Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What's for Dinner? It Better Be Quick!

We made it!  We are at the half way point of driver's education and I am still alive and kicking!  I even rode with Cinnamon while she drove and am happy to report that there were no casualties.  All kidding aside, they are both doing quite well actually.  I, on the other hand, am definitely feeling the impact of the additional days of driving into town.  The class is right smack in the middle of the day, so I rush around in the morning trying to get a few things done and by the time I get home I am already faced with the thought of, "what in the world am I making for dinner?"  On these days it better be quick and easy!

Tonight's dinner fit that request perfectly!  We had Baked Honey Mustard Chicken, a Rainbow Vegetable Salad, asparagus, and a wild rice medley.  Quick......check.  Easy.....check.   Delicious.....double check!  Perfect!

Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

Chicken (I used boneless, skinless thighs.  You could use a whole chicken cut up, but I was going for quick and easy.)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons of butter, melted (I used Earth Balance)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Salt and pepper the chicken.  Mix together honey, melted butter, and mustard.  Spoon over the chicken.  Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.  Baste the chicken every 15 minutes while cooking.

The results are a deliciously moist chicken that combines the sweet with a bit of twang.  Yummy!

The Rainbow Vegetable Salad is  a combination of what I had lurking in my fridge waiting to be used up!    I used two mini cucumbers, several mini sweet peppers (red, yellow, and orange), grape tomatoes, and an avocado.

I chopped the avocado and tossed it with a bit of lemon juice.  I chopped the rest of the vegetables and placed them in a bowl adding the avocado.  I used a garlic sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and then drizzled the salad ingredients with a red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Simple, quick, and healthy.  The flavors really do pop in your mouth! 

So there you have it.  Fast and furious.  I sometimes feel like all I do is run from one fire to the next, but I do take time to stop and enjoy life along the way.  Or at least pose for a dozen pictures Paprika tried to take of the two of us together while I was making dinner.  I liked the first one, but apparently Paprika was not satisfied with the first, or second, or third, or fourth.  Not really sure which number this one was, but I thought it was great, but then again, I liked all the others too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Best Thing I Ate All Week

I know it is so simple, but it was absolutely delicious!  I simply used a baby cucumber, grape tomatoes, avocado, and canned wild Alaskan salmon.  I then added a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper and then drizzled it with garlic olive oil.  The flavors were incredible.  Definitely the best thing I ate so far this week!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Survival Mode and Baked Curried Chicken

Adding three or four days of driver's training a week has completely turned my world upside down.  I thought I was busy before, but now I constantly feel like I am in emergency survival mode trying to get to everything.   Let me give you an example.  I was trying to throw in a couple of loads of laundry today.  Paprika happened to walk by and ask what load I was doing, to which I replied, jeans.  She said, "Wait," only to run off and return with the jeans she had been wearing.  "I am so glad you are doing jeans.  I have been wearing these jeans for like three weeks since you haven't done that load!  I just keep waiting!"

Okay.  Now wait just a second!  First of all, I can promise you I have done the laundry and that "three" week estimate was off.........significantly off!  Second, did my precious, silently-waiting, TEENAGE daughter ever offer to do that load of three week old jeans herself?  My incredulous look must have said it all, as she quickly smiled, said thanks, and skedaddled. 

So, it is obvious by my lack of laundry efficiency and lack of posting, that I truly have been busy.  Tonight I thought I would stop and take a quick breath and post the recipe of the Baked Curried Chicken we had tonight.  This is super easy and was delicious!

Baked Curried Chicken

Chicken (I used boneless, skinless, thighs, but any kind or amount would work)
5 cloves of garlic minced
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Curry powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place chicken in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle chicken with a liberal amount of basil and Curry powder.  Top with minced garlic.  Bake 35 minutes.

Simple and delicious.  While the chicken was in the oven, I made a quick salad and steamed asparagus.  It was so easy, I would definitely make it again. 

