Friday, October 26, 2012

Reuben Dip

Last week I made a couple loaves of gluten free pumpernickel bread.  It turned out wonderful and you can find the recipe here.

Because the loaves are short and foccacia like, I decided to make a dip instead of a sandwich.  I love my dips!

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Pizza Dip

This one is right up there is taste and texture to being pretty amazing.  There is just something about warm cheese and bread.

I hope that you give this a try and share how you enjoyed it.

I know that I will get several question or comments about certain things so let me try to answer those in advance.

1.  Yes, this can be cooked in the crock pot.  Allow a few hours for it to get completely warm through out the dip.

2.  You can definitely substitute any type of meat for the corned beef if that is not a favorite of yours.

3.  The swiss cheese can be replaced with another variety, but keep in mind that it's supposed to be similar to a rueben sandwich.

4.  To stretch the dip you can add mayonnaise, sourcream, plain yogurt or more cream cheese.  You may also need to increase some of the other add in's to make the dip shine.  I liked this dip chunky.

5.  This can be made in the oven or warmed up in the microwave.  The white bowl above was heated up in the microwave for 3 minutes.

If you have any other questions please post below and I will try to get back with you as soon as possible.

Recipe: Rueben Dip

2 cups of diced corned beef brisket (I buy this at my local deli)
1 1/2 cups of fried sauerkraut, drained well
1 1/2  (12 oz) packages of cream cheese, soft
1/4 cup of green onion
2/3 cups of mozzarella cheese
8 oz swiss cheese, grated (the whole block will be used in and on top of the dip)

3/4 cups of 1,000 Island salad dressing (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a sauce pan, add drained and dry sauerkraut.  Fry for 5 minutes.  When I make a rueben I always fry my kraut. To fry the sauerkraut you can add a bit of oil and fry until it is browned a bit.  I like the added flavor it gives to the sandwich or dip.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients including all but 1 cup of swiss cheese.  This one cup will be used to top the dip.

Spread dip in a shallow baking pan (I used a round stoneware pan 10X10).

Spread dip with 1000 Island Salad Dressing.

Add remaining cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese and dip are warm and melted.

If microwaving, the time required will depend on the size of pan being used.

Recipe:  1000 Island Salad Dressing

1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of ketchup
1 tablespoon of pickle relish
2 teaspoons of onion

Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor.  Blend until fine pieces are visible, does not need to be smooth.

Taste and adjust flavors according to your taste buds.


Sifting Through Life: Tomato Pumpkin Soup and a Family Trip

Living in Utah, we became accustomed to having a Fall/Autumn break.  It was nice and maybe it was a way that as Utahan's we learned to cope with the winters better.  The winters seemed to never end especially when you are living at 6300 feet.  It was not unusual to have a freak storm hit some time in September and another one ending the snowy season in June.  Yep, 9-10 months some years of snow in some amount.  It could be inches or feet in one day.

The break was a way to enjoy being outside, seeing the beautiful colors and hanging Christmas lights on your home.  I think our last year, we just left them up.  LOL

When you live someplace you get into a rhythm of how your life works and runs.  We have moved often and so we have grown used to changing with the state, the season's and the people.

While in Maryland we have experienced a wide range of weather.  In fact, as I am writing this, there is a storm a brewing.  From what they say, it is going to be a doozy , one to write in the history books.  We shall see.  Today I went shopping and stocked up on food, water and fuel.  We have a generator, a basement and plenty of games. I guess we are as prepared as we can be.

This is what we returned home to on Tuesday, a"frankenstorm"in the making.

We returned from a short camping trip.  Now this is the weird part for me. We are camping in October (Utah just had a snow fall).  I made the arrangements a few months ago to get away for a few days to see the Fall trees with the orange, yellow and reds of the season.  I had no idea of what to expect.

Would we arrive to bare trees with no leaves or would they still be green?  Our summer was super hot and this is the primary reason we don't camp or site see in the summer.  I suppose if you come here on vacation you do what you have to do but we live here and so we try to do all of our outdoor activities in the Fall months.  Believe me it is miserable in 95 degree weather with 60% humidity to find your happy place in crowded museums and camp grounds.

On Sunday we arrived to an empty camp ground filled with the most beautiful orange and yellow trees.  According to the lady who checked us in we had come on the perfect weekend.  YAY for me.

