Making Do

10 Comments

It seems like much longer than it really has been since we’ve had appliances. I think it’s been about 2 1/2 weeks but it seems like months. I of course, am used to using my stove every day and bake things at least four times a week so the delivery of our new appliances today has me very excited!  The stove won’t be hooked up to the gas until next week…but even still, at least they’re here.

We’ve been making do quite well, I think. It hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it would be to live without carpet, flooring, appliances, and living basically in one room for a while. I’m not used to the chaos and mess, but that will be easily fixed by Friday of next week. We are blessed to be able to do a little remodel and life could be much, much, worse so it’s pretty hard to complain too much about a slight inconvenience for a few weeks.

This morning I started my day off with a turkey sandwich (leftovers from our wonderful dinner at my in law’s), potato salad (pre-made Reser’s from the local grocery store), and a nice steaming cup of Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate (via the microwave). A great breakfast, if you ask me!

Million Dollar Stuffing

12 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’re still living without appliances or carpet until next week. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to be able to go over to mom’s house and do some cooking!

Stuffing or dressing? Does stuffing mean that it’s cooked in the bird and dressing mean that it’s cooked outside the bird? Or does it just depend on which part of the country you’re from? We’ve always called it stuffing. Maybe because we have always cooked it in the bird, I’m not really sure. This year we’re headed out to my in law’s for Thanksgiving and I’m bringing the GF DF stuffing and GF DF Pecan Pie Bars. (Which already have an entire missing row, by the way.)

I decided to name it Million Dollar Stuffing because basically, it’s very spendy to make. About $25.00 for an 8 1/2 by 11 pan. You could probably cut the cost a bit by making your own gluten free bread, but probably not by much. The flours that go into making homemade gluten free bread are also expensive.

It is Thanksgiving after all, and stuffing is by far the food I look most forward to today. So with that said, and a warning about the cost…stuffing it is! Or is that dressing?

Million Dollar Stuffing

Preheat Oven to 350°

2 Loaves Udi’s Whole Grain Gluten Free Bread (or your favorite gf bread, or homemade gf bread)

1 Package All Natural GF Bacon, partially frozen

4 Stalks  Celery, sliced lengthwise and diced

1 Medium Sweet Onion, diced

3 Cloves Garlic, minced

1-2 Boxes GF Chicken Stock (I used 1 whole box and will take the other box to pour a little over the pan before re-heating)

Dairy Free Butter, about 2 1/2 Tablespoons

1 Jar Poultry Seasoning (or your favorite stuffing seasoning or fresh herbs)

Sea Salt

Olive Oil

Slice and cube the gluten-free bread. The amount will depend on how many people you are serving, of course. I thought I would need three loaves but only ended up needing two.

Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet, sprinkle 1/2 the jar of poultry seasoning over the top,  toss with fingers.

Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, remove. Toss, then bake for another 15 minutes or until the cubes are browned and crisp on the outside with a little softness on the inside.

While the bread cubes are toasting, get the vegetables and garlic ready.

Dice the bacon and fry in a skillet until it is crisp on the outside but still a little chewy. Yes, the entire package! This isn’t “diet day” it’s Thanksgiving.

Remove the crisp bacon with a slotted spoon onto paper towels. Reserve 2 Tablespoons or so of the bacon fat to saute the onions, celery and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent and the celery only has a slight crunch.

Place the toasted and seasoned bread cubes in a bowl, top with the sautéed veggies and bacon.

Add the remaining half jar of poultry seasoning. Season generously with sea salt. Pour 1 box of the chicken stock in a 4 cup glass measuring cup and add the 2 1/2 Tablespoons of  dairy free butter. Microwave for about 2-3 minutes or until stock is hot and butter is melted.

Pour 1/2 of the heated liquid over the top of the other ingredients in the bowl and toss carefully until liquid is absorbed into the bread cubes. Repeat with the remaining liquid.

Drizzle olive oil in a nice baking dish and rub around the bottom and sides with a paper towel.

Fill with the stuffing, cover with tin foil,  and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. This stuffing can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated. When you’re ready to heat it, pour a little more chicken stock over the top, cover with foil and heat for about 30 minutes or until it is heated through in a 350 degree oven.

