Thursday, September 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Pasta

The weather has been cool and rainy here in southern Georgia. As the weather changes, I start craving those fall favorites. My brother shared a recipe with me last year for butternut squash ravioli. I have made gluten free ravioli wrappers, but they are very tedious. A quick and easy fix? Take the filling and toss it with gluten free pasta.

When he made it, Adam made his own fresh ricotta cheese. It was warm and creamy, the consistency was less grainy than store bought ricotta. I fell in love with it. If you have the time, I recommend making your own.

This recipe is very basic, but has all the flavors of fall that I love. Roasted root vegetables, salty cheese, dried cranberries, and earthy sage. The leaves may not change here, but my palette certainly knows it's time for fall!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures my friends. Cheers!

Butternut Squash Pasta

1 small butternut squash
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup butter
2-3 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/8- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Gluten free pasta, cooked according to package directions

Preheat oven to 400.

Peel and dice butternut squash. Quarter onion. Toss squash, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Turn onto a prepared sheet pan. Roast 35-45 minutes until golden brown and softened.

Puree vegetables in a food processor or blender.

Combine 1 cup puree*, ricotta cheese, and egg. Warm over low heat until slightly thickened. Stir in nutmeg. Set aside, keep warm.

Cut sage leaves into thin strips. In a small skillet, brown butter. Add sage and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes.

Toss squash and sage butter with pasta. Sprinkle with cranberries, Parmesan cheese, and pepitas. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


 * You will have more than one cup of puree from the vegetables. It's great as a thickener in soup or frozen for another batch of this pasta.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quick Banana Bread

I am a fan of banana bread. It screams comfort to me. Jon hasn't been feeling well, so I made a big pot of chicken and vegetable soup and a loaf of banana bread.

I wanted to be able to eat the banana bread, so I opted to try a new gluten free recipe. The one I used came from of my Betty Crocker gluten free cook books. I had to make a few substitutions on the fly because I didn't have quite enough gluten free Bisquick. But, lucky for me, I am a fairly savvy cook.

The results were wonderful! It was moist and tender. I would like a little stronger banana flavor, but Jon said it was perfect.

This would be a great holiday bread for brunch or for a sweet treat. It's perfect for those gluten eaters in your life because it uses gf flours that don't have strong flavors. My husband who is a big fan of gluten filled treats asked why I was eating the bread- he didn't know it was gluten free until he was told. That is a huge success in my book!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures!

Quick Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 1/2 cups gluten free Bisquick**
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350. Spray the bottom of a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add banana,eggs and buttermilk. Mix well.

In a separate bowl combine Bisquick, rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, spices and salt.

Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture. Stir to combine. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the loaf. Remove the bread from the pan and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.


* If you don't have buttermilk- take 1/2 cup milk add 1/2 TBS lemon juice or vinegar. Stir. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir again and use as directed.

** You can use 2 1/2 cups of gluten free Bisquick. If you do, omit the rice flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum.



Saturday, August 4, 2012

Roasted Potato Salad

 I love German potato salad. Jon hasn't ever been a huge fan, he says it's too sharp for him. I on the other hand, love the vinegary bite.

I found this recipe a few weeks ago- it's a gentler version of the traditional dish. Jon fell in love with it. At the end of the meal he stated, "Let's do this one again, soon!"

I had some of the leftovers the next afternoon for lunch. It was delicious. It rewarmed wonderfully.

We served it with grilled chicken breasts and fresh veg.

There you have it, quick and easy. And yea. Bacon. Who doesn't love bacon?


Here's to you and your culinary adventures friends! Cheers!


Roasted Potato Salad

2 lbs baby red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
2 TBS olive oil, divided
1 large sweet onion, diced
1/2 TBS sugar
6 strips apple smoked bacon, uncured, chopped into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Dressing:
4 TBS red wine vinegar
3 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard (I used French's dijon with chardonnay)
¼ tsp Italian seasoning
3 TBS reserved, warm bacon drippings
1 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, add the halved (or quartered)  potatoes along with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well to combine.

Spray a foil lined baking sheet with cooking spray, and turn the baby potatoes out onto the baking sheet. Roast for 35-40, or until golden-brown and tender; while potatoes roast, crisp the bacon and onion.

In a medium-large non-stick pan set over medium heat, add a tsp or two of olive oil; when hot, add the onion and 1/2 TBS sugar. Cook/caramelize the onions over medium for about 10 minutes, or until a golden, caramel color, and softened. Remove from heat. Set aside and keep warm.

To the same pan set over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until brown and crispy, then remove them with a slotted spoon and onto a paper towel to drain; reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Set aside to use in the vinaigrette; keep the drippings warm.

Prepare the dressing in a mason jar or container with a tight fitting lid. Combine all the dressing ingredients. Shake well to combine.

Add the warm, roasted baby potatoes to a large bowl, and then add the onion, bacon,  and vinaigrette. Toss well to completely combine, making sure that all of the potatoes are well dressed. Serve warm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crock Pot Pork Roast

Jon and I had a beautiful day off together earlier this week. We slept in, had a leisurely morning, and headed to the beach.

Before we left for some fun in the sun, I threw a pork roast into the crock so we'd have supper when we came home. It turned out so moist and flavorful! No sauce was needed for this star dish. And, bonus- I didn't have to heat up the house when it was 100+ degrees outside!

A few snapshots of our day at the beach (click to see the larger image):

Do you spy a giant 5 foot spider web?

