Saturday, October 29, 2011

Double Chocolate Yum!

There's a new baker in the house!  Paprika has joined the ranks in the gf kitchen.  Today she wanted to make cookies.  Much to my surprise, she had never baked cookies before (that can happen with twins).  I suddenly realized Cinnamon was my only baker....until today! 

Paprika decided to make some amazing chocolate mint cookies by adapting a recipe found in The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free, by Anne Byrn.

 This is a great cookbook for people looking for an easy way to start gluten-free baking.  The recipes we have tried have all been delicious.  The recipes use simple ingredients and  gluten free cake mixes.  Today we used Betty Crocker's  Devil's Food Cake mix to make the Chocolate Cloud Cookies, with a minty twist.

Paprika followed the recipe in the book and then simply folded in Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips.  They turned out delicious!  Way to go Paprika.  She can bake me cookies anytime.  I really mean anytime.  Okay,  I would suggest soon, since these cookies won't last long when Dan finds them.

Meanwhile, today....on the other side of the kitchen baking up a storm, we had Cinnamon.  My kitchen was filled with smells of chocolate and vanilla.  Cinnamon made chocolate donuts with a white chocolate glaze and her chocolate topped donuts to take to church tomorrow.


The chocolate ones are  my favorite.  I will probably have to have another one just to make sure.  Thanks Cinnamon and Paprika for making my day filled with chocolaty goodness.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Preparation is Good....Luck is Even Better

Tonight was new menu night.  Last month when I wrote the menu, I thought fish tacos sounded good.  I have seen them on restaurant menus and as I was thinking about new things to try I imagined they must have that delicious fresh taste.  Usually for new menu night I spend some time looking through recipe books or spend some time online looking for ideas, but tonight I found myself looking at the calendar and realizing today was Thursday and it was new menu night. I didn't have a recipe to work with, just an idea about the way something should taste, at least in my imagination.  Way to be prepared!!!

I seriously thought about changing the menu, but Cinnamon, who happens to be the new rules police in our house (only when it comes to me, the budget, and the menu) emphatically stated that I could not change the menu, the calendar said fish tacos.  So, I had to wing it.

I must say, I am glad I did.  These turned out wonderful!  I used bass we had caught this last summer and fried it in a little olive oil and seasoned it with some basil, garlic, pepper, and garlic salt.  We used corn tortillas, topped with the bass, and this amazing fresh topping.  It is not really a salsa, not really a slaw, so we will just call it a topping or if you prefer, call it whatever you like :)


2 carrots shredded
1 red onion sliced thin
12 grape tomatoes quartered
1 can shoepeg corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
small bunch of cilantro finely chopped
1 small head of romaine lettuce cut to look almost shredded
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 cloves of garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste

Add the first seven ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix together.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Pour over your vegetables and toss.

Use to top fish tacos or as a side dish. 

These tasted better than I could have imagined.  However, next time I will try to be a little more prepared!  Well, maybe.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Incredible Potato

OK.  Potatoes are just plain cheap.  This week at one of the local grocery stores you can get a ten pound bag for $1.99.  That's a mere twenty cents a pound!  That is a lot less expensive than pasta or even rice!

My kids love potatoes.  They speak variety.  Variety in the kind of potato: red, russet, Yukon gold, white, and others I have never even tried.  Variety in what you can do with them: bake, fry, hashbrown, whip, mashed, sliced.  The list goes on and that is using them as a stand alone.  You can use them in a lot of recipes too.  You can do so much with them, but as I look at my current menu calendar for October they are only on the menu six times.  Even if I just added a few more meals with potatoes, that could impact my budget in a positive way.

Look at it this way, when I made spaghetti this month, the pasta (I had to use two packages) cost me $4.36.  That's just for the pasta.  Nothing else.  Compare that with this complete dinner I made the other night.  It was a variation on  Shepherd's Pie.  The cost: $4.46.  Total!!! 

This is a great recipe when you are in a hurry.  I used some of the hamburger I froze from batch cooking the other night.  Although I had to boil the potatoes and whip them, this is a great recipe to make when you already have leftover mashed potatoes!


1 pound of hamburger
2 cups of soy milk
2 cups of water
3 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 cup gf flour
1 package of frozen mixed vegetables
Whipped potatoes (I think I used about 4 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown your hamburger.  Crumble.  If you are using hamburger you already cooked, you are already ahead.  Add the vegetables to the hamburger and cook over medium heat.  When vegetables are cooked, add flour to thoroughly coat the hamburger and vegetables.  Add your water, soy milk, and bouillon cubes.  Stir until the mixture thickens.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a casserole dish and top with whipped potatoes.  Place in your preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes.

This was simple and delicious.  You could add a salad or vegetable or let the dish stand on it's own.  You may want to adjust your liquid amounts.  Mine turned out like a thicker gravy, but if you wanted a more solid meat mixture try reducing the water and milk.  I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Perfect Autumn Day For Soup!

Today was your typical fall day.  The day started with very crisp air and a fine fog weaving its way through the pine trees.  The colors by mid-afternoon were vibrant against the monochromatic grey sky.  By evening the deer had gathered down the hill where I could see them from my kitchen window.  A mama and her fawn nosing through the yellowed grasses.  The smells of onions and garlic wafted through the air.  The perfect day for soup!

