My Corner of The World

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GOOD MORNING!

I think spring is finally on its way to the Inland Northwest. Things are beginning to green up and bud. The Yellow Finch, Doves Starlings, Robins, and Quail have come out of hiding and arrived in our backyard. They don’t seem to mind one bit that it’s been pouring and gray for weeks on end and is only 38 degrees this morning.  Although I prefer it sunny and 80 degrees, there are still many little blessings to be found in this type of weather. You just have to work harder to see them and appreciate them.

One thing I love about spring more than anything else, when the birds arrive, the yard sounds like a jungle filled with a chorus of all different types of voices that seamlessly form one beautiful song.

Finding A Place At The Table

I was able to catch a few of our visitors this morning as they stopped by for a snack. Soon, when the weather warms up, we’ll also be visited by the Peregrine Falcon that likes to perch on our fence and meditate, the Bald Eagle that sours over the neighborhood in circles making that beautiful Bald Eagle sound it makes. Then, when things are in full bloom, the Hummingbirds will arrive in all their glory. For such a busy bird they are remarkably friendly and curious when I’m out in the yard working or sitting on the deck observing.

But for now, we’ll have to be happy with the rain and happy with the clouds that bring the rain. By the end of May our area will be emerald-green, lush and bursting with growth, inviting us out into the yard to enjoy the sun and an evening cocktail as we put our feet up and savor every moment we can.

An Early Morning Snack

Waiting Patiently

Posing Like Acrobats

The Brave One

The only one willing to stay when the dogs came out doing what bird dogs do.

The Obnoxious Cousins

You know the ones. They come to visit for the summer. It’s exciting to see them at first because it means the beginning of hot summer days and lazy summer nights. But a week into the visit, you realize you’re already tired of their selfish ways and obnoxious behavior.

Even The Ever Peaceful Doves Are Annoyed By The Cousins

“Come on Doris, let’s go play somewhere else. You know how they are.”

You Snooze, You Lose

“Ha-haaaaa! It’s ALL mine!”

Three Curious Ones Remain

Well, I’m off to see to Saturday’s chores.

Praying there is a break in the weather today so I can get my hands dirty in the yard.

I hope you all have a wonderful and productive Saturday!

Abigail also sends her best wishes.

Individual Scalloped Potatoes

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Ahhhh…comfort food.

It’s been raining here for what seems like years.

I think we’ve only had one full day of sun in something like 4 or 5 weeks.

I’m still in winter comfort food mode.

Can you blame me?

Some people think it’s the end of their world when they’ve been diagnosed with food allergies. Being dairy free and gluten-free isn’t really all that difficult. It can be done, and it can be done well. You don’t have to deprive yourself of all of the comfort foods life has to offer. Scalloped potatoes are definitely one of those comfort foods I would certainly hate to say goodbye to forever and now I don’t have to.

If you have a favorite holiday food or special side dish that you can no longer “have” because of allergy limitations, get creative. Carve out a little time in your schedule once every couple of weeks to experiment with your favorite dish. Do some research, use the original recipe as a starting point for measurements, etc. This recipe is adapted from Food Network Magazine’s recipe for Mini Scalloped Potatoes. I used it as a starting point so that I would have a balance between the solids and liquids. Then, I added garlic, green onion, thyme, paprika, bacon, sheep’s milk cheese and exchanged the dairy ingredients to non-dairy ingredients. It’s really just as easy as that.

 

Living allergen free does mean that a little more work and patience is required on your part. But it certainly does not mean that you will need to learn to be happy with less tasty and satisfying meals. These scalloped potatoes are 100% dairy and gluten-free. Perfect alongside your upcoming Easter ham.

Individual Scalloped Potatoes

About 1 Tablespoon Dairy Free Butter, melted for the ramekins

1 1/4 Cups Daiya Vegan Cheddar Style Cheese

1/2 Cup Dairy Free (Vegan) Parmesan Cheese

About 2 Tablespoons Sheep’s Milk Cheese, crumbled

(Next time I would also add Manchego…)

1 Green Onion, finely chopped

1 Large Clove Garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Fresh Thyme, finely chopped

About 1 Tablespoon Crisp Bacon, crumbled (if you have it leftover from breakfast)

1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes, (4 to 5 mini ones) sliced about 1/8 inch thick

1/2 teaspoon Paprika

A Healthy Pinch of Kosher Salt

Several Grinds of Pepper

1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Creamer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously brush ramekins (I used 3 oversized, their recipe calls for 6 – 6-8 ounce ramekins) with the melted butter and set aside. I don’t think it would quite fill an 8×8 baking dish though. If you plan to have it with a holiday meal, I would double the recipe.

Combine the vegan cheddar, vegan parmesan, sheep’s milk cheese, onion, garlic, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, and potatoes in a medium bowl.