There are a ton of these Golden Silk Orb-Weaver spiders here. It's more commonly called a banana spider.

Pelican- we saw several of them this day.

After two years, we finally pulled out a map to find out what the land mass in the distance is. It's Cumberland Island! You know, where we saw the horses on my birthday. :)

First attempt at a photo on the beach- a little breezy for me...

Second attempt on the boardwalk was much more successful.


There you have it- a glimpse of our day at the beach. We checked on our nest, no signs of babies yet. But the Georgia Sea Turtle Center posted a photo this morning of a hatch-ling. It would have been from one of the very first nests of the season. Fingers are still crossed our little turtle kids hatch and make their way home to the water!

When we arrived home, the roast smelled fantastic. I shredded the meat and served with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. It was delish.  A great meal to end a great day with my sweetheart.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!


Crock Pot Pork Roast

3lb pork roast with good marbling and a decent fat layer
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup honey
3 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS dry basil
2 TBS minced garlic
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup hickory bbq sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Spray the insert of the crock pot. Lay the pork roast in, fat side up.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over pork roast. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

Remove from cooker. Allow to cool slightly.

Trim and discard any large pieces of remaining fat. You want to leave some fat on when you shred the meat because it keeps it nice and tender. Discard juices from the crock pot once cooled.

Shred meat using two forks. Serve with additional bbq sauce if desired.


 





Friday, July 20, 2012

Taco-Chili Skillet

This recipe evolved from Mom's taco chili recipe. I was really longing for the flavors of her chili, but it's been blisteringly hot.

Jon mentioned the other day that he missed hamburger helper. Then it hit me- add some pasta to the chili and thicken the sauce.

It was a home run. :) Super easy and delicious.

I hope your summer is going well and you are staying cool! And hopefully, you haven't been carried away by a waterspout like the one we had in our neck of the woods this week:


A local dolphin tour business re-posted this photo of the waterspout. I couldn't tell you who took the photo, but it's a great shot of the action. I didn't actually get to see this water tornado, but the girls at work could see it from the parking lot. They tell me it was so clear and clean it was unbelievable.

Jon and I go to the beach often and check up on our turtle babies. They should be hatching some day soon. Hopefully we will get to see them make their way to the Big Blue! If we do get the opportunity to see the miracle, I will try to capture it on film. So fingers crossed and prayers said :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!


Taco-Chili Skillet
Serves 6-8

8 oz pasta (I used gf shells)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 envelope taco seasoning + 2-3 tsp chili powder + 1 tsp cumin
1-2 TBS dry ranch dressing mix *
1 can whole corn, drained
1 can light kidney beans, drained
1 can rotel tomatoes
1/3 cup chunky salsa
1/4-1/3 cup beef stock*

Shredded taco cheese, optional
Sour cream, optional

Cook pasta in lightly salted water for 7-9 minutes until almost done. Drain well. Set aside.

Brown ground beef with onion and garlic. Season as desired with salt and pepper. I used Adobo seasoning.

Add remaining ingredients through beef stock. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes until thickened.  Gently stir in pasta.

Serve with a garnish of cheese and sour cream.


* As always, if you are gf- be sure you are using gf products. Just a heads up, some brands of dry dressing mix and beef stock contain gluten. Read your labels carefully :)




Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Squash Casserole

It's been in the low hundreds here this week. The heat index climbed up into the upper 120's. We finally had a break in the weather around Wednesday- it was only 89 with a heat index of 97 when I got home the other night. I decided it was my very narrow window to make a new recipe- summer squash casserole.

I am so happy I made good use of that opening! This dish turned out really good. I served it with grilled pork chops and fresh tomatoes. And, like most casseroles, it was even better the second day.

I think this would make a great accompaniment to a chicken dish- perhaps chicken piccata. This is a definite keeper that we will revisit this fall.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!


Summer Squash Casserole
Serves 6

2 lbs summer squash, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 TBS butter, divided
1/2 large sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
salt and pepper
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add squash. Simmer for about 8 minutes, until squash begins to soften. Drain well. Set aside.

In the same pot, add 1 TBS butter, garlic,and onion. Saute until onion begins to soften and starts to turn translucent. Remove from heat.

Add bread crumbs, Parmesan, cheddar, chives, parsley, sour cream, egg, and seasonings. Stir until well combined.

Fold in squash. Pour into a prepared 8x8 or 11x7 casserole dish.

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter. Combine with corn flakes and garlic powder. Spread evenly over squash.

Bake, uncovered for 35 minutes.

Let cool 5 minutes before serving. 


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Raspberry Creamsicles

It is hot here this week. The mercury hit 102 with a heat index of 125 today.Yesterday was much of the same.

I needed to cool down after a hard day of work and a cold shower wasn't going to do it. Mostly because the ground water is no longer cool. I can take a shower with the hot water off and the water is still lukewarm. Not super refreshing.

I wanted a frozen treat that would be creamy and satisfy my sweet tooth without being heavy. Cool Whip has a ton of recipes out there so I thought I would try one.

I loved these! Light, refreshing, and just enough sweet to satisfy.

If you don't have Popsicle molds, you can use little Dixie cups with a Popsicle stick.

Hope your summer is going well! Stay cool and enjoy the sunshine :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Raspberry Creamsicles

4 oz cool whip (light, regular, sugar free, whatever suits your fancy)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 small box sugar free instant vanilla pudding mix

Combine cool whip and pudding mix until well mixed. Fold in pineapple and berries. Spoon evenly into popsicle molds.

Freeze at least 4 hours.

