Cherry Turnovers

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I hear from a lot of people that they don’t like to bake.

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Many complain that it’s too labor intensive, or they’re single or there’s only two of them left at home and much of their baked goods go to waste.

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Or, it’s too calorie dense.

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I can’t help you with your calorie worries, other than to tell you that life’s way, way, too short not to indulge in an extra special treat now and then. Especially pastries!

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But, I can tell you that if you want to learn to love baking, preparation is key, especially when baking things that require a crust.

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I try to keep a batch of pie dough in my freezer at all times. That way, when the mood strikes, we have unannounced company, or a birthday dinner is coming up like last night, all I have to do is thaw it and roll it out.

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For me, making the dough and baking with it at the same time, seems labor intensive.

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Plus, most doughs require refrigeration prior to use anyway.

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With the dough made ahead of time, whipping up an impressive dessert or even a chicken pot pie, or quiche, with little notice is pretty darn easy.

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If there’s only one or two of you at your home and you think these aren’t going to get eaten in time, these pastries freeze very well. You can also cut the recipe in half, or even quarter it. I wrap each one in a freezer bag and then layer them in a larger freezer bag. Simply take out however many individual servings you plan on eating and allow them to thaw before serving.

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 Cherry Turnovers

~ Makes 14 Turnovers~

*Preheat oven to 35o degrees

1 Recipe of my Gluten Free & Dairy Free Pie Dough

3 – 14.5 oz cans of Tart Cherries, drained well

1/2 Cup of Coconut Sugar

3 Tablespoons of Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour, plus more for rolling

1 teaspoon of Pure Almond Extract

About 4 Cups of Confectioners Sugar

About 1/4 Cup of Dairy Free Butter

2 teaspoons of Pure Almond Extract

Water to thin out frosting

Remove dough discs from freezer and allow to thaw on counter for about 30 minutes. If you’re making the dough the same day you’re making the turnovers, refrigerate the dough for two hours before rolling. Place a large sieve over a large bowl and drain all the cherries while lining two baking sheets with parchment, preparing your rolling surface, and preheating the oven.

Move the drained cherries to a large bowl and add the sugar, flour, and 1 teaspoon of almond extract. Toss carefully to combine thoroughly. Set aside. Roll dough out one disc at a time and cut into rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets. Continue to roll out dough until you have enough rounds to top the turnovers. Once the rounds are on the sheets, pat each one out a little bit with your fingers.

Place a large spoonful of the cherry mixture in the middle of each round on the baking sheets. With a spoon, drizzle a small amount of cherry juice around all of the edges. Roll each top out a little more after cutting and cover the cherries. Press down into the cherry juice on the bottoms, and crimp edges (I used the handle end of a fork). Poke each top once or twice with fork tines.

Bake for 35 minutes. Move to cooling racks and let rest for 30 minutes before frosting.

For the frosting:

Melt the butter, add the powdered sugar and almond extract. Whisk until combined adding a little water at a time to make a thick drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the tops of each turnover, allow to set before serving.

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Happy 49th to my hubby. xoxo

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Instant Pot Braised Beef

7 Comments

I’m still singing the praises of the Instant Pot.

Seriously. You need one.

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Life will be easier and better with one.

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I love this braised beef dish but without the Instant Pot, it has to simmer on the stove for at least three hours.

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Which means I have to stick around for those three hours to adjust the flame and check on things. If you’d like the slow version you can go here.

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In the Instant Pot, this braised beef dish takes just about an hour from beginning of prep to the end.

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It tastes just as delicious as if it simmered for three hours, if not even better. The actual pressure cooking time is only 43 minutes.

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Sometimes I serve it over mashed potatoes and sometimes over roasted potatoes like this night.

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Or, you can serve it over rice, quinoa, pasta, whatever you like.

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The morning after, I had it warmed up for breakfast with a side of grain free bread and dairy free butter.

