Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gluten Free

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Schar for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
It has been a couple of years, but we are planning on hosting an open house after New Year's.  We have decided to keep the fare simple and instead of lots of little appetizers do a soup and sandwich buffet.  In preparation  for the gathering I am on a quest for a few perfect soups.
Since we aren't offering a lot of different food options I want to make sure there are a variety of soups, so for the next few weeks I am going to be trying at least one new soup each week.  This week's soup a classic Vegetable Minestrone.  This is probably my favorite type of soup to make as it can be made with whatever is handy.

 I had planned on writing down the recipe as I made it, but got distracted.  The basic recipe is "dig through your fridge and find whatever vegetables are on hand and need to be used up."   I will try and come up with something a little more specific and maybe even write down a recipe next time.  
And, as everyone knows you can't have soup without bread.  So the other part of my mission for the next few weeks will be to test a variety of breads.  I am going to make some, but I also want to try some of the gluten free breads.  We have some friends who have recently gone gluten free and it would be great to have options for them.  My family is far from gluten free and Schar must have known this.  I recently received an e-mail from them announcing they have just re-launched their gluten free heat and serve items.  While I haven't had a chance to try the products I am definitely going to look for them next time I head to the grocery store.   I am sure their Ciabatta bread would be wonderful with a bowl of hot soup.  
I spent a lot of time checking out the Schar web-site which offers a wealth of information. I was amazed by the variety of products they offer, in addition to the ready to serve breads they also offer pastas, breadcrumbs and a variety of mixes.  The site also provides information on Celiac disease and gluten free diets,  which is great for those of us who aren't very knowledgeable on the subject.   If that weren't enough the site is also a great resource for gluten free recipes.  I marked a couple of them, and along with Ciabatta bread I am going to pick up some of the classic white bread mix so I can make the Italian Christmas cake.  I would think this time of year would be especially hard for those who are gluten intolerant and it would be wonderful to be to be able to offer a special treat that everyone can enjoy.
Whether you are gluten free or just trying to incorporate an occasional item in your diet the Schar site is great.  When you sign up for Schar Club you gain access to hundreds of gluten free meal options in the recipe database, connect with gluten-free experts provide and recieve updates on new products.  If you are interested in checking them out you can request  Schar free sample .  I am going to give it a try and will let you know!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Ready

The Thanksgiving preparations began yesterday with lots of baking.  My favorite 2 year old assisted as we made pumpkin cheesecake, gingerbread muffins, pear spice bread and some sugar cookie dough.

Pumpkin cheesecake, this is the Cake Slice bakers recipe of the month.  I can't wait to try it.

 For the second time in two weeks - gingerbread muffins, this time without the glaze.  These were the snack for Maggie's preschool class and I didn't get one, I was rather sad.

Everything was a success except for the pear spice bread and that was only a fail because I forgot to add the sugar.  I am thinking it might be a nice addition to the stuffing, so it won't be a total loss.  I will share recipes and more pictures after Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Seven or eight years I ago I was obsessed with Biscotti.  I made tons of it in every imaginable flavor.  I gave it as gifts and ate pounds of it myself.  I loved the stuff, to the point where I became sick of it.  For the first time in about six years I just made it again and I am afraid I may become obsessed again.

It comes together so easily.  There are so many flavor combinations, and even better you can often make two different flavors in one batch.  It is a wonderful snack, morning, noon or night.  It is great with coffee and gets even better when dunked in coffee.  

Oh yummy Biscotti! 

Cranberry Orange Biscotti
Printer Ready

½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup boiling water
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. Almond extract
Zest from 1 orange
½ cup almonds, chopped
Sprinkling sugar

Preheat oven 375.  Line large baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside

In small bowl pour boiling water over cranberries.  Let set for 15 minutes or until plump, then drain water.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.  Set aside.

In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy,  Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating each egg until fully incorporated (reserve last egg for egg wash).   Mix in almond extract.  Slowly add sifted dry ingredients.  Mix until just incorporated.  Add cranberries and chopped almonds.  

Turn dough out onto floured surface.  Divide into two equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a log about 16x2.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Gently flatten logs slightly.   Lightly beat last egg and brush each log.  Sprinkle generously with sugar.  

Bake for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch.  Transfer logs on parchment paper to wire rack.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes.   Reduce oven temperature to 300

On cutting board, using serrated knife, cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into ½ inch thick slices.  Arrange slices on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, flip each piece, bake for an additional 15 minutes.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gingerbread Muffins

I love gingerbread.  It is one of those foods that not only tastes good, but also makes me feel good.  There are so many special times, places and people I associate with gingerbread that when I have it, it not only fills my  belly, but it also fills my heart.

My first memory of making gingerbread is from 4-H.  I was in 4th grade and can clearly remember being at the teachers house making a gingerbread cake with a lemon glaze.  The kitchen was warm and sunny and the smell and texture of the cake were amazing.  This memory is made even more special as I eventually became very close friends with the teacher's son.  Todd was a wonderful kid who unfortunately had his life taken from him way too young.   I had the 4-H recipe for many years, and even though I only made this cake with Todd once -before we were good friends, I always associated this recipe with him.  I never made that recipe after he died and unfortunately  I haven't seen the paper with the recipe on it for a few years, but I am sure it is still around somewhere.  Not sure I would make it even if I found it, I think I want to leave that recipe memory alone.

