Sweet Indulgence

As I was trying to muster the energy last night to make steak kabobs the only thing on my mind was brownies and ice cream. It has been a long time since I’ve made something really chocolaty and gooey.

I managed (in a very uninspired manner) to build the steak kabobs…the whole time thinking about how I was going to make the brownies as delicious and sinful as possible.

It’s interesting how when you don’t really have your heart in something that it rarely turns out the way it should. The kabobs looked gorgeous on their skewers, swimming in a bath of marinade…but I really had my heart set on those brownies. Isn’t it funny that even at the age of 44 I still find it hard to give myself permission to have dessert instead of dinner? So many rules and regulations we place on ourselves that are so unnecessaryI would have survived just fine having brownies and ice cream for dinner.

It has eggs, coconut milk, brown rice flour, and olive oil…who’s to say brownies and ice cream aren’t an appropriate alternative to dinner? Not only that, but dark chocolate is excellent for your health.

The gas on our grill ran out in the middle of grilling the kabobs. My husband had to take off that heavy tank and replace it with another – meanwhile, the meat and veggies sat in the closed grill. I bet you can already see where this is going… So we fired up the grill again, and before I knew it, the meat was overdone (I prefer mine on the bloody side and this was more like beef jerky) and most of the vegetables had a generous amount of cancer causing char.

Meanwhile…the house was filling with the amazing scent of melted chocolate and puffy, s’more like marshmallows…

My husband likes his beef cooked more than I do and loves the crunchy bits of char on things when they are grilled, so all was not lost. I ate the “appropriate” amount of dinner like a good little girl, thinking about chocolate the entire time.

If you’re going to eat these brownies with ice cream, I suggest serving them hot, right out of the oven. They will be gooey and heavenly, but you will need to spoon them out.

If you prefer your brownie with four sides, you’ll have to wait for them to cool and set up.

Double Chocolate & Melted Marshmallow Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 Namaste Brownie Mix (you will need eggs, oil, and water)

(or you can go here for Smidge’s homemade GF DF brownie recipe)

About a Half a Bag of Mini Marshmallows

About 1 Cup Roughly Chopped 72% Dark Belgian Chocolate

Dairy Free Ice Cream, (I prefer Coconut Bliss)

Make the brownie mix according to the directions. Generously oil an 8.5 x 11 baking dish or non-stick baking pan. Smooth half of the brownie mixture over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the batter and follow with the roughly chopped chocolate.

Dollop the remaining batter by the spoonful over the marshmallows and chopped chocolate until you have used all of the batter. Then, carefully smooth the dollops out, joining each with the back of a spoon.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Spoon into bowls while hot and serve with ice cream. Or, wait until they cool and set up and cut into squares.

Finally Time For a Home Cooked Meal

Life has been absolutely crazy around here. Tony is traveling and changing time zones twice a week, and the house viewing traffic is picking up dramatically. That last part is a good thing, but it puts us in the position of having to be able to leave our house quickly. That makes it very hard to cook a real meal.

This is a very unhappy Chloe, stuck in a crate at my mom’s house while we wait for people to finish a walk through at our house. She’s not quite as happy as Romeo and Abigail to be at Grandma’s house.

I’ve been trying to make this dish since Thursday and finally on Sunday night, even though we were completely exhausted after having five viewings of our house over the past three days, I forced myself to make a decent dinner. Please forgive the pictures…I wasn’t going to even blog about it but Tony asked if I was taking pictures and was sweet enough to run upstairs and get my camera. The recipe will also be one of those “about this much” recipes, unfortunately. I didn’t write anything down, but you all are so smart and amazing in the kitchen, I know you won’t have any trouble making your own version.

Waiting at Grandma’s house for “kitty, kitty” the new kitten to come out and play with her. Penelope, my mother’s other cat is just around the corner growling and hissing at Chloe in the crate.

Lately we’ve been living on Jimmy John’s un-which sandwiches, black bean salad, gluten-free organic hot dogs and chili, cereal more cereal, peanut butter toast, and Red Robin’s California chicken sandwiches. Did you know they now carry gluten-free buns and will make your fries in a separate fryer from gluten items? We are addicted. Next time I eat one I’ll take a picture for you. And the tartar sauce (which is gluten-free & dairy free)…so delicious and addictive I should probably just be slathering it on my thighs because I’m sure that’s right where it goes after it leaves my mouth.

Tony stayed home an extra day today to take advantage of a motorcycle track day. The kind of track day that makes me cringe and I have to remind him that I really don’t want to know how fast he went and how many people had to be hauled off in an ambulance. He left early this morning, so this is what a lazy Sunday looks like for some of us…not me of course, I have a whole list of things to do!

Yes, we allow them to lounge on the furniture…

I’m used to cooking whole meals at least four days a week and baking something delicious at least twice a week. But lately, our new way of  living on “whatever is easy and doesn’t make the house smell weird” is getting to me. It’s leaving me feeling unsatisfied and rather unhealthy.

So last Wednesday while I was lying in bed wide awake at 2:30 in the morning because we’ve had a weird rash of car break-ins in our neighborhood, the recipe for Italian Sausage & Pesto Roll Ups was born. Maybe a little bit of fear does help with creativity? Or maybe it was the fact that I was sleeping with my gun and that enabled me to calm my mind enough to think about food. Either way, I also had to figure out when exactly I could find the time to actually make the recipe that was making my stomach growl and getting me excited for real food.

I tried Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to make this meal and it seemed like the dinner God’s were against me. And even though we had two more showings on Saturday, I managed to squeeze in a small nap and muster the energy to cook a nice meal on Saturday night, throwing caution to the wind and not caring if our house smelled like garlic and pesto on Sunday morning. I even managed to make an easy Kalamata olive & garlic loaf.

Italian Sausage & Pesto Roll-Ups

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees

About a pound of gluten-free, dairy-free Italian Sausage

Hot Pepper Flakes, I like my sausage spicy

Homemade Vegan Pesto

1 Large Block of Sheep’s Milk Cheese, I buy mine in the white and blue container at Trader Joe’s

About 2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano

About 2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil

Freshly Ground Pepper

About 1/2 Cup Diaya Mozzarella Style Shreds

About 2 Tablespoons Dairy Free Parmesan Style Cheese

1 Jar Ready-Made Pasta Sauce, I used Newman’s Marinara, or homemade of course

1 Package Gluten Free Lasagna Noodles, cooked aldente (follow pkg instructions), rinsed, and separated immediately

Cook pasta, rinse, separate, and set aside. Fry the Italian sausage and pepper flakes (to your taste) until done, drain fat, set aside.

Drain the sheep’s cheese and place the entire block in a mixer. Add the fresh herbs, other two cheeses, and the fresh herbs. Mix on medium until it comes together and begins to look somewhat sticky. I was also going to add 1/2 cup chopped spinach to this mixture but forgot!

Oil a 9×9 inch square baking dish with olive oil. Spoon a small amount of sauce over the bottom of the dish. Set aside.

Lay out a lasagna noodle on your work surface. Spread either with a knife or the back of a spoon about 1 to 1/2 Tablespoons of the pesto along the entire noodle. Add about 2 Tablespoons (or so) of the cheese mixture to the end of the noodle nearest you, add about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the sausage, and roll up, tucking in any filling that falls out of the sides as you go. Place the roll upright in the prepared pan. Continue until you have used all of your fillings.

Once the pan is full, pour the remaining sauce over the top, spreading with a spoon. Sprinkle with a little more of the mozzarella style cheese and the parmesan style cheese. Oil a piece of aluminum foil and cover.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes covered, remove foil, and bake for 10 more minutes.

Kalamata Olive & Garlic Loaf

With this recipe, I made two small plain loaves and 1 medium olive and garlic loaf. I simply separated the dough and took out the plain loaves first, then added the ingredients for the olive and garlic loaf.

1 Box Gluten Free Pantry French Bread Mix (make using directions on back of box)

Kalamata Olives, about 15 sliced in half lengthwise

Garlic Cloves, about 8 sliced in half lengthwise

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano

1 Egg for Brushing

I wasn’t in the mood to run to the basement to fetch my french bread pan, so I simply lined a baking sheet with parchment paper. It works just fine, but the loaves spread out a bit.

Depending on how you want to separate the dough, do that part first, leaving the amount of dough that you want to use for the olive and garlic loaf in the mixer. Then, add the olives, garlic, and oregano and mix until combined.

Dollop and spread it on the baking sheet or in the french bread pan, brush with whisked egg, and cover with oiled plastic. Allow to rise for about 40 minutes in a warm place

Bake for about 30 minutes (I use convection). You may need to cover lightly with foil if it begins to brown too quickly.

Bright Eyed & Bushy Tailed

I was awakened this morning at 5:00 AM to the sound of a tail thumping by my head and my face being covered with good morning licks. Evidently Abigail was way ahead of me in the energy department and was already getting excited for their morning walk.