When I make soup, I make soup; lots of soup!  This is the perfect meal for batch cooking.   I usually make two different kinds at the same time.  Tonight I made a chicken vegetable rice in one pot and a vegetable beef in a second pot.  I figure since there are many ingredients that overlap, it is just easier to make two.  Clean up is easier too, especially since it is Allspice's night for dishes!

Tonight we had soup and biscuits.  The best part: after eating 10 bowls of soup, the rest is ladled into individual containers which I put in the freezer to use for lunches.
There are 17 lunches ready to place in the freezer!

 I have a hard time spending $2.00 or more for a can of soup when I can make homemade soup for so much cheaper.  Tonight's vegetable beef cost $10.50 and made the equivalent of 15 cans of soup.  That's 70 cents a serving!  The chicken vegetable rice cost $7.19 and made 12 servings.  Each serving is only 60 cents.  Good for you and the budget!

I hope you enjoy these recipes.  I do want to apologize though.  I am one of those cooks who tends to not measure things or just throws things in at the last minute.  Sometimes, in trying to write the recipe, it may reflect that a bit.  I don't follow a recipe when I make soup either.  Most of the time I make it from what I have on hand.  So with that, if you have any questions, let me know and I will try and clear it up!


1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tbsp olive oil
4-5 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
1/2 bag of frozen broccoli florets
1/2 bag of frozen peas
1 container (32 oz) chicken broth.  I use this kind.
1 can of chicken (12.5 oz) or 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups of Minute Rice
Bay leaf
Seasonings (I use salt, garlic pepper, basil, oregano, and Italian seasonings to taste)
In a large pot saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat.  Add celery and carrots.  Add broccoli and peas and continue to cook over medium heat until thawed.  Add chicken, broth, and rice.  Fill the rest of the pot with water.  Add bay leaf and seasonings to taste.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down heat to simmer for approximately 20 minutes.  If two much evaporates during this stage you can always add more broth or water. I added both.

 My pot is not as big as I would like and so after we ate dinner I added more water and some seasonings to balance the ratio of liquid and solids in order to freeze it.


1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 1/2 to 2 lbs of hamburger
1 small can of mushrooms
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1 can of tomato paste
1 can of kidney beans; drained and rinsed
1 can of black beans; drained and rinsed
2 cans of diced tomatoes with their juices
2 cans of tomato sauce
Bay leaf
Seasonings to taste (I used salt and garlic pepper, basil, oregano, garlic salt)

Brown your hamburger along with the onions and minced garlic.  When the hamburger is cooked drain the meat.  Add frozen vegetables and mushrooms.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Add water to rinse the can.  Add kidney beans, black beans, and diced tomatoes.  Add tomato sauce.  I add water to rinse the cans.  Fill the remainder of the pot with water stirring to incorporate all ingredients.  Add your bay leaf and seasonings to taste.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Big Bail

I sit across from her as she bites into the chewy crust topped with everything from sausage to green peppers.  She smiles at me, cheese creating a bridge from her slice of pizza to her pink lips.  "This is so good!" she says.  I nod and take another bite of my naked hot dog.  What I would do for a bite of that yummy looking slice.  I never knew the poisoned apple could look like pizza.

"I can't believe it!  I have missed this so much!"  In a way, I wish she would stop saying that, at least until I swallow this sauceless, bunless, tin foil wrapped lunch.  "I bet," I managed to say. 

I am happy for her really.  Who knew pizza could bring so much joy and so much agony at the same time.  I smile and think, I can't believe she bailed!

It is true.  Cinnamon bailed.  After over a year, she left the gluten free life.  Well, not exactly, but we will get to that in a minute.  When Paprika and I became gluten free out of necessity, Cinnamon joined the cause.  At first she didn't think she felt different, and then she thought maybe, and finally she decided that she was definitely affected.  Being gluten free is hard enough when the results are drastic, but it is even harder when doubt creeps in because the results are sketchy.

As a teenager, Cinnamon felt left out when the youth group ate pizza or her friends stopped for a burger.  She got tired of explaining why she wasn't eating.  She started feeling like she was missing out.  So, she cheated.  Nothing happened.  So, she tried it again.  Still nothing.  Then she realized that maybe it was never that she needed to be gluten free for herself, but maybe for her sister.  It's easier when you are not alone.

So, there we were in Costco.  Cinnamon munching on that dreamed of slice of pizza and me with my plain pity-inducing hot dog.  I knew what was bugging me.  I wasn't jealous over the pizza.  I realized that I was suddenly feeling very alone in this struggle.  Suddenly the teams in our house had switched; it was gf 2 and the nons 3.  How would this change everything I had come to know over the last year.

There were so many questions.  I was making dinner gf for everyone and most of the food in the house was gf, but now what?  Do I now make two pots of spaghetti?  Do I stop baking gf bread and just buy it for Paprika and myself to save money?  Would cross contamination increase and possibly make Paprika more susceptible to problems?  What would happen to my system, my order, my very way of doing things?  I didn't have the answers.

