A Little Story of Love & Some Kick Ass Flatbread Crackers and Dip

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Both of the dogs are depressed. Tails are tucked under, ears are floppy, and there has been a lot of napping and sighing going on.

Tony took a flight out of town last night and is now in full work and travel mode.

The dogs have done nothing but mope around and look at me like, “Where is he and when is he coming back?”

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I think I may be a little depressed about the whole thing too. It’s a bittersweet kind of thing, I suppose.

I believe he left his job in New Hampshire sometime in March and then only physically worked for the company here for about a month before being laid off.

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That means that we have been able to spend about 9 months of true, quality time together. It’s only been one day and I miss our time together already.

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That’s the most consecutive time we’ve spent together without him having to travel out of town in the entire 23 years we’ve been married.

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I’m thankful we didn’t allow the stress of it to gobble us up. We didn’t end up resenting one another’s presence and getting on each other’s nerves…too much. You hear that a lot about couples who lose their jobs or retire.

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We’ve even had people say it to us when we’ve told them about our life over the last year, “Oh good, and you’re still together”, they say.  Tony’s answer to that is, “Well, I’m an exceptional husband.”

Which always gets a good snicker of course.

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This time we’ve had has made me look forward even more to retirement. It was something I actually thought about in the past. “Will we like spending all that time together when he retires?” “Will he drive me nuts?” “What will we do?”

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I can tell you I wasn’t bored one time during the last 9 months. We found all kinds of enjoyable stuff to do together and there were only a few tense moments. Those moments were really only due to the fact that he makes noise and watches TV more than I do. Prior to him being off work for so long, I was used to a very quiet house. Evidently I have plenty of noise going on in my head without adding anything to it.

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Overall I think we are better off after this time spent together. In fact, our relationship is stronger than ever. That’s saying something after being together for a total of 26 years…that a marriage can get even better.

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Even when there’s mass quantities of stress and frustrations that are seemingly out of our control. In my mind, in a world full of divorce and all kinds of issues, the fact that a relationship can continue to grow and strengthen after 26 years just seems like a massive blessing.

We’ve definitely put the “T” in Teamwork over the past couple of years. We’ve had a lot of career stress, major extended family issues, and I’ve had and continue to have a battle with Lyme Disease. Even one of those circumstances happening would make the strongest of folks wobble at least a little.

We’ve faced them all at once.

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What I cherish and wish I would remember at the beginning of every stressful season of life, because there will be more…is that when you’re coming out the other side of it and you can look back…not only did you live through it which is celebration enough, but in so many ways you’re better for it.

That’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As if the rainbow after the storm wasn’t beautiful enough!

So although it’s easy to whine about how I wish I didn’t have a traveling husband and many other things, there’s been so much positive to come out of these 2 years of complete and absolute craziness that I never expected, it’s hard to complain too much because I just really feel so incredibly thankful.

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Thankful for a working, loving, husband and friend. Thankful that I have Romeo and Abigail to mope around with me. Thankful that we’re back in town and 1.5  miles from my mom and our son instead of 2,700 miles away.  Thankful that we took some incredible leaps of faith. Thankful that we made some unbelievably tough decisions. Thankful that even when some issues aren’t resolved there’s still plenty of good pouring over into each day. Thankful for the joy I get from food blogging and hearing from all of you.  Thankful as I sit here in my cozy little library and office that’s just for me. Thankful that as I look out the window I’m being presented right this minute with yet another amazing and beautiful sunset that is filling the sky with bright reds and pinks. And mostly really, I’m just thankful that I have the ability to recognize a blessing and that I have so many, I can’t count them all.

“Blessed is he who is not offended that no man receives what he deserves…blessed is he who gets that joke, who sees that miracle.” ~ Buechner

Herbed Flatbread Crisps

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 Box of Chebe Foccacia Mix

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Chives, snipped

2 teaspoons of Fresh Rosemary, snipped

1 1/2 teaspoons of Fresh Thyme Leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons of Garlic Powder

1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds

3/4 teaspoons of Sea Salt

6 Grinds of Fresh Pepper

1 Egg

3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup of Unsweetened Hemp Milk

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet. Mix all ingredients together with a fork in a medium bowl until combined. Knead with hand until smooth. Roll out thinly on the parchment to fit as much of the cut parchment as possible. Slide the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet. Bake (I use convection) for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before tearing or cutting into pieces.

Sundried Tomato & Spinach Bean Spread

1 15 oz. can of Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

1 Cup of Baby Spinach, packed

2 Large Garlic Cloves, peeled

2 Tablespoons of Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle 

5 Sun Dried Tomatoes in Oil

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

8 Grinds of Pepper

Juice of 1 Fresh Lemon

3/4 Cup of Avocado Oil

Place all ingredients except avocado oil  in food processor. Pulse about 20 times until ingredients are chopped. Turn on High and slowly drizzle the avocado into the mixture. Continue mixing on High for 2 minutes. 

