Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Split Pea Soup

Who loves soup!?

Yes, I still love soup. Even though I live in the south. It's funny- when you live somewhere hot, your blood tends to thin. And then, suddenly, anything below 60 degrees requires a coat. Below 30 (yes, 30 above...)? I'm freaking out looking for my mittens....

It was one of those cool days today and I had a big ham bone sitting in the freezer. I decided to make some split pea soup. There is something special about the particular soup.Maybe it's the way it hugs the spoon or maybe it's the way the flavors mingle together, whatever the reason- I love it.

The recipe I have is a combination of my own, my mom's, and one I found somewhere on the Internet years ago. It's creamy, velvety, and rich. A perfect bowl of comfort on a chilly evening.

I like to add a little bit of lemon juice right before serving. It helps to brighten the flavors without overwhelming the flavors.  

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

Velvety Split Pea Soup

1 3/4 cups dried split peas
1 quart water
1 quart ham or beef stock
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 meaty ham bone
1/2 tsp dry rosemary
1/2 tsp dry marjoram
fresh cracked pepper
1/4 fresh lemon (optional)

In a large stock pot bring the water to a boil. Add peas. Simmer 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cover and let peas sit for at least 1 hour.

To the same stock pot, add all the remaining ingredients except the lemon. Bring to a simmer. Slowly simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Remove the ham bone from the soup. Set aside to cool.

Using a stick blender or a standard blender- blend the soup until desired creaminess.

Cut the meat from the bone and shred into bite sized chunks. Return ham to the soup. Squeeze lemon juice into the soup. Serve immediately.

* I like my split pea soup a little thicker. If you don't like how thick it is, simply add a little stock after you run it through the blender.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Rice Crispy Bars

Not too long ago I was reading through my food blog roll. I found this recipe from Cooking Classy. I knew instantly I had to try it.

Jon is a huge fan of rice crispy bars. I love quick variations with different marshmallows- Kraft always has fun seasonal flavors. And, instead of rice crispy cereal, I like to substitute with cocoa pebbles, fruity pebbles, or cupcake pebbles. It's fun to have something a little different that is super easy.

My friend Dawn makes an amazing peanut butter rice crispy bar that has butterscotch and chocolate chips melted together and spread over the top. They are my absolute favorite treat.

But, these cinnamon bun flavored bars are a very close second. I found some cinnamon bun swirl marshmallows and used them in place of original flavor. Then I frosted the whole pan with cream cheese frosting. (Please hold while I wipe the drool from my keyboard!) Jon, who isn't generally a fan of cream cheese frosting, loved these.

So a huge thank you to Cooking Classy for sharing this fantastic recipe!

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

Cinnamon Bun Rice Crispy Bars
Makes one 9x13 pan

3 TBS butter
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1 bag Kraft Cinnamon Bun flavored marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter. Stir in salt, molasses, and cinnamon.  Add marshmallows, stir to coat with butter mix.

Return to microwave and cook for 1 1/2 minutes at 60% power. Stir well. Microwave again for 30 seconds at 60% power. Add vanilla and stir well. 

Fold in Rice Krispies Cereal, stirring until evenly coated.  Pour Rice Krispie Treat mixture into a prepared 9x13 pan.  Spread mixture evenly into pan with buttered fingers.(This is a fun part for kiddos to help out with.)

Allow the rice crispy treats to cool, then spread Cream Cheese Frosting evenly over top with a butter knife or an icing spatula.  Cut into squares. Dust with additional cinnamon if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 TBS butter,at room temperature*
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, whip together butter and cream cheese until fluffy.  Stir in vanilla. Slowly add in powdered sugar and mix until smooth and fluffy. (You can do this by hand or with a hand mixer.)

*DO NOT microwave your butter. The resulting frosting will be runny and won't ever set quite right)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Artichoke and Spinach Lasagna

When I was growing up, my mom would occasionally make non-traditional lasagna for a treat. She had a few in her recipe box, and they were all delicious. One my favorites