Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pepper Steak Using Leftover Roast

I made a venison roast on Sunday with polenta.  On Monday, I fried the leftover polenta and served it with chunks of roast in the gravy.  On Tuesday, I cooked slices of the roast with garlic and onions and served it with mashed potatoes.  Today, Thursday, there was still roast, even after several roast beef sandwiches had been eaten, but I was kind of tired of that familiar “roast” taste.  So, I decided to try something new and completely different.  I used the leftovers to make a pepper steak to serve with rice.  It was great!  The meat was so tender and it had a completely different taste.   I will keep this recipe in mind next time we have leftovers.  It was a big success.

Pepper Steak Using Leftover Roast

Leftover Roast cut into pieces
¼ cup olive oil
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 Tbsp Coconut Aminos or GF Soy Sauce
½ cup water
1 tsp garlic salt
½ tsp pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 chopped onion
4 stalks of celery sliced
2 Cups of peppers (red, yellow, orange, or green)
2 cups of water
4 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Chili sauce to taste

Heat oil in a deep skillet.  Add garlic.  Add leftover roast, soy sauce, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and ½ cup of water.  Cook until meat is heated through.  Add onion, celery, and peppers.  Cook ten minutes.  Stir cornstarch into the two cups of water until blended.  Add to the meat and vegetables.  Add chili sauce to taste.  Cook five minutes.  Serve with rice.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How I Know Spring Is Really Here!

This is my favorite season!  I love spring.  Okay, that is not entirely true.  I love summer when the wild flowers are in bloom!  I love the colors: blues, purples, yellows, oranges!  I love the days fishing out on the lake.  Then there is fall.  The cooler days and the changing color of leaves.  The smell of wood smoke and the beauty of the morning fog slipping silently through the tall pine trees.  Of course winter is beautiful when the first flakes begin to fall.  I love rosy cheeks coming in from the cold to huddle around a mug of steaming cocoa.  I guess the truth is that I love each and every season, but it is spring, so right now I love it the most!

My favorite part of spring, besides the warmer weather, is the way things seem to wake up around here, as if everything is casting off the blankets of winter.  I get excited to see that first crocus poking its head out of the ground.  I smile when I see the lilacs begin to bud and later bloom.  The grass seems greener each day and life seems to take on a different sense of busy.  Around here it is time to really dig in and do that spring cleaning.  There is such a sense of accomplishment when I can throw open the windows and clean away the grime.  I love the sounds of birds chirping while we sort though seasonal clothes and put winter away.

Life is busy in other ways too.  There are plans to make!  I can’t wait until we can clean out the flower beds and plant new flowers.  Paprika wants to really dig in and make the yard pretty and deer resistant this year.  Dan has been making plans for some spring brush cutting and thinning, much to the disappointment of his work crew.  Cinnamon and I talked about garden improvements.  Allspice?  Well, he is making plans of his own.  Mostly they involve building a paintball course and friends coming over to join him.  Somehow that just doesn’t seem like the type of planning I was talking about.

We also have new arrivals which definitely add to the chore list in a good way!  We got our chicks a few weeks ago and they have already entered the scraggly not-so-cute stage, but they are still fun.  On Sunday, new baby pigs entered the barn!  They are about four weeks old and absolutely adorable!  I look forward to this part of spring more than any other!   This, all by itself, is why spring is my favorite.  I love the day the pigs arrive.  That is when I know spring has finally come!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Side of Radishes, Please!

Radishes are cheap and are a great addition to a salad, but have you ever thought of them as a star of a side dish?  Have you ever thought of roasting them?  I recently saw a picture of roasted radishes and I immediately thought…..weird.  Radishes.  Really?  Radishes are spicy and sometimes even hot.  Could you really see it as a side dish?  Well, I am one for a challenge, or at least today I was, and I happened to have radishes.  I will say I was very surprised!  They were great.  The radishes become very mellow tasting after roasting.  The combination of garlic and onion added to the crunch of the radish for a rather pleasing side dish.  The cost is under $1.50 for the side.  Not bad!  I thought I might have some upturned noses, but everyone was equally surprised by the tastiness of the dish.  Bonus!

Roasted Radishes and Onions

2 bunches of radishes,  root and stems removed
1 onion, quartered and sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic minced
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp parsley

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Quarter the radishes and place them in a roasting pan (you could also use a foil lined cookie sheet).  Add the onion and garlic.  Season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil and mix the vegetables to make sure they are all coated.  Roast the vegetables in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once half way through.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

You Have Got To Be Kidding!