I am off for now.  The dryer just buzzed and I think Paprika has some jeans to fold!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A February Daybook

Outside my window...
Jack, my big yellow lab.  He sits at the window, always watching.  When it is dinner time, he knocks on the window. Seriously.  If you ignore him, he knocks louder.  If you still ignore him, he will knock twice.  Heaven forbid you continue ignoring him at that point because he will sit back on his haunches and pound with both paws continuously.

I am thankful for...
Companies that are making my life easier by making GOOD gluten-free foods.  I just discovered that Glutino makes Apple and Blueberry breakfast bars.  Dan used to take a Nutrigrain Bar with him to work if he was in a hurry and the kids loved them for snacks, but that was before the gluten-free days.  I am so glad my friend happened to have ordered the Glutino bars and had them sitting on her counter when I visited!  My order just arrived.  I think everyone here is thankful!

I am thinking about...
Lent starting next week!  This is actually one of my favorite times of year.  I try each year to think of the things that take me away from spending time with Jesus and then I try to give some of those things up.  I also try to find ways to spend more time in prayer and try to simplify my life concentrating on the most important things, the things that really matter.  It is a real time of reflection.  I want to end the Lenten season becoming a new and improved version of myself; one that truly reflects my love and belief in Christ.

Learning all the time...
Well, we entered into the frightening realm of driver’s education for Paprika and Cinnamon.  We have actually put this off for a year, but figured it was probably the time to do it now!  Plus, the driving school is offering a class during the day for homeschoolers, which is perfect because it doesn’t conflict with anything else.  I hear from Dan that his practice time with Cinnamon and Paprika is going well.  I have yet to get into the car with them.  Perhaps one too many memories of a certain someone steering a shopping cart for me has me a bit petrified.  Give me time, it is only the first week!

From the kitchen...
Paprika decided to make a gluten free pineapple upside-down cake.  She has been eyeing the recipe in The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten Free cookbook for quite some time.  I must say, it was delicious.  Yes, it tasted as good as it looks!

I am creating...
New Menu Night recipes!  I am really trying to come up with some new recipes.  The old menu has become a bit boring.  I am trying to spice things up a bit.

I am working on...
learning more about nutrition while being gluten-free.  I am studying The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide by Tricia Thompson and the Complete Gluten-Free Diet & Nutrition Guide written by Alexandra Anca.  I have already learned I should be hyphenating gluten-free.

I am going...
To a musical production of Snow White.  It is being put on by the Knights of Columbus at our parish in order to raise money to build a green house for the local food bank.  Dan and Allspice are stage hands for the all male cast.  Hmmm.  Should be fun!

I am hoping...
For sunnier days.  We had snow again yesterday and I really am in the mood for some sunshine!  I am just ready.  I am hoping the snow has seen better days and is making way for sun and warmer days.

I am reading...
The Bungalow by Lisa Jio.  I am only about 100 pages in, but I am not enjoying it all that much.  I had such high hopes based on her first novel.  We’ll see.

I just picked up The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure and Left Neglected by Lisa Genova the author of Still Alice.  I plan on spending some time reading while I am waiting for the girls.  Right now, I am spending nine hours a week waiting in the car or the local coffee shop while they dance and learn to drive.  Seems like a good time to read!

I am praying for...
Sarah.  That labor goes smoothly and that she has a quick and easy delivery.  I am also praying for her sweet baby girl!!!!!

I am hearing...
Nothing.  Right now it is absolutely silent.  Everyone is off doing their thing and I am here just relishing the bit of quiet and peace.  It seems like I am always running, so this is welcomed. 

Around the house...
It smells like coffee.  I just received my package of assorted coffees from The Mystic Monks.  These are Carmelite monks who make and sell coffee to help sustain their monastery in Wyoming.  Their coffee is delicious and it goes to a good cause!  I can drink to that!

