Sunday, September 29, 2013

Give a little heart and soul

I have a "Gifts from the Heart" tradition at Christmas time. Every year I put together baskets, make gifts, or put together experiences as a gifts for aunts, uncles, and grandparents, as well as few other people. Previous years' gifts have included:
  • Date Night baskets 
    • Bertoli frozen meal
    • sparkling juice
    • Andes mints
    • cute paper products for easy clean up
  • Movie Night basket 
    • pop-in-bucket popcorn 
    • movie box candies (Reece's pieces, twizzlers, snocaps)
    • bottles of pop 
    • Blockbuster gift card (yeah this one was a while back) or one for their sat/cable company so they could order PPV
  • Beat the Chill Jar Gifts 
    • Vegetable noodle soup with the noodles and spices in the jar, plus a can of diced tomatoes, all you need is water and a pot
    • Homemade hot cocoa mix
  • Sundae Treat baskets
    • homemade caramel and hot fudge sauces
    • sprinkles
    • waffle bowls
    • $5 gift card to their local grocer for the ice cream flavor of their choice
  • Hand care kits
    • homemade beeswax lotion bars
    • homemade silky smooth sugar scrub
While on the way to the store this morning I decided on what I will be making this year. The plan started to come together when I passed a farmstand on the way home from church. They were advertising bushels of apples, which got me musing on what I could make with a bushel of apples. While I do not plan on starting from whole apples, this lead me to my first idea: apple butter.

 I found a recipe which calls for unsweetened applesauce in order to speed up the process. From there, I figured they would need something on which to spread the apple butter, so why not cinnamon bread? The page with the cinnamon bread recipe suggests baking it in a real loaf pan (as opposed to my original plan of disposable paper bakeware) and including that as part of the gift. I'll be checking my local dollar stores for possibilities.

The best part about this plan is that since I've already decided, I can start stocking up on the things I'll need. Buying one extra jar of applesauce or a few baking ingredients each pay period doesn't seem like much of an expense at all, but if I wait until late November and have to buy it all at once, it will all add up. Since I'm making these things mostly from scratch, everything I need (with the exception of butter and eggs) is shelf stable and I can stock pile it now. Actually, the butter and eggs can be frozen, so I start watching for those to be on sale as well.

I figure in a few weeks canning supplies will be marked down as the canning season winds down, and that will be the perfect time to pick up some jars. I prefer to use Kerr jars over Ball jars, since they have a short, wide mouth 8 oz. jar that is just perfect for all sorts of things. I'm thinking each basket will get two of those jars, which will be sealed, so their apple butter will stay fresh longer, since it won't all be open at once.
Another nice thing about using these is that the shape makes it easy to get everything out of these jars, so you don't waste any that might get stuck around the rim of a narrower mouth jar.

Now that the weather is cooling down, I can't wait to start all sorts of baking and cooking projects, and when the time comes for this one, I have a feeling I'll be making a few extra jars for me my house as besides the ones for gifts. Now I just need to decide on a GF Cinnamon bread recipe... (I think it's going to be this one)

Salty or sweet?

Why choose? Yes, I'm going to talk about dessert. Again.What is it this time? Salted Caramel Gelato. This stuff is hard to describe, especially since once you start eating it the only sounds you make will be little moans of food bliss, so I guess you just have to try it for yourself. 
Sorry folks, that's the best picture you're going to get, there is just never enough left for a fancy picture by the time I get home.  I think I need to limit myself to just the junior size of this stuff, it's just so dangerously delicious. 

I've had a heck of a week. Tuesday was the official close of my third course in my accelerated teacher education program, but due to an extensive project, we had a bit of an extension into the weekend. We were working on creating, administering, and assessing a test on one chapter of our text. That doesn't sound too bad, right? The difficult part came in due to the fact that this was an online course and we were required to do all our collaborating via an online discussion board, which meant that we had to wait for responses and then wait again for our groupmates to see our subsequent posts. 

Once we got to the analysis stage, we could interact in person if we wanted or needed to, since the "group" portion of the project was over and any discussions at that point would solely be one classmate helping another classmate understand an assignment. Since I'm good at math I've been fielding texts and iMessages all week about how to compute parts of the data we had to include in our analysis. With that in mind, when one of my groupmates contacted me today, I suggested a meeting at Panera, where they have WiFi and caffeine, and we got together to get stuff done. 

By the time we got out of there, I had only a little bit left to write (hmmm, unintentional homophone pun), and got back in the car for the trek back home. As I drove off toward home I had thought that it would be nice to treat myself to something tasty as a reward for working hard and taking time to help a classmate. That's where the gelato comes in.

If you know me, or have been reading past posts, you already know where to find it, but just in case I'm going to tell you anyway. Zarlengo's Italian Ice and Gelato, of course! 

Besides great desserts, you'll always get great service, often straight from a Zarlengo. My gelato came out to me by way of my friend Todd, son of the owner, but you don't have to know somebody to get a free smile with your order. 