Divide half of this mixture among the ramekins, arranging the potatoes around each ramekin and distributing the cheese mixture as evenly as possible. Top with half of the non-dairy cream.

Repeat with the remaining potato and cheese mixture and cream. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove tin foil, increase oven temperature to 425, and bake for another 20 minutes.

Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Crusty Boule

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All I can say is thank goodness people have gone down this road before me! Isn’t that true in a lot of areas of life?

When it comes to gluten-free bread, things can get tricky. If you’re new to the gluten-free world you may or may not know, depending on how much experimentation you’ve done, that gluten-free bread doesn’t react like gluten-full bread. The positives to this of course, are that you don’t feel like you’re going to die after you eat it, and with a little bit of trial and error and work, you too can enjoy your bread just like the rest of the world. This is great news for those of us who aren’t fine with a low carb or no carb diet. Egads…I understand watching calories and trying to stay fit…but no bread? No way!

I ran across the “Bread in Five” couple’s website, and I’m so thankful I did. I had seen them on morning talk shows but wasn’t aware that they also do gluten-free breads. I used their exact recipe for the gluten-free Boule, as it is always best to try the original first and then experiment the second time around in case you run across kinks the first time. So I will send you over to their website for the recipe and directions.

Although the recipe remains the same, I did change just two things in the actual making of the bread. They really love to use a 5 quart plastic container to mix their bread doughs.  I guess it makes for easy storage. By the way, this recipe makes several small loves. It can be refrigerated for up to 7 days, and you can take as much out as you like each day for fresh bread.

The only problems I ran across with using the 5 quart container is that I’m short. Yes, there it is out there for all the world to know. Not horribly short, but short enough that having to reach above the 5 quart container made it very awkward without a step stool. I also didn’t like the use of a wooden spoon as a stirring stick…because evidently, not only am I too short, but I’m a weakling too. So I chose to pour all of it into a large glass bowl and mix it with my hand the old-fashioned way. The glass bowl can still be stored in the fridge and it doesn’t change the dough in any way.

So, without further ado, I present to you Artisan Bread In Five’s – Gluten Free (and dairy free) Crusty Boule.

Prior to its 2 hour rest.

Only a half hour into its rest…see those gaps and holes in the dough? That’s a very good sign that things are doing what they should.

After its 2 hour rest. It has risen significantly and smells yeasty and fabulous!

A large grapefruit sized piece getting ready for its 90 minute rest.

You might be thinking that this bread is an all day adventure, but it’s not. You can make the dough ahead of time, which only takes about 7 minutes. Allow it to rest for 2 hours on your counter and then refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it over the next 7 days.  At that point, it will only need a couple of minutes of shaping and a 90 minute rest on your counter until it is baked for 35 minutes.

Here it is going into the 500 degree Dutch Oven…BE CAREFUL!

After the first portion of baking, at the lid removal point. Again, be careful.

And here it is coming out of the oven for the last time.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.

Next time I make this bread I am going to skip the “smoothing stage”. I think that I ended up patting down the dough a little too much, resulting in a more dense loaf. I was hoping for a little more height.  The bread is delicious though. A nice crunchy crust on the outside,   and soft on the inside. Very flavorful and I think it would also work well shaped into a baguette, into smaller boules that could be eaten and torn apart in pieces with soup, or even a much larger boule.

Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix

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I’m not above making something from a box as long as it’s healthy and isn’t loaded with crazy stuff that I cannot pronounce. We tried a new pizza crust mix the other night. Another find from an obscure part of the grocery store. It’s made with brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and yellow corn meal. If you’re in a pinch and don’t feel like whipping up a batch of pizza dough from scratch, this is quite good. Just add eggs, water, and olive oil. It had the crispy edges I love and was soft (not too soft) and fluffy in the middle.

*Makes two 12 inch pizzas.

Got 2 thumbs up from the hubs and me. I think it would also make a nice cracker if it was rolled very thin, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with kosher salt and herbs. Break it into rustic pieces…yummy.

Dried Apricot and Almond Butter Granola Bars

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A healthy and delicious snack packed with protein and fiber. If you want it even healthier, you can leave off the chocolate. But that just takes all the fun out of it.

Dried Apricot and Almond Butter Granola Bars

*Preheat oven to 325 degrees (I use convection)

2 3/4 Cups Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 Cup Dried Apricots, snipped

1/3 Cup Dry Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 Cup Raw Almond Butter (no sugar, salt added just almonds)

1/2 Cup Light Agave Nectar

1 1/2 Tablespoons Pure Coconut Oil, melted

1 Egg

Pinch of Kosher Salt

8 oz. of 72% Dark Chocolate, melted (after bars have cooled)

Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Line and 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper so that it also comes up the sides. Scoop mixture into baking dish. With another small piece of parchment, press mixture firmly into dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and top begins to turn golden. Allow to cool almost completely.