To remove from plastic molds- run the mold under warm water for 10-20 seconds to loosen. If you use paper cups, simply peel the paper off.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

BLT Salad

For father's day, my husband and I went to my parents house to celebrate with my dad (and really, with mom too because they are a team).

We spent the day watching Kung Fu Panda 2. Well, Mom and Jon did- Dad and I both fell asleep for a few minutes in the middle. Can we tell who I take after? And we played a spirited game of Clue.

Mom made a BLT salad that is now in my top loved salads. Dad made his special croutons for me using Udi's sandwich bread. He usually makes the croutons with regular hot dog buns but since they are gluten filled that just wasn't going to work for me. Having experienced both versions I can tell you- the gf version can hold its own! They were delish :)

My contribution was churro chex mix. I found the recipe here. It turned out really wonderful, but my cinnamon chips ceased up on the first try. I omitted the butter in the first try because in the past I have had trouble- ironically enough- with it causing the chips to cease.

I ended up giving it a second go and added a drizzle (only about 1tsp for 2 cups of chips) of olive oil to the chips. Upon reading some of the reviews, many other cooks had this same experience.

I am a seasoned cook and I have used a double boiler to melt chocolate for years. There is something different about the make up of cinnamon chips that seems to make them more likely to cease. Next time I make this recipe I will simply use white chocolate chips or almond bark with some cinnamon extract or cinnamon mixed into the chocolate.

All in all it was a great day with family. I am blessed to have two great parents who love and support each other and their families.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

BLT Salad

12-16 oz bacon
1 head romaine lettuce- rinsed, dried and shredded
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cups seasoned croutons*

1/2 cup Kraft olive oil mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon. Cool on paper towels. Blot any excess grease. Crumble and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine mayo, sour cream, milk, garlic powder, and pepper. Blend until smooth.  Season with salt to taste.

Just before serving combine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and croutons in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and serve immediately.


* We used Dad's homemade gluten free croutons but you can use your favorite brand.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Oven Tacos

Jon and I enjoy tacos. We like to mix it up with different meats, seasonings, and veggies.

I stumbled on a recipe for oven chicken tacos and thought to myself- how did that never occur to me?! Bake the tacos in the oven- no more tippy tacos when you are trying to fill several of them to serve your family. Brilliant!

The recipe calls for store bought bbq baked beans. I opted to make my own with a cup of canned (drained and rinsed) of navy beans leftover from another night. I simply added some bbq sauce and a little water, simmered them for about 20 minutes until they had thickened up and absorbed the flavors. They turned out wonderfully- in fact, I may make my baked beans this way from now on.

This recipe is great for a family meal or a big shindig since you just bake them in the oven. Easy peasy :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures. Cheers!

Oven Tacos
Makes 8

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1-2 tsp taco seasoning OR 1/2 tsp cumin + 1/2 tsp paprika
8 hard (corn) taco shells
1 cup bbq baked beans, partially drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Optional- sour cream and diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400.
 
Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Cook chicken over medium heat until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning or cumin/paprika and 1/4 cup water. Simmer until thickened.

To assemble:

In a 9x9 baking pan, stand shells side by side. (They were a little snug in my pan, but they stood better that way anyway.)

Fill each taco evenly with the following layers- cooked chicken, baked beans, cheese, and bacon.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly. Top with tomatoes and sour cream if desired.





Monday, June 4, 2012

Pizza Burgers

Yesterday was grocery day.

I have a love-hate relationship with grocery day. On one hand I love having my pantry restocked and ready to go for two weeks (I shop 2x a month. That's why menu planning rocks.) But on the other hand, I loath trying to figure out a quick meal for shopping night supper. Have you ever brought a hungry husband grocery shopping? And tried to stick to a list and a budget? Not a good plan. Feed that man something if you want any hope of keeping things under control. LOL

Before we left I asked the hubs what he wanted for supper. He knows this is his free pass day to ask for whatever his heart desires- let's eat out, let's grab something on the way home, let's grill, etc.  Surprisingly enough he had no request. So I started flipping through my ever growing cookbook collection.  (It turned out he had a secret plan to take me out on a movie date to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Since he knew he was going to eat popcorn he was not really concerned about supper.)

Some of my favorite cookbooks are those that I have inherited or have been gifted by family. They are church cookbooks. Those folks know how to cook!

I flipped through one that I received from my lovely grandparents for Christmas one year. It has a simple inscription- Merry Christmas, Becca. Love Grandma and Grandpa 2008. But it means the world to me. It's written by hands that have cooked for generations of our family with love and joy.

I also have some of my great grandmother's cookbooks. Seeing her handwritten notes in the margins makes me smile every time. Pulling out index cards with recipes quickly scribbled down, I can't help but feel close to my family- those who are still here and those who have gone Home.

After I thumbed through a few pages I saw a recipe for Pizza Burgers. It was submitted by a woman I knew and remembered from my childhood. It looked delicious and I had all the ingredients in the pantry. Perfect for my grocery day meal. 

The original recipe  makes the burgers sloppy joe style, but I know Jon isn't a fan of loose meat. I simply formed the meat into patties and cooked them on my flattop griddle. We served these burgers with sweet potato tator tots. YUM!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Pizza Burgers
Based on a recipe by Bonnie Drake

 1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 can light spam
3/4 tsp dry Italian seasoning or 1/2 tsp dry oregano + 1/4 tsp dry sage
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 can pizza sauce
hamburger buns (gf in my case)

Dice spam into small cubes.