Now, I will tell you it is not an easy task to get two teenagers and a workaholic husband excited about taking a few days off, especially when it's not a true weekend.  Our weekend was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  This is what I heard:

"But I will have homework"
"I have meetings scheduled"
"My girlfriend does not want me to go"…FYI: that was from the son, LOL
"I can't miss even one day, I am swamped"

I am going to fill you in on how this fell on my deaf ears, like I didn't even hear them.  WHY?

It's the same song and dance I hear every time I plan a short trip away.  Every time we come home I hear this:

"I really needed that"
"Wow, that was fun"
"You are amazing parents" (actual quote from this last trip)
"Thank you"

I have learned to follow my intuition as a mother and as a wife.  I can sense when my family is at their breaking points and they are needing a break and a bit of family time.

I used to disregard those small impressions that I would feel along the way.  I would discount my abilities to know when my children are hurting or are sad until a few years ago.  I had a significant experience that taught me I needed to LISTEN and pay attention with my oldest daughter and now I am on high alert.

I had these same feelings this past year and I did just that: listened.  It involved my son this time and I won't go into great detail other than to say I knew he was in pain and having a tough time.  I could sense it.

After a few days I confronted him about it and he remained tight lipped about what was going on.  I talked anyway.  I reassured him that we loved him and would always support him.  We wanted the best for him and he could depend on us to try to understand what was going on.  That whole day I felt a desperation about his situation.  I kept a close eye on him for a few days and he seemed to have found a peaceful resolution out of the deep somber state he had been in.

I soon forgot about that moment because he did appear to be happy again.  I had one other prompting before he started school a few weeks after the above mentioned experience and it was about marching band.  He is one to not disappoint us and yet every time he talked to us about this subject I could tell something was not right.  I told my husband that I thought we should tell him that if he wanted to quit, that we were okay with this but that it needed to be his decision and to think long and hard about this.

He made the decision to not continue with marching band but just band.

Again, this happened and I did not think twice about the two events because they seemed to have worked themselves out.  I can tell you though, that both times I felt compelled to approach my son.

Getting back to this past weekend, we settled into a routine of chatting around the camp fire each night.

Usually we started with the five of us and the girls would get tired and head into the cottage to sleep.  Cory and I were left with Drake to visit and chat about all types of stuff.  On one of these nights he opened up to us about what was happening and how he was feeling just a few short months ago.  I was shocked at what he said.

I will not break his confidence but suffice it to say they were words that as a parent you would hope to never hear uttered from your child.  He was depressed and in a very low state.  He doesn't know why he felt that way.

At that moment my body was filled with goosebumps.  I knew something had been seriously wrong.

We talked, we did not get upset, we expressed our love and a plan of how to handle those feelings if they come again.  We listened.

The weight that was lifted from our son was huge.  His bounce returned. He smiled.  He played soccer and joked with his sisters all weekend long.

Our time together as a family was very much needed to reestablish the trust, love and support that sometimes our busy lives have a subtle way of placing a wedge between us.

The trip was worth the work to prepare the meals and the time necessary to pack.  We went to bed each night rediscovering what our favorite foods, colors and movies were.  We told jokes.  We simply were together in one large room as a family away from the world for a few short days.  Enough time to forge the friendships, solidify the love and trust and balance our souls again.

If my kids heard me say one more time " I could totally live in a one room house" again I think they may leave me at home next time.  You have to remember we are the family that lived in a 30 ft motor home for one year.  I like tiny spaces.  Our cottage was awesome.  I felt like I was living a pioneer life of sleeping, eating and cooking in one big room.  Our beds were a queen, a full and two bunks.   We had a wood burning stove and one table that sat 5.  A trunk and a side table.  That's it.

I loved every minute of it.

I prepared all of the food before we left.  I did not want to be making huge meals the whole time I was supposed to be on vacation too.

So what did I make?  I made tomato pumpkin soup (recipe below), Enchilada soup, Nutella peanut butter cookies, ranch dip for veggies, hummus dip and tuna fish.  We brought yogurt and homemade pumpkin spice granola for breakfast and sandwich fixings for lunch.  We never eat all of the food I bring.  Even when I cut back we come home with stuff.  We did do smore's on one night too.

It felt like old times when we were traveling and it was just us.  I really do miss our time on the road and I anxiously but patiently am waiting for the time we can do that again.  Until then I will be content with our little outings away, as a family, every once in a while.

I am so grateful for those small whisperings that as mothers and fathers we have access too.  With each new experience it teaches me to listen more as I guide and raise my kids.