Even though I won't make Todd's recipe it doesn't mean I am giving up on gingerbread all together, it is too yummy! So each year I look for and make new recipes.   This year I opted for gingerbread muffins, these are the perfect afternoon snack, or breakfast (just make sure the kids are gone so you don' have to share).   We ate most of the muffins before I made the glaze.  The lemon in the glaze adds a nice flavor, but these muffins are just as yummy without.

Gingerbread Muffins
Printer Ready

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 muffin pans with baking spray.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, on medium high speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Beat in the egg until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the molasses until incorporated.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter, scraping down sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in the hot water.
Pour batter into muffin tins, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way full.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, there may be a few crumbs.
Allow to cool in the tins on a wire rack until completely cool. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Everybody Soup

Why is it when I have nothing going on that I find myself scrambling to pull dinner together?

Yesterday the kids were out of school for a teacher work day.  I didn't schedule anything for us to do and left it up to them to decide.  Their decision, a jammie and TV day.  While they got bored with TV after a while, much to my surprise and happiness, they had no desire to get dressed.  They were all dressed by noon and we went outside to play for a while, but other than that we didn't leave the house.  We happily worked on other projects and had a lazy day.

One would think with all this down time I would make some bread and prepare a nice dinner, but no.  At 5:00 the kids started fighting, which signaled it was time to think about feeding the little animals.  Had I thought about dinner earlier I would have remembered I had not been to the grocery store in a week, so the pickings for dinner were a little thin.  And thin pickings mean one thing, soup.

I pulled a variety of ingredients out of the pantry, fridge and freezer and everybody got to choose one or two ingredients to add.   The result was a tasty soup that we named "Everybody Soup."   This time our soup included:  diced tomatoes, tomato puree, spinach, white beans, leftover pot roast, carrots, and corn.  Served with some corn bread it was a quick and wonderful meal to end our very lazy day.

What is your favorite last minute meal?  How do you get everybody involved to make the process go faster and  help calm the craziness?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Portobello Sausage Risotto

When I first received my assignment for this months Secret Recipe Club I knew I would not have a problem finding a recipe.  I knew it would be a tough choice, but I had the feeling that whatever I chose would be wonderful.  Erin of Dinners, Dishes and Desserts has a wonderful site filled with great recipes that she has made for her son and husband.  Even as she prepares to move to Colorado her blog is constantly being updated with new recipes, which makes deciding on a recipe very challenge.  

Since Erin had so many great recipes to choose from I decided to let my refrigerator to the deciding for me.  I checked the refrigerator to see what I had, then checked Erin's site and the winner was Sausage and Mushroom Risotto.  

I didn't have mushrooms, but I did have Aidells Chicken and Portobello Sausage, which I think worked as a wonderful substitute.  This is a wonderful creamy risotto, filled with flavor.  It is great as a date night meal, as Erin prepared it, or as a family meal with three crazy kids running around. 

I made a couple of slight adjustment to Erin's recipe.  The sausage, as I mentioned above and also the liquids.  I didn't have enough rice so I eliminated the use of beef stock.  My adjusted recipe is listed below, but be sure to check out Erin's site for her recipe.  

Sausage and Mushroom Risotto

3 cups chicken stock
2 Tbls olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp thyme
1 lb Adiellas Chicken and Portobello Sausage
1 Tbls butter
Salt and pepper
1 cup Arborio Rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

In saucepan over low heat, warm chicken stock..

In a large deep sided skillet brown the sausage.  Once brown add thyme.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then remove from pan and set aside.

In skillet heat 2 Tbls oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice and coat well with the oil.  Lightly toast the rice, about 2 minutes.  Stir in wine, and cook until it is almost evaporated.  Ladle about 1 cup of warm stock into the rice and stir.  Once it is mostly absorbed add in more stock (1 ladle full each time).  Continue this process until the rice is cooked through and nice and creamy.  You might have a little stock left over, but not much.

Once cooked through, add sausage to the pan.  Stir in the Parmesan Cheese and butter.  Top with additional cheese if desired.


As always be sure to check out the Secret Recipe Club it continues to grow and there are new recipe reveals each week.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Wrap-up

A few of our Halloween baking endeavors.  Nothing turned out great, but they were all fun to make and we will probably recreate them again next year.

Our neighborhood has a Halloween party every year.  In addition to lots of games there is a chili cook off and a cake walk.  My husband enters the chili cook off and has come in 2nd place every year so if you have an award winning recipe please send it!  I usually do a cake for the cake walk.   I had been planning on doing one again this year, but the kids decided they wanted to do something and I didn't have enough time to do two cakes.  So I  baked up some cupcakes for the kids, bought lots of fun candy and let them go at it.  The results were candy loaded cupcake monsters.

I had seen a great idea on Pintrest - talk about evil and scary, that site just sucks time away from me - for a meatloaf hand.  I have been excited all month to make it.  I don't cook meals for the family on the weekend so the meatloaf hand became Mike's job.  They looked great going into the oven, but they broke apart during baking.  He formed the hand by making the main part and then attaching the fingers.  Next year we will make it by forming one mass of meat into a hand shape and hopefully it will stay together.  Although, the kids did find it very entertaining to eat the fingers, or the toes as they called them.

We went trick-or-treating on Monday so we needed a quick meal between school, homework and heading out.  Which could mean only one thing - mummy dogs!

Now that Halloween is over, I guess it is time to start preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas!