will work as well).
2 mashed bananas
1 cup apple juice (milk or a milk substitute would do, but the apple juice makes it sweeter)

Preheat your oven to 350. Whisk the oat flour, tapioca starch, and baking powder together with a wire whisk. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until dry ingredients are wet. Divide equally into 24 muffin cups of a small muffin pan, or the 12 cups in a normal-sized muffin pan. I prefer these in smaller muffins. Bake 12 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch.

I strongly recommend you turn your muffins on their sides to cool, otherwise the bottoms and sides are wet and gooey when you get them out.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Slow-Cooker Hashbrown Casserole

My family loves breakfast casseroles. However, it is a special treat that I only do once in a while (and lets face it - mostly just Christmas morning) because who wants to get up and put together the dish, then cook it for an hour before everyone gets up? Even if you put it together the night before, you still have that issue of getting up an hour before everyone else. Have you noticed the trend of me not getting up any earlier than absolutely necessary???

Yesterday afternoon I put together our favorite breakfast casserole in the slow cooker and put it in the fridge. Before bed, I stuck it in the slow-cooker, set it to cook for about six and a half hours to be finished about the time I get out of bed (yes, I DO get up a half hour before the boys on school mornings. I said I don't LIKE to). Anywho...

I had some very happy and well-fed boys when they left for school/work this morning. And that made me feel good.

Here's the step-by-step:
Layer in your hash browns.

Then the sausage crumbles. My family likes the hot variety.

Whisk the milk, eggs, and corn starch.

Pour over the top and allow to cook on low for 6-7 hours. Notice that I don't put my cheese on until the morning - it tends to over-brown too long in the slow-cooker.

Get out of bed, sprinkle on your cheese (it will melt quickly), and serve to your happy kids.

I am really excited about being able to make this special meal on a school morning - especially on those pesky testing days when they really need a little something extra. Another thing that I really loved about making this? I froze four serving in baggies to be served one morning when it is most needed.

So, this is the recipe:

Slow-Cooker Hashbrown Casserole
1 28 oz bag frozen hash browns (be sure they are gluten-free - we used Alexia with garlic and salt)
1 lb sausage crumbled and browned (also check the ingredients - not all are gluten-free)
1 3/4 cups almond milk (or milk)
6 eggs
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar

Layer in the frozen hash browns into your slow-cooker, then spread the sausage crumbles on top. Whisk together the milk, eggs, and corn starch. Pour over the hash browns and sausage. Cook on low over night 6-7 hours. Sprinkle on cheese and allow to melt before serving.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Great Gluten-free Giveaway!

Good morning gluten-free readers! I've got exciting news for you. It is a gluten-free giveaway over at The Puzzled Palate Blog by our good friend Carly. She is giving away loads of stuff from make-up to skin care to gift cards. And best of all (of course) is that she is including a copy of our cookbook!

Click here to see all the great products for yourself and sign yourself up!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back to School: I Will Survive - And A Veggie Suggestion

Tonight I've had an epiphany, and it is this: I am going to live through this gluten-free back-to-school thing. It didn't feel that way last week, but tonight after football practice, getting together dinners, snacks, tomorrow's lunches, cleaning up from supper, doing things I need to do for Noah, helping with homework, picking kids up from school, cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, running errands, getting hair cuts, and NOT getting any proofreading or writing done (who has time for *actual* work?!), I have taken a deep breath and realized that, "Yes! I can do this!"

Am I the only parent who wasn't ready for school to start? I mean, I had all the bags and crayons and paper and pencils and batteries (hey - I have a special needs kid, the teachers ask for some stuff that seems a bit "out there" to you folks with "normal" lives). But my husband went away (i.e. started a new football season) the same week we started getting up early, going to school, and having practices of our own. And who gets up early the week before to prepare?! Let's do all the suffering at once, people!

But it could have been worse - I could have chosen last week to give up coffee (I plan that big event for the year 2074). Let's face it. I would not be writing about how I was going to survive had that been the case.

So in the big hurry that is my wonderful life (and yours), I decided that from now on, all vegetables will be roasted in the oven (so let it be written, so let it be done). It's easy. You cut up an onion (look up the proper and faster way on youtube), you cut up squash (3 or 4 big, yellow ones) into big, easy chunks. You put it into a casserole dish with olive oil (that healthy, extra virgin variety) and sea salt. And you bake it in the oven at 350 or 400 depending on how soon you will need to be at practice/lessons/church/whateveritisyoudo. It is delicious.

One squash for a small pan, four big ones for a larger one. It really doesn't matter as long as it feeds your tribe.

Serve it outside next to your tomato plants. Because it's pretty.

My nine and two-year-old eat this like it is candy. My two-year-old, when offered this along with spaghetti, ate the squash first while yelling, "Supermom!"

At least, that's the way I remember it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gluten-free Time Crunch: Making Mixes

Remember my crazy rant the other day about how doing a bunch of gluten-free meals on top of everything else was going to kill me? As I sit here typing that sentence I find a little part of my brain mimicking in a not-so-nice way the old saying "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." I'm human - not the best of my kind, but not the worst either. Anywho...

I'm still working on making this whole life-style thing a little easier, and it just so happened that on Saturday I decided to make my family (who were begging for them) some brownies. Now there are some good gluten-free brownie mixes out there, but I ain't gonna lie. My brownies are scrumptious. (You can click for a link to the recipe).