I still don't.  I guess I will be trying to figure all that out, but meanwhile, Cinnamon has discovered that she likes gluten free foods better.  She likes wraps better than sandwiches, my homemade gf bread better than  regular, corn tortillas better than flour, and all the special gf foods we buy.  We have tried so many new things since going gluten free and Cinnamon has found some new favorites.  Actually we all have.  Then I thought, perhaps things don't really need to change at all.

I had a talk with Cinnamon tonight about her big decision.  "You know mom, I still want to have a gluten free bakery," she said.  "And, I still want to make donuts!"  Then she paused, "Do you think I will have to eat the regular donuts?  Because I like the gluten free ones I make much better."

In the end, we decided to just keep traveling the same path, at least for now.  It was a bit of a surprise to me when a look of complete relief came over Cinnamon's face.  "I am so glad," she said.  "I was feeling kind of alone."  I guess you can feel that way on both sides of the fence.

So, for now, I guess there is one team.  Two gf eaters out of necessity and three out of choice.  One team, one family, all loving and supporting each other on this journey.  We were never really alone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Scramble for Dinner

Ever notice that in those hours of pure desperation you are able to come up with something that turns out pretty good.  Being a mom of three incredibly busy teenagers I tend to live on that very edge.  That precipice where as long as you don't look down you will be ok.  That moment when busy can easily become overwhelming.  Yesterday, was such a day.

It wasn't that yesterday was running-with-my-heat-cut-off busy, it was actually somewhat normal aside from the added dental appointments which kind of threw off the day.  It's just that when it was all said and done, I suddenly found myself at 4:30 needing to have dinner on the table by five so we could leave the house by 5:30 for a Bible study and a church presentation.  I looked at the menu, and realized the meal of salmon (still in the freezer), sliced potatoes and onions (made from leftovers that didn't exist), and broccoli, was probably not going to work.

Plan B.  I looked in the fridge for some inspiration.  Nothing jumped out at me and said, "Make me!"  Hate it when that happens.  Looked at the pantry.  Nothing.  Inspiration was definitely hiding.  Then I thought...okay this just needs to be quick, so what is quick.  I know........

What...doesn't everyone think chicken when they are in a hurry.  Well maybe not chicken, but eggs are quick.  I will just make breakfast for dinner.  Perfect. 

 Let me be honest here.  I am not a big breakfast fan.  Never have been.  I usually eat leftovers for breakfast, after all, it is dinner somewhere in the world.  Another issue, I really don't like eggs.   Hard boiled are okay, fried flat like a pancake are good, but that is usually my limit.  Sometimes scrambled eggs with ketchup, but a little goes a long way.  My dinner was going to be eggs, what was I thinking.

Scrambled eggs, fried ham slices from Sunday's ham, and toast.  Then I thought what if I made the eggs more like dinner food.  So I tried it.  It was good.  No, it was really good.  I would even have it again, it was that good.  You know what else?  It didn't taste like scrambled eggs.  My family, who I will admit looked at me rather strangely when I announced dinner was scrambled eggs, really liked it.  That's the true test, isn't it!

So, I thought I would share it with you.


12 eggs, beaten
1 carrot chopped
3 celery stalks (including the leaves) chopped
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 Tbsp butter (I use Earth Balance)
1 large can of mushrooms or 4-5 fresh mushrooms sliced
Garlic Salt
Garlic Pepper
McCormick Basil and Garlic (Perfect Pinch) 
Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Saute carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in the butter.  Cook until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent.  Add mushrooms.  Add eggs and thoroughly cook.  Season with garlic salt and pepper and Basil and Garlic blend.  Top with mozzarella cheese.

This is a meal that is great when you are in a hurry and dinner needs to be on the table yesterday!  The "Dinner Scramble" itself, is approximately $4.30 and feeds six.  So, its cheap, and fast, and delicious.  What more could you want out of a meal?  Yeah.  I know.  Bad question.  But when dinner is on the table by five and my family is out the door at 5:30  with smiles on their faces, its all good!  So very good!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Awesome Pumpkin Muffins

I absolutely love Gluten Free Mama's flour!  I just can't say that enough.  I really can't!  The main reason I love this flour is that my baked goods taste like the real thing.  No gritty taste.  No crumbly texture.  Only perfection. 

I have been using this flour for over a year.  I have tried others, but I just haven't been as pleased with the results.  Yesterday, I decided to put it to the real test.  Could I take a favorite recipe from my days of eating anything and covert it to gluten free and still have it be a favorite?  YES!!!!!!! 

These Pumpkin Muffins turned out great.  They were divine!  They were moist and the texture was silky smooth!  Delicious!  My family is ecstatic!  I will be baking these up and keeping them in the freezer for a quick breakfast or treat!


3 Cups Gluten Free Mama's Almond Blend Flour
2 Cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp xantham gum
2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
2 cups canned pumpkin
2/3 cup canola oil
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk all dry ingredients (flour through salt) together in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, oil, and eggs.  Stir pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture.  Spoon into muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  A toothpick inserted into the muffin should come out clean. here is the embarrassing thing.  As I was writing this recipe I realized I never put in the baking powder.  I don't even know if it would have made a difference.  These muffins had a nice rise to them and the texture was great.  The next time I bake these, I will follow my directions and see!  Always helps to read those directions!  I will keep you posted.  In the meantime, I guess it is up to you whether you add it or not.  Good luck.  Just remember, if they don't turn's the baking powder's fault!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Smells from a Sunday Kitchen

As I sit back and think on this Sunday, I am overwhelmed with God's goodness.   I think about the beauty of the season.  The glorious colors, the sounds, and smells.  I am thankful for the abundance of Autumn.  My heart sings with utter joy in my favorite time of year.  The sounds of  birds chirp in the distance.  A lawnmower mowing its last round before snow falls.  The cool crisp air fills my lungs as I walk amid fallen pine needles and cones.  The smell is so filled with God.  The reds and golds wrap me in an abundance of true and perfect beauty.  Thank you, God,  for today.