Here is the recipe for the Tomato Pumpkin Soup that I made for our first night.  I served the soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  It hit the spot on the chilly night spent in the "oh, so cute" one room cottage in the middle of the great outdoors surrounded by the most beautiful orange and yellow trees.

Recipe:  Tomato Pumpkin Soup
Makes 4-6 servings.

1 large can (28 oz) of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon of dried Oregano
1 teaspoon of dried Basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1 1/2 cups of cream (heavy or light)

In a medium pot, combine all of the above ingredients except the cream.  Bring soup to a simmer.

Let simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cream.

Top with cheese or serve with a grilled cheese sandwich.

More Pictures Below:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Winter Salad with Poppyseed Salad Dressing

Pomegranates have been a favorite of mine for years.  I remember eating them as a kid and spending hours picking out each and every seed.  Pulling back the white membrane very gently so that I would not damage a single kernel.

Once they were all picked I would sit with my bowl and gently scoop a handful into my mouth.  This was the best part.  The snapping and popping of each seed as I bit down.  The juice pooling in my mouth was full of body and rich flavor.  

I don't recall if my Mom ever used them in anything we ate other than to eat them on their own. 

Years ago I was given this recipe at a function and it called for pomegranates.  

I don't buy them like I used to.  My kids can take or leave them.  I always asked for them when I went shopping with my Mom but my kids don't care much if they have one or not.

Looking through my old recipes I found this and decided to make it for our lunch.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed poppyseed salad dressing and when combined with the fruit and lettuce greens my tummy was a happy camper.

Recipe:  Winter Salad with Poppyseed Salad Dressing

Head of Romaine Lettuce
1 cup of diced apple
1 cup of diced pear
1/2 cup of sliced almond slivers
1 cup of grated swiss cheese
seeds from one pomegranate
Poppyseed Salad Dressing (Recipe below)

Toss salad together.

Add salad dressing.


NOTE:  I used a bit of lemon juice in water to keep the apple and pear from turning brown before I tossed them into the salad.  I have also used Sprite.

Recipe: Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

1/2 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Combine above ingredients in a container with a lid.  Shake until blended.  Serve over salad.

Good for 2 weeks stored in refrigerator.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gluten Free Pumpernickel Foccacia

One of the things I love about having a fan page is the interaction and communications that I am able to have with a variety of people from all over the world.

It is not uncommon for me to open my email and find a recipe that has been shared with me.

Usually they are recipes that are handed down through the family and the directions are scratchy or not complete.  Sometimes the recipe has left out an ingredient or a measurement.

If you are not familiar with ingredients and recipe development, this can lead to a bit of stress for the family member or friend.

I had an experience with this when my grandmother passed away a few years ago. I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen so I was able to piece together the remnants of the recipes that she left behind.

Kitchen shorthand.

 I think we may all be guilty of this at one time or another in our lives.  I still do it when I go to the book store or sitting in the doctors office, I will take any scrap of paper I can find and try to write enough of the recipe to be able to transcribe it when I get home.  LOL

It just happens when we get busy.  I am trying to be much better about not leaving my kids recipes filled with "kitchen shorthand". This blog is a place that I can share my recipes and the kids will have access to it no matter where they live.

I received this recipe from a friend that had recently discovered they had celiac disease.  She had found it and was wondering if it would be easy to make and if she should make it.  I told her I would make it first to test the recipe.

I love pumpernickel and so this recipe thrilled me.  To find something that I could introduce back into my "skimpy" list of things I could eat was exciting.  I envisioned one rueben sandwich after the other in my near future.

The problem is that some of the ingredients were not accurately listed.  We had the list but not the measurements.

This is where I was able to fill out the recipe for both of us.

The bread is excellent!  The texture is soft. It cuts easily into slices for sandwiches.  The flavor was spot on.

The ingredient list is long, the rising of the dough takes time but some things are just worth the little bit of effort it takes to make a quality loaf of foccacia, especially for those of us that are so limited in what we can and can't have.

Recipe:  Gluten Free Pumpernickel Foccacia
Adapted from a recipe by Donna Nagel

1/3 cup tapioca flour
2 cups brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
2 1/2 teaspoons of xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry powdered milk
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon sugar
7/8 cup of warm water (14 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon of Molasses
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 tablespoon of light olive oil
1 tablespoon of sugar
2/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 eggs, at room temperature

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Stir well.

In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Stir well.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, water and yeast.  Let proof until bubbles are present.

Combine the three bowls into one.  Add eggs. Stir to combine.

The dough will be more like a thick brownie batter.  This is normal when making bread that is gluten free.

