Happy Father’s Day!

I haven’t had the pleasure of having a biological father in my life for many years. Pretty much forever. And you may think it’s shocking or even a bit weird to hear me say this, but I didn’t miss it at all.

Instead, I was blessed with a Grandpa who took over that role quite well. And even more amazing…he was my Grandma’s second husband. So he wasn’t my biological grandpa, either. She married him several years after her first husband made it home from a POW camp in World War II, and then was killed in a hit and run motorcycle accident leaving her with three young children.

But this story goes even one step further…her second husband, the man I call my Grandpa, was in the first group of soldiers to enter that POW camp and free my Grandma’s first husband, my mother’s father. Isn’t this world just so small and miraculous when you think about it? I am always in awe of how things come together in unexpected ways.

It’s comforting knowing now that there was a plan in action even when I’m sure my Grandma thought she had lost everything. Of course, at that time of devastation she had no idea that a few years down the road she would meet a truly honorable and amazing man with such character that he would lead her entire family and everyone would have a deep respect for him. He became a father to her children, then they had one of their own, and  then he also took over that role with me.  He was tremendously loving, supportive, did many “fatherly” things with me like being very patient while he taught me to ride my first bike. He was protective of me like any good father is, and there was never a doubt in my mind that he loved me truly and deeply. He was such a blessing in all of our lives and he fit the father and grandfather role perfectly.

I’m blessed to have such good memories of my childhood, almost all of which involved my Grandparents in some way or another.

My grand-Father filled a space in my heart that needed to be filled, and I will be thankful for that on Father’s Day and every day.

Chocolate Chunk & Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

*Makes about 20 three-inch cookies

3/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter

1 3/4 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

2 Cups Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

1 Egg

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1 Generous Pinch of Kosher Salt

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Cloves

2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

3/4 Cup Dried Cherries

3/4 Cup Dark Belgian Chocolate (Dairy Free), chopped coarsely

Cream the butter and sugars together in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add about half of the flower, the egg, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, cherries, and chocolate. Mix well.

Add the remaining flour and the oatmeal and mix until thoroughly combined.  

Drop by rounded Tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. (I use convection.) Or just until they are golden around the edges.

 

Rum Fudge with Macadamia Nuts & Coconut

Have you ever had a week from H-E-Double Toothpicks and then you realize it’s only Thursday and you still have three more days left in the week?

A week like that calls for rum fudge.

 A week like that calls for rum fudge, wine with dinner, and probably mojitos and lemon drops in the yard over the weekend. Lots of them.

Vegan Coconut Fudge

2 Cans of Full Fat Coconut Milk

1 Cup Sugar

4 Cups 72% Belgian Chocolate (dairy free), chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons Instant Coffee Granules

Kosher Salt, a nice sized pinch

2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

6 Tablespoons Dark Rum

1 Cup Dry Roasted Macadamia Nuts, chopped

1/2 Cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut

*This recipe was adapted from Gluten Free On A Shoestring‘s chocolate & peanut butter fudge.

(The first time I made this recipe I followed GFOAS’s recipe exactly. It didn’t set up and was basically like a fudge sauce. Still delicious, but not fudge in the form of fudge. I experimented with it today and was able to tweak it to my liking. As you can see, I tweaked it a lot, but I’m still thankful that I was able to learn the basics from GFOAS!)

Line an 8 inch square baking pan with doubled crisscrossed waxed paper. Melt coconut oil and brush on generously. I only used one layer, I think it would have come out of the pan easier with two, or even with the bottom layer being parchment.

In a heavy sauce pan or dutch oven bring the coconut milk and sugar to a boil on medium-high. Continue to boil, stirring well about every 3 minutes until liquid is reduced by half, is slightly thickened, and begins to turn a light amber color. I didn’t keep my eye on the clock, but I would guess it was about 20-25 minutes.

This picture doesn’t show it, but it’s a bit darker than this, but not by much. Once it reaches this point, remove from the heat and add the instant coffee, salt, vanilla, and rum. Stir to combine until the coffee granules have dissolved. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted. Add the nuts and coconut and fold in.