Terrine de Foies de Volaille

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Or in other words…Chicken Liver Pate

Now don’t freak out.

Chicken liver is delicious!

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I have a deep love for chicken liver.

I like calves liver, but in my opinion it can’t hold a candle to chicken liver.

There are a couple of different “traditional” ways to make chicken liver pate. I also ran across many recipes where people just added what they felt like adding. I like that mindset. I thought that the addition of hard-boiled eggs sounded unappealing, so I left them out.

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I know that bacon fat goes very well with chicken liver, so I used that instead of dairy free butter. I thought caramelized onions and apple sounded like it would be tasty on top.

And it was.

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I keep a large ramekin full of bacon fat in the refrigerator.

Doesn’t everyone?

And by large I mean this isn’t one of those baby ramekins. This is cereal bowl size, folks. Oh yeah.

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If you don’t have bacon fat on hand, this recipe is the perfect excuse for you to make yourself bacon for breakfast. You could also use butter I suppose.

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Keep in mind that chicken livers and bacon fat were meant to be together.

You won’t be disappointed.

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I allow myself fried chicken livers with sautéed onions, mashed potatoes, and gravy twice a year.

Pure Heaven on a fork.

If you haven’t ever tried it you should. They are so tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, salty. Not shocking liver-ee just the right amount of flavor. Amazing. I also like chicken livers chopped up in my Thanksgiving & Christmas gravy.

Pate is a good place to start if you haven’t ever dabbled in chicken livers. Then you can move on to fried chicken livers and before you know it, you’ll be a convert and you won’t be able to live without them in your gravy.

So no more wrinkling of the nose when you hear the words “chicken liver”.

Chicken Liver Pate with Carmelized Apples & Onions

About 1 Pound of Organic Chicken Livers, drained (liver filters the body, better to not have hormones, pesticides, etc . in the chicken)

1 Medium Sweet Onion, diced

3 Generous Tablespoons of Bacon Fat

1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt

A Few Grinds of Fresh Pepper

2 Bay Leaves

About 1/3 Cup Dessert Wine (I used a late harvest Semillon)

1 Granny Smith Apple, diced skin on

1 Medium Sweet Onion, sliced thinly

1 Generous Tablespoon of Dairy Free Butter

Small Pinch of Kosher Salt

Saute the diced onions and bay leaves in the bacon fat until the onion is translucent.

Add chicken livers, salt, and pepper.

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Cover with a splatter guard and saute until browned, about 8 minutes or so. Deglaze with the wine and reduce by about half. Set aside.

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Lightly caramelize the sliced onion and apple in the butter and salt. Cooking on medium low it will take about 20 minutes or so. Set aside.

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Remove bay leaves from liver mixture, add to food processor. Blend until smooth. Season to taste.

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Serve with toasted bread or crackers topped with the apple/onion saute.

I sliced gluten free french bread, buttered it (non-dairy) and toasted it under the broiler on each side.

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I spread the pate into different ramekins. It will last in the fridge for two to three days and can also be frozen for use at a later time.

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Oven Fried Zucchini with Homemade Pizza Sauce

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This recipe has been floating around Facebook for a while now. I’m a fan of pretty much anything fried (who isn’t?) so I thought I’d tweak it and give it a try.

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I would change two basic things the next time I make it:

#1. I would dip the zucchini in dairy free butter instead of almond milk prior to breading.

#2. I would shpritz the breaded zucchini lightly with a good olive oil before placing them in the oven.

If you want to keep it healthy you can just follow the recipe below and it will taste just fine. But I think that the butter and olive oil would add more flavor and moisture to the breading so it would crisp properly. And keep in mind that although the addition of butter and olive oil will increase the fat content, it’s not by much. Certainly not as much as if you were to deep fry them.

Oven Fried Zucchini

1/2 – 3/4 Cup Gluten Free Breadcrumbs

1/4 Cup Dairy Free Parmesan

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Several Grinds of Pepper

About 1/4 Cup Almond Milk

1 1/2 – 2 Medium sized Zucchini, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

Non Stick Spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and spray an oven safe cooling rack with non stick spray. Lay the cooling rack on the baking sheet covered with foil.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a shallow baking dish and stir to combine.

Pour milk into a cereal sized bowl. Dip the zucchini slices in the milk and then dredge well in the breadcrumb mixture. Place each slice on prepared cooling rack, don’t allow sides to touch.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned, outside is crisp and middle is tender.