One of my favorite things...
The theme song from Charlie Brown.  I didn’t realize how much I loved it until Valentine’s Day when Dan gave me a stuffed Woodstock that plays the tune.  I absolutely love it.  It makes me want to dance.  It makes my heart smile. I even asked Allspice if he could help me use it for my ring tone on my phone.  He half smiled and shook his head.  I’m not sure what that means exactly.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
More running around!  The next several weeks are crazy busy!  Most of all, I am hoping to meet a certain bundle of joy!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Can you hear the music cuz I pressed the button....again!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ham and Baked Potato Casserole

Several years ago I was faced with a fridge filled with leftovers from a Christmas ham dinner.  There were baked potatoes, the ham of course, broccoli and celery from a vegetable tray.  I wanted to somehow throw it all together and make an easy casserole using up all those goodies.  I searched the Internet and all my cookbooks, but could not find what I had in mind.  So, I punted.  I made my own.

I haven't made this recipe for a while now because it uses cream of mushroom soup and milk.  I figured I could easily switch to soy milk, but I couldn't wrap my mind around a dairy free version of the condensed soup.  If you are not dairy free, then you could easily use Pacific Natural Foods Cream of Mushroom Soup.  So, what do you do when you are stuck?  Just don't make the recipe anymore, unless your teenage daughter begins to beg you.  Well, the begging began.

Tonight, I had the Ham and Baked Potato Casserole on the menu.  I tried to weasel out of it.  I really did, but I was nowhere close to being successful.  Alright. I acknowledged defeat and set out to make a "real" cream of mushroom soup.  Then I glanced at the clock and realized that this was going to take a miracle.  The girls had dance and I barely had enough time to finish this before they left.  Maybe had enough time.  Probably not.

I remembered seeing a recipe in Roben Ryberg's book You Won't Believe It's Gluten Free for a Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup.  I checked it out and it was everything I needed: dairy free and only took about 5 minutes to make.  Perfect.

I began to get all the ingredients together; began washing and chopping vegetables and then that pesky clock reared its ugly head and I realized there was no way to get this in the oven on time.  I chopped like a freaked-out Iron Chef contestant.  Okay, that doesn't make too much sense: they sweat, but don't panic.  Well you get the picture, I was sweating and panicking.  I finally yelled from the kitchen for backup.  "Paprika, I need you now!"

I had veggies in one pan  and started the soup in the next.  I vaguely remembered the recipe so I started throwing things together. Paprika began stirring the soup and then suddenly said, "Mom, is it supposed to do that?"  That is when I realized I was nowhere close to remembering the recipe accurately!  The soup seized.  I thought, wow, I just made glue!  I poured soy milk into the mix hoping to remedy my mistakes and stirred like my Kitchen-Aid on high!  Please, please, please.  Then presto, condensed soup.  I looked at Paprika and smiled a smile that surely read, "see I meant to do that."  I am pretty sure she wasn't convinced. 

I layered the casserole, threw it in the oven, and then the phone rang.  Dan was going to be late, change of plans.  My time constraints disappeared.  Suddenly, I had too much time!  Allspice could take the girls into dance, I had plenty of time to finish dinner and could send it along with Dan later.  I took that to mean it was time to sit back and relax with a cup of coffee after all that hard work!

All in all, the recipe was great!  I will make it again, but next time allow for more time and follow the recipe!!!  I hope you enjoy!

Ham and Baked Potato Casserole

1 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 heads of broccoli chopped
4 stalks of celery chopped
2 T olive oil
3 Baked Potatoes
1-2 cups chopped ham
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (see recipe below if making from scratch)
1 cup soy milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute onion and garlic with olive oil until translucent.  Add celery and broccoli. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until vegetable are soft.

Mix the cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup of soy milk.  Set aside.

Slice potatoes and chop ham. 

Layer the casserole.  Begin with a small amount of soup on the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  Place potatoes in a single layer on top of the soup.  Spoon half of your vegetable mixture over the potatoes.  Add half the ham.  Pour half the soup over these layers.  Repeat the layers.

Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through.

Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
Taken from Roben Ryberg's book You Won't Believe It's Gluten Free

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped finely
3 tablespoons of butter (I used Earth Balance to make it dairy free)
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch or potato starch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wash and finely chop the mushrooms.  Place in a small saucepan with the butter.  Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are very fragrant and tender, approximately 5 minutes.  A little browning of the mushrooms will add to the flavor.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a cup and stir to dissolve the starch.  Add to the pot.  Stirring, bring to a boil to allow the mixture to thicken.

Use as called for in any recipe.  You can make this for little more than a dollar.  That is a great savings compared with the boxed variety.  You can save over half!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learning By Heart

Many of you know my dear friend Sarah who is getting ready to have a baby any day now.  For those of you who haven’t had the privilege yet, visit her blog, you will leave with a smile on your face and joy in your heart from just meeting a genuinely beautiful person!  I am so excited for her and her family!

The waiting and wonder has made me stop and reminisce about my own days waiting to meet the person I had carried around for nine months; the person my heart knew, but my eyes had not yet seen.  I catch myself looking back over the lives of my children and I feel so incredibly blessed.

I can’t say that I have a perfect stage, one I loved the most.  I have enjoyed the entire journey.  I admit it was love at first sight with each of my children.  Tiny feet and little hands so small and perfectly formed.  It is hard to imagine that the hand that holds mine now once wrapped its entirety around a single finger.  I relished in the days of baby smells and soft gurgles from pink lips.  Nuzzling my nose in the soft folds of skin, rocking gently to music only my heart could hear.  Those days were beautiful, but they weren’t perfect.  They were a time of growth for both baby and mother.  I remember the fear and trepidation, the worried prayers in the middle of the night, and the constant strain of wondering if I was doing it all right.  Through these days I learned to rely on God and to turn to the greatest mother of all, Our Blessed Mother. What a role model to look to in times of need each day.  Through it all I learned to slow down, to relish the quiet moments during the day, and to pray unceasingly.

Those baby days quickly flowed into days of early childhood.  I loved that each day seemed to hold a sense of wonder!  God’s world was an amazing playground!  Bouquets of dandelions, pockets filled with rocks, dirt smudged faces beaming with discovery.  I looked forward to afternoons on the couch with little ones snuggled in the crook of my arms as we read stacks of books.  As my children grew, so did I, but not as one would expect.  I grew in reverse.  I learned to take my shoes off and squish my toes in the sand, I learned to reach out my hand and touch the bark of a tree, and I learned to look at the intricate designs of a wildflower.  I grew to appreciate the wonder of God and to see God in all things.  I became a child again in my heart.

The school days were an adventure.  The excitement of learning new things, the challenge of teaching subjects I had studied long ago or some never before, the constant nagging of my own mind telling myself I was leaving gaps.  I truly believed God had called me to homeschool, but that did not mean it was going to be painless or perfect. I had to grow just like my children.  I needed to grow in faith and trust.  I needed to learn patience and understanding.  What I learned was to listen with my heart.  I look back on those days of eager faces and unending excitement and wish sometimes I wouldn’t have forgotten some of the earlier lessons of slowing down and appreciating the wonder of it all, instead of giving in to worry.  I learned that though I was far from perfect in my teaching, God filled the gaps.  I have watched my children bloom, not from anything I set out to do, but because God used me to carry out His plan.

So here I am today, smack dab in the teenage years and I love it.  I enjoy the deep conversations, the competition of a good strategy game, the baring of vulnerable hearts still growing.  I relish the strength in a hug followed by the smell of scented lotion or after-shave.  I smile at the valiant attempts to love me the way I have loved them.  I cherish the moments now filled with activities and chatter.  I am challenged each day to trust in God more and to leave more to Him, to let go.  I have come to the realization that it is our children’s presence in our lives that God gives us; our children still belong to God. 