In a small bowl combine beef, spam, seasoning, and garlic powder.  Form into 4 patties.

Cook over medium heat 7-9 minutes per side until cooked through.

Top evenly with cheeses and sauce. Tent lightly with foil to melt cheese and warm sauce.

Serve hot on hamburger buns.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blueberry (Sweet)Bread

My parents graciously gifted us some hand picked blueberries the other day. I was hoping to make a gluten free blueberry bundt cake. Unfortunately, I don't currently have a bundt pan.

To be honest, I never thought I would want to make a bundt cake so why have the pan? What I have found is most gluten free cakes are more dense than a traditional (bleached, white) wheat flour cakes. That being the case, I find myself drawn more to traditionally more heavy cakes- pound cake, bundt cake, dessert breads, etc.

So, in the absence of a bundt pan, I went with a sweet dessert bread. Jon and I both enjoyed a slice for a sweet, cakey dessert after supper last night. It hit the spot with a great balance of sweet and tart. This would be a great option for a brunch or an afternoon nibble with tea or coffee.

Before I share the recipe with you, I want to share a few pictures from the past few weeks. Jon's brother and his family came to visit us from MN. While my in-laws went on a cruise, Jon and I got the pleasure of babysitting our nephew, Zenius. 

As his mom says- some good Zen time.
Uncle Jon and our niece, Lilli at the Sea Turtle Center
We may have turned him into a Twins fan while we was here ;)



My dad rocking Zen to sleep
Mom loves babies :)
Now that you've seen what we've been up to- go make some blueberry sweet bread!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures friends. Cheers!

Blueberry Sweet Bread 
(Original recipe on girlcooksworld.com)
Makes 1 loaf

3/4 cup plus 2 TBS rice flour, divided
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Glaze:
 2 TBS lemon juice
 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter or grease a standard-sized loaf pan.

Combine 3/4 cup of the rice flour, the sorghum flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, mix the canola oil, sugar and eggs.  Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk.  Add to the flour mixture, stirring thoroughly to combine. 

Mix the blueberries in a small bowl with the 2 TBS of rice flour and stir lightly to coat the blueberries.  Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. 

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 60 minutes, or until the top turns a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack covered with wax paper.

Make the glaze by combining the lemon juice and granulated sugar and stir to combine.  Pour or brush the glaze over the top and sides of the loaf.  Serve warm,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chicken with creamy dijon & herb sauce

I am always on the hunt for new chicken recipes.

Jon bought some new French's Dijon with Chardonnay the other day while picking up a few things for me at the grocery store. There was a recipe on the back that he wanted to try so we added it to the menu.

We had it this evening with roasted potatoes/sweet potatoes and green beans. We decided it was a definite winner. It's a perfect balance of tang from the mustard and smoothness from the creamy sauce. And an added bonus? I got to use fresh herbs from my garden! YAY!

I prepared this with the oven directions because I had the oven on for the veggies, but I'm sure the stove top version is just as wonderful.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures friends. Cheers!

Chicken with Creamy Dijon & Herb Sauce
Serves 4

1/2 cup chicken broth
6 tbsp. French's Dijon Mustard with Chardonnay
2 oz cream cheese spread, softened* 
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp dry Italian herbs
black pepper to taste 
1/4 cup minced herbs (parsley, basil or chives or combination of all)
4 (6 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 TBS cold water + 1-2 tsp corn starch to make a slurry


For Oven Prep:

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine broth, mustard, cream cheese, garlic, dried herbs, and pepper until well blended.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Add chicken breasts in a single layer. Cover with sauce. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove chicken and keep warm.

Pour sauce into a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Add corn starch slurry, whisk to combine until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh herbs. Spoon over warm chicken. 

For Stove Top Prep:

Combine broth, mustard, cream cheese, garlic, dried herbs, and pepper until well blended. Set aside.

Cook chicken in 1 TBS hot oil in nonstick skillet until browned on both sides, about 15 min.

Remove chicken and keep warm.

Add mustard sauce to skillet. Simmer over medium heat. Add corn starch slurry, whisk to combine until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh herbs. Spoon over warm chicken.

* I use neufchatel cheese cheese instead of cream cheese. It's a personal preference.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ham & Bean Soup

I don't know why, but when it hits 85+ degrees outside I tend to make a big ol' pot of soup. It happens fairly regularly. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I simply love soup. It's easy, it's filling, and it gets better as it sits.

This recipe is no exception- it was fantastic yesterday, but for lunch today it was the bees knees (my hubby's words, not mine LOL). The flavors had all blended overnight to make this yummy soup over the top.

If you are a winter only soup eater, tuck this one away to try. If you are like me and eat soup no matter what the temperature outside may be- give this one a whirl!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Ham & Bean Soup

1 cup dry navy beans, rinsed
8 cups water


1-2 cups chicken broth
1 TBS chicken bouillon base
1 meaty ham bone + 1 cup shredded or diced ham
4 strips smokey bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dry Italian seasoning

3-4 carrots, diced
1 (4oz) can tomato sauce


Cover rinsed beans with 8 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer 2 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.

In a skillet, brown and crisp bacon. Remove from pan and drain. Add the diced onion to the same skillet. Saute 3 minutes.

To the beans and water, add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the tomato sauce and carrots. Cover, and simmer for 1 hour.

Add carrots. Cover and simmer 1 hour.

Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

If desired, slightly mash some of the beans with a potato masher. Serve with a piece of corn bread for a hearty meal.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cream Cheese Swirled Brownies

Today I was craving brownies like a mad woman.

It just so happens I recently acquired the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cooking cookbook.

The result? Cream Cheese Swirled Brownies of deliciousness!

Warm and gooey from the oven. MMMMM
They were absolutely divine! They were everything a good brownie should be- fudgy, sweet, and simply decadent.

This week's menu is made up mostly of new recipes from my new cookbook. If the rest of the recipes are this great, gluten free just got even easier! And, since it's Betty Crocker, I have no doubts everything will be wonderful.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Cream Cheese Swirled Brownies
Makes 16

Filling:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

Brownies:
1 box Betty Crocker Gluten Free Brownie mix
1/4 cup margarine, melted
2 whole eggs
1 oz dry sugar free chocolate pudding mix
1 TBS oil
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks


Preheat oven to 350. Spray the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine brownie mix, margarine, eggs, pudding mix, and oil. The batter will be thick.

Spread 3/4 of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with filling mix. Spread the remaining batter over the filling.

Sprinkle dark chocolate chunks over the top.

Bake for 37-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted 2 inches from the edge of the pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely, in the pan, on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 hours. Cut into 16 even squares.

Store, covered, in the dishwasher.

2012 Garden

I love to garden. It makes me feel close to my family, to nature, and to God.

I tenderly take care care of the plants- water them, feed them, and make sure they get just the right amount of sun. But at the end of the day, it's God who gives them life. He sends the bees, humming birds, and butterflies I need to pollinate the flowers. He provides for them in ways that I simply cannot.

I come from a long line of gardeners- my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents. And I assure you the generations before all planted fruits and vegetables to provide for their families.

I plant for many reasons, and yes, one of those is to provide for my table. But I also enjoy the great experiment of it all! I get to try new foods as well as new varieties. It's fun to see what wild life is drawn to the different plants each year as well.

This year has been especially challenging because it's my first year planting in the south. I planted my garden in February. Yea. For a MN girl, that's crazy talk.

For my first southern planting, I went with what I knew: three varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, and herbs. They are all in containers- high yield, small space. An added benefit for the containers is mobility. I can adjust how much sun a plant gets by moving it closer to the house or further out onto the patio.

Here we are on May 1, 2012. Things are looking wonderful! I even had a neat surprise when I went to tend the plants this morning. A black swallowtail caterpillar is beginning to make a chrysalis on my parsley plant. 



Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar. He has taken up residence on the parsley growing out of the topsy turvy planter.

Patio Cherry Tomatoes- these guys are heavy and about the size of a golf ball

MMMM green beans!

Just when I thought my Purple Cherokee was doomed, it set fruit! This is a new variety for me so I didn't know what to expect

A favorite of mine- Parks Whopper. This is a red tomato that gets giant, about the size of a small grapefruit.

Carrots share the space in the Parks Whopper container

A compact container Cucumber, this won't vine out which is great since I have no where for it to go!

Things are growing beautifully  and I am eagerly await garden fresh produce this summer. And this fall, I will be panting winter crops for a new adventure!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!


Friday, April 27, 2012

Crock Pot Mac N Cheese!

I. LOVE. pasta. Any shape or size I am so there. It's quick and easy, plus it's a nice filling meal.

As if I needed any more help to adore oodles of noodles, some brilliant mind in history said- hey, lets go ahead and add some cheese this boring old pasta.

Um, yea. I'm in.

Lucky for this gluten free chica there are endless pastas made with alternative flours. As I have said in the past, I am a huge fan of Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta. (But let me tell you a secret- the cooking time on the package- HOLY OVER KILL BATMAN! Seriously. Cook it as you would traditional wheat pasta, about 9-10 minutes.)

They have just about every shape you could ever possibly need. Note to self- find some of their "grand shell pasta" to make stuffed shells with manicotti filling....

Please hold while I wipe the drool from my keyboard. ;)

Ok, back to that whole mac meets cheese business!

I saw this recipe over at A Whisk and A Prayer and knew it was going on the menu. We served it with grilled pork chops and a little tomato cucumber salad. The best part? Not heating up the kitchen baking this dish in the oven!

I did tweak it to make it a. gluten free and b. to give the cheddar flavor that we have come to expect when we have mac n cheese. It was a huge hit in our house. Give it a whirl and enjoy!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Crock Pot Mac N Cheese
Gluten Free Version

1 1/2 cups 1% milk (I used Lactaid)
One 12 oz can evaporated fat free milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine, melted, cooled to room temp
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (6oz) shredded Italian blend cheese
1 1/2 cups (6oz) shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz gluten free elbow macaroni
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1/2 tsp paprika for color
1/4 cup gluten free panko bread crumbs seasoned with a pinch of garlic salt, onion salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning
1 tsp olive oil Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta. Simmer for 4 minutes. (Yes, 4 minutes.) Drain well.

Spray the inside of your slow-cooker with cooking spray. In the prepared crock pot, combine milk, evaporated milk, eggs, butter, and salt whisking until until smooth. Add a dash of hot sauce if desired.

Add the shredded cheeses (not the Parmesan) and macaroni, sprinkle with black pepper and fold gently with a spatula to coat evenly. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and paprika on top.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to LOW and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until custard is set in the center and the pasta is tender. Turn off the heat.It will keep warm for quite a while even after being shut off. 

Just before serving, saute the seasoned bread crumbs with olive oil and sprinkled them over the top.