There’s so many different ways you could make this. You could add Italian seasonings to the breading mixture and dip them in a meat sauce. You could add Mexican seasonings and dip them in a spicy chipotle mayo, you could add fresh herbs and dip them in a lemon vinaigrette…

*Don’t stack them while hot like I’ve done for this photo. The steam will make them soft. If you’re serving them to a crowd, allow them to cook just a bit longer to become extra crisp and then you should be able to place them on a platter without them becoming soft. If you’re just serving them to your family, leave them on the rack and family can help themselves.

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Homemade Pizza Sauce

I don’t have a written recipe for this sauce, I just wing it each time. So I’ll give you my basics and then you can add your own flair.

Canned Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Canned Tomato Paste

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Dried Basil (or fresh if I have it)

Dried Oregano (or fresh if I have it)

Minced Garlic

Kosher Salt and a Little Pepper to Taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until somewhat smooth.

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Saturday Night Special – Hors d’ oeuvre & Cocktail Night

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We’ve dubbed Saturday nights our hors d’ oeuvre & cocktail night.

I make fun little meals that can be enjoyed in the backyard with our feet up.  We’ve worked hard to make our backyard our little sanctuary and once the nice weather arrives, we try to enjoy every second possible!

Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

*Makes 20

1/2 Package Ground Italian Mild Sausage

1/4 Cup (heaping) Sweet Onion, diced

1/4 Cup (heaping) Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 teaspoon Garlic, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Basil

1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives, chopped

1 Tablespoon Vegan Parmesan plus more for topping

Parlick Fell Sheep’s Milk Cheese, crumbled for topping

20 Cremini Mushrooms, stem scooped out at base

In a large skillet on medium heat, saute the sausage, onion, bell pepper, garlic, oregano, and basil. When sausage is done add the 1 Tablespoon of vegan parmesan and the olives. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet lined with parchment, hole side up. Fill each mushroom with stuffing.

Crumble a little Parlick Fell on each mushroom and sprinkle with more vegan parmesan. Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes.

Spinach Tart

*Makes 4 personal sized tarts

1 Portion of Gluten Free Pie Dough

10 oz Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed & drained

2 Cups Raw Spinach Leaves, packed

4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped

3 Tablespoons Dried Parsley

1 1/2 Tablespoons Dried Dill

1/4 Cup Sun Dried Tomatoes Packed in Oil, chopped

1/4 Cup Roasted Red Peppers, chopped

10 oz of Sheep’s Milk Feta

2 eggs

Roll out the chilled pie dough and fill each tart pan, press in, and trim edges.

Place remaining ingredients except the feta in a medium bowl and stir to combine thoroughly. Fold in the crumbled feta.

Fill each tart pan.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes or until the edges of the crust turn golden.

Sugar Plum Tomato & Cucumber Salad

Sugar Plum Tomatoes

English Cucumber, peeled and sliced

About 6 Basil leaves, torn

Ground Pepper

Olive Oil

White Balsamic Vinegar

Pinch of Kosher Salt

Place desired amount of tomatoes and cucumbers in a small bowl. Add the basil and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Season with ground pepper and kosher sat. Toss to combine.

Of course, no snack night would be complete without a cocktail or good wine and a delicious dessert.

My favorite wine from the Methow Valley.

Chocolate Mousse with Coconut Cream

*This recipe was adapted from the Black Dog Food Blog

(This recipe makes 4 – 1 cup servings. It is very rich and could easily be made into 8 – 1/2 cup servings)

24 oz of silken tofu, blended in food processor or Vitamix until very smooth

20 oz of Dark Belgian Chocolate, chopped & melted

1 1/2 teaspoons Espresso Powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

3 Tablespoons Raw Agave Syrup

2 Cans Full Fat Coconut Milk, refrigerated upside down overnight

Pure Vanilla Extract

Powdered Sugar

Raspberries & Apple Mint for garnish

Scrape the blended tofu into a medium-sized bowl. Add the melted chocolate, espresso powder, vanilla, salt, and agave. Whisk until thoroughly combined and very smooth. Set aside.

Remove the coconut cream from the fridge carefully as to not allow the coconut milk on the bottom to mix with the coconut that has settled on top. Remove the lids (which is actually the bottom of the can). Very carefully, scoop out the solid coconut cream stopping as you get close to the liquid and add to an electric mixer. Do this with both cans.

Pour 1/2 Cup of the clear coconut milk into the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Spoon chocolate mixture into dessert dishes.

To the solid coconut milk, add about 3 Tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix on high with the whisk attachment, for about 2 minutes. It won’t get as firm as whipping cream made with cow’s milk, but it does set up a bit and will set up even more when refrigerated for a couple of hours.

Spoon the coconut cream on top of the chocolate. Garnish with raspberries and mint.