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Instant Pot Braised Beef

2 Pounds of Beef Stew Meat

1 Large Onion, sliced

About 10 Large Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

5 Garlic Cloves, peeled & minced

1/2 Cup of Sun Dried Tomatoes (the ones packed in oil)

6 oz Can of Tomato Paste

4 Cups of Beef Broth

1 Cup of a Good Red Wine

1 Bay Leaf

1 Tablespoon of Dried Rosemary

1 Tablespoon of Dried Oregano

1 Tablespoon of Dried Thyme

Several Grinds of Fresh Pepper

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

Avocado Oil for Browning

2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Flour

Place the Instant Pot on your stove top under your overhead fan and plug in. Press “saute”. Drizzle the pot with avocado oil and wait for it to heat up. Add the meat and saute until browned. I had to remove some liquid so it would brown thoroughly (reserve the liquid!).

(While the meat is browning, prepare your potatoes for roasting or boiling. When I roast mine I cut them into wedges and toss in avocado oil, garlic powder, sea salt, and oregano. Then I lay them out on a parchment covered baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set potatoes aside.)

When the meat is browned removed to a bowl and set aside. Drizzle a little more avocado oil into the pot and add the onions and mushrooms. Saute until the onions are almost translucent. Add the minced garlic and saute.

Unplug and transfer from the stovetop to the counter. Plug in.

Add the meat, any reserved meat juices, the tomato paste, the herbs, salt and pepper, beef broth, and wine. Stir well to combine ingredients. Secure the lid, push the “Meat/Stew” setting, and adjust the time up to 43 minutes. Put the potatoes in the preheated oven to roast. Everything will be done right about the same time.

When the timer on the Instant Pot goes off, release the pressure. Remove the lid, hit the cancel button. Push the “saute” button. Mix 2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Flour with about 2 Tablespoons of water or so, mix well and drizzle while stirring into the braised beef. It will thicken quickly. Turn the pot off and serve.

Grain Free Mini Focaccia

2 Comments

This is one of my favorite ways to make a really quick focaccia. It’s incredibly easy and they are very tasty.

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They are the perfectly sized for individual servings and go great with salads and pasta.

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I even love to pop the leftovers in the toaster and eat them warmed when I’m hungry for a “bread-like” snack. They’ll make your house smell fabulous while they’re baking (and in the toaster!)

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They also work very well for party snacks. You can make them even smaller and serve them with a few nice wedges of hard cheese and sauteed mushrooms and onions, or roasted garlic, balsamic, olive oil…pesto…there are a lot of options! They’re also great for road trip food, and even for camping.

I also use this base for my grain free pizza crust that I’ll be posting later this week.

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Enjoy!

Grain Free Mini Focaccia

*14 Servings

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

For the Topping:

1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6 Cloves of Garlic, minced

About 1/2 Tablespoon of Rosemary, Thyme, & Oregano

A Generous Amount of Sea Salt

Mix it all together with a fork and set aside.

For the Dough:

2 Boxes of Chebe Focaccia Mix

4 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 Eggs

1/2 Cup of Water

About 1 Tablespoon of Garlic Powder

About 1/2 Tablespoon of Oregano

About 1/2 Tablespoon of Thyme

Sometimes I use Bragg’s Seasoning Instead

Measure all the ingredients into a medium bowl and stir with a fork until dry ingredients are wet. Then, kneed with hand until dough forms a ball and is relatively smooth. Pinch or cut dough into 14 pieces and pat out onto parchment lined baking sheets (2).

With a pastry brush, generously brush each focaccia with the oil and herb mixture. You will have some leftover which will be used to brush over the top again after baking.

Bake for 20-30 minutes. (I use convection)

Chocolate Chai Tea Latte & a bit of This & That

5 Comments

How has the first month of the New Year been going for you? January has been a bit of a crazy month for our family. One thing after another it seems.

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We lost my mom’s brother unexpectedly. He had a staff infection in his heart and it caused a stroke. We were thankful that mom and all of his kids were able to get down to Nevada and spend time with him before he passed. I stayed home to watch mom’s house and tend to her kitties. Mike’s kids came from all over. One child came from Colorado, another from New York, and another was able to make it in time from England.  Mike was very happy they were all there with him. The day before he passed away they sat in his room sharing stories and talking about what he meant to each one of them. Mom said it was a wonderful day and a blessing to be able to have that time together with him. One of the children had to leave her husband who was also with his dying father at the time, to come to be at her own father’s side. So much grief to handle.

