Chicken Tetrazzini

I used to make turkey Tetrazzini every year with Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey leftovers. Of course that was prior to going gluten-free and dairy-free and those Tetrazzini dishes included a lot of cream and probably three kinds of lovely cheese, along with gluten bread crumbs.

Our mornings are chilly now and that always gets me thinking about comfort food. I love fall and even winter (as long as it snows a lot! Yes you read that right…) and I look forward to baking pies, roasting things, and having my house smell like comfort food.

I don’t even know what was on television in the bedroom this morning while I was getting ready, but I heard the word Tetrazzini and thought, “YES!”. I had forgotten all about Tetrazzini! When you’re allergic to dairy you kind of get used to not thinking about cheesy, creamy, delightful, comfort food. Luckily, with more and more people becoming aware of food allergies and more people being tested, the whole food world is opening up with new products and new ideas for those of us that can’t eat traditional things.

I couldn’t remember how I used to make it exactly so I Googled Tetrazzini. Honestly, what did we ever do without the internet? After reading through several recipes it all started coming back to me and I realized that each recipe was different. Really different. So I just winged it and did what I thought sounded good. Giada De Laurentiis puts peas in hers. I thought that sounded good too and I could have sworn I had frozen baby peas, but no such luck. Her recipe also had about 30 ingredients. Seriously?

I just went with what I had on hand and it was fantastic. Total comfort food. So creamy and delicious, even I was shocked! Ahhh… the satisfaction of another traditional meal tackled and made into something that can fit my needs! Remember the movie Bruce Almighty where Jim Carey says, “It’s goooood”? For some reason that just popped into my head. Odd the things that rattle around in there…

I love having a good (or “gooood”) challenge. This recipe was challenging because I didn’t know if it would really work. That always bugs me a little because it’s not cheap to be dairy free and gluten-free. If it doesn’t turn out, it’s horrible to watch all of that $$$ going straight into the trash bin. Plus, dairy free cheese is a little weird sometimes. Occasionally it can make the texture of something really unappealing. Also, there’s a lot of steps. I was taking pictures in between steps and different parts of the recipe and not cleaning up, so my kitchen looked like a bomb went off.  But as soon as I had everything in the oven, it all cleaned up quickly and believe me…all the steps and all the prep work to get it into the oven was worth every-single-bite.

Another recipe challenge overcome! Hmmm…what’s next?

Chicken Tetrazzini

Bacon Drippings, or olive oil if you don’t have drippings on hand

2 Chicken Breasts, cooked & cubed or shredded into large pieces

1 Medium Onion, diced

About 6 Crimini Mushrooms, sliced

About 1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves

About 2 teaspoons Dried Thyme

1 Head of Roasted Garlic

About 1 Tablespoon Bragg’s Seasoning

About 1 Cup of White Wine

3 Cups of Almond Milk

About 2 Cups Gluten Free Chicken Broth

1 Cup Diaya Cheddar Style Cheese

1/4 Cup Buffalo Mozzarella

1/4 Cup Vegan Parmesan

Dairy Free Butter

About 1/3 Cup Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

Gluten Free Bread Crumbs, seasoned with oregano, basil, garlic powder, vegan parm, & kosher salt

About 12 oz. of Tinkyada Gluten Free Pasta, cooked aldente

1.  In a large skillet melt about 2-4 Tablespoons of bacon drippings. Add chicken breasts and brown on both sides just until they are done. About 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

2.  Add the chopped onion and mushrooms and saute until onions are translucent and mushrooms begin to brown a bit. Add the thyme leaves. Add salt to taste.

3. Add the wine to de-glaze the pan and continue to saute over medium-high until the wine evaporates. Remove mixture to a large bowl. Set pan aside.

4. Dice or shred chicken and add to the bowl. Add the cheeses, roasted garlic, and Bragg’s.

5. Using the same pan, melt about 4 Tablespoons of dairy free butter. Add the flour and whisk together.

6.  Add the almond milk and chicken broth whisking quickly as to not allow lumps. Cook over medium-high until the mixture begins to thicken. Mine became very thick so I added a bit more chicken broth. You want a medium thick consistency. Salt & pepper to taste, add the dried thyme, set aside.