Romeo was still lounging at my feet stretching and groaning. “I’m with you, Romeo,” I said. I rolled over and tried to ignore Abigail but she already had her morning agenda planned and wasn’t going to put up with Romeo and I lounging around lazily. So she laid on more kisses and more tail wagging and then started to jump around on the bed…

“OK, OK, I’m up…let’s get ready to go!” So I dragged myself out of bed and whipped up a quick breakfast I could drink on the 20 minute drive.

Quick Morning Smoothie

1/4 Cup Fresh Pineapple

1 Cup Frozen Organic Mixed Berries

1 Cup Organic Almond Milk

1 Heaping Tablespoon Organic Raw Almond Butter

1/2 Cup Ice

Place all ingredients in mixer and blend until smooth.

This morning’s walk was along the river by a nearby airfield.

The water looked very inviting. Next time I’m wearing my suit!

These were right next to the boat launch where we were standing. I was trying to get a good shot of the lady bug but she wouldn’t cooperate. Then I did some further investigating and realized that half the bush was covered with wasps. EEEeek!

All smiles.

“Are you coming? I’ve got places to go and things to sniff!”

Another plane coming in for a landing. Kind of cool to watch them come and go. Notice how hazy the mountains are in the background? We have a couple of wildfires burning in our area. Not unusual for this time of year especially when we have very wet springs that allow things to overgrow and then very hot summers that dry things out.

We’re back home now and I suppose I should finish my to-do list from yesterday. I had big plans to clean and organize and run errands yesterday, but visiting with neighbors and making a Luscious Lemon Cake seemed like so much more fun.

Hope you have a great day!

Succulent gâteau au citron

Or otherwise known as ~ Luscious Lemon Cake

This is a French angel food cake. According to Laura Calder from French Food At Home, it’s French because Americans use just egg whites and the French use both whites and yolks.

Have you seen French Food At Home on The Cooking Channel? Love, love, LOVE it! She always has gorgeous and amazing recipes that look extremely fancy but are usually pretty easy to attempt. I even love the music. She has a little bit of a quirky personality and it’s fun to watch her mannerisms and hear her formal way of speaking. The music is very French and fun and her whole show is just a nice, relaxing, treat.

Laura Calder’s a Canadian who was in the corporate world in a high stress job and in a relationship, etc., etc. She said one day she woke up, decided enough was enough. Quit her job, dumped the boyfriend, and enrolled herself at Dubrulle Culinary Institute in Vancouver. Then moved to France and honed her skills at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. Can you imagine? What excitement!

This cake is simple, so simple in fact that it freaked me out a bit. But only because cakes in the gluten-free world are a little touchy and temperamental. They can come out dense and grainy, or fluffy and dry. This cake was neither.

French angel food cake doesn’t puff up quite like American angel food cake and it’s not as sweet. It’s amazing. In fact, I like it better than American angel food cake. It’s not sticky like a lot of angel food cakes and doesn’t smoosh down when you slice it. It remains fluffy and moist with a tiny bit of slightly crispy crust on the outside.  It’s delicious and I am now addicted…for life. I’ve already had two slices. Before dinner. Like grown ups have the right to do!

This recipe is adapted from Laura Calder’s original recipe: Angel Cake with Blackberries and White Currents.

Luscious Lemon Cake

6 Eggs, separated

1 Cup Sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons Pure Lemon Extract

1 Cup Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour, sifted

Lemon Glaze:

1 1/2 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

About 2 Cups Powdered Sugar

Zest of 1 Lemon

Juice of 2 Lemons

Almond Milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees for convection, 400 degrees conventional. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.

Beat egg whites to stiff peak in a bowl with a whisk or in a mixer. I used a mixer. Not too stiff! Just enough that the peak stands without falling. Whisk the egg yolks and pour all at once into the batter.

Beat until thoroughly combined and with the mixer running, add the sugar and lemon extract. Beat until combined.

Remove beater. Sift flour. Fold flour into batter carefully. Pour into springform pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cooking times may vary if you are using a conventional oven.

Woops, I was a little overzealous when giving the cake the finger touch test. But it turned out OK after all because once it cools for 15 minutes the top cracks anyway. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes and then remove the sides of the springform pan and place the cake on a serving platter or cake plate.