Pour into lined pan. Smooth with spoon and allow to set up in the freezer for three hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to cut, allow to sit on counter for 15 minutes. Remove fudge from pan with the sides of the wax paper and/or parchment and slice, or slice it right in the pan.

Keep leftovers in fridge or freezer.

Going Green

Sometimes I get really tired of breakfast. I’m not really a breakfast food person, although I won’t turn down pancakes or crepes. I prefer leftover dinner for breakfast, but even that has me feeling “blah” lately. A smoothie is a wonderful way boost your vegetable, fruit, and protein intake. They are easy to make, convenient, and a light and healthy way to consume high fiber and nutrients that most of us have a difficult time getting enough of in our diets.

This recipe is adapted from Women’s Health Magazine. Theirs didn’t have protein powder, or pineapple. They also had two apples and ginger where I had 1 apple and no ginger (I love ginger, husband doesn’t). They also juiced theirs. I don’t believe in juicing. Although it looks gorgeous, whereas mine resembled a bit of pea soup, you miss out on all of that amazing fiber if you juice instead of simply blending. If you can, use all organic ingredients.

Pea soup look aside, this smoothie is delicious and fresh tasting. Sure to give you a light and energetic start to your Friday!

Going Green Smoothie

*Makes two 16 ounce smoothies

1 Large Packed Handful of Baby Spinach Leaves

2 Medium Carrots, peel on

2 Stalks of Celery

1 Apple, cored, skin on

1/2 Cup Pineapple

Juice of 1/2 Large Lemon

2 Scoops Protein Powder, I use brown rice protein

About 8 oz. Spring Water

About 8 oz. Ice

Place all ingredients in a heavy-duty blender and blend until smooth. You can add more water for whatever consistency you desire.

Go With Your Gut

Over the weekend I ordered a hot chocolate at a specialty shop downtown. I like to go to that particular shop because I know that their sipping chocolate is dairy free and they will make me a hot cup with almond milk.

Or so I thought. 

If possible, I usually watch people make my food and drinks. Because honestly, no one cares as much about my food allergies as I do. But on this occasion I was on a date weekend with my husband who has been traveling a lot. My focus was on him and we were chatting away, not paying attention to my favorite cup of sipping chocolate. As we walked out the door with my to go cup, I first put my nose to it and inhaled deeply as I always do. Ahhh…chocolate. Is there anything better on certain days?

Hmm…it smells different.

I stopped in my tracks. Took a couple of sips and again realized…something is different. I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think I should go back in and double-check if they made this with almond milk? I asked her to make it with almond milk right off the bat.” For whatever reason, I hate to be an alarmist. I hate to be one of “those” paranoid people who whine, or throw a fit when they think their order isn’t prepared properly. But my husband looked at me and said, “Just go back in really quick and ask. What’s wrong with asking?”

So I popped back in and nicely asked and… you guessed it. She made it with cow’s milk! I told them I was allergic to cow’s milk and that I had asked for almond milk. They apologized (kind of) and gave us a tiny little vegan caramel to share. How generous…and of course, made me another  sipping chocolate with almond milk.

Luckily, those two or three sips only resulted in mild stomach issues and a little swelling. There’s a theory that if you abstain from your sensitive foods and allergens that you can eventually add them back into your diet at some point once your gut has healed. Not so with me. My body now recognizes gluten and dairy almost immediately, where several years ago it would take 12-24 hours to appear.

This “accidental” exposure has happened to me numerous times with gluten and dairy. Seriously, more than I can count. It can make even the most anti-alarmist a little paranoid and skeptical. It has even happened in restaurants where I order off of the gluten-free menu and make sure there’s no dairy in my entrée.  As a matter of fact, sometimes when we are extremely busy, which we have been, we eat out a couple times a week. Even though I’m careful, very careful, I can tell after a few restaurant excursions that I am slowly being fed allergens in one form or another even if they tell me I’m not. Swelling joints, stomach issues, headaches, and if it’s really bad, shingles appear. Then I know for sure.

When we were standing at the counter waiting for my sipping chocolate, my  husband looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Always go with your gut.”

Wise words.

Always. Go. With. Your. Gut.