Beat with a hand mixer or a table mixer on high for 2 minutes.

Cover the bowl for 1 hour.

Beat again for 2 minutes.

Prepare the cake pans with a spray of vegetable oil.  Scoop the dough evenly into each of the cake pans. It will be very sticky and you won't be able to shape it much.

Let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Bake for 30-45 minutes.

Cool on wire racks.  Once the bread is cool, it can be sliced and stored in an airtight container.  You can also freeze the bread into smaller sizes and thaw when ready to use.

NOTE: The bread does get crumbly after 3 days and would be best stored in the refrigerator if not eaten the first day.

This is how I used the bread.  I made a rueben dip and served it as an appetizer.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

218. Honeycomb Candy (named Seafoam too)

Sweet or salty?

If given the choice between the two, my first choice will usually be salty.  I have never been much of a candy person, even as a kid.

With that being said, I did have my temptations.  Marzipan, peanut butter, dark chocolate and Seafoam. These were my candies of choice.

I grew up buying marzipan candy from See's.  My first introduction to this candy was in the shape of a piece of fruit.  The fruits are cute and some taste better than others, but I really liked it simple.  A cute rectangle square dipped in deep chocolate that I could easily eat in two bites.  My aunt would bring us over all types and shapes of marzipan from England too.  

Along with the marzipan she always brought Crunchie Bars.  We always just got one.  Each of us girls would take our treats back to our rooms and save them for a later day.  

At the end of my 10th grade we moved from sunny California to Oregon.  To say the weather and over cloud skies were a change is an understatement.  It rained a lot.

One of the activities we did to escape the rain was to go to the Oregon Coast.  It was still raining at the beach but they had outlet malls, indoor swimming pools at the hotels, miles of coastline and fun little stores to go and visit.

The two stores we frequented the most were the candy store and The Christmas Store.  This is where I found Seafoam Candy, many know it also as Honeycomb.

I loved this candy!  It was usually dipped in dark chocolate too.  I felt this was even better.

When I became old enough to start making it myself, I did.  It is so simple to make.  You just need to keep a few things in mind.  Let me tell you what they are so you can get in the kitchen and start making your first batch of Seafoam Candy.  Your family will thank me and you later.  (wink)

You will need a candy thermometer.  The candy must be boiled to a temperature of 300 degrees, hard ball stage.  You cannot eye ball this step.

You will want a larger than you think sauce pan when making this candy.  The first time I made it I used a small 3 cup sauce pan, after all, the sugar amount was small.  Well, let me tell you….when you add the baking soda, do you see the bubbles in the candy, this is how it happens.  The reaction is so fast and before you know it the candy is overspilling the pan.

Trust me, use a pot that is 6 cup sauce pan.  Don't be surprised your first time that you may have a few baking soda clumps in your candy.  Once it hardens these can be removed or brushed off.  I try to smash the baking soda with a fork so that there are not any clumps, just a suggestion.

Dipping the candy in chocolate is a bit messy, but really worth it.  The Seafoam on its own can be a bit brittle but dipped in chocolate it makes eating it less messy.

I store mine in the refrigerator in Maryland. It is so humid here that if I don't it gets sticky.  You can also try storing it in an airtight container where you live to see if that works for you.

I hope that you will let me know how your first attempt of this candy turns out in the comments below. It's a fun one to make with the kids because of the reaction toward the end with the sugar and baking soday…don't tell them and watch their faces of delight as the foam is created.

Recipe: Seafoam Candy

Please read the above tips before attempting to make this candy.

1.5 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon of butter, to oil the pan
1 tablespoon of baking soda
1 package of chocolate chips, dark or milk (optional)

In a 6 cup sauce pan add sugar, honey and water.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Once the candy starts to boil, add your thermometer and stop stirring.  Let the temperature rise to 300 degrees or to the hard ball stage.  This will take about 10 minutes.

While this is getting to the temperature needed, butter the cookie sheet.  The smaller the pan the thicker the seafoam.

Cookie Sheet:  around 1/4 inch thick
9X13 pan: 1/2 inch thick
8X8 pan 1+inches thick

Once it gets to 300 degrees, turn of heat and add baking soda.  Be careful because it will expand fast.  With a whisk, do your best to stir in the baking soda.

Immediately pour onto the prepared pan  DO NOT SMOOTH OR TOUCH.  It will settle and spread on its own.

Let it completely cool. To speed up the process I do put mine in the refrigerator.