I thought I would leave you with some pictures.  These are the smells filling my gluten free kitchen on this absolutely beautiful fall day.  I hope your day is as blessed as mine!

Pears......I will be drying these over the next couple of weeks.  Apples too!  They smell so good!

Pumpkin Muffins......I promise the recipe tomorrow!

Chocolate Chip Mocha Frappe.....need I say more!

Dinner cooking in the oven.  Delicious!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

If Only....

Our church has a tradition.  Each Sunday after Mass, there is coffee and donuts.  It is a great time to talk to people and enjoy that sweet treat.  Of course there are no calories if you eat them on Sundays, I'm sure!  We occasionally enjoyed that little indulgence.  Hmm, so good.

In reality we only consumed the sugary treat every once in a while, but as soon as we became gluten free and donuts were off limits, the longing began.  Each Sunday, I salivated quietly, sulking like a small child who doesn't get his way.  Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but I did miss that silly old donut.  Isn't it funny how life works that way.  If only.....

Enter Cinnamon, baker extraordinaire.  Cinnamon has a dream to one day open her own business: a gluten free bakery.  She really is a good baker and she absolutely loves to do it.  Every Saturday, the house wafts with the scintillating aromas of golden crusty bread,  crisp chocolaty cookies, and fresh baked muffins and cinnamon rolls.  Delicious.  We are so lucky!!!!

She is on a new mission now.  Donuts!  She has been baking these little gems for the past few weeks gearing up for her debut this weekend.  Starting Sunday, our church will be serving up gf donuts after Mass compliments of Cinnamon.  I am so proud of her.  She saw this as a need and set out trying to make it a reality.  She watched as families with gf members missed out on the sense of community after Mass.  She knew how she felt and figured others must certainly feel the same.  So, this week things are going to change.

A few weeks ago my mom came to visit and graciously bought this fun little kitchen appliance: a mini donut maker.  The one we use is the Bella Cucina Donut Maker.  I have absolutely no complaints!!!!  It is super easy, according to Cinnamon. 

The donuts are great and incredibly less expensive than buying gf donuts at the store.  A box of gf donuts costs $6.99 for six small donuts.  This appliance allows you make donuts for anywhere between $3.00-$5.00 depending on the ingredients.  Oh, but wait, that is for a batch of approximately 24-30 mini donuts!

It has been so much fun!  Well, fun for Cinnamon.  I haven't used it, but I have reaped the rewards!

The users manual has some recipes to get you started.  The basic donut recipe will cost you about $2.95 and make approximately 28 donuts.   Cinnamon has developed a few recipes and adapted them so they are gluten free.  Here are two of her most popular.


5 Tbsp butter (we used Earth Balance to make these dairy free too)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups of gf flour (we use this kind)
3/4 tsp xantham gum
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 plain soy milk

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg and mix well.  Add flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon to the creamed mixture.  Add milk and stir well.  Follow the donut maker directions to bake.

Chocolate Topping:

1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Boiling water
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Mix the sugar and vanilla together.  Add just enough boiling water to make a drizzle consistency (this does not take too much, it is better to add it very slowly a little at a time).  Add melted butter and melted chocolate.  If your consistency is too thin, add more chocolate.  (Isn't that always the answer.)

Dip donuts into the chocolate mixture.  You can leave them like this or dip them again into nuts, sprinkles, or coconut.


1 1/2 Cups of Gluten Free Flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of butter (we use Earth Balance to make these dairy free)
1 egg
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup grated apple (we like Honeycrisp apples)

Mix flour, baking powder, xantham gum, salt, nutmeg, sugar, and butter until crumbly.  In a separate bowl beat the egg and add soy milk and apple.  Pour egg mixture into the flour mix and stir until all is combined and is the consistency of donut batter.  Bake according to donut maker directions.


1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter

Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. While donuts are still warm, dip the donuts in the melted butter and then dip into the sugar mix.

By the way....these are my favorite!

So tomorrow you will know where to find me after Mass.  That's right, in the donut line!  Wait a minute.  I am bringing two plates of these yummy looking donuts to church.  Gee, I hope they make it there.  OK.  I least one will.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It Ain't Fancy, But It's Good

Life is busy!  Sometimes I can't believe how fast the day goes.  Between homeschooling and activities we always seem like we are running.  We still manage to eat together most nights, but sometimes it is a bit crazy.

On those crazy days dinner just needs to be fast.  Fast and inexpensive.  Well this is one such meal.  This is a no frills meal, that with a little planning, can be made in a quick fifteen minutes, start to finish.  That is no easy feat when we are talking gluten free!

This meal is perfectly designed to use hamburger you have already cooked and frozen.  This is when batch cooking saves the day.  You can also use rice that has been made ahead of time and frozen as well, or you can use minute rice.  When I make rice in my rice cooker, I always make the most I can.  What is left after dinner is divided into containers to freeze and use later.  It is great to thaw and use in stir fry meals or in something like this.


4 cups Minute Rice or rice from your freezer (8 cups already cooked)
1 pound of hamburger, cooked and from your freezer
1 onion chopped
1 large or 2 small cans of mushrooms
1 large can of tomato sauce

If you are taking the hamburger from the freezer, put it in the microwave for approximately 3 minutes to thaw.  Meanwhile, make your rice according to the directions on the box.  I do not add the butter for this recipe.  While the rice is cooking, chop your onions and place them in a deep-sided skillet.  Add the hamburger and mushrooms and cook over medium heat.  Once the onions become translucent your rice should be finished.  Add rice to the hamburger mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the can of tomato sauce and a half can of water.  Mix together and heat thoroughly. I told you no frills.  It is not gourmet, that's for sure, but it is quick, easy, and kids even love it.  My nephew, who has to be the cutest, but pickiest kid on the planet even asked for more!  Now that's saying something.

I serve this with a side vegetable, like steamed broccoli.  My kid's favorite is canned peas with vinegar and oil served cold.  Probably sounds weird.  Definitely, not Iron Chef worthy, but hey, it does taste good!

The total cost of the meal: $6.22.  Just so you know, I use the cost of hamburger you can find in the store.  The cool thing about this meal is this:

That's right.  One dinner and six lunches for $6.22.  I freeze the leftovers in smaller containers.  Great for a quick lunch. 

So it might not be fancy, but saving money never is.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Big Battle: Wants Versus Needs

Paprika asked me tonight if I would consider being a good mom and buying her children ice cream in the near future.  I had to smile.  That's exactly what I was going to write about tonight.  No, not ice cream.  Wants versus needs. 

How many times in the past have I gone to the grocery store with a list of needs only to spend a considerable amount more on wants and impulses.  When I shop for other things like clothes or house hold goods I am very good at shopping and releasing.  I wander around the store with things in my hand only to put them back after deciding I really don't need them.  Unfortunately, I don't approach the grocery store in the same manner.  Once in the cart, its going home!

I do make a list.  A detailed list.  A list I often times forget at home and then struggle to mentally recreate in the store.  This is obviously not a good method.  With this new challenge I know I need to be more organized.  First, I need to make a list and then bring it with me.  Oh, it sounds so simple.

 I know lists help us to avoid those impulse buys.  So, second, I need to be better at sticking with only the items on my list.  That seems a bit tougher to me.  How many times have I been to the store, wandering up the aisle, only to notice that one item; the one not on the list, but the one that should be.  My cart ends up being full of those items!  How do I combat that?  Well, I need to put back into practice an inventory of my pantry and freezer before I make my monthly menu.  This allows me to accurately assess what I need.  It also helps me to avoid spending money on duplicate items or more food than I need.  There is nothing worse than being on a tight budget and pulling out moldy produce because you forgot you bought it. 

When I make I new menu, I need to go shopping in my own home first!

During the month I keep track of items I run out of or will need to purchase at the store on a white board I have hanging on my refrigerator.  I used Vis-a-Vis markers (water soluble)  to create a grid.  I have different lists for different stores.  The store where I buy most of my groceries I separate into categories like produce, frozen, dairy and meat, etc.  This helps me when making my final grocery list and keeps it organized.  I use a dry erase marker to add items to the lists.  After shopping, I simply erase the items.  The grid is still there ready for new lists.

Another idea to help cut my budget is to prioritize my grocery list.  I pay specific attention to need.  If the item is needed it is simply put on the list.  If the item is a want, however, it goes on the list and is circled.  This helps me once I am in the store to decide if I still really want it based on the cost of the items in my basket. 

I also plan a little wiggle room for two things.  One, gluten free sale items.  Sometimes, it is not until you are in the middle of shopping do you realize that your favorite gf flour is on sale.  Planning wiggle room makes it ok to add a few of these items to the cart without breaking your budget.  A little note here about stockpiling.  Sometimes less is more.  I have found that if I have an abundance of a particular item, we use more of it.  When I have a limited amount, I am more apt to stop and think whether or not I really want to add this item to my menu just because it is there or wait for a meal when I specifically need to use that same item.

Finally, when sticking so closely to a budget, let alone being gluten free, we can often times become overwhelmed in the middle of the store with feelings of deprivation.  We become so hyper-focused on what we can't have.  I have admittedly left the grocery store, more than once, feeling utterly depressed.  Deprivation make us miserable.  In reality, we are incredibly blessed, but our minds tell us differently.  A way to combat this is to plan an indulgence into your budget.  A simple, planned, splurge on a special kind of chocolate treat, or as Paprika suggested, ice cream, can make a difference and a more pleasant shopping and gf lifestyle experience.

So, cream is on the list!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Holy Cow!

I have to admit, I was amazed today.  I had absolutely no clear idea just how expensive meat is at the grocery store.  I have completely taken for granted the fact that Dan, Allspice, and Cinnamon have blessed our house with food for the freezer each deer season.  We eat a lot of venison.  Each year we process the meat ourselves, saving some money, and bring in the meat to have it ground into hamburger.  When I take into consideration the deer tags and the processing fee, I pay about a dollar a pound.  I haven't had to purchase hamburger in the store for a long time and so it took me by surprise when I was looking today just to see how much it was.  $2.18 a pound, when buying in bulk, was the cheapest I found.  That can really put a crimp in your budget!

I was similarly surprised by the cost of bacon and pork products.  We raise two pigs each year.  This year, a more expensive year than typical, our pork costs $2.89 a pound whether it is ground pork, bacon, ham, pork chops, or even ribs.  After looking at the prices at the store, I will try not to complain when my kids are off dancing or camping, leaving me to feed the pigs.  Even when they tip the food bin over causing me to fetch it.  Even when it results in being pig kissed by two grinning swines with incredibly dirty noses.

Yes, this is the pig that kissed me!

Speaking of hamburger, tonight we had tacos.  This is a definite menu item each month.  Paprika would have it each week if she were in charge of the menu!  It is her favorite meal. 

When I make tacos, I usually fry four pounds of hamburger.  We use some for dinner and I freeze two containers to use at a later time for quick menu nights.  This is simple to do and a real time saver.  I use the method of batch cooking whenever I can.

For tacos we have the usual components like refried beans, sour cream, lettuce, olives, avocado, cheese, and tomatoes.  When tomatoes are out of season or when I do not have any on hand I do something different.  A few winters ago, when tomatoes were expensive and looking less than appetizing, I came up with this "taco topper".  It is a family favorite and is often requested over fresh tomatoes.


1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 onion chopped
16 oz package of  peppers (red, green, yellow), thawed
olive oil
Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning

In a skillet saute your onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add peppers, black beans, and the tomatoes and juice.  Cook over medium heat.  Add Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning (I am pretty liberal with this) to taste.  Continue to cook over medium heat until juices are absorbed.  We top our tacos with this mix, as well as, use it the next day on leftover quesadillas.  Tonight our taco meal came to approximately $10.15.  The Taco Topper itself was $2.78.  It would have easily fed six and we have enough leftovers for tomorrow's  lunch: quesadillas.

I am sure this post will quickly become Dan's favorite, since I am basically giving him the double thumbs up to his deer hunting.   So, this weekend when deer season opens, I am sure to hear, "Honey, I am only trying to help the budget!"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Sunday Reflection

Someone once asked me if it was the pits to be gluten free.  Didn't I miss all those things like bread and pasta.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about it.  Sure, I miss that delightful taste of home baked bread.  I may never find a substitute for my grandmother's ravioli.  But, do I wish I could go back to those carefree days when I could eat anything I wanted, fix anything for dinner, choose foods without limits?  The simple answer is no.

When Paprika was six she came to me and told me her foot hurt.  Probably like a million times before, I shrugged it off like every other childhood bump or bruise.  Within a day or so she began to limp.  I then noticed her foot was swollen.  The doctor thought it was perhaps a little fracture that an x-ray couldn't pick up and that would heal with time.  The problem was that it just never healed.  It just kept getting worse.  Three months and five different doctor opinions later she was put in a cast.  My little star soccer player hobbled around on crutches and had to be carried up the stairs.  I would trade every pastry and donut we ever ate to erase that memory.

That Halloween, Dan carried Paprika when they went trick-or-treating.  Her foot hurt so badly that when she was home, she crawled rather than walked.  We still had no idea what was wrong.  February came and Dan and Paprika flew to Children's Hospital, where after eight months we finally had an answer: juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  What I thought must surely be an ending, only ended up being the beginning. 

Paprika was started on medications.  Every three months we would travel across the state for her appointment, hoping she was better, knowing she was not, finding out we were right.  She just seemed to be getting worse.  Now her knees and her chest hurt.  I would tuck her in at night only to hear her scream that the sheet hurt when it touched her.  I found myself in that hard to be place as a mother who can't fix her child.  I would have passed on the basket of rolls to fix her.

Medication after medication was tried.  More and more joints were affected.  Some I didn't even know about.  Once we went out to eat and Paprika looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said I can't eat.  I asked her why and she said because she couldn't hold the fork.  It was only then that I realized that our handles at home were "fat" and that's why we hadn't noticed her hands hurt and she had trouble holding things.  We changed toothbrushes, pencils, crayons, scissors, anything she had to hold, to help. 

By the time she was in second grade life had become a new routine.  We would get up each morning and turn on her heat blanket to warm her up while I started a hot bath for her.  When it was ready, I would go back and get her.  I would slowly help her sit up and move her feet to the floor.  We would walk across the hall to the bath.  You would have thought she was ninety.  Some days a bath helped and the stiffness eased up after a couple of hours.  Other days it lasted four hours or more and then returned in the late afternoon.  I would have skipped the pasta and bread sticks to see my seven year old out running around rather than curled up on the couch. 

Year after year seemed to bring us similar struggles.  New medications.  New joints that became affected.  New symptoms like dry eyes and swollen optic nerves.  New procedures like joint injections and physical therapy.  One thing remained constant.  No matter how many new medications we tried, we could not get her arthritis into what they would call remission.  She hurt almost daily, was stiff a lot of mornings, and was tired all the time.  Some days seemed better than others, but you never knew what to expect.