Mr. Hart's Tacoritos

I would like to introduce you all to Mr. Hart. If you read me regularly you have seen me make mention of this fabulous human being. 


West Coast and East Coast collide after nearly 10 years apart
Mr. Hart lives in California. We are both MN born and raised. Even though we live on opposite ends of the country, we are best buds. The internet is a wonderful tool for keeping in touch kids!

We were blessed with the opportunity to catch up in person over his spring break. We spent 4 1/2 days playing in the sun, visiting the sea turtle clinic, doing a bathroom make-over, getting tattoos, and laughing late into the night. 


Ohhh that is some mighty fresh ink! They are healed up and look nice and sharp now :)
A cute little sign in the bathroom
Love these little bathing beauties!
Mr. Hart and I at the sea turtle clinic
My hubby on the left and my best friend on the right- at the beach. A perfect day!
A sweet moment captured between my husband and me.
High tide and crazy windy

Checking out the Tabby Ruins in St. Marys
Beach day!
Jon taking a stroll
My dad took us on a great tour of St. Marys and Kingsland
We had a fantastic visit. Though it was brief, it was much needed. God blessed us both with exactly what we needed- a good long laugh with old friends.

One day Mr. Hart decided he wanted to cook for us. His mom had a recipe called tacoritos that he loves. So we took a field trip to the grocery store and gathered up the ingredients. 

This recipe is so simple yet filling and delicious! 

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Mr. Hart's Tacoritos
Makes 1 9x13 pan

flour or corn tortillas
1 # lean ground beef (OR vegetarian ground meat substitute or vegetarian chorizo crumbled)
1 jar herdez salsa (or your favorite salsa)
1 envelope cheesy taco seasoning
3 cups Sargento Mexican blend cheese
Sour cream to serve

Brown beef. Drain if needed. Add taco seasoning and prepare meat according to seasoning directions. 

Preheat oven to 375.

To assemble:

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Place a layer of tortillas on the bottom. Add taco seasoned meat. Sprinkle 2 cups of cheese over the meat. Top with salsa. Add another layer of tortillas over the top of the salsa. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake, uncovered for 13 minutes.

Brown under broiler to achieve desired golden color.

Let sit for 10 minutes.

Cut and serve with sour cream.

Sweet N Sour Chicken (Restaurant Style!)

I love sweet and sour chicken. It's sticky, sweet, and slightly crispy.

 I have tried several recipes over the years looking for THE recipe. You know, the one that makes you feel like you are eating at an American "Chinese" restaurant. The problem? They are either too sweet (crazy right?) or too bell pepper-y or mushy or worst of all: deep fried. None of these things make for a delicious meal in my universe. Then we went ahead and added the challenge of making it gf.

I was starting to feel like this was an impossible copy cat recipe. Then came pintrest. I combined about four sweet and sour chicken recipes to come up with one that I adore. Wanna see?!

Mmmmm sweet and sour chicken
It was perfect! Lightly crispy, sticky sweet chicken over a bed of white rice. Tasty!

Jon wants to have a Chinese food supper night that would include this chicken, fried rice, and cream cheese wontons. Sounds like a fun little at home date night!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!


Sweet N Sour Chicken
Makes 4 large entree servings

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1/2-3/4 cup corn starch
1 egg +1 egg white +1 TBS water or 1/2 cup egg beaters + 1 TBS water
2-3 TBS olive or grape-seed oil


1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup 100% pineapple juice
4 TBS ketchup
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 TBS soy sauce
1 tsp minced garlic

Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. In one bowl pour the corn starch.  In a second bowl add your egg mixture of choice.

Add 1- 1/2 TBS oil to a large saute pan. Preheat to medium high heat.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Working in batches- Dredge chicken in cornstarch. Then into egg mixture. Add to pan and brown chicken on all sides. (We are not cooking the chicken here, just browning it) Remove from pan. Repeat with remaining chicken adding the remaining oil as needed.

 Transfer chicken to a prepared 9x13 pan.

Combine sugar, pineapple juice, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic. Whisk until smooth. Pour over chicken.

Bake at 325 for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes to evenly sauce all the chicken. Serve over rice.


*As always- check your ingredients. Heinz Ketchup and La Choy Soy Sauce both claim to be gluten free*

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Torte

So, it's almost May. I had intended to post this recipe shortly after my birthday back in March....

Life got a little hectic and I simply didn't make time to write. Things in our little household are now settling back into a wonderful groove so the day has come to share some recipes.

But first- a few pictures from my birthday celebration! My family and I went to Cumberland Island for the day. We went hiking for the day, had a picnic on the beach, saw wild horses and other wild life, and simply had a delightful day.  All the horses are wild and cannot be touched. They will share their space with you as long as you leave them alone. What a great day to see some of God's creation, wild and free.

The horses started having babies early this year because the weather has been so warm.

Walking down the middle of the dirt road.

Grazing near the ocean

Ahhhh the ocean. Beautiful.

The Dungeness Ruins

Me at the old entrance to Dungeness, the shear size is breathtaking.

God gave me an amazing birthday. The weather was warm and sunny without being swelteringly hot. God sent dolphins to escort the ferry to the island, I knew right then it was going to be a very special day. Once we got to the island we started seeing wild turkeys, vultures, and little lizards.

We wandered down to the Dungeness ruins which is Jon's favorite place on the island. Along the way we saw all the signs that the horses were out. We came around the corner and out of the woods emerged several horses. They ambled their way past us and we just soaked it all in.