This is Miss Penelope. My mother is “babysitting” her for my son for a while. We can probably all see where that is going! She’s adorable and such a talker. Watched me the entire time I made the stuffing. Shared a little bacon with her and now I have a friend for life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you from the Policani Family and Miss Penelope!

The View From Over Here – My Corner Of The World

11 Comments

We’re on day 5 of the “make-over”. Day 5 without a kitchen, day 2 with all of our furniture living in the garage, I can’t even remember how many days we’ve been without carpet and flooring (steer clear of the tack strips – ouch!), and day 1 without usable bathrooms. The trailer is our new home for the next few days until the new tile is able to be walked on and we can re-install all the potties. Soon we’ll have new carpet and new appliances. Painting is almost done. There’s nothing quite like having your entire house torn apart at once. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

I’m really looking forward to doing all of my holiday baking in the new “ish” kitchen! That is, once we purchase the appliances. Um, yah, we better get on that. At the beginning of this process things were moving so slowly that we felt like we had all the time in the world to figure out what we were doing. Paint colors, appliances, etc. The pace has picked up dramatically and we are still running in slow motion! That might be in part, due to this (the photo below)  and the fact that we’re sore, tired, and not the young, agile little chicklets we once were….

Yep. Seems that the builder didn’t want our floors to squeak…ever. So they glued, screwed, and nailed the underlayment flooring to the  sub-flooring. Quite the task involving hammers, crow bars, and some kind of small jack hammer tool we had to purchase. This was just the first area of 5 that had to be scraped and beaten into submission. Unbelievably dusty, messy, and incredibly loud. With the trailer in front of our house and the sound of the air compressor and jack hammer for several days in a row…I’m sure our neighbors are loving us.

On another somewhat separate subject, someone so “lovingly” keeps posting the Christmas Countdown on Facebook (37 Days, 9 Hours, and 20 minutes in case you were just dying to know).I’m trying to ignore it, I keep telling myself, “Look away! Look away! “. I love the Christmas holiday, it’s by far, my favorite time of year. But for some reason, now that we’re living in a trailer in our front yard, our house is gutted, and I just put on the first pair of clean jeans in a week…I’m not liking the Christmas Countdown reminder, at all. I just want everything to come to a screeching halt so I don’t miss any of the Christmas fun. Then, once we have the house back together, it’s fully decorated for Christmas, and I’m nibbling on frosted gingerbread cookies…THEN I’ll be ready to look at the Christmas Countdown clock without feeling like someone has their hand around my throat.  I mean seriously people, it’s not even Thanksgiving!

Abigail sat in the window almost the entire day today (notice nose smudges) keeping an eye on every move the tile guy made as he ran in and out of the house. She may be small but she’s definitely the Queen and the one that thinks she needs to keep an eye on things.

And then…there’s Romeo. Romeo, who is 1 year older, weighs about 25 pounds more than Abigail, and is several inches taller. Hiding under the blankets in the bedroom of the trailer. Thoroughly irritated that we have disrupted his routine.

We’re hoping almost everything will be finished the week after Thanksgiving. Then it’s time for some Christmas cheer!

Banana Apple Muffins

6 Comments

This will probably be my last post for a couple of weeks, unless I get really creative with the toaster and microwave. Right now our refrigerator is sitting in our dining area and our oven and dishwasher are in the garage. We’ve been working hard removing all of the flooring in the house in anticipation of new, beautiful, flooring and appliances. My organized world has now been turned upside down and covered with a thick layer of construction dust. A small price to pay for the excitement of what’s ahead!

Yesterday, I was able to squeeze in one more recipe before my husband and brother-in-law hauled my oven to the garage. Maybe I should have called them construction muffins!

Banana Apple Muffins (AKA Construction Muffins)

Preheat oven to 350° 

3 VERY Ripe Bananas

2 Large Eggs

1/3 Cup Canola Oil (or Olive)

2/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed

1 1/2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 3/4 Cup Gluten Free Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose)

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

3/4 of a Honey Crisp Apple, diced

*more brown sugar for sprinkling

Add the bananas, eggs, oil, brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and sea salt to a mixer and mix on medium until incorporated (about 10 seconds). Scrape down bowl, mix for another 10 seconds. Do not over mix. Fold in the diced apples with a spatula.