I just wanted to share a few pictures, courtesy of Cinnamon, of the beautiful spring morning I awoke to last Thursday.  Yes, March 22nd.   Do you have visions of wild flowers dancing through your heads? Sun shining through puffy white clouds?  Birds chirping from trees beginning to bud and blossom?  Beautiful, isn't it?

But this is REALITY!  And REALITY is......... well, apparently reality is white and considerably colder!  Not that I am complaining.  It only sounds like I am.  I enjoy cloudy, snowy spring days.  Really, I do.  Maybe it will stick around for a few more weeks, then we could hunt for bright colored Easter eggs in fluffy white SNOW!!!!

Okay.  Maybe it was pretty.  A little.  Well, maybe even a lot, but that doesn't mean it needs to stick around.  Right?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spicy Chicken and Pineapple

I love PF Chang's Spicy Chicken.  I am so glad they make a gluten-free version!  The only problem:  PF Chang's is a bit on the pricey side, so we only go a couple times a year, usually after I have accrued enough rewards points to get a free gift card.  So what to do in the mean time.   I decided to try making something like it a home.  There are some nice recipes online and I based my own recipe off of this one.  I changed a few things to make this version gluten free and for the most part paleo.  I have been reading a lot of nutrition books lately and wanted to try making it paleo too.  The problem with making this recipe completely paleo lies in the use of vinegar, which is controversial, and sugar, which is a no-no.  There are a lot of different takes on what constitutes a paleo diet and sometimes is is confusing!  Nonetheless, I wanted to try some new ingredients and play with the recipe a bit. The results were great!  Not quite PF Chang's, but yummy just the same.  I hope you enjoy.

Spicy Chicken and Pineapple

Chicken cut into bite sized pieces (I used 5 boneless skinless thighs.)
Coconut Oil (I used enough in the pan to fry the chicken)
1/3 cup of arrowroot powder

Dip the chicken into the arrowroot powder until the chicken is well dusted.  Fry the chicken in the coconut oil until done and light brown.  While the chicken is cooking, go ahead and make your sauce.


2 tsp coconut oil
4 cloves of garlic minced
3-4 green onions chopped
1 cup of pineapple juice (I drained a large can of pineapple chunks and reserved the pineapple for later.  If you are short on liquid, add a bit of water to make it one cup.)
2 Tbsp of chili sauce
2 Tbsp white distilled vinegar
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp Coconut Aminos or gf soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
1/2 Tbsp arrowroot powder

Heat the coconut oil in a medium sauce pan.  Add garlic and onion and saute until fragrant.  Add the pineapple juice and stir.  Add chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, and coconut aminos.  Stir.  Mix water and arrowroot powder together and add to sauce.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium high heat for approximately 5 minutes.

Toss the chicken, reserved pineapple, and sauce together.  Serve with cauliflower "rice" or regular rice.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A St. Patricks Day Parade!

Today I woke up a bit worried.  There was a skiff of snow on the ground, fog hung in the air, and dark clouds loomed above.  Not perfect weather if you are planning on dancing in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade! 

By the time I reached downtown, the skies threatened to open up with a down pour!  Come on Saint Patrick!  Seriously!

Paprika and Cinnamon began to warm up and so did the wind.  This was not in the plans!  It was already cold and with the nasty clouds forming it didn't look promising.  Is it too much to ask for a little sunshine?  At least could the rain hold off for a bit?

He must have heard me.  I am sure he did, because as they rounded the corner, the sun broke through the clouds.

Celtic music filled the air amidst cheers and applause as the Haran Irish Dancers made their way down the street, dancing their hearts out! 

It was great!  No rain.  No puddles to dance through.  No dresses splattered with mud.  It was perfect really.  Thank you Saint Patrick for pulling out all the stops!

As I wrote this post, the wind picked up the rain has begun, but I am so glad it waited!  So, very glad!  An Irish blessing for sure.  May you all enjoy a wonderful weekend and a blessed Saint Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Cold March Daybook

Outside my window...
Snowflakes.  Yes.  Again.  Where is spring?  Well, it was here last week; a couple of beautiful days followed by snow.  At least with snow this time of year, it is usually here today gone tomorrow.   At least in theory anyway, because although this pile is significantly is still here!