Who cares if people think you are an alarmist, paranoid, or just into the latest crazy diet fad? It’s your health and it’s important. A good reminder.

Here’s a very interesting article that popped into my email this morning. I am set up on Google Alerts for gluten and dairy intolerance articles. This article is very simple and informative in the way it explains the body’s response system to allergens, antibodies,  and how the inflammation process works. 

*Photo courtesy of DrOZFans.com

Herb Cheese Logs

Guess what? You can freeze goat cheese. Who knew?

I had no idea. According to the internet, soft cheeses freeze quite well, actually. This opens up all kinds of ideas for different types of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. This cheese is mild and delicious. Not overly “goaty” like a lot of aged goat or sheep’s milk cheese. Perfect on crackers, toasted baguette slices, on top of a baked potato, in your favorite salad, sprinkled over your favorite pasta dish…the options are endless. You can make it sweet with zest and agave nectar or savory with herbs and spices. I’ve used sweetened goat cheese with breakfast crepes and it was amazing. Get creative!

Goat’s Milk Cheese Logs

*Makes four 4-5 inch logs

1 Gallon Raw Goat or Sheep’s Milk

3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt + more for seasoning later

Juice of 10 Organic Lemons, about 1 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Chives, chopped

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Organic Thyme, chopped

About 2 teaspoons Chopped Garlic ( I used the organic garlic that comes in the jar)

Ground Pepper

I have a new obsession. Making my own goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheese! Once you try it, you won’t believe how incredibly easy it is.

I’ve read that it’s important to use raw milk because pasteurized milk doesn’t clot the same way. If you’re able, I would suggest trying to find a local organic farm where you can buy the raw milk.  And then of course, use organic lemons and organic herbs. I buy organic and all natural whenever possible. It just makes sense to eat pure, clean, food as much as I can.

But as you probably already have experienced yourself…pure, locally grown food comes with a little sticker shock.

I paid $16.58 for 1 gallon of raw goat’s milk. One gallon of goat’s milk made into cheese gives you about 12 ounces of cheese. That’s about $1.38 per ounce. Expensive, but really no more than you pay in a grocery store. And the satisfaction of making it yourself and knowing exactly what is in it and where the ingredients come from…priceless!

So give it a try, you won’t be disappointed, I promise:

In a large dutch oven or stainless steel pot (do not use aluminum) add several inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes to sanitize.  I carefully sloshed it up and around the sides. Drain, add the milk and salt, stir. Heat to 185-190 degrees stirring frequently. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t scald on the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, line a large strainer with the cheesecloth. I used all of the cheesecloth in the small package I purchased. Just fold it over and make sure it drapes over the sides. Place the strainer over a deep bowl.

When the milk reaches 185-190 ish degrees, remove from heat.

Slowly stir in the lemon juice. It starts to curdle right away.

Add a pinch of parsley, chives, and thyme, reserving the rest for after the cheese has drained. Allow to rest for 25 minutes in the pan.

After it has rested, pour slowly into the cheesecloth. Allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

Do yourself a favor though…keep an eye on it and don’t go check your blog or your Facebook page while you’re waiting for it to drain. Because you’ll end up with this:

And more importantly this…

Carefully pull the sides of the cloth in and twist into a ball, carefully squeezing out some more of the liquid. Allow to rest and drain for another 25 minutes or so checking and draining the bowl every so often so that it is not sitting in its own liquid.

Remove the cheesecloth from the strainer and scrape the cheese off with a spoon into a bowl. Add the remaining herbs and garlic and stir to combine.

Taste and add a bit more kosher salt and a few grinds of good peppercorns.

On a clean working surface pull out a piece of plastic wrap and fold in half. Spoon goat cheese onto the middle of the plastic wrap in a small row.

Gently roll up one side of the plastic wrap and snuggle it over the log. Roll the log to the other end of the plastic wrap, twist the ends tight and tuck under.

Continue to do this with the remaining cheese or if you’re going to use it within a couple of days, you can also make it into one large log or any shape you like, really.

Once all of the cheese has been rolled, refrigerate for three hours. Remove from fridge, roll in one more layer of plastic wrap, cover in tin foil, enclose in a freezer bag and freeze up to one month.