7. Cook pasta according to directions. I removed mine 2 minutes prior to “done”. Drain.

8.  Lightly coat a 9×11 baking dish with olive oil spray or dairy free butter.

9. Add the pasta and sauce to the large bowl of other ingredients. Toss well and pour into the baking dish.

10.  Coat the top with gluten-free bread crumbs (see below), and dot with butter.

11. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes until sauce bubbles. Serve with gluten-free french bread.

* I always toast (in the oven) and throw all uneaten or stale bread into a bag in my freezer. It makes it very easy whip up bread crumbs or croutons when I need them.

For bread crumbs I just add the toasted bread to a food processor. Add dried herbs, kosher salt, and  just a bit of olive oil. Pulse until it turns into crumbs and the herbs are incorporated. For this recipe I added basil, oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, vegan parmesan, and added a drizzle of olive oil at the end so it would all come together a bit.

Kurobuta Loin Chop Grilled Cheese

You may remember a while back I baked a Kurobuta ham for Easter. Have you ever had one? This is our Easter ham from last year. All I can say is, “WOW”.

Kurobuta pork (Japanese Black Hog) is hands down the best pork I’ve ever had. It’s basically the “Kobe beef” of pork.

The other day while I was out and about trying to come up with something for dinner I was thrilled to see the Kurobuta pork in something other than ham form at my local butcher. Don’t get me wrong, the ham is absolutely divine, but it’s also extremely expensive and way too much meat for just the two of us. I purchased two loin chops and grilled the for dinner that night. They were amazingly tender and juicy and of course, because I can’t seem to figure out how to cook for just two people, there were leftovers.

Yesterday we started the day off with french toast and bacon and that was followed by me making  peanut butter no bake cookies and cookie dough truffles. Lunch came and went and by 2:30 I was starving and hungry for something that didn’t involve sugar. The chops have been staring at me every time I open the fridge for the last couple of days so I decided on a gooey grilled cheese to help balance out some of the sugar. A day of cheese and sugar? Mmmm…it was lovely. Don’t judge.

Loin Chop Grilled Cheese

*You will need:

Dairy Free Butter

Gluten Free Bread

Daiya Cheddar Style Cheese

Thinly Sliced Sweet Onion

Baby Spinach Leaves

Thinly Sliced Loin Chop

Note: Dairy free butter browns very quickly and dairy free cheese melts very slowly. Construct your sandwich, cover, and grill on medium low so the cheese has time to melt and the butter doesn’t brown too quickly.

No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

I love no bake cookies. Easy. Easy. Easy. So easy in fact, that if it weren’t for the scary boiling sugar, I’m pretty sure a five year old could make them. You can add anything (well pretty much) you like, they are almost fool-proof and they are fantastic for a quick sweet tooth fix because they take all of about 10 minutes to whip up from beginning to end. They set up quickly so they can go from wax paper to mouth in about 2.5 minutes. Or…pan to mouth if you don’t mind a few seared taste buds.

This recipe is adapted from My Soul Is The Sky. I think I ran across Melissa’s blog while looking at someone’s Pinterest page. She has a little bit of everything. She posts about life, hair, makeup, and food. All the things us gals love!

No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

2 Cups Sugar (I used white but dark brown would be delicious too)

1/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter

1/2 Cup Almond Milk

1 Cup Organic Chunky Peanut Butter

1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

3 Cups Gluten Free Rolled Oats

In a large saucepan (I used my dutch oven), mix sugar, butter, and milk; bring to a full boil over medium heat. (Melissa says a full rolling boil = large bubbles rising to the surface that can’t be stirred down).

Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until peanut butter is melted. Stir in oats and working quickly, drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or parchment.

Out With The Old, In With The New!

Vegetable Pakora Lunch

Quite yummy but maybe being a bit overshadowed by those gorgeous organic strawberries…

I am quickly learning that until our house sells, I pretty much cannot commit to a whole heck of a lot. I kind of just have to wake up and greet the day and whatever happens, happens. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to make plans. You would think I would learn. Ha!

Last night I had visions of a glorious day in the kitchen baking and frosting sugar cookies and trying to see if I could come up with a savory pumpkin boule. I convinced myself, and then posted it on Facebook (pretty much jinxing myself) that I was going to get up, take the dogs on a beautiful walk and then spend the entire day in the kitchen doing basically whatever I pleased.