I am thankful for...
Driver’s education ending on Thursday!!!!! 

I am thinking about...
All the things I need to get done!  It is making me a bit crazy.  I am certainly feeling slightly overwhelmed.  Allspice graduates this year, so transcripts, notebooks, plans, announcements, and a graduation party all need to be worked on and finished.  And then there is all that goes with just normal life too!

Learning all the time...
Paprika cracked me up at dinner tonight with this comment, “math was okay until they decided to add the alphabet.”  Hmmm.  Could that be why she has chosen to be an English major instead of anything to do with math?

From the kitchen...
P F Changs Spicy Chicken…..homemade!  It was spicy and delicious.  I will post the recipe soon!

I am creating...
a workout schedule.  I admit it has been a bit haphazard, but I am going to work on a written schedule so I can keep better track of my goals.

I am working on...
eating healthier.  I have been researching and reading about nutrition.  Interesting stuff I assure you.  No, really!  Besides you can then impress your friends with big words.

I am going...
to the Saint Patrick’s Day parade.  I am hoping it won’t rain or snow!

I am hoping...
to plant flowers this year that the deer won’t eat.  I will need to research that a bit.  Paprika loves flowers and wants to have her hand at the fenced in flower beds.  I am also hoping to plant and have a successful garden this year.  Well, there is always hope.

I am reading...
The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf and looking through several paleo cookbooks.  I am also reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom for fun. 

I am praying for...
My mom who is having a “big” birthday in a couple of weeks!

My special goddaughter and her awesome family!

I am hearing...
The sound of baby chicks!  We just purchased our new chicks for the year.  They are so cute and fuzzy.  We will get our pigs in a few more weeks.  I can’t wait.

Around the house...
some mean games of Settlers of Catan are being played.  I love that game!  We got it for Christmas and we all love playing it.  It has been a blast.

One of my favorite things...
thrift store shopping while I wait for the girls to get out of driver’s ed. class.  One of the best thrift stores in town just happens to be right across the street!  Okay.  I admit that on occasion, the waiting was tolerable and the deals were great!

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Thursday is the last day of driver’s education!  I am so glad to get back to a more normal routine.  Cinnamon and Paprika will be performing with the Haran Irish Dancers during the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday.  They are excited and have been practicing hard.  Taekwon do, dance classes, the library, school, a microeconomics test and church will fill out the rest of the week. 

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

Monday, March 12, 2012

What's for Breakfast? GF Sausage Muffins!

A friend of mine recently asked what we eat for breakfast since going gluten-free.  I had to stop and think for a bit because that meal seemed to be pretty much the same as before, except we use gluten-free products.  That was when I realized that breakfast has changed.....a lot!  I do rely on a lot of great gf products. 

I thought I would share with you the list I gave to her and perhaps a few ideas I have added since thinking more about it:

1. Fruit

Fruit is great since it is already gluten-free.  Try making a berry smoothie, one of my favorites. I use frozen blueberries, strawberries, and Trader Joe's Coconut Milk Beverage (vanilla). Paprika's favorite is a tropical blend with banana, papaya, mango, and pineapple along with thecoconut milk.

Paprika and I also like to take a banana and cut it half.  We then spread almond butter on it and top it with chopped nuts (cashews, almonds) and unsweetened coconut.  Yum!

2. Cereal

We do eat cereal in our house.  Chex is a great brand for gf cereal, but if you are also dairy free,  some of their options like Chocolate Chex is not df, so check the labels.  We also use the Nature's Path brand of cereals.  We like Gorilla Munch, Koala Crisp, Leapin Lemurs, and Peanut Butter Panda Puffs.  Nature's Path also makes some good adult sounding cereals that my family likes: Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise and Crunch Maple Sunrise.  Both of these are spendy on Amazon.  I usually wait until the cereal goes on sale at our local grocery store for around $2.50 a box.  The others I either get on sale or get through Amazon.

We also have instant oatmeal on hand.  I buy the Glutenfreeda variety pack from Amazon.

3.  Eggs

We eat eggs hard boiled, fried, scrambled or in omelets.  One of our favorites is Dan's Scramble. Dan browns about a pound of sausage in a pan.  He then adds sliced fresh mushrooms, one chopped onion, and minced garlic (2-3 cloves).  When everything is nice and fragrant he adds beaten eggs (12 or so for our family).  Seasons it with salt and pepper and mixes until the eggs are done.  We serve this with salsa or ketchup.  You can add cheese or add peppers or even zucchini.  The varieties are endless.  The same is true for omelets. 