Remove bars with parchment from dish. Score first, then go over them again and cut. Place on wire rack to cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Dip bottoms of bars in chocolate and replace on cooling rack chocolate side up to set. This was a messy job and pieces of the granola fell off into the chocolate. When I make them again, I will probably just drizzle the chocolate over the top of the bars. If you decide to drizzle, then I would cut the chocolate amount to 4 ounces, depending on how much chocolate you want on the bars.

Frosted Banana Love Bites

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Our son came over the other day to help me go through some storage things in our basement and re-organize. He was a HUGE help. I don’t mind admitting that at 43, I really no longer have some of the oomph I used to that’s needed to haul huge boxes up and down the stairs and load the car for dump runs.  He ran up and down the stairs for me, loaded about 200 pounds of old paint cans in the car, made runs to the dump and Goodwill, and helped me lift and move things that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. By the way, he’s almost 20 years old and 6 feet tall, so not a little boy anymore. Enter big sigh here. I’m loving the man he’s becoming but I sure miss the little boy he used to be!

While we were digging around under the stairs we ran across a storage box full of items that he’s given me over the years. What memories! It was so much fun looking through everything. It’s a good thing he was here with me, otherwise I probably would have bawled through the whole thing. Moms are weird like that. But with him here to go through it with me, we were able to talk and reminisce about some of the items. Wonderful, wonderful, memories that I will cherish forever. Among the paintings, art projects made with Fimo clay, water colors, chalk drawings, school binder projects, funny and original stories written in his young little hand, were some other very special items to me.

Heart rocks that he would find and give to me when we traveled or when he and my husband were on their boy’s get aways. I was always amazed when he could find rocks shaped like a heart. When he would present them to me it would melt my heart and I would kiss him all over his sweet, soft, cheeks. He even wrote “I Love You” on one of them in pencil that is still there after all of these years!

We dug deeper and then I ran across a chain filled with dime machine rings. Twelve in all. When he would go to the grocery store with me or run errands with my husband he would often buy one for me. The crucifix chain they’re hanging on was also a dime machine find that he found for me. Finding that was one of those moments where you just have to clutch it to your heart, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Such wonderful memories that on one hand seem like yesterday and on another hand when you look at your grown child, seem like a lifetime ago.

How blessed am I to have such wonderful memories of a little boy with a huge heart for his momma and now, a young man who is so helpful?!

I had a bit of time to burn in the morning before he arrived so I thought I would make a little treat for us. Quick and easy and the only thing better than banana bread slathered in butter is FROSTED banana bread. Banana bread made into cute little cakes is even better.

Frosted Banana Love Bites

Pre-heat oven to 325° and oil 2 non-stick mini bundt pans, set aside.

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

1 tsp. Pure Vanilla

2 tsp. Baking Powder

1 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. Xanthan Gum

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

3 Very Ripe Bananas

1 3/4 Cups Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour

In a mixer, add the oil, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and bananas. Mix on medium until ingredients are combined and bananas are broken up, about 30 seconds.  Turn mixer off, scrape down sides, and add flour and xanthan gum. Mix on stir setting  until combined. About 40 seconds.  Spoon into prepared bundt pans. I filled them about 3/4 full. It made about 14 miniature bundt cakes.

Bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Do not overcook as banana bread dries out very easily. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

Cinnamon Sugar Drizzle

About 1/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter

About 3 Cups Powdered Sugar

About 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

About 1 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract

Almond Milk

Melt the butter in the microwave. Add sugar, cinnamon, and almond extract. Stir to combine. Thin with almond milk to create a thick drizzling consistency. Whisk to remove any lumps. Drizzle over cakes and allow to set.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

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Have I told you about my love affair with pie dough? We go way back. In fact, I look for ways to have more pie dough in my life. What’s not to love? It’s the crowning glory of  pie! Or it should be anyway. I’ve tasted many pie crusts in my time, and some certainly are not affair worthy.  If you’re going to have a long love affair with pie crust, it has to be worth every bite. Every single bite should make your eyes roll back in your head and make you think it could possibly be the best thing you’ve had in a long, long, time.

I thought I would have to break off my love affair with pie dough when I went gluten-free. It was a sad, sad, day. However, once I started to learn about cooking gluten-free (and dairy free), I realized that there would be no need for me to say goodbye to my favorite foods.  I started experimenting with my mother in law’s pie dough recipe (from her mom), and after a few tries…ta daaaaa! Gluten free pie dough for any occasion. I love it when that happens.