The unexpected.  It made us look at things differently.  We couldn't plan like we used to.  We couldn't take things for granted.  We had to change things.   We started homeschooling all three kids when Paprika was in third grade.  It made sense and I know it helped!  What a blessing from God.  I would have never imagined homeschooling and looking back on it, I couldn't imagine any other way.  We were and are so blessed.

God is very important in our lives.  I couldn't have made any of this journey without His grace.  Deep in my heart, I knew He had a plan.  On those days that were hardest, I held on to a simple prayer, not for God to take the pain away or to fix it, but to help us endure, to give us strength to live out His plan. 

Nine years later, He opened our eyes and hearts to new friendships and new knowledge that has led us on this gluten free journey.  In the last year we have almost forgotten what life used to be like.  I think it is sometimes good to remember.  To remind us of our blessings. 

So, I think about that question.  Is it the pits to be gluten free.  The simple answer: sometimes.  Who doesn't look at that Krispy Creme Donut and salivate?  Who doesn't look at that lasagna, or the hunk of chocolate cake, or smell that fresh baked bread and sigh?  Would I love to go back to those days where I could eat anything I wanted?   I look at where I am and where I have been and I wouldn't change it.  None of it.  It was necessary for us all. 

I have learned that God is always with us, in the good, and in the bad.  He is with us now and will be in the future.  I know that Paprika could relapse any day.  I know there is the chance that we could find out we are gluten free for no reason at all.  But, I also know that God is there beside me through it all.  He gives us strength on each and every journey He asks us to make.  In knowing that, I find peace.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cheap Eats: Baked Potato Night

A staple that I sometimes forget about is the potato.  A great and budget friendly gluten free food.  There are so many ways to fix them.  One thing I decided to do when I put my monthly menu together was to eat more potatoes.  They are cheap and they are simple.  I grew up in Idaho, you would think I would have thought of it by now!  But, alas, I had not.  So, this month I re-instituted the Baked Potato Bar night.  I used to have this meal more regularly in the past, but somehow, I forgot about it.  Don't ask me how.  Anyway, we have  this on the menu only once this month, but in the future it will be on there at least two or three times. 

Often times I forget how versatile the potato is.  I think potato.  I think butter and sour cream.  Well, actually being dairy intolerant as well, I think potato, salt and pepper.  My family thinks the other version.  Especially, Cinnamon who loves, I mean loves, sour cream!  Besides just topping your baked potato with the usual butter and sour cream, try some of these ideas:

Broccoli and Cheese
Chili, onions and Cheese
Ham and Cheese
Loaded: Bacon, Onions, Chives, Cheese

Or even try some of these more elaborate creations:

The Veggie: Grilled Broccoli, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Onions, Green Peppers and Cheese
The Taco:  Hamburger, Olives, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions, Guacamole, Cheese
Pizza: Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushrooms, Olives, Onions, and Pizza Sauce with Mozzarella Cheese
Chicken Parmesan: Grilled Chicken, Onions, Mushrooms, and Parmesan
Chicken Alfredo:  Chicken, Bacon, Mushrooms, Alfredo Sauce
The Grilled Steak: Steak (sliced thin), Flaked Crab Meat, Grilled Asparagus
The German:  German Sausage, Sauerkraut, Onions

Use your imagination!  Serve with a salad or veggie  for a complete meal.  Simple and delicious.  Tonight we had the Pizza Baked Potato.  It was a hit!  Allspice even had a friend over who thought it was great.

Pizza Baked Potato:

Russet Baking Potatoes (one for each person)
1 Onion chopped
1/2 can of olives ( I just use whole olives and break them into pieces)
Mushrooms (fresh and sliced or canned)
2 cloves of Garlic minced
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 can of Tomato Paste
1 can of Tomato Sauce
Pepperoni  (24 slices)
Sausage sliced (I used our venison we had made into GF German Sausages)
Italian Seasonings, Salt, Pepper
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Scrub your potatoes until they are clean.  Dry thoroughly.  Poke each potato with 8-12 deep puncture marks.  This allows the moisture to escape while baking.  Dry again.  Rub potato skins with olive oil.  Coat thoroughly.  Roll in sea salt and desired seasonings.  I used Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb and sea salt. 

Bake on the middle rack of the oven.  I placed a pan on the bottom rack to catch any drippings.  Bake for about an hour.  The more potatoes you have the longer it will take.  I actually cooked the potatoes (I had 6) for 90 minutes or so.  I  turned my heat up for the last 30 minutes to 400 degrees to cook them a bit faster because these potatoes were huge.  The skin should be crisp, but the potato should feel soft.

While your potatoes are baking, shred your cheese and make your pizza topping.

Saute onions and garlic with a little olive oil over medium heat.  Add sausage and heat thoroughly.  Add mushrooms and olives.  Then add tomato paste, tomato sauce and water.  Add Italian seasonings, salt, and pepper to taste.  Toss in your pepperoni.  Let simmer until potatoes are ready.

When your potatoes are done.  Use a fork to perforate the skin lengthwise.  Then press the ends toward the center and the potato should burst open.  Top with your pizza topping and mozzarella cheese.  Enjoy!