Line a muffin tin (12) with muffin papers. Add the banana mixture, sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake for about 20 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Fresh Baked Cookies & Tea? Yes Please!

15 Comments

I believe that sitting down with a few freshly baked cookies, a hot cup of tea, and a good book is a special treat. It is a true luxury to be able to set aside a little time during the day to just unwind, to take a minute to breathe and release ourselves from our fast paced lives. Even if you only have a 10 minute break or a few minutes of time to yourself throughout your day, it’s totally worth it to spend that time with cookies and tea sitting peacefully, instead of multi-tasking like your head is on fire.

All of you Type A’s know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? In case you haven’t noticed, I was born one of those. Over the years I’ve had to teach myself that life doesn’t always need a “to do” list and the importance of taking little breaks throughout the day to unwind and enjoy my surroundings. Today, whether you’re at work, at home, running errands, whatever it is that you’re doing with your day…I urge you to set aside just a few minutes to unwind, relax, and enjoy the blessings this day has to offer.

Fruit & Nut Tea Cookies

*This recipe was inspired by a recipe in a book I just finished. The “Sugar Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke. The story itself was OK. The interesting thing about the book was that half of its pages were filled with recipes, which most of her series are. A fun addition to the typical murder mystery.

These cookies need to be chilled before baking, so no need to pre-heat the oven until you’re ready to bake them.

1 Cup Dairy Free Butter (I use Earth Balance Soy Free)

2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar, packed

2 Eggs

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1 1/2 teaspoons Pure Almond Extract

1 Cup Dried Cherries, diced

1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds, roughly chopped

3 1/2 Cups Gluten Free Flour (I use Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour)

Cream butter and sugar in mixer until very light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add almond extract and mix to thoroughly combine.

In a medium bowl add the flour, baking powder, and xanthan gum. Whisk to combine. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture slowly until thoroughly combined. Add Cherries and almonds, mix to combine.

Split dough in half into logs on two pieces of plastic wrap. Roll up, cover with foil and freeze or chill for at least three hours. I like to keep cookie logs in my freezer, if wrapped properly they will last at least a month or two. Then, if you have company stop by or just feel like a couple of cookies, you can cut off the amount needed and then return the roll to the freezer for next time.

When you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350° Remove a roll from the fridge or freezer and slice into thin discs. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes. They brown on the bottoms quickly, so you don’t want to over bake them.

This is our female Hungarian Vizsla, sweet miss Abigail Grace. We also have a male named Romeo who was lounging in his crate in our bedroom.

We can learn a lot from our furry friends. They play when it’s time to play, work when it’s time to work, and always take a few minutes to enjoy and rest in that sliver of sun beaming into their busy day.

Starting The Day Off On The Right Foot

6 Comments

I’m not a fan of starting my day off with a bowl of cereal, toast, and a glass of juice. I know a lot of people love that, but beginning my day with a plate or bowl full of carbs  usually puts me on a fast paced road headed straight for a migraine. If I’m lucky enough to avoid the migraine then I’m typically faced with extreme lethargy and a need for a nap when I come down from all of that sugar.

I don’t always wake up and make myself a nice breakfast. Sometimes it’s almond milk yogurt mixed with nuts, dried berries, and oats. Sometimes it’s leftovers from the night before, oatmeal with nuts and fruit, or eggs and toast. And sometimes, yes, I will indulge in pancakes, waffles, hot chocolate, or some other sweet delight, but always with some type of protein along with it. I think people with food sensitivities or allergies quickly start to realize that although they may be a foodie, certain foods don’t always love them back. I have to try to strike a balance or I’ll feel terrible for the rest of the day.

After coming off of a few days of the flu, much of yesterday was spent taking large quantities of ibuprofen and laying on the couch on ice packs. It seems that I have “done” something to my hip, back, and neck. (Enter whining noise here…) I couldn’t even tell you what I did to inflame half my body, guess we’ll chalk this one up to getting old. Anyhoo. This morning I woke up feeling half way decent and was able to move without wincing and actually felt like making a nice breakfast. I don’t like it when life interrupts my need and love for all things cooking and baking.

So, here it is. A nice, healthy, balanced breakfast, with a chocolaty treat on the side.