In case I haven’t already said this at least 10 times in my last ten posts, it’s been raining here. Hard. Cloudy, gray, windy, monsoon, tornado, crazy kind of rain. We are all desperate for some sun. We live on the east side of the Cascades. Meaning, Seattle is supposed to get this much rain, not us. With the weather being like this, I just can’t bring myself to cook spring dishes, just yet. I’ve been craving pie crust (who doesn’t?) and figured that chicken pot pies would be a nice, cozy, meal that would go very well with our current weather pattern.

Chicken pot pies, especially individual ones, are a weekend meal or a meal made for a day where you really don’t have much planned. There are a lot of steps, and your kitchen will look like a tornado hit it because at the end, all of the steps come together at once. But fear not, it will all be worth it.

Because there are so many steps, I didn’t take a lot pictures along the way and I didn’t write a lot of things down… I don’t measure much unless I’m baking, but I will try to give you the basics of what I did. I very, very, loosely followed The Farm House Cookbook’s recipe for Chicken Pot Pie With Thyme Crust. Her recipe has a gazillion additions and steps which I did not follow. I took a lot of shortcuts but I did use it for “basic” knowledge on how to make everything come together to create a great pot pie. Her recipe also calls for hard-boiled eggs…for some reason I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that. Yuck.

The pie dough recipe is HERE and it does have exact measurements. It also needs to be made the day before or at least a minimum of 6 hours before you want to roll it out so it gets a good chill.

I also baked a whole, organic, chicken the day before to use in the pot pies. If you’re pressed for time, you can bake chicken breasts, or buy a rotisserie chicken from your local grocer. However…I will honestly tell you, nothing tastes the same as a freshly baked, organic, chicken. If you have the time, it’s worth it.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

1 Full Batch of Gluten Free Pie Dough ( I had enough left over to do a small tray of cinnamon and sugar crusts for dessert)

About 4 1/2 Cups Gluten Free, Organic, Chicken Stock

2 Bay Leaves

A Sprinkle of  Whole Peppercorns

About 4 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

About 2 Tablespoons Mama’s All Almond All Purpose Blend Flour

About 1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Creamer

Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper

About 6 Baby Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed

1 Medium Organic Onion, diced

2 Organic Ribs of Celery, sliced down the middle and diced

4 Cloves of Organic Garlic, minced

About 1 Tablespoon Organic Sage leaves, chopped

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Organic Thyme, chopped

About 1/2 Tablespoon Organic Rosemary, chopped

About 3 1/2 Cups Cooked Organic Chicken, cubed

1 Small Bag of Organic Frozen Vegetables (mine had corn, peas, carrots, & green beans)

1 egg, whisked to brush over top crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

This recipe makes 4 somewhat large, individual pot pies, or 1 regular size pot pie in about a 9″ pie plate.

1.  Roll out pie dough and line each individual dish. Trim tops and pinch to crimp the sides to the dishes.

2.  Line with parchment and fill with beans to weigh down dough and keep it from shrinking.

3.  Place dishes on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove beans and parchment, bake for another 10 minutes until crust begins  to turn golden. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.

4.  Combine the chicken stock, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let it infuse for at least 5 minutes. Strain the peppercorns and bay leaves and set the stock aside.

5.  Melt 2 Tablespoons of the dairy free butter in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Whisk in the almond flour and cook until the mixture bubbles, whisking the entire time. Continue cooking, whisking the entire time for about another 2 minutes. It will seize, and then spread out again and turn golden. This goes rather quickly and be careful, you don’t want to burn the rue.

6.  Slowly whisk in the infused chicken stock, whisking constantly until it thickens. Add the non dairy creamer and season to taste with plenty of kosher salt and ground pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

7.  Place a steam basket in a large pan that can be covered and add the cubed potatoes. Steam until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

8.  Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons (maybe a little more) of dairy free butter in a large skillet. Add the diced onions and celery. Saute until onions and celery are tender but slightly aldente, add the chopped garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the frozen vegetables and cook until heated through.

9.  Add the chopped herbs, cooked chicken, and potatoes. Cook until heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

10.  On a floured surface, roll out pie dough for the top crusts. Cut, set aside.

11.  Add the thickened stock to the chicken, vegetable, and potato mixture, stir to combine. Taste and season.

12.  Fill each individual dish all the way to the top with the mixture. I didn’t have any remaining when I was finished. I used individual, over-sized, ramekins.

13.  Cover the top of each dish with pie dough. Trim edges and press down around each dish to seal.

14.  Make 2-3 large slits across the top of each dish so that the pies don’t leak through the top dough. They will leak a little around the sides, you just don’t want them leaking on the top because it ruins the pretty look of the pie.

15. Brush the whisked egg over the top of each dish and place them on a baking sheet.

16. Bake for about 40 minutes until the insides are bubbling vigorously and the crust is dry to the touch and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

You can make a yummy little snack with any of the leftover dough: Roll remaining dough onto a piece of parchment. Spread with dairy free butter, sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon, run a knife through it to make strips, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.