To make the glaze: Simply melt the butter in a bowl, add the powdered sugar a bit at a time and alternate with the lemon juice and powdered sugar. Once it’s combined, add almond milk a teaspoon at a time to get a thick “ish” glaze consistency. Smooth it over the top while the cake is still warm and allow it to drizzle down the sides.

Coupe une belle pièce, offrez-vous un bon livre, une tasse de thé, et profitez de votre journée !

Cherry, Walnut, & Dark Chocolate Bites

These are low in fat, high in fiber, and packed with antioxidants.

A perfect little snack for an hour of reading and a nice cup of tea.

Cherry, Walnut, & Dark Chocolate Bites

1 1/2 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1/2 Cup Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

4 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

1/2 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg

1/4 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce

1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Walnut Halves, crumbled

1/2 Cup Dried Cherries

1/2 Cup Dairy Free Dark Belgian Chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine all of the dry ingredients (minus the nuts, cherries, & chocolate) in a medium bowl and whisk together. In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg, applesauce, and vanilla, mix thoroughly.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixing on stir setting until just moistened. Add the nuts, cherries, and chocolate and mix on low until thoroughly combined.

Place by heaping teaspoons onto baking sheets and bake for about 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. I use convection.

*This recipe was adapted from Health magazines’ Supercharged Cherry Almond Cookies.

Grilled Cheese with Spinach, Chicken & Pesto

I’ve been trying to stick to salads for lunch to up my daily veggie intake, but yesterday I had almost an entire vegetable day purely by accident. I love vegetables, but all day? I must have had a lot going on because typically I’m a protein lover.

After walking the dogs late this morning I couldn’t get my mind off of a grilled cheese sandwich. I also had chicken breasts that needed to be grilled and leftover vegan pesto from the sandwiches I made over the weekend. After the dogs got their “you were good on your walk” treat, I rummaged around and also remembered I had organic tomatoes and a nice bunch of organic flat leaf parsley. I’m crazy for parsley. I don’t know why, but I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I used to eat everyone’s parsley off their plate when we went out to dinner.

So, once I realized I had the makings for a delicious sandwich, I shoved the salad I made yesterday to the back of the fridge and told myself I would eat it for dinner instead.

Grilled Cheese with Spinach, Chicken, & Pesto

2 Slices Gluten Free Bread (I used Udi’s Whole Grain)

Slices of Grilled Chicken Breast

Spinach Leaves

Vegan Pesto

Diaya Cheese

Dairy Free Butter

Fresh Tomatoes

Flat Leaf Parsley

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

I’m sure you know how to make a grilled cheese so I will just give the basics. Grill the chicken first, or use leftovers, your preference. Spread pesto on the insides of both pieces of bread. Place the cheese on the bottom piece of bread, closest to the heat. Layer everything else however you like and cook until nice and toasty.

Vegetable Stuffed Portobello For One

A very long time ago I said we were going to go to “Meatless Mondays” . We never quite made it. Although, we have cut back on our red meat consumption dramatically, I find it hard to stick to one thing on a specific day of the week. Partly because I haven’t put much effort into figuring out enough meatless meals and also because my husband travels so much that I rarely exert a lot of energy into figuring out what I’m going to make myself for dinner when he’s away.

Last night, it was black bean re-fried beans, dairy-free cheese, and Tabasco that I heated in the microwave. Then I ate it while reading a book.  Don’t scoff, it was quite enjoyable.

But, tonight, in an attempt to get my daily recommended allowance of vegetables, I thought I’d put in a tad more effort. But not so much that it would be too complicated to eat while reading my book.

Grilled Vegetable Stuffed Portobello with Sautéed Rainbow Chard

1 Portobello Mushroom

1/2 Orange Bell Pepper

1 Small Sweet Onion

About 3/4 Cup Broccoli

About 6 Sugar Peas

Rainbow Chard, about 8 leaves, stems removed

Olive Oil

Garlic Powder

Kosher Salt

Diaya Cheddar Style Cheese, optional

Drizzle the mushroom with a little olive oil and rub to coat, set aside. Add the cut vegetables to a bowl, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and garlic powder, and toss to coat. Add everything to a grilling pan and grill on medium-high until mushroom is cooked and moist and vegetables are tender and browned on the edges.

While vegetables are grilling, coat a saute pan with a little olive oil. Heat on medium-high and saute the chard until it is wilted. It will wilt a lot, just like spinach does, so if you’re cooking for more than one, you’ll need to use a full head or more.

If you would like to top yours with dairy-free cheese, you’ll need to melt it under the broiler or in the microwave.