I managed the walk, which was nice. But never got around to the baking. This morning my husband “parted ways” with our realtor. There were a lot of valid reasons but the icing on the cake was that we had an open house two days in a row last weekend and they listed our house in the local newspaper at the wrong price. Yep. And of course the deadline was Friday so it couldn’t be changed or cancelled. So we spent the only two days my husband was home carting animals back and forth and waiting for the open houses to be over. And guess how many people showed up? Zilch. Zero. Nada. No big surprise since the price was wrong and we weren’t even catering to people in our price range. It was quite frustrating and actually made me want to just sit in a heap and cry…or strangle someone. I did neither. We sucked it up and dealt with our weekend like big people. But it wasn’t easy.

So! Out with the old and in with the new! We hired a new Realtor who started working for us immediately. The house will be back on the market on Friday.

I meet with our new Realtor tomorrow so he can take pictures of the house and I can fill out all of the necessary paperwork. Instead of sugar cookies and beautiful pumpkin bread dancing through my head, I had to don work gloves and clean the house and mow the lawn. Oh well, such is life. My expanding hips probably didn’t need sugar cookies and bread anyway…

I did manage to make myself some lunch. I don’t typically buy pre-packaged foods… but have you been down the frozen isles in Trader Joe’s?  H-O-L-Y   C-O-W…how I envy those of you who can eat whatever you please. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t eat 98% of what they sell or I would be gorging myself on perogi, lasagna, cheese tamales, baby frozen quiche, death by chocolate cake, cheese cake, and all kinds of frozen little delights I’ve never even heard of. I did happen to run across one thing I could try. Vegetable Pakoras. They are basically vegetable fritters but with an Indian kick. They are quite yummy and made for a very nice and quick lunch!

They are vegan and as far as I could tell from the ingredient list, gluten-free. However, they are processed in a plant with other gluten items. So if you are that sensitive…I would steer clear. So far I feel fine, but I will be sure to let you know in the morning if I wake up stiff and headachey.

I was also able to finally find real buffalo mozzarella at Trader Joe’s! I was so thrilled I was sad that I was shopping by myself and there was no one there to jump up and down with me. I think I actually gasped out loud when I saw it tucked in among the goat cheese containers. However, I did refrain from jumping up and down. I surprised my husband with a pepperoni pizza lunch the first day he was back in town.

The buffalo milk didn’t bother my stomach at all, tasted wonderful, and melted like regular mozzarella cheese. It was heavenly.

Well, as I sit here eating a rather dull dinner and dreaming of pizza (a plate of black re-fried beans with Daiya cheese and Tabasco) …I still have bathrooms to clean and it’s already 7:45. I wanted to check in with you all and make sure you knew I hadn’t forgotten about you.

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods! ~ April

Playing Catch Up

I awoke to 393 blog posts in my email box this morning. I’m a bit behind. Life is crazy busy around here. I won’t bore you with the details, it’s just life as we know it right now. Somehow the moments speed by and get sucked up into the clouds never to return, and before I know it, I’ve only accomplished three things on my 20 item to-do list and I wake up to 393 emails, dogs that want to be walked before my normal morning routine, people who want to see the house before I’m ready… You know, life.

Usually I check in each day to see what’s going on in the blogging world. There are so many talented and creative bloggers out there, it’s impossible to just follow a few.

Knowing full well that my to-do list was going to remain right where I left it…undone, I made myself a hearty breakfast this morning and made my way up to my office with dogs in tow. “Just give me a bit and we’ll go to the park and chase the ball!”

As I ate my breakfast, I went through each post in my in box. No rushing, no skipping, just taking the time to savor each post and all of the hard work and creativity that goes into putting one’s self “out there” for all the world to see and comment. In case you don’t have a blog, you may not know that it can be a little nerve-wracking being a blogger. Many food bloggers share their lives on their blogs as well as what’s cooking in their kitchen. I especially love to read those! It’s almost like I’m sitting at their kitchen counter with them visiting and catching up on what’s new in life.

So today, I’m going to share my breakfast and bit of my blogger in box with you. You’ll be amazed, just as I am every day at the talent in this world, the honesty, the creativity, and the beauty.

Here are just a few I love, enjoy!