While candy is hardening, melt chocolate.  Either in the microwave or on the stove top.  Use your preferred method.

Break up the candy into the desired sizes and dip chocolate.

Place the pieces on a wire rack to let the chocolate set.  Again, I just add mine back to the fridge.

Store in an airtight container.  Will last about one week.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

217. Pumpkin Spice Granola


This is my third recipe for granola.  It is so easy to make that I just can't bring myself to buy the stuff in the store ever again.

I had my hand on a box the other day because the front of the packaging looked so enticing.  I shook my head and told myself to go home and make a fresh batch.

 I did.

I am so glad that I tried to make Pumpkin Spice Granola.  I wasn't sure if I had gotten the spice combination correct.  Once it is made, it's made.

I am happy to report that it turned out with a strong flavor of pumpkin pie and had the same crunch that my other two granola's have.

I added pumpkin puree to the wet ingredients and I did not know if this would change the makeup of the maple syrup blend.   I was pleasantly surprised.  It added a depth to the pumpkin flavor and did not affect the texture.

I eat this as cereal with milk or served over a bowl of honey greek yogurt.

In fact, as I am typing this I am dabbing the corner's of my lips with a white napkin….oh it's a keeper!

I was so glad to find clusters in this batch of granola.  They are packed full of pumpkin flavor and have a crunchy texture.

I am a strange eater sometimes.  This is one example.  When I open a bag of potato chips I eat all of the folded, doubled over chips first.  In my opinion, these are just simply the best.  They are crispy and when you bite into the many layers, my mouth and mind work together and send the signal that this is how every chip should be. 

It drives my family crazy.

The granola does not have edges that are folded but the clusters do the same thing to my brain.  With every bite it sends a signal of perfection.  As I bite through each cluster, it falls apart and is very crunchy.

Yes, I did go through the bowl and pick out a few clusters.  

I figure to get more of the clusters in your granola, when mixing the granola, use your hands and squish handfuls together and gently dump on cookie tray.  Try not to over stir the first two times you move the granola around.  You could also reduce the amount of oatmeal by one cup to allow for more of the wet ingredient to "cluster" the granola.

I know this is not rocket science but it is what keeps me up at night…LOL

Tell me what food habits you have that drive your family crazy in the comments below.  

Recipe:  Pumpkin Spice Granola

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup light extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
2 tablespoons of pumpkin spice (recipe below or use store bought)
2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree

5-6 cups of uncooked oatmeal, just plain old oatmeal
1/2 cup of grated or shredded coconut
1/2 cup of blanched almonds
dried cranberries (optional)
1/4 cup of brown sugar (optional)

NOTE:  With granola you can add a variety of seeds or nuts to the process.  I add any dried fruit after it is prepared.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl combine oatmeal, nuts and coconut.  If you are adding seeds add them know too.

Set aside.

In a medium size saucepan, add syrup, oil, vanilla and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin puree.

Immediately pour over oatmeal mixture.  Toss.

Pour granola onto a cookie sheet with rimmed sides.

Every 15 minutes, gently toss granola.  After about 45 you should start to smell the granola and see a change in color.  It will start to darken.  I let my granola bake for 1hour, stirring it every 15 minutes.

Remove from oven.  I sprinkled some brown sugar over this batch while still hot and gently mixed.  This is optional but does add a nice look and additional sweetness to the granola.

Cool and store in tightly sealed container.

This can be stored for up to one month.  After that quality of flavors may start to break down.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Spice

I made my own.  It turned out great and taste just like pumpkin pie to me.

1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/4 teaspoon of ginger

Combine together and use accordingly.


Monday, October 15, 2012

216. Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing


This is my daughters favorite color.  This color also represents something else.  It has become the color that symbolizes Breast Cancer.

The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It  is a time for women and men to think about getting mammograms, offer monetary support for the foundations that they support and to bring awareness to everyone that is involved, has been affected by cancer, survivors and those that have past.

Breast cancer is affecting more and more people and the disease is hitting closer and closer to home.  With the technology of modern medicine the doctors are able to diagnosis and treat the cancer sooner.

My own life has been affected by the scare of finding lumps.  Both times it was assessed that they were benign.  Thank goodness I was fortunate to have dodged that bullet.

I can only relate my own thoughts of fear and sadness each time I saw the  technician leave the room to get the doctor as they returned to scan the mammogram.  On my left breast it was determined that the mass was a cyst and was nothing to worry about.