So, from a mom who finds herself suddenly on the other end of the child days, I leave you one thing.  Cherish the moments, the time that surrounds that tiny miracle, the time where hearts are joined.  The other stuff is truly just stuff.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My First Ever Daybook

Outside my window...
Snow!  I still see piles of snow!  The weather has reached forty the past few days and it was just enough to give me a bit of spring fever.  Yes, I realize it is only the beginning of February, but one can hope can't they!

I am thankful for...
Dan who knows just what I need and when I need it most!  Like chocolate!

I am thinking about...
A presentation I am giving tomorrow night.  I am sharing my journey to a gluten free life.  It has truly been an amazing journey and as I look back I feel so blessed to have reached this point.  I feel so incredibly thankful that Paprika has been pain free for the last year!  Sometimes it can be very eye-opening to revisit the path just to see how far you have really come.

Learning all the time...
Paprika just finished her study of Art History of the Western World.  It is fun to listen to her identify this artist or that painting.  She discovered a true appreciation for the impressionists through her studies.  Allspice is finishing up his in-depth study of macroeconomics and Cinnamon is working through Western Civilization II.  They are earning both college and high school credits through a dual credit program. 

From the kitchen...
Tonight I am making Pizza Baked Potatoes.   Cheap and yummy!
I am creating...
Some Valentine's Day surprises!  I can't wait!

I am working on...
plans for Allspice's graduation from high school! I know it isn't until May, but he is our first to graduate and I need the time to figure it all out!

I am going...
to get a massage tomorrow!  I can't wait!  This was a thoughtful gift from my mom at Christmas and I am finally taking advantage of it!

I am hoping...
to change up some things on my blog.  I realized that being gluten free is only part of who I am and I really want to share some other things with you all.  I am hoping to post blogs about homeschooling soon.

I am reading...
Starbucked by Taylor Clark.  Definitely an interesting read.

I just finished Still Alice by Lisa Genova last night.  I found the book incredibly sad and somehow beautiful at the same time.  It is a story of a Harvard professor who discovers at fifty years old she has early onset Alzheimer's.

I am excited to start something new, light, and fun.  I am picking up The Bungalow by Sarah Jio at the library today.  I read her novel The Violets of March and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would give her new one a try. 

I am praying for...
My beautiful friend who could have her baby any day now!  I am praying for an easy delivery and health for mama and baby.

I am hearing...
our mechanic giving us more bad news!  We took our car in because is was leaking only to discover that it was going to cost seven hundred dollars to fix!  That was until today when they got in there and discovered another valve that was bad.  Three hundred dollars more.
Around the house...
I need to do some organizing.  I really must be in that spring fever mode!  I feel like deep cleaning and airing out the house.  Probably not a good idea when it is only 38 degrees outside. 

One of my favorite things...
post-it notes that Dan leaves me on my coffee cup before he goes to work. 

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Irish dance for Cinnamon and Paprika.  Taekwon do for Allspice.  Maybe a relaxing weekend?  I would love that!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Cooking and reading!  A perfect use of time!  As long as you remember you are cooking!

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Menu Night: Tamale Pie

Do you ever read through a recipe and think, well I like this ingredient, but not that, and definitely not this, and gosh, I don't even have that one!  Well, that is where I found myself.  I wanted to try something new.  Tamale pie sounded curiously yummy.  The problem was I couldn't find a recipe that I really liked.  I wanted to make it dairy free, I didn't want to use beans,  I wanted peppers in the dish, and I wanted to use up the cilantro before it went bad.  No such luck.  So I decided to wing it.  This is really a conglomeration of several things I liked about various recipes and ingredients I just felt like adding or that sounded good. 

It is always a bit scary to produce a new menu item, especially one you messed with, but the results were awesome!  My family loved this.  I am sure this will be one of those menu items that is asked for on a regular basis. 