4.  Bacon or Sausage with Pancakes

Often times we will have this along with eggs. We use Gluten Free Mama's Pancake Mix.    I  like this particular brand because it is dairy free and I like the taste and texture.  Sometimes we will take a break from pancakes and have bacon with eggs and hash browns.

5.  Bread?  Toast, French Toast, muffins etc.

Just because you are gluten-free doesn't mean you have to give up bread or bread products.  I do spend a lot more time in the kitchen making bread, but I think my family likes that!  I use leftover French bread to make French toast.  I usually have a loaf of bread in the freezer, already sliced, for toast.  I love the Gluten Free Mama's Honey Sandwich Bread from this cookbook, but occasionally I will make a loaf of bread using King Arthur Flour Bread Mix.   I also usually have a loaf of sliced cinnamon raisin bread I make using this Bob's Red Mill gf mix.

Muffins are also a big morning pleaser.  I almost always have muffins in the freezer.  These  Pumpkin Muffins are a favorite in our home and don't last long!   I also use Namaste Muffin Mix to make a wide variety of muffins.  I like the fact that this is a simple muffin mix that you can use as a     base.  We have made orange chocolate chip, lemon poppy seed, pear walnut, apple cinnamon, and blueberry muffins to name a few.  I have posted a few of them on my blog.  Look under the label: muffins.

We have also made cinnamon rolls, apple bread, zucchini bread, banana bread; you name it!  Cinnamon also graces us each Sunday with her latest donut experiment.  Last week she made maple glazed donuts and this week she made triple chocolate donuts.  Yum!

Well, I think that about covers it or at least it is a start anyway.  Oh, I almost forgot!  I was ordering on Amazon the other day and discovered that Namaste also makes a gf muffin mix without sugar.  I ordered it because I had an idea....a breakfast-on-the-go idea!  I decided to make a Savory Sausage Breakfast Muffin.

They turned out great.  I now have a big batch in the freezer!  You could also use these for quick lunches and swap the sausage for diced chicken! 

Sausage Breakfast Muffin

1 pound ground pork
2 stalks celery finely chopped
2 mushrooms finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 of an onion minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp thyme

2 packages of Namaste sugar free muffin mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups of water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp Italian Seasonings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brown the sausage.  Add celery, mushrooms, garlic, and onions.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Drain any grease.  Add seasonings.  (You may want to adjust the seasonings to taste).  Set aside.

Pour muffin mix into a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs, olive oil, seasonings and water.  Mix well.  Add sausage mixture and mix until well blended.  Spoon into greased muffin cups.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

This recipe will make 24 muffins.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Things They Packed

Last night was wild!  It began as any other normal, ordinary, evening.  We ate dinner, soup and french bread, we talked, played a few rounds of Foosball, then settled down for the night.  Paprika went to bed.  Allspice finished up a game of Risk on the computer.  Cinnamon watched me as I went through some school work that I needed to organize for their notebooks.  Dan lit a fire in the fireplace.  Peaceful.  Serene.  A family enjoying each other.

Five minutes later, the chimney caught fire.  What a way to ruin a perfectly peaceful night.  At first things were calm.  Dan was keeping things in check.  He made sure the fire wasn't getting any air and was monitoring the situation.  Smoke was pouring out the chimney.  I decided to look myself, but since I couldn't get a good look at the chimney from the back, I went out to the front of the house.   I took one look and decided things were not looking too good:  flames were shooting out of the top of the chimney!

The next several minutes were filled with a quiet concerned focus.  We live on 14 acres and every summer we talk about what we would do if there was a wildfire.  I have spent countless hours thinking about the things I would grab if I had 5 minutes to get out of the house.  If I had 15 minutes what would I take or even if I had 30 minutes or an hour.  Tonight we put practice into action. 

While Dan was busy monitoring things, I told the kids to prepare a few things just in case.  I woke up Paprika, quickly explained the situation, and told her to get some things together.  I grabbed a laundry bin and put my most prized possession in it: my kids' school notebooks.  I have scrapbooked our schoolwork over the years.  These notebooks are filled with pictures of our homeschooling journey.  They are filled with artwork and writing.  They represent so much of what our life has been and they are a beautiful expression of our family; I didn't want to see them ruined.  Forget the clothes and underwear, I got the books!