Egg on Bed of Sautéed Spinach, Red Onion, & Red Bell Pepper with Baked Delicata Squash, Whole Grain Gluten-Free Toast, & Pumpkin Spiced Hot Chocolate

For the Baked Delicata Squash: Wash and slice squash in half. Scoop out seeds and strings. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and garlic pepper. Bake at 350° for one hour. (Mine was leftover from the previous night. I simply warmed it in the microwave for 2 minutes and sliced. The skin is edible.)

For the Sautéed Veggies and Egg:  Drizzle olive oil in a medium skillet and warm on medium to medium high. Saute the onion and pepper until aldente. Add a handful of spinach and toss until wilted. In the same skillet or another skillet, crack an egg and cook to over easy, or any way you like your egg. Place on top of the bed of spinach and vegetables.

For the Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate: You can go here for the recipe. It is very quick and easy!

*I used Udi’s Whole Grain Gluten Free Bread for my toast and buttered it with Earth Balance (Dairy Free) Soy Free Natural Buttery Spread. 

Unbelievably Easy Shepherd’s Pie

19 Comments

It was 27 degrees this morning when we woke up.  Time to start thinking about all of those wonderful, homey, and comforting winter dinners. Shepherd’s pie is one of my favorites. However, my husband and I have been battling the flu for the past couple of days and even though we were hungry for dinner, I certainly didn’t feel like slaving over the stove for very long.  A traditional Shepherd’s pie isn’t all that hard to make, just time-consuming because of the mashed potatoes and then can be even more time-consuming depending on the type of meat you want to use.

I used Betty Crocker boxed potato flakes (go ahead and gasp…I can handle it), frozen mixed vegetables, boxed beef broth, and ground beef. Easy, easy, easy, and totally delicious and satisfying. So judge if you will, but sometimes even us foodies don’t feel like standing in the kitchen all afternoon preparing dinner.

I put this recipe into 4 oversized ramekins (Pier 1 – $2.95 ea.). They are the perfect personal size. It would also work just fine in an 8 1/2 x 11 baking dish. The cooking time may increase a bit. You can also make this a couple of hours ahead of time, cover, and refrigerate. Allow to sit on counter for 1/2 hour before baking.

Unbelievably Easy Shepherd’s Pie

About 1 lb. of High Quality Ground Beef

1 Small Bag Frozen Vegetables (about 2 Cups)

1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano (you can use whatever herbs you like, this is what I had fresh on hand)

1 Small Onion, diced

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and diced

1 Box Beef Broth (make sure it’s gluten-free, I use Pacific Organic Beef Broth)

1 Tablespoon Dairy Free Butter

Potato Starch or Corn Starch

Betty Crocker Potato Buds (follow directions for serving size for about 8, I also used dairy free butter and almond milk )

Sea Salt & Pepper

Olive Oil

Diced Green Onions

*Individual Oversized Ramekins or an 8 1/2 x 11 Baking Dish

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and set aside. Preheat oven to 425°.

Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet and heat on medium to medium high heat. Saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the beef and oregano and cook until done, season generously with sea salt and pepper (I also added a little garlic powder). Add the frozen vegetables and toss until heated through. Fill 4 oversized ramekins 3/4 full, set aside.

Next, add the butter to the same skillet and melt. Add the box of beef broth and bring to a boil. In a small glass add about 2 Tablespoons potato starch or corn starch (I prefer potato). Fill the glass with enough water or beef broth (I had another box) to cover the corn starch and stir with a fork until completely combined. Turn the broth down to a low boil and slowly whisk the potato starch mixture in. It will thicken pretty quickly so you’ll be able to see within about a minute or two if you want to add more or not.

Pour a couple of large spoonfuls over each meat filled ramekin and set aside.

Make the potatoes according to the instructions on the box. I use water, dairy free butter, and sea salt in the pan. Then when the potato flakes are stirred in I add warmed almond milk to think them out to a mashed potato consistency. It’s really a  no-brainer and so easy. Sometimes you might need to add more potato flakes and sometimes you might need to add more warmed milk.

Place the ramekins on the covered baking sheet and top with the potatoes.

Place in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes until it is bubbling and the potatoes are beginning to brown. They are hotter than heck when you take them out of the oven, so be careful!! Sprinkle with the diced green onions.