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Mom and Mike’s oldest daughter Nancy from England, were in charge of finding Mike’s loving companion Angel, a Newfoundland, a new home. She’s very old and there were several homing ideas being discussed. Mike loved her dearly, so not just any home would do. After a few days a wonderful blessing just dropped into their laps. One of Nancy’s friends who had continued his relationship with Mike all these years, heard of Mike’s passing and it turns out…he and his wife take in and care for aging animals. He knows Angel, and was thrilled to adopt and love Angel. He said, “My wife and I take in elderly and ill dogs, love them until they die and break our hearts, and then we do it all over again.” Amazing people.

 

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After Angel had been in her new home for two days mom and Nancy were invited to dinner. They were both absolutely shocked at how happy Angel was. Relaxed and carefree. I think pets know so much more than we think they do. While she was with my mom at Mike’s house, she was very depressed. But mom and Nancy were pleased to report that in her new home, where she doesn’t have to worry anymore, she was like a new pup!

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Then… mom’s wallet was stolen when they were out to dinner one of the nights. It is Reno after all. Probably one of the biggest pick pocket cities in the US next to Vegas and New Orleans. Luckily, she had her passport and after hours and hours of phone calls and stress, she was able to iron everything out and eventually get a flight home.

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Last night’s simple dinner. Salmon, quinoa, & steamed beets.

On our end, Tony got some kind of strange eye infection that was very painful. He wears extended wear contacts…which I think is a terrible idea for your eyes! I tried to tell him it was an infection at the very beginning and to go to the doctor…but do you think he would take my word for it? Of course not. Three days later after sleepless nights and a lot of pain, he finally went to the eye doctor and you know what she told him? You guessed it.

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This morning’s breakfast. Quinoa and salmon stuffed squash.

 

For me, January has been a cruddy health roller coaster. I’ve  had numerous horrible migraines and have been feeling under the weather. My focus for the beginning of the New Year was going to be on “rest and relaxation”after an extremely busy December. But you know how that goes. I hate to give into the “sick” and rest during the day.

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And because when it rains it pours, Romeo tore some ligaments in his right knee. He yelped on a hike we were on in the snow a few weeks ago but we couldn’t determine the issue. So we rested him for a few days and he seemed fine.

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About a week ago we were walking them and he was running around like a maniac in the snow of course, and he yelped again. Well, this time, he was definitely favoring one leg. We rested it for another few days with no improvement, and decided it was time to see the vet. They put him on “bed rest” for two weeks. A practically impossible feat.

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They are active dogs and we walk, hike, run, or mountain bike with them every day. Two weeks is a lifetime for all of us! While we were at the vet I also had the doc look at some growths on Abigail that we recently found. Turns out she’ll need those removed as well. In two weeks if Romeo’s knee is not greatly improved, then he’ll need surgery (and I’m assuming more “bed rest”) and Abigail will go in at the same time to have the growths removed.

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Not quite the January I would have planned for all of us of course, but as we all know, we aren’t the planners of this life. So instead of getting bogged down, we try to focus on the good of it all. With Mike, although he’ll be missed greatly, it was a blessing that mom and his children had each other for support and were able to be there to say goodbye. As my husband said in his prayer for Mike, “He was one of the good ones.” It’s also a blessing to be able to know that Mike’s best friend is being taken care of by trusted, loving, people.

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Our new favorite pizza place. Gluten free and dairy free options.

 

Mom’s wallet thing all worked out. And in the end, she said it was probably a blessing because had she still had her wallet and all of her cash she took down there with her, she would have stayed much longer to take care of Mike’s belongings, which would have been really hard on her as she and Mike were close, and all the kids had to go back home to work. So for now, it can all wait, and they can work on it together this summer.

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My faithful epsom bath companion.

With Tony’s eye, we can be thankful that it wasn’t serious, and be very thankful that we have insurance to pay for things like that. Another blessing.

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Breakfast yesterday. Homemade coconut milk yogurt with all kinds of goodies.