We made our way to the ocean to do some beach combing. Jon and I collect sand dollars and conch shells. Never in all our beach visits have we ever found so many conch! There were big shells with occupants and smaller shells that were no longer inhabited.

After a long day of fresh air we took our seats on the ferry to head home. Now, here's where I get a good clear look at God's sense of humor:

I was reflecting on the great day I had with my family. Now, you should know I am perpetually hunting sharks teeth at any ocean visit. I was so thankful for the things I had received I didn't give much thought to the lack of a shark's tooth. At that very moment my Mom pulled a sharks tooth from her pocket and announced- "Look what I found in my pocket! You can have it if you want, Becca." I accepted the tooth and giggled. My parents wanted to know what was so funny. I hadn't told my parents, or anyone for that matter, what I was hoping to get that day for my birthday. I had asked God for two things for my birthday- to see the horses and to get a sharks tooth. God uses his perfect timing even with silly things like sharks teeth. :)

My birthday gift from my Heavenly Father
After we arrived home, we had birthday supper. Then it was time for dessert!

My grandma sent my mom a recipe for flourless chocolate cake. Mom decided to make it for my birthday dessert. We topped it with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. We deemed it more of a torte than a cake because when I hear cake I think light and fluffy. This is a smooth, rich, velvety chocolate dream the moment it hits your mouth.

So there you have it, birthday review. Now onto the chocolate madness!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!


Flourless Chocolate Torte
8-12 servings

4 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate (NOT UNSWEETENED)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Whipped cream and raspberries

Preheat oven to 375. Butter an 8 inch round baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper. Butter the paper.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or a metal bowl, set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt chocolate with butter stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; add sugar and whisk. Add eggs and whisk again.

Sift 1/2 cup cocoa over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until the top has formed a thin crust. Be careful to not over bake.

Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a plate. Then invert onto your serving platter.

If desired dust with additional cocoa once completely cool.

To serve, cut into wedges. Add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with fresh berries.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Oh my cookie!

Who loves cookies?

 I do! I do!

How about these cookies:

Mmmmm chocolate chip cookies. Gooey, warm, melt in your mouth cookies. These are the cookies of my childhood. With a slight make-over.

I made these gluten free. And they taste just as wonderful as my dad's original recipe. I am proud to share them with you. (Be sure, as always, to make sure you are using all gf ingredients.)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!


Dad's Chocolate Chip Cookies
(GF Version)
Makes 4 1/2 doz

3/4 cup margarine
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
 2 1/3 cups gluten free flour blend *
1/4-1/3 cup shredded coconut
12 oz chocolate chips

Cream together the margarine and sugars.

Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

Sift together baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and flour blend. Combine with the wet ingredients.

Stir in coconut and chocolate chips. (This dough is thick. If my wooden spoon can't stand up straight in the mix, it's not stiff enough. Add a bit more flour or coconut.)

Chill dough, covered for 1 hour.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto baking sheets.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake one pan at a time for 9-12 minutes until the edges are golden. Do not over bake.

Remove from oven and cool 1-2 minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

* Gluten Free flour blend: 2 cups brown rice flour, 2/3 cup sorghum flour, 1/3 cup tapioca flour, and 1 tsp xanthan gum. You will not use all of this mix for the cookies. Measure what you need and save the rest in a ziplock bag in the fridge or freezer.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wild Rice Soup

I live in Georgia.

My best friend lives in California.

No, it wasn't always that way- we grew up together in Northern MN.


We have had a lot of Skype dates in our time. (Skype is an online video chat service) We have introduced our spouses and fur babies (they have three cats, we have our furry walrus) via our video chats. We have shared ups and downs, tears, laughter and pure silliness together, in real time even though we are 2,521 miles apart.

We have had many a dinner date this way as well. In recent history, Alan has been stuck on a cheesy wild rice soup. He insisted I make it and share a bowl with him one night via skype.

So, he sent me the recipe. I of course, had to make it my own.... It was scrumptious! I asked Jon's opinion, but he was too busy trying to get every last drop out of his bowl to give me a response. :)

I used a country brown rice blend from Whole Foods Market. It had brown rice, wild rice, a black rice of some sort, and a few other rices.

TANGENT ALERT:

If you have a whole foods market within um, anywhere of you. Go. Bring your cooler. Fill it up with all the amazing finds you are bound to acquire. I found Gluten Free waffles by Van's. (My oh my, the blueberry flavor- out of this world) gluten free panko bread crumbs, some fun gluten free flours by Bob's Red Mill, Tinkyada vegetable spiral pasta, Synders Gluten Free pretzels, quinoa, and some fun cheese samples from around the world.

A note about the waffles and the pretzels. These two products are made by companies who have perfected the wheat based versions. Snyders does pretzels right- all the time, and the gluten free version is no exception. Same goes for Van's. They make frozen waffles and french toast sticks they way they should be done. That care and dedication shines through with the gluten free version as well.

Tangent over. Back to the soup.

I made the soup. It was a hit, and the leftovers were divine. Shout out to my best friend for the great recipe idea!

I am so excited to tell you that in 14 1/2 days I get to share a meal with my best friend. In person. I look forward to our adventures!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Cheesy Wild Rice Soup

1 cup wild rice blend or country brown rice blend*
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
season with garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and adobo seasoning to taste

1 tsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dry Italian herbs
1/2 cup milk
2-3 cups chicken broth
6 oz velvetta cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese
2 TBS corn starch

Prepare the rice first. 