From The Bartolini Kitchens

Two Peas And Their Pod

Hogwash – Thoughts On Food And Life

Katie At The Kitchen Door

Proud Italian Cook

Confessions Of A Cookbook Queen

How Sweet It Is

One Good Thing By Jillee

Heather Eats Almond Butter

Women Living Well

Delighted Momma

Marc and Angel Hack Life

Savoring Every Bite

Inspired RD

Just A Smidgen

Bake At 350

Hotly Spiced

Lexie’s Kitchen

The Kitchen’s Garden

Foodie With Family

Joy The Baker

Bloggers Breakfast

Organic Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered lengthwise

Organic Broccoli Florets, pulled apart

Organic Sugar Plum Tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

Organic Sweet Onion, diced

Organic Red Bell Pepper, diced

Organic Kale, stem removed and sliced

1 Organic Egg, over easy

Organic Olive Oil

1 Garlic Clove, minced

Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste

You know the drill. Just make sure you saute the potatoes in olive oil until tender before you add the other vegetables. Remove the saute from the pan, cook egg over easy.

A Change In The Weather ~ My Corner of The World

This is what a change in the weather looks like at my house.

Early mornings are in the 40’s now…

The lump on the other end of the couch is Abigail. She’s covered from head to toe and burrowed down even deeper when she heard the camera clicking away. 

Fall is on its way…

Crab Stuffed Artichokes & Cherished Memories

Throughout the time that Brandon attended grade school and middle school I volunteered. I volunteered a lot. I worked in kitchens, in classrooms, in the office, copied papers, corrected papers, made classroom snacks, did recess duty, went on field trips, and was involved in many, many, auctions.

We had heard about an “out of the box” public middle school when Brandon was leaving his private grade school. They have a somewhat open concept based on relationships and do hands on, project based learning. They also have a “city” in the basement of the school. The students are taught how to create resumes, how to interview appropriately, and each student interviews each semester for jobs as police officers, judges, attorneys, small business owners, IT people, cafe managers, waitresses, maintenance, etc… They even have an aquaculture business that raises fish and grows hydroponic vegetables. A real greenhouse where they grow flowers and vegetables for sale in the spring. A full running cafe during lunch that the students take care of, and they all earn city money that they can spend in the marketplace on Friday afternoons. The marketplace is where enterprising young minds bring their small business ideas and sell crafts, food, and fun activities. They can also receive tickets for inappropriate behavior…that explains the need for a judge and attorneys.

Fresh Crab Salad

It was at that school that I had the opportunity to do a type of volunteering that I had never done. Brandon was in the 6th grade and I was asked to teach an 8th grade Leadership class. By myself. It was terrifying and awesome. It was an eye opener. It was heart wrenching and unbelievably stressful at times. But most of all, it was a huge blessing and I learned so much about young people and life.

Crab Salad & Rustic Crackers

My first class was so nerve-wracking I couldn’t believe how terrified I was to have an entire room full of teenagers staring at me. What am I doing? I had to keep telling myself, “You are an adult for crying out loud, in a room full of children, get it together!” Ha! Hard to believe when more than three-quarters of them were bigger than me. They were just waiting for me to prove that I was just like a lot of other adults in their lives, there to babysit and not participate in their lives and not care what they had to say.

We had a lot of discussions. Sometimes there were days I had things planned but I could tell they just wanted to talk about “life” and relax, so that’s what we did. I loved listening to their perspectives on life! I used my relationship with Brandon as an example, a lot. Brandon didn’t care for that much… But what else did I have to draw from? I tried to convey to them that their parents loved them insanely and that’s why parents do what they “do”, all the time understanding that they would never “get it” until they had children of their own. I tried to talk to them in a down to earth and very honest way. Up front…another thing I learned about young people. They want you to be up front with as little of “adult talk and tone” as possible, and totally honest. Even if they don’t agree with what you are telling them. They also like to hear about some of your life mistakes, how you got through it, and what you did differently the next time you were challenged with the same situation.