The second time, on my right breast.  It was a different story.  All I can say is to me it looked like someone had shoved a tootsie roll candy deep inside, up against my rib cage.  I could not feel it.  That was frustrating. I wanted to feel it. I wanted to know what was inside my body.

I was scared.  I saw my kids grow up without a mother.  I know that not all lumps are a death sentence but I am human and I thought the worst.  After the fears, comes the calming knowledge that you will do what ever it takes to rid your body of the disease.

This all happened at a time when I was very sick trying to figure out other reasons for me being so sick.  It was soon after this that I learned I had celiac.  We were also about to embark on our year long trip around the US in our motor home with the kids.

The next day I was asked to come in so that they could aspirate the "tootsie roll".  I went in and watched as they entered long needles into my right breast to try and drain it.  Unfortunately my doctor was unable to complete the procedure.

We chatted and he felt assured that what we were dealing with was not of great concern.  He wanted me to wait and get a new mammogram in six months.

Six months later and many miles behind us, we found ourselves in Texas. I had the date written on the calendar and found a specialist in this field. I carried my xrays with me and after being retested and visiting with the doctor she felt that what we were dealing with was another cyst.

For two years, I had to return every 6 months and have a new mammogram to make sure that the "tootsie roll" was not growing or changing.   It never did.

I still need to be aware of this and as I prepare to go to my new doctor next week for my yearly visit, I will be carting my xrays in to her office to monitor any changes.

I learned a lot about myself during the time of waiting. Our minds are powerful cheerleaders when the possibility of the worst is before you.  I was grateful for doctors and modern science that could help me make the decisions that I had been faced with. I was grateful for my family.

I gained a greater sense of living each day to the fullest.  I was one of the lucky ones.  My husband bought me a pink ribbon charm to remind me how fragile life is.  He knew what a mental race I had just endured.  I was one of the lucky ones that received good news.  Others are not so fortunate and for this my heart breaks to those that have lost the battle too soon.

In honor of this month, I wanted to create a pink recipe.  With Thanksgiving right around the corner and cranberries having their roll in our turkey dinner I thought this would be a nice addition to our dinner, Cranberry Vinaiegrette Salad Dressing.

I served this dressing on a  broccoli  and cranberry salad.  It can be tossed together or the salad can be served on a side plate with the dressing available for each guest to pour themselves.

I like the cranberry flavor, thick consistency and twang of the apple cider vinegar.

Please enjoy this recipe and remember to get mammograms early for early detection.

Recipe: Cranberry Broccoli Salad
Makes 6-8 side servings

3 cups of raw broccoli, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup of crispy bacon, diced
1/4 cup of caramelized pecans
3 tablespoons of red onion, diced small
1/3 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of cranberry vinaigrette (recipe below)

Toss the above ingredients together.

Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Makes about 2.5 cups

2 cups of fresh cranberries, washed
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of white sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 cup of cranberry sauce
Sprinkle of clove, to taste
Sprinkle of cinnamon, to taste
1/2 cup of light olive oil

In a blender combine all of the above ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil.

Blend until small specks of cranberry can be seen.
Once it is blended, turn your blender onto medium speed and slowly add the olive oil.
Taste. If too tart, add a bit more sugar. Cranberries can be extremely tart.

Salad dressing can be used immediately or stored in refrigerator for one week.


Friday, October 12, 2012

215. Parker House Rolls


Warm rolls on cool days with a big bowl of soup brings a smile to my families faces and warms their heart and spirit.

Can you ever have too many rolls?

This is a recipe that I have used for years making crescent shaped rolls for the holidays. The original recipe makes about 4 dozen rolls.  For large gatherings this is great but when at home with my family of five I know that we won't eat that many.

I decided to cut the recipe in half and reshape them to see if the flavor and texture would still be there.

It was.

Enjoy these at your next gathering or with your friends and neighbors for Sunday Supper.

Recipe: Parker House Rolls

2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of yeast
1 cup of warm water
3-4 cups of flour, the dough should not be dry.  Start with less and gradually add until a ball forms.
1 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs

1/2 stick of butter, melted

Combine water, sugar and yeast. Let set for 5 minutes until yeast is activated.

In a large bowl or table top mixer, add salt and flour.

Add yeast/water/sugar and eggs to flour and salt.

Mix until dough comes together and pulls away from bowl. Add more flour if dough is too sticky.

Let dough rest for 30 minutes. Cover with a towel.

Preheat oven to 425.

Melt butter in bowl. Find a large circle cookie cutter.

Flour surface and roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness.