For me, the bright side is always, always….that things could be much worse health wise. I try really hard to take it one day at a time and focus on the good parts.

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As for the fur babies, every day we have with them is a tremendous blessing. And thankfully, Tony  has a good job and we have the means to help them when they need it.

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Though sometimes it feels like the stress outweighs the joy, if you pay close attention, there’s always good to focus on and things to be grateful for!

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Chocolate Chai Tea Latte

*Makes 2 servings

1 1/2 Cups of Filtered Water

2 Decaf Black Tea Bags

1/2 Cup of 100% Coconut Milk

1 ounce of Dark Chocolate

 2 teaspoons Chai Tea Spice Mix (see below)

1 teaspoon of Raw Honey

Chai Spice Mix: 

1 Small Jar

3 teaspoons of Turmeric

4 teaspoons of Cardamom

5 teaspoons of Cloves

4 teaspoons of Allspice

10 teaspoons of Cinnamon

7 teaspoons of Ginger

Measure all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Spoon into a storage jar.

Bring the filtered water to a boil in a small pan. Turn off heat and add tea bags, steep for 10 minutes. Remove bags, heat on medium and add the chocolate, coconut milk, and chai spices. Bring to a low boil, remove from heat and add honey.

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Time To Rest & Reflect ~ My Corner Of The World

5 Comments

2015-12-15 20.32.21

Another Christmas has come and gone.

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I am always a little sad about it as it’s my favorite time of year.

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I’ve even started decorating prior to Thanksgiving to try to stretch it out as long as possible.

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The snow, the music, the baking, the shopping, the decorations and just the whole feel of such a peaceful and joyous holiday should last more than a month, I think.

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I’m always saddened to hear there are people who don’t like it, or have a hard time with it.

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Sometimes I think it really is just as simple as “it’s all what you make of it”.

If you don’t like certain things about it, change it up.

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Make new traditions! Make it whatever you want, with whomever you want.

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Make it big or little or travel or stay.

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And yes it’s work and yes there’s a lot involved and yes, you’ll more than likely be whooped afterward like I am.

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But it’s a good tired.

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When you’re tired from having fun and baking and making things that people love, and spending time with friends and family, and enjoying the hubbub of the holiday, it’s a good tired. There are many worse ways to be tired.

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With the festivities over and everything winding down, now it’s time to rest for the New Year.

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I love fresh beginnings.

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Take a little time to yourself before the New Year.

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Take a little time to reflect.

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What did you love about the last year?

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What will you do differently next year?

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What do you look forward to?

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What will you do to be happier and healthier?

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Jot them down so you don’t forget. Place them someplace special where you’ll see them.

There’s been studies done since the 30’s that show that if you share your goals and resolutions with other people, you’re less likely to fulfill them.

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Doesn’t seem to make sense I know, but it’s best to wrap them up and keep quiet, and then celebrate with your favorite people when you’ve reached each one.

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Don’t do too many, just a few based on your reflections on the past year. Only things that are truly important.

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If we’re lucky, over the past year, we’ve learned a few good things we can take with us into the New Year.

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Even if it was a tough year, if you look closely, there’s always blessings and good lessons.

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So.

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Many.

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Blessings. 

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If you and I had kept track of every single little blessing over the past year, we would run out of places to put them. They pile up even when we’re not noticing.

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It’s all about perspective.

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I hope your holiday season was filled with fun and good food and  a lot of love.

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And beauty.

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And peace.

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For the New Year, I wish you health, overwhelming amounts of joy, and growth, and goals fulfilled, rest, and peace overflowing. That your eyes will be opened to all the good even in difficult times, that your worries will be few and your celebrations abundant.

~ April xoxo

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Merry Christmas Eve

9 Comments

2015-12-24 11.00.17

It’s 11:00….AM and I’m drinking a margarita and snacking on Christmas cookies.

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Someone has to test the cocktails before Christmas brunch tomorrow! We wouldn’t want to set out a disappointing cocktail.

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Food prep is well underway, the house is being straightened, last-minute gifts have been wrapped and everything outside is covered in a gorgeous, pristine white, blanket of snow. We will be having a white Christmas for the first time since moving back to Washington.