I was supposed to be teaching them, but really they taught me. They taught me about the power of being present for someone. How just being aware of how a younger person felt, even if I knew they would get over it or that it was a silly emotional day for them, just listening and being there for them made a huge difference. All of their unique little personalities blessed my life tremendously. Some of them were well-rounded and relaxed and some of them had very hard lives and were rough around the edges. Others were very tough to get along with and I had to work hard to get through their thick shell and see past their smart aleck natures. A couple refused to ever let go and have fun and enjoy the class for what it was. Those were always the complicated ones that had issues that we couldn’t resolve with just creating a “community” within a classroom. Those kids were hard to let go of. I wanted to take them home and give them real attention and cook them real food, and show them what a loving family feels like. I learned a lot about letting go.

Some of them were so smart is was shocking. Some of them were very wise for their age and yet still so vulnerable to all of the peer pressure that comes with being a teen. I gained an enormous amount of respect for teenagers and an unsettling understanding of the stress and pressure they are under not only at school but also in their private lives.

I am happy to report that seven years later, many of them still keep in touch with me! They are 20-23 years old now…so hard to believe. They are in college and working and a few are even married. One who was particularly hard to get along with, but has since kept in pretty close contact with me, has been through an enormous tragedy and has managed to keep his head on straight when most of us would have crumbled. They are getting to the age now where they have had to experience the “real” world of serious consequences, pain and hurt, sick parents, and bad relationships. They are strong…so strong, just like I knew they would be after listening to them talk about their lives in the classroom.

I’m so proud of them. Proud of them and thankful that they allowed me a small glimpse into their lives and that they trusted me and they shared with me and chatted with me and were just so incredibly loving and forgiving of me because seriously…I started from scratch and picked activities for us to do together with no experience in teaching anything ever.

They disproved a lot of the hubbub about teenagers and their “typical” attitudes. They grasped onto each activity I planned and stepped out of their comfort zones many times and did it all with honesty, which isn’t easy to do in a room full of your teenage peers. Some of it was hard too. Soul searching stuff and things they had to do within the school…”pay it forward” kind of things toward people they would normally ignore. They were thrilled at how good it felt to get out of their own groups and get to know or do something nice for someone they would normally not associate with.

I loved going to a class every day filled with teenagers! Can you imagine? I could not wait to get there to hear what they were going to say next. Teenagers are supposed to be difficult, ill-mannered, little creeps who are hard to get along with and even harder to understand. Self absorbed, eye rolling irritants, snotty…you know all of the labels.  I’m sure they have their moments, but I was proven absolutely wrong on more occasions that I can count. I had to hold back tears of joy numerous times because I was so shocked by some of their responses to our projects. I was absolutely floored at the depth of their feelings and thoughts.

The crab for my lunch today comes from two of those students. Every year their family heads to the Pacific coast to go crabbing. They have the funnest family I have ever metThey are all extremely close and loving and live for fun.

Crab Stuffed Artichokes

4 Organic Baby Artichokes, steamed and cooled middle leaves removed

About 1 Heaping Cup of Fresh Crab Meat

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Red Bell Pepper, diced

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Red Onion, sliced

1 Organic Avocado, diced

About 2 1/2 teaspoons Organic Dried Dill

About 5-6 Tablespoons Olive Oil Mayonnaise

Juice of 1 Lemon

Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper To Taste

Mix all ingredients together (except the artichokes of course!). Chill and spoon into the middle of the baby artichokes.

Here’s a silly picture of me, my husband, and Brandon, at one of the girl’s 21st birthday parties in the “photo booth” area.

Stephanie’s 21st birthday…time flies.

Stephanie is outgoing and sweet and comfortable in her own skin. I love that about her. At her party  one of her friends was talking about getting eyelash extensions because she doesn’t like the length of hers. Stephanie looked at her, shrugged her shoulders in an “oh well” kind of way, giggled, and said, “I like my eyelashes!” I could have jumped up and hugged her. I’m happy she likes who she is.

So Sunday, Stephanie’s sister, Morgan, surprised me with a text asking if I would like some crab. Are you kidding? Of course!

This is Morgan, picking out the best crabs!

Not only does she share beautiful fresh crabs from the Pacific with me, she’s also an excellent house sitter, cat feeder, and plant waterer. Morgan is solid. She’s well thought out, organized, extremely thoughtful, and has an impressive shoe collection.  She’s also shy and quiet and I’m thankful that doesn’t stop her from coming over and chatting with me every now and then.

What an incredible blessing it is to have people in your life who think of you. All of this learning, life experience, friendship, and wonderful memories…

just from a little volunteer job.