Simmer the rice blend in water, broth, and seasoning for 50 minutes, covered.

In a large pot, add the oil. Saute the chicken until no longer pink. Remove from pot. Add veggies. Saute until slightly softened. Return the chicken to the pot. Add cooked rice.

Add herbs, milk, broth, and cheese.  Bring to a simmer. 

Mix the corn starch with a little cold water to make a thin, running paste. Stir into the simmering soup. Allow to thicken to desired consistency. If the soup becomes too thick, simply add additional broth to thin.

*The rice blend I used called for 1 cup dry rice and two cups liquid. Follow your rice blend directions to fully cook the rice.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Adobo Pork & Potato Packets

I'm going to keep this short and sweet today-

With spring in full swing here in the south, we've been using our grill far more frequently.

I really like this meal because it's super easy and it's a complete meal. I don't have to worry about finding a side dish or turning on the stove top.

We enjoyed this dish out on our patio earlier this week. The cat stretched out on the warm concrete slab, the vegetable garden growing in cute little pots, and an al fresco dinner with my sweet hubby. It was a great evening.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Adobo Pork & Potato Packets
Serves 4

3 TBS olive oil
2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning- optional
pepper to taste
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick*
1 yellow or white potato, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick*
1 sweet or red onion, halved and sliced 1/8 inch thick*
4 bone-in pork chops, trimmed of excess fat

Preheat grill to high.

Combine oil, vinegar, paprika, garlic, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and adobo seasoning in a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine well.

 Place sweet potato, potato and onion in a medium bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 TBS of the sauce; toss well to coat.

Rub both sides of pork chops with the remaining sauce.

To make a packet, lay two 24-inch sheets of foil on top of each other (the double layers will help protect the contents from burning); generously coat the top piece with cooking spray.

Spread half the potato mixture in the center of the foil in a thin layer. Bring the short ends of foil together, fold over and pinch to seal. Pinch the seams together along the sides to seal the packet. Make a second packet in the same fashion with the remaining potato mixture.

Place the packets on the hottest part of the grill and the pork chops in the front or back. (I have a large grill with four independent burners. I set two of them to high for the packets, and two of them to medium for the chops.)

Cook the pork for 4-5 minutes per side and the packets for 6-7 minutes per side. (Transfer the chops to plates and let rest while the packets finish cooking.)

Open the packets (be careful of steam) and serve the pork chops with the vegetables.

*A mandoline makes this job super easy. 

Note- Adobo Seasoning can be found in the ethnic foods section or the spice section of your local grocery store. It wasn't originally called for in this recipe, but Jon and I really like the flavor with pork.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mustard Maple Pork Chops

I worked bright and early last Friday- 5am early. Typically I come home from work and take a nice little siesta on the couch. But this particular Friday was BEAUTIFUL. The sun was bright, the sky was blue with fluffy clouds scattered here and there, and the breeze wasn't too hot or too cold.

I skipped my nap, politely excitedly (I may or may not have gotten a running start from the doorway and launched myself into the bed like a small child on Christmas morning trying to wake up Mom & Dad...) woke up Jon and  requested a trip to the beach.

We had a little picnic at our favorite beach spot. We had some cute company too.

Cute little squirrel eating  Nacho flavored Bugels
This was number two of three- He enjoyed some of the bread from Jon's sandwich.

The maple trees are heavy with red buds. Some of the other trees have already unfurled their new bright green leaves. It's one of my favorite colors- but it's so fleeting. (And, it always reminds me of my mom, it's one of her favs too.)

Who remembers this sign? The one Jon and I never believe....


Well, it turns out....


Well, huh. I guess there are gators in the pond....

No swimming in the pond please!  

Gators weren't the only thing in the little pond. There were at least 4 different species of turtles swimming around and sunning themselves.

After our picnic and wild life adventure, we finally made our way down the ocean. Jon prefers to hang in his beach chair up in the sand. As for me, I like to go mingle with the water.

Spending some very important time healing and chatting with my Creator.
Diggin' a hole
After about an hour of playing in the water, I decided to go gather up my beach chair and sit at the edge of the water line. The tide was creeping back in so I would sit a few feet from the waves, dig a hole with my foot and wait for the tide to fill the hole with water. Then, I would back up a few feet and do it again. Yes, it's the simple things in life. :)

While I was digging holes, Jon was making friends with seagulls-

Seagull! Jon gave them names, they had a back story. It was all very entertaining.
After our fun day of sun and surf we were hungry! Lucky for us, I make a menu for the week so we had options that didn't include a bad fast food decision.

We had mustard maple pork chops and twice baked potatoes. The pork chops were just the right amount of tang and sweet. And the potatoes were the perfect accompaniment. I made them according to the recipe but omitted the ground beef since we were having them as a side.

We had a delightful day and a lovely dinner. I love having spur of the moment days with the love of my life.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Mustard Maple Pork Chops
Makes 4 servings

3 TBS coarse ground mustard, divided
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 pound boneless pork chops
2 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 TBS maple syrup*

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine 1 TBS mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl; rub all over pork.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides, about 3-4 minutes.

Line a sheet pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Transfer to oven and roast the meat until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 145°F, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat, add vinegar, and boil, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, about 30 seconds. Whisk in maple syrup and the remaining 2 TBS mustard; bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add chops and any accumulated juices to the sauce. Serve the pork topped with the sauce.

* If you use pancake syrup instead of pure maple syrup, you will need closer to 1/4 cup of syrup to achieve a good balance of tang and sweet.