Cut dough into circles and dip the whole circle in to the butter so that both sides are coated.

Fold in half and lay next to each other on cookie sheet. 

Let rise 30 minutes.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Pecan Bars

Sometimes I don't want pie.  

I don't want to make the crust and hope it turns out.  I just want something easy that I can take to family parties that will be easy to eat and enjoyed by others.

This dessert is always well received.  I have made both versions (regular and gluten free) for family and friends.  

The one that gets the most praises is the gluten free.  They love the crust.  The almond meal adds another layer of rich flavor and texture.

I like to add extra pecans so that they are the star of the show.  If you don't have enough, then the bars look a bit naked, if you ask me.  See the picture below of the "Naked Pecan Bars"….boring.  When compared to the image above you can see what I mean.  The three cups in the recipe will give you ample pecans but please feel free to add a few more to your liking.

I also made these in small ramekins to see if I could do individual portions.  It worked like a charm.  I find that guest like to have their OWN small dish.  I used a knife to go around the outer edge and they popped right out.  They make the perfect mini pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream balanced on top.

 Recipe: Pecan Bars

Makes 9X13 pan

For the crust:

2 sticks of butter, softened

2/3 cups of packed brown sugar

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour (for gluten free substitute, see below)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

*To make this gluten free, use this conversion: 2 cups of almond meal plus 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of brown rice flour for the regular flour.

For the topping:
1/3 cup of butter

1 cup of packed brown sugar

1/3 cup of honey

2 tablespoons of heavy cream

3 cups of chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper or spray individual ramekins with Pam. (see picture)

Combine the crust ingredients. Push into 9X13 pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the crust is cooking, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey and cream in a saucepan. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute and add pecans. Stir to combine.

Remove crust from oven and add the topping. Spreading topping to cover all of the crust. If baking individual size portions, scoop enough filling into each cup to cover crust.

Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove bars and let cool completely in pan. Remove bars by lifting parchment paper out of pan. Cut into squares.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sifting Through Life: Fried Calamari

Sometimes I add a recipe to this segment and sometimes I don't.

Today is your lucky day because here it is: Fried Calamari.

My first experience with calamari was with my dad, many many years ago.  I don't remember the exact location, the year or the occasion. I just know it was squid and my dad had an intrigued kid about to try something new.  He had my full attention.

I remember being with my dad for the first time in a very long time.  My parents were divorced and we rarely saw him because we lived in two different states.  For a long time my parents despised each other with good reason.  Infidelity in a marriage is never easy to digest.  Towards the end of his life they rekindled their friendship and he left this earth while on good terms with my Mom.

I must have been around 8 years old, the oldest of three girls for this first encounter with calamari, squid  or the little squiggly sea creature with long tentacles.  This is how my Dad described it to me on my first try so long ago.

Dad loved seafood and I believe this is where I inherited the taste for fish as well.  I cannot recall a time that I did not enjoy the flavor of the sea.  This all occurred long before the days of Google or smart phones.  Today I would have looked it up on the spot.  I like to know what I am eating.

As the dish arrived I could tell that it had been fried.  Fried is always a good place to start with kids and fish.  The oil and crispy texture hides a bit of the fishiness that comes with the territory of dealing with seafood.

I recall the sauce that was served, it was light yellow with a hint of lemon.  Lemon was good.  I liked sour things and so the twang from the lemon added another layer to mask what I was about to partake of.  I like the taste of seafood but sometimes the aroma is a bit intense.  To an 8 year old nose, scents can make or break the deal.

The rings were easy.  What little girl did not love rings?  Rings of white with a lightly crisp exterior.  It was the other part that took some convincing, tentacles.




Those were all of my responses…LOL  It wasn't until I became an adult that I would venture into the area of eating the tentacles.  It actually took the bravery of my daughter to do this for me.  I say bravery because some times certain foods just don't look good or appetizing.   They are creepy.  Our minds are powerful and we over think things.

Imagine swallowing a tentacle and having it suctioned to the inside of your throat…hey, it could happen.

In all honesty I doubt it could, but these are the things that I think of.  That I thought of for many years after my first try with calamari.

My daughter is always level headed and she gave me the look.  You may be familiar with it, the "really Mom…don't be so dramatic."

I don't remember when my kids did not like fish.  They were raised on it.  So eating calamari was not a big deal for them including the tentacles.  I closed my eyes and went for it.

There was no suctioning to the inside of my mouth, throat or tongue.  Although, that would have been hilarious to have been able to stick my tongue out and have this little thing hanging from it.  LOL  I can only imagine the look of horror and shock on my daughters face.