But I wanted to see how much longer it would make to put together two sets of dry ingredients instead of just one. That way, when I'm running around crazy getting ready for that fun event in which I volunteered to make brownies the day after one of those crazy-writing-running around-keeping children alive-football practice days, I have a baggie full of my own (less than half the price and better-tasting) brownie mix.

Y'all! Since I'm already getting all the ingredients and measuring cups anyway, it took me less that five minutes extra! And I mean "less than."

 Now, I still have to add the eggs, oil, water, and vanilla, but I've saved myself a few minutes anyway. 

I poured the mixed dry ingredients in a baggie. Voila! 
I didn't plan a time to take an extra three hours (who has that?!) to make a bunch of mixes. I took the time I was already doing it anyway. So, I'm going to do this with other things.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back to School: Easy Snack Mix Recipe

Crunch, salty, savory. Yummy! 
Want to give your kids this combination, but want it not to be fried? Here is your recipe. This is another one of those "hide it so you don't eat it" recipes. And it is easy!! No cooking - no baking. If you can stir and/or shake, this recipe is for you! We did put cashews in the mix for a little protein, but feel free to leave it out if needs be. It won't make much of a difference.

Easy Snack Mix Recipe

7 cups Rice Chex
5 cups Glutinos Pretzels (approximately 8 ounces)
1 6-1/2 ounce box Van's Say Cheese Crackers
1 6-1/2 ounce package (2 cups) roasted and unsalted cashews (optional)
1-1/2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1-ounce package Hidden Valley Salad and Seasoning Mix (The list of ingredients must say gluten-free, since all Hidden Valley products are not gluten-free).

In a large lidded plastic container, place the first four ingredients. Sprinkle on 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil and gently toss ingredients to cover with oil. Sprinkle the package of Hidden Valley over the snack mix in the bowl a little at a time and toss until all is well-covered. Allow flavors to blend overnight before serving. Store in a cool, dry place.

So that's it. Pour it in, gently stir. Serve it up!

Serve it with fruit as an after school snack!

And remember that panicked post about all I was doing was making gluten-free lunches? Well, here's my first tip: immediately bag this yumminess into individual portions (or bag half of it and eat the rest... I mean... save it for those snacks mentioned above). Grab a bag to stick into the lunch bag.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back to School is official!

Look at those happy first day of school smiles. Never mind that I had to drag Eli out of bed and Noah gave me a complete refusal to eat any breakfast whatsoever. They were happy about going to school and had a great first day. And an even better second day (getting up was better and Noah ate his breakfast).

Evidently, Noah spent his entire second day of school laughing at the slightest provocation. His laughter had his teachers (there are four in his classroom) laughing so hard that at one point one of them had to excuse herself to keep from wetting her pants. I'm guessing that means he is happy to be back at school. That makes this mama's heart happy.

But (there had to be a but, right?!) being "back-to-school" is about to kill me. Perhaps I should say, being "back-to-school" AND having gluten-free and allergy-free kids, one of them with special needs, and the other one playing football is about to kill me. I spend hours, literal hours, every day preparing food (I'm so sick of preparing food that I had chips and salsa for breakfast).

I spent the entire evening planning and preparing supper for that night and Noah and Eli's lunches the next day. I get a load of laundry thrown in, give a few kisses, and check a little homework. We get home from practice for more food, baths, and bed. Then I have to do the dishes.

I married a wonderful man, who happens to be a college football coach and might as well be out of town the next several weeks because his job currently consists of a little thing called, "Summer Camp."

Last night I fell into bed fully clothed. Dare I admit that I took my boys to school in those clothes?

And now, I am done complaining. I want to work on ways to make this whole "gluten-free meals" thing a little easier. I want to have a little bit of time to breath. So this is going to be my focus for a while, and I'll be sharing a post or two along the way about what I am doing to make this easier.

What are things that you do that make it a little easier? Please share!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

GF Back-to-School Week: Mom! What's for supper?!

My plan for the up-coming week - the first week of school - is to focus on slow-cooker meals. Many of these meals can be prepared the night before (and as long as you have a removable insert for your slow-cooker), placed in the fridge to be pulled out and put onto to cook in the morning.

1. Slow-cooker Any Bean Soup:  One of my favorite things to do is chicken and bean soup. Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, a combination of beans - whatever beans are your pleasure, put two cups of beans with about eight to ten cups of water (some beans soak up more). Add a cut up onion, a teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon or more of taco or fajita seasoning. Put in three chicken breasts making sure they are covered with water and put in the fridge. When you get it out in the morning, the beans will have soaked up a lot of water - add enough to cover the chicken, and put on low. When you come home in the evening, shred the chicken, add back to the soup, and serve with cornbread or (what we do most often) tortilla chips. A little salsa and/or sour cream is also a good addition.

2. Slow-cooker spaghetti sauce: Brown your meat the night before. In the morning add your spaghetti sauce (onion and other spices can be good here if you like to add them. And if you are brave - add some veggies). Cook on low all day. When you get home, all you have to do is your favorite gluten-free noodles. An even easier way to do a meal most kids love. Serve with a bag of ready-made salad.

3. Slow-cooker Stroganoff: This is for those nights when you know you're going to need some comfort food. This is a favorite in my boy-heavy family. Click for the recipe, and do the prep the night before as mentioned above.

4. Slow-cooker Lasagna: 'Nuff said. Click for the recipe. Do the prep the night before you are having company!! Everybody loves lasagna, and some gluten-free garlic bread, salad, and dessert are all you have to add.

I will have a lot more to add soon - because with school AND football season starting - I do a lot of them!