In case you're wondering, I don't get paid to carry on like this, I'm just a loyal Zarlengo's addict customer and I figure sending more customers their way helps a great business grow, which means they stick around so I can feed my addiction face. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gluten Free Funnel Cake



Those of you out there with GF kids, or who ARE big kids yourself (like me), might want to try out this recipe.
Before going gluten free, I loved getting the occasional funnel cake at a baseball game. Although it isn't the healthiest, all things in moderation, right?
If you're in the mood for this tasty treat, or you're having a circus or carnival themed party, give this a try.
INGREDIENTS:
Prepared GF pancake mix
• Vegetable oil
• Powered sugar
1. Prepare mix according to packaging, adding about one extra tablespoon of water.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan, about 1/4 inch deep.
3. Pour batter into oil, either in a round, pancake shape or drizzled in a more funnel cake pattern.
4. Fry until bubbles form on the uncooked top, then flip and cook for a few seconds more.
5. Place on plate and sift or sprinkle powdered sugar on top.
6. Dig in!
The key to this recipe is using enough oil. If you use too little, the batter will cook rather than fry, and you'll end up with pancakes. The oil also helps the powdered sugar stick.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Twi-what?

For those of you who didn't know this, I'm a crazy Twihard. Yep, I like sparkly vampires, angsty teen werewolves and the teenage girl with no apparent sense of self preservation. I've read all the book multiple time and seen each of the movies on opening weekend.
This past November, however, I stepped up my game when I went to the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn Part 1 with a large group of other crazy Twilight fans like myself. Before going to the show, we met at someone's house and had a party, which mostly consisted of eating and making ridiculous comments while "watching" Twilight. We actually saw both Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Part 1 in the theatre that night as part of a special double feature which let us avoid most of the annoying teen girls who often interrupt the viewing with their giggles and shrieks. I'm getting ahead of myself though, I was talking about eating.

Since it was my first time hanging out with these ladies (I met them through coworker), I wanted to make sure I brought my a game in terms of the food I brought. With that in mind, I made wedding cupcakes, since in Breaking Dawn Edward and Bella get married. I set them out on a cupcake stand for beautiful presentation's sake
The ladies smiled and thought they were so cute, and I was mildly pleased. The best reactions, however, came when I turned the cupcake stand around to reveal the true genius of these cupcakes. They were not only themed around the BD wedding, but also simply Twilight themed, which means, they were..

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When the moon hits your eye...

I like trying out different mixes and whatnot for gluten free baked goods, so a while back I bought some Bob's Red Mill GF Pizza Dough mix. I made up the dough, separated it into individual sized pizza balls and froze them for late use. This recipe came from one of those dough balls. Keep in mind that like most of my recipes, the amount of most of the ingredients is up to your tastebuds and preference

Ingredients:
  • 1 pizza crust (baked or unbaked)
  • 1/4 - 1/2c pizza sauce
  • 1-2c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Hormel Turkey pepperoni (15-20 slices)
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1-2T parmesean cheese
If you're using an unbaked crust, follow that crust's baking instructions to firm it up some before adding toppings or you will end up with mushy pizza. Once it is par-baked, brush it with olive oil to add flavor and help it crisp. 



Spoon sauce onto the crust. Sprinkle the sauce with parmesean cheese to help the mozzarella stick once it melts (I learned that on a field trip to a pizzeria in 1st grade!)  


Add half your mozzarella. While you can always use shredded mozzarella from a bag for the sake of time and convenience (and I have on many occasions), nothing beats the fresh, moist flavor of cheese you shredded only minutes before baking. 




Add your pepperoni







Add the rest of your mozzarella







Bake according to crust instructions until the cheese is golden
     


Sad but true, oh, and summer, hurry up...

My food life has been terribly boring and sad lately. My family moved in October, and we're still not totally finished with the old house, so everything has been very busy and up in the air. I feel like I'm not getting much in the way of real nutrition, which is not good since I'm seeing a nutritionist and have to turn in food logs!

One good thing is that with spring here we're **GARDEN PLANNING**, so the summer should be "ripe" with possibilities :)

Part of our garden plans include making this one a raised bed garden. We're using a pair of kits from a hardware store to create it, and it is supposed to be good for your crops in that it allows the roots to grow deeper in good soil as well as allowing proper water drainage. So far the definite plans are zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, but there is always room for more tasty additions. Our new house had a potted herb garden already going, but I'm not sure what all will come back. So far, the chives are doing well (I used them in a chicken breast dish last week) and I can see rosemary remains, so perhaps that will return. I transplanted my large sage bush from the other house, and it seems I got in the ground in time, as it is thriving in its new home. I've got a few food-ventures to share with you, I've still been taking foodographs of the few yummy things I've made. Coming up, a budget friendly Sbux alternative, taco salad, french toast muffins and vampire cupcakes... Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

These Burgers Ooze Deliciousness... Literally!


     Mom and Dad were having a dish I couldn't eat tonight, with pasta and ground chicken, so I used similar ingredients to make my own dinner.
   
     I settled on a Mozzarella filled Italian Chicken Burger with GF macaroni and cheese. A bit of a twist on a simple feel good meal.

     The cheese inside the burger kept the meat moist all the way through, giving it more of a meatball texture. The  firm but tender texture combined with the Italian herbs and the gooey cheese melting from the center came together beautifully. I added some marinara, but if I was serving it to other others I think I would use a few slices of Roma tomato. (I'm not really a fan of raw tomatoes). I recently saw a GF focaccia bread recipe, and I'm thinking this burger would be awesome nestled into a freshly bakes focaccia roll.

     For those of you interested, the mac 'n' cheese is Annie's Homegrown GF Rice Pasta & Cheddar.
Besides my area health food stores, the local Super Target sells these at a reasonable price. I've tried other GF Mac 'n' cheese options, but this one is the best in terms of texture and flavor.