Now at this point I never thought my house would burn down.  I figured that maybe we would have to call the fire department and there could end up being some smoke and water damage if they had to shoot that big fire hose down the chimney.  I am not sure what everyone else was thinking, but I would later find out it was not what I was thinking.

Within the hour we had suffocated the fire and flames were no longer escaping the chimney.  The house still smelled smokey.  I would have to give it a good airing out, but the danger had passed.  As we began to relax and really come back together, I realized we had been, for the most part, in our own little worlds.  The chatter broke that intense silence and excited voices dictated the concern most were feeling inside. 

Eventually the conversation came around to the things we packed; the things we thought were important in a time of hurried worry.  Dan was too busy to pack and was probably a bit disappointed that all I thought to take was my scrapbooks and my purse.  In my defense, I would have thrown other things together if I really thought we were going out the door, but in all honesty, it probably would have been underwear instead of the rifle. 

Allspice packed his backpacking bag as efficiently as the boy scout he is.  Clothes, underwear, winter hat and scarf, his Bible and rosaries, money and banking information, bowie knife, and binoculars.  Wait, binoculars?  A bowie knife?  I think this poor kid imagined himself having to live off the land, fending for himself, foraging for food after vacating the house. 
Cinnamon packed clothes.  Lots of clothes.  "I even packed something to wear for church on Sunday," she said proudly.  There were other things of course: all the gum she owns, her phone and charger, dance gear, every Keith Urban CD she has, her purse, money and bank account, and a mp3 player.  She didn't know where she was going, but she was definitely going to look good!

Paprika, who was roused from a pleasant sleep, must have thought we were all nuts.  She lightly packed, saving the heavy packing for the real evacuation call.  Her bag contained her dance gear, socks and underwear, two pairs of jeans, a few shirts, a sweatshirt, her purse and money, her copy of Bleak House, and her Jane Austen collection.  Wherever she was going, at least she had something to read.

What the kids decided to pack has been a source of humor and laughter today and will probably solidify this into a memory that will last a long time.  I can imagine some holiday, years from now, looking back and remembering the time we thought we were going to have to escape the dreaded chimney fire.   I am sure with each telling the fire will get bigger,  the time to escape shorter, the list of what we would have taken longer.  I am sure we will laugh and smile, truly thankful that the only refugee that night was Cinnamon who moved to the upstairs couch since her room is next to the wood stove.

Truly we are blessed that everything turned out fine.  I am also happy to report that we are well prepared for wildfire season!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Quick and Easy Lenten Fixes

Thought I would share with you a couple of yummy quick Lenten fixes that are easy and healthy.  The first is a simple crab salad served on romaine lettuce leaves.

Crab Salad on Romaine
1 can crab meat
avocado (cut into chunks and drizzled with lemon juice)
1/2 can of black olives
grape tomatoes (halved)
cucumber  (chopped into bite sized chunks)
2 celery stalks chopped
Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Blend to taste
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
romaine lettuce leaves
lemon wedge

Mix crab meat, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, and celery in a mixing bowl.  Break the whole olives into the mix letting the juices run into the bowl.  Season with Mrs. Dash and freshly ground pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Serve on romaine leaves and a lemon wedge to squeeze on the salad.

Quick Fix #2:

When I was in college, I decided that eggs were a fairly cheap way to incorporate protein into my diet.  The problem was that I didn't like the taste of eggs.  I didn't mind hard boiled eggs, but I did not enjoy scrambled, fried over easy, used in quiche, or really any other way.  Then I tried beating eggs and frying them flat like a pancake adding various seasonings and I liked it.  I decided to top it with minute rice and sauteed mushrooms.  I really liked the taste and it quickly became a staple when I needed something cheap and easy. 

I have become much more creative over the years, but the foundation of the recipe is the same.  Start with an egg fried flat and top it with what you have on hand.  I topped this one with zucchini, portabello mushrooms, a small amount of a left over wild rice medley, and shrimp.  You could use all sorts of vegetables: peppers, onions, garlic, squash, tomatoes, you name it.  You can make it with a Mexican flavor by topping it with hamburger, cheese, and salsa.  The varieties are truly endless.  The end results are the same: in ten minutes you have a quick, easy, delicious meal.

Both of these meals are great for Lenten Fridays.  I hope you enjoy.
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