A New Look & Gingersnaps For The Hubby

Ahhh…a new, refreshing, theme. I love how convenient WordPress makes it to change things around. For a while now I’ve been horribly bored with that very dark, very brown, theme I was using. At first I liked it because I thought it showcased the photographs well, but then I noticed reading the words in between all of the photos was hard on the eyes with that dark back ground. I’ve been waiting for a theme that I liked and ran across this one last night. I think it’s so much easier to read, certainly prettier…a refreshing change for spring and summer. Hope you like it too!

My husband went gluten-free a few months ago and has asked me several times to try to come up with a gluten-free gingersnap recipe. Gingersnaps are one of his favorites and one of my least favorites, which is probably why I kept forgetting that he wanted me to make him a gluten-free version. It’s hard for me to get excited about a gingersnap.

Although, that didn’t stop me from eating several of the them hot out of the oven. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were both hot, and cooled.

Once cooled they are lightly crispy on the outside and nice and chewy on the inside. I should have been making homemade gingersnaps all along. Now I’m convinced I didn’t like them because the store-bought ones are much too crispy.

I converted and tweaked an old Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook recipe (1989). Used gluten-free flour of course, coconut oil instead of canola or vegetable shortening, added xanthan gum, and used fresh ginger root instead of powdered. Sprinkled them with raw sugar instead of rolling them in granulated sugar.

Easy, easy, easy. If you have just been relying on gluten-free and/or dairy-free recipes, don’t. Take a chance and start trying to convert “regular” recipes to fit your needs. I rarely have a failed conversion recipe, especially when it comes to cookies.

Gingersnaps

*makes about 48 two-inch cookies

~Preheat oven to 375 degrees~

2 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1/4 Cup White Rice Flour (you could probably use brown)

1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed

1/2 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Organic Coconut Oil, solid

1/4 Cup Molasses

1 Egg

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

2 teaspoons Freshly Grated Ginger Root

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves

Raw Sugar

In a mixer combine about half the flour, the brown sugar, coconut oil, molasses, egg, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat on medium to high-speed scraping down sides once or twice until thoroughly combined. Beat in remaining flour.

Shape dough into about 1 inch balls. Place on parchment covered baking sheets. With a fork, lightly squish down the balls. No need to criss cross, as the fork imprints bake out. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake for 7 minutes (I use convection), remove to cooling racks and sprinkle with more raw sugar.

Braised Beef Over Garlic Mashed Potatoes

We’ve had a few blustery, chilly, days in my neck of the woods. That usually automatically puts me into the comfort food zone. Yesterday I made a big pot of homemade soup with homemade bread. Today it’s braised beef with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic, mashed Yukon gold potatoes.

Hopefully soon the weather will be so sunny and warm that we’ll be craving big salads with fresh tomatoes, marinated and grilled things, and light, fruity, desserts. But for now, it’s warm and loving comfort food.

Braised Beef with Sun Dried Tomatoes

1 – 3.25 lb. Cross Rib Roast, cubed

1 Large Sweet Onion, sliced

About 10 Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

4 Garlic Cloves, minced

1/2 Cup Sun Dried Tomatoes Packed in Oil, chopped

1 Bay leaf

6 0z. Tomato Paste

1 1/2 Cups Good Red Wine

4 Cups Gluten Free Beef Broth

1 Heaping Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, chopped

1 Heaping Tablespoon Fresh Oregano, chopped

1 Heaping Tablespoon Fresh Thyme, chopped

Freshly Ground Pepper

Kosher Salt

Olive Oil

 Heat a dutch oven on medium-high, drizzle generously with olive oil. Brown cubed meat in small portions, removing to a dish or plate when finished. Reserving browned bits in the pan, drizzle a little more olive oil in the dutch oven and add the onions, mushrooms, and minced garlic. Cook until onions begin to caramelize and mushrooms begin to brown. Stir often so the garlic doesn’t cook too quickly or burn. Turn down heat if necessary.

Next, add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add sun-dried tomatoes,wine, beef broth, bay leaf, and herbs. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer for 2 hours or until meat is fork tender. Taste and re-season if necessary. Serve over roasted garlic mashed potatoes.