Today, in my 40's,  I love the whole squid…body and tentacle.

Our issue seems to be finding calamari that is perfectly made to how we enjoy this dish.  We know how we enjoy this dish and how we do not.  We do not like calamari that is over battered, over cooked or is too chewy.

Why over batter something that is so good when lightly encrusted is ideal?

It is no secret that we live by the water and have an abundance of seafood within our everyday reach.  I love going to the fish market and seeing the variety that is on display.  Whole fish, filets, scallops, oysters, mussels…you name it, we have it in Annapolis.

I can purchase calamari fresh or frozen.  I only buy it fresh if I am going to prepare it that day otherwise I will buy a frozen package and save it for the upcoming menu.

This is a quick dish.  If you purchase the calamari frozen, thaw and rinse.  Using a sharp knife cut the body into ringlets.  I like mine to be as wide as my index finger, just under a 1/2 inch.  The tentacles don't really need much other than I trim them so they are all the same length.  Every once in a while you get a tentacle that is really long.

I use a combination of brown rice flour and spices to dredge each piece in.  Again, I am not a fan of an overly thick batter but I know lots of people who enjoy it this way.  You can also use corn meal, almond meal and all purpose flour to achieve the same style of calamari.  I season the flour with garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper.  This is a personal preference and you can literally add anything you want to based on what your palette prefers.  We like to keep it simple.

The KISS method.  Keep It Simple Sexy.  I don't like the word stupid.

It takes just a few minutes of frying in hot vegetable oil.  The rings and tentacles are tossed in.  The bubbling of the oil starts.  The white squid body rings start to open up and float on the oil like little rafts lost at sea, tossing in the oil.

I use a wire strainer to flip the rings over in the oil.  I like them to each be golden brown.  I remove everything to a paper towel and proceed to cook the rest.

These are usually gone before I can get them to the table.  The kids can smell the scent in their rooms and they slowly make their way down the halls.  They see the paper towel with the golden rings of yumminess and start "sampling".

Each person issues the same comment, " a quality check is needed".  

Calamari, in my opinion, is best on its own.   My family likes it served with a sauce.

The variations are endless.  Here are a few suggestions:

Lemony Mayonnaise:  lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt.
Wicked Awesome Sauce:  Sriarcha sauce, mayonnaise.
Cocktail Sauce:  ketchup, horseradish sauce
Tartar Sauce: diced onion, dill relish, mayonnaise

I don't have a lot of childhood memories of time spent with my Dad.  It was not until I turned 18 that I developed a relationship with him.  He passed away when I was 23 in an airplane crash.  I will always be grateful that I took it upon myself to reach out to him and became friends.  I am also so happy that he was able to meet and approve of my husband.  I am sad that he never met his grandkids, of which, he would have been so happy and proud of.

My thoughts of my Dad this week were sparked by the relationship that I see my own kids having with their Dad.  I missed out on so much and yet I see what an influence he has on their every day life.

I can honestly say that Cory is the best Dad.  He is Isabella's best friend, Drakes mentor and Rye's life coach.  He provides things for the kids that I don't.  I love seeing them in action together as they solve problems, laugh, learn and live.

Dad's have the ability to hold the hearts of their children in the palms of their hands.  I know that so many fall short of this obligation and this is why I am grateful everyday for the man I chose to be the father of our children.

I am thankful for the few memories I do have and I hold them dear to my heart.  Growing up I did not know all of the details of why my family was not whole.  I judged my parents harshly.  I was broken and broken hearted because of the divorce.

Today, I see things and life events through the eyes of an adult.  I see how hard it is.  I know the sacrifice, devotion and endurance that a good marriage takes.  I have forgiven my parents.  I believe they did the best they could given the circumstances of the times they were living in.

Would I have done something different?  I don't know.  I like to live for today and not in the past.

Playing the "what if" game is something I stopped doing long ago.  I know that in the final days of my Dad's life he had regrets about choices he made that affected all of us.  I am glad that my parents were friends before he passed.

Every time I eat seafood I think of my Dad and this experience with the Calamari.  Do you have memories from your childhood that are attached to food?  In my world, food is attached to many memories and good times.

Calamari is a dish that many may not enjoy, but for those of us who do, it is a real treat.

My hope is that you will take the chance to try it and to even make it at home.

Something so delicious and simple is a real gourmet treat for family and friends.


Donut Breakfast Casserole

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