We had our pizza baked potatoes with steamed broccoli.  The cost of this meal: $11.91 and it fed four teenagers and two adults.  You could make this even cheaper if you used either sausage or pepperoni instead of both.  I was about to do that myself until Cinnamon scoffed at me and said, "This is a one meal wonder; it has to be loaded!"  So, there you have it.  By the way, the definition of a "one meal wonder" is a dish that can star on its own.  Just in case you were wondering. ;)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Menu Night: Chicken Pot Pie

Today was cold and rainy.  I am having a hard time getting used to the weather change.  A week ago it was in the 80's and today was barely in the 50's.  When the weather changes drastically like that, my poor body can't take it and it seems like I always end up with a cold.  Yuck!  So there I was today pouting about being cold and having one to boot!  Then I realized today is Thursday!  I could have very easily panicked, but I took one look at the menu and saw the perfect dish.

Every Thursday in our house is New Menu Night.  I figure in order to expand my gluten free world, I need to keep learning and growing.  Each Thursday I either try something completely new or convert an old recipe.  Tonight was Chicken Pot Pie.  Good old comfort food.  Now that is exactly what I needed.

I tried a few new things in this recipe.  First, to make it gluten free.  Second to use fresh ingredients.  And Third, to make it dairy free as well. 

Chicken Pot Pie:

Chicken 4-5 boneless, skinless thighs
olive oil
3 carrots chopped
1 onion chopped
4 celery stalks chopped
1 cup of frozen peas
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 Cup of flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour)
3 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups of water
2 cups of soy milk
Seasonings (Salt, Garlic Pepper, Garlic & Basil)

The Topping:
1 1/2 Cups of GF Bisquick Mix
1 Cup soy milk
2 egg
4 Tbsp of melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cook chicken with a little olive oil in a large skillet.  Remove and add chopped carrots, onions, celery, and garlic.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent.  Cut the chicken into small pieces and return it to the pan.  Add peas. 

Mix flour in with chicken and vegetables to coat.  Add milk, water, bouillon cubes and seasonings.  Heat thoroughly.

Pour mixture into a casserole dish.  In a separate bowl.  Mix Bisquick mix, soy milk, eggs, and melted butter together.  Spoon on top of chicken mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until topping is golden brown.  A toothpick inserted into the topping layer should come out clean.

The approximate cost for this dish is $7.50 and it easily feeds a family of five. We even had leftovers. You could use this as a quick stand-alone dish or pair it with this salad for an additional $2.40. Bringing your total to $9.80. 
This is a simple salad made with romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, mandarin oranges, and avocado slices.  I tossed it with a vinegar and oil dressing, a little salt and garlic pepper.  Yum!

A couple of things to note.  Not all bouillon cubes are gluten free.  The kind I use are the Herbox brand and can be found here.  Just read the label carefully.  Secondly, to make this completely dairy free you need to use a dairy free butter substitute.  We use Earth Balance.  If you haven't tried it, it tastes and cooks just like the real thing.  It is delicious.  I can't even tell the difference.  One other tip: if your Bisquick top is baked, but not browning, just place it under the broiler.  It browns very quickly and nicely.  Just watch it carefully so it does not burn!

So, how did this dish fare?  After a New Menu Night meal, we take a thumbs up or down vote.  The results were a resounding thumbs up!  I think my cold is already getting better!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pasta Please!

Although it is only four days into the month, I am pleased to announce I have followed my menu every night!  Okay.  I know it is not that momentous, but hey I try.

I grew up in an Italian family, so pasta has always been a staple in our house.  Until we became gluten free that is.  We have tried several different pastas over the course of the last year.  Some are better than others.  I do have a favorite now though!!!

This pasta tastes like regular pasta!!!!!  It cooks like regular pasta!!!!!  It even looks...okay just kidding.  I cannot tell the difference between this pasta and regular pasta at all; and neither can my non gf eaters!!!!  You can get the Heartland Penne Pasta online for approximately $2.60 a bag.  Amazon also has this as a Subscribe and Save item.  Purchasing it this way would drop your cost to $2.21 a bag.  I am a little disappointed that they currently only have the penne pasta available.  You can sign up to be notified when the spaghetti or fusili varieties become available.  I purchase mine at Walmart where I have found the best deal at $2.18 and they have all three varieties.

Tonight, we had spaghetti served with salad and beans.  It is kind of funny how you don't really realize the cost of what you are making until you figure it all out.  My dinner came to approximately $11.22.  That did not include the meat cost since I already knocked that total out of my budget at the beginning of the month.  Besides, you could make the sauce meatless anyway.  It served five and we have enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow. 

Here is my recipe for spaghetti sauce.


1 can tomato paste
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
4-5 fresh mushrooms or 1 large can (this is what we used)
2 cloves of garlic--minced
Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
Add mushrooms. Saute.
Here, I added cooked hamburger.  You could also use chicken which is Cinnamon's favorite.
Add tomato paste and mix together.
Add tomato sauce and about 1/3 of a can of water.  Mix well.
Add your diced tomatoes.
Season liberally with Italian Seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.

Let the sauce simmer.  Yum! 

The cost of the sauce itself is about $3.50 and the amount of sauce you make is at least double the amount of a store bought jar.  These ingredients were all purchased at regular cost.  You could save even more by purchasing the ingredient on sale or with coupons.

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