Tamale Pie

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 package of frozen mixed peppers thawed and chopped (or you could chop fresh peppers)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced green chilies
1 large can of tomato sauce
1 can of corn drained
1/2 of one bunch of cilantro chopped
1-2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup cold water
1 cup corn meal  (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cornmeal)
1 cup water (this is a second cup)
1 tbs butter (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown hamburger with onion and minced garlic.  Drain.  Add peppers, diced tomatoes, corn, chilies, tomato sauce, spices, and cilantro.  Simmer briefly and pour into 9x11 inch pan. 

Make the cornmeal topping.  In a small bowl, whisk cold water and cornmeal until smooth.  Set aside.  Place remaining cup of water, butter, and 1/2 tsp of salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Add the cornmeal mixture to boiling water.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened.  It should not be runny.  This may take two minutes or so. 

Spread cornmeal mix evenly over the pie filling.  Make sure to cover the entire top.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees 50-60 minutes until crust is done.

You can top the tamale pie with sour cream and shredded cheese if you like.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nose to Nose With Renoir

I thought I would take a bit of a break from food and talk about something else dear to my heart.  Besides, I haven't really made anything all that exciting lately.  Well, I did make polenta and roast on Sunday.  I fried the leftover polenta on Monday.  I love fried polenta!  On Tuesday we had roast beef sandwiches and fries compliments of Cinnamon who took charge of dinner.  On Wednesday I used the leftovers to make a kind of stroganoff.  See, not all that exciting!  Good food, but nothing earth shattering.  I think I am in a bit of a slump, relying on the quick and easy.  We haven't had a new menu night for a while and since I am behind in getting my meal calendar ready for the month, I have plenty of space to try some new dishes.  I will keep you posted!

So today, I wanted to share with you something different.  Last Friday we went on a field trip.  I love it that my high schoolers still get excited about field trips!   Paprika is currently studying Art of the Western World and has developed a deep appreciation for artists such as Degas, Renoir, and Monet.  She loves the impressionists!  I couldn't believe my ears when listening to the radio I discovered that our local museum was currently featuring a special exhibit.  Can you believe it was the works of the impressionist painters?  How perfect is that?

One of the things I like most about homeschooling is when subjects come alive while you are studying them.  This was perfect!  What better way to study the impressionists than to walk right up to one of their paintings and see it in person.  To be in the presence of a master work and see the incredible detail.  To be so close you can see the individual brush strokes.  To be reminded that when you are that close there is a security guard right behind you watching your every move.  Why?  Because it is real!  And it is probably worth a fortune.

We had a blast!  Paprika stood nose to nose with her favorite artist's work.  Yep, a Renoir!

Cinnamon found a new appreciation for the works of Clackens the American painter.

And even Allspice found some he could appreciate, but I am pretty sure he appreciates the realists more.

And as long as I used a digital camera without a flash I could take as many pictures as I wanted!  As I was clicking away, I couldn't get past that feeling of being the happiest person in the room.  There I was, in the presence of some of the masters, so close I could have touched the canvas (pretty sure I would have been tackled by security for that), watching my kids look with wonder and awe at painting after painting, and I was overwhelmed by that feeling of joy in knowing this is why I homeschool.  It is moments like these that have been a sustaining life-force in nine years of homeschooling.  They are my precious pearls strung together to make one amazing journey.

Back in the car I asked what they thought.  The sounds bubbled forth fast and furious.  I liked this.  I thought that was incredible.  I didn't get that one.  Did you see the miniature paintings?  That one painting was....awful.  Then from the mouth of Paprika, "I was a bit disappointed."  I couldn't believe my ears.  I thought she would have been the most excited.  Would have enjoyed it the most.

"Really?"  I asked.  "Why?"

"Don't get me wrong, I really liked it.  It was awesome.  Especially the Renoir.  I was just a little disappointed."

"But why?" I interrupted.

"I just wished that there was more."  She paused and then asked, "Maybe we can go to another museum sometime and see more?"

"Sure."  I smiled.  "Sure."  And I watched the seeds planted along the journey bloom.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...