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We have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas and we look forward to a happy and healthy New Year.

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Blessings to you and yours and may your Christmas be peaceful and joyful and filled with the people you love. ~ April 

Grapefruit Margarita

Silver Tequila

Simply Grapefruit Juice

Simply Lime Juice

Perrier

Grapefruit & Lime Slices

Coconut Sugar

Sea Salt

True Lime Crystallized Lime

I didn’t really measure….it depends on how many you’re serving. I made a big glass pitcher. I’d say about 2 Cups of tequila, 3/4 jug of grapefruit juice, and 1/2 a jug of lime juice. I made mine yesterday, so it will “marinate” in the fridge until brunch tomorrow. Then when I’m ready to serve it I’ll rim the glasses with a mixture of coconut sugar, sea salt, and the crystallized lime. Put a good amount of ice in a tumbler, fill 3/4 of the way with the tequila mixture and then top off with Perrier. Add a wedge of grapefruit and a wedge of lime to the glass.

Enjoy!

Toasted Coconut Pecan Toffee

3 Comments

2015-12-21 14.13.04

I’m knee-deep in Christmas preparations but never too busy to make a few favorites. I love the Christmas holiday and I look forward to the family traditions we’ve established over the years. One one of them of course, is holiday goodies. This year I veered off the grain free path to make our favorite gluten-free and dairy free gingerbread, sugar cookies, and pie dough cookies.

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I usually make a few different types of candy but just wanted to stick to one this year (maybe two if I have extra time) and settled on toffee. I really wanted to try to use coconut sugar as much as possible in the baking this year as it is one of healthier forms of unrefined sugar.

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I don’t have many toffee prep pictures for you because I burned the 1st batch so I kept an eagle eye on the 2nd batch and kept my spoon moving which made it impossible to take prep pictures. The first batch I didn’t add water and I cooked it the traditional way. Once it started boiling I didn’t stir it and allowed it to get to 280 or so. One second it was looking fantastic and I was sending pictures to my friend Kelly in Florida and to my husband where he was getting the car repaired….and the next second it was smoking and completely separated. It turned ugly very quickly. That’s what I get I guess for sending out pictures and boasting about my beautiful toffee!

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So the second batch I added a little water and stirred it the entire time. I also stayed off the phone and didn’t pay much attention to the thermometer. I just eyeballed it and about 10 seconds before I felt it was going to get too thick and burn I whisked it off the burner and poured it into the pan. Less than 8 minutes from the beginning of when it began to boil. Then I topped it with dairy free mini chocolate chips and toasted coconut and pecans and crossed my fingers that it would set up properly. Thankfully, it was a success and tastes wonderful! The coconut sugar gives it an extra strong toffee flavor and the color is a deep and rich, velvety brown.

Great for snacking and beautiful for gift giving.

Toasted Coconut Pecan Toffee

About 1/4 Cup of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

About 1/3 Cup of Chopped Pecans

1 Cup of Dairy Free Butter

1 1/3 Cups of Coconut Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Water

1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1/2 Cup of Miniature Dairy Free Chocolate Chips

Measure the coconut and chopped pecans into a large skillet and toast on medium heat until the coconut is golden and you can smell the nuts toasting. Set aside. Line a small baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

In a heavy pan or dutch oven, measure the sugar, butter, water, and salt. Heat on medium stirring constantly. It will take a couple of minutes for the sugar and butter to incorporate. Once it starts boiling, keep a good eye on it and stir it the entire time. You can use a thermometer but with the first batch I did, it was clear that coconut sugar and dairy free butter don’t need to get up to 280 to form toffee and if they do, they will likely burn and separate. I removed mine from the burner when it was getting very thick to the point where my spoon marks were remaining in the mixture as I stirred.

At the point where you pour it out of the pan, you’re going to have to work very quickly. Pour it and then pick up the pan to spread it around. Don’t use a spoon or spatula as it will glob up and stick. Then, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, wait for about 3 minutes and spread them out over the top of the toffee. Sprinkle with the coconut and pecan mixture and chill for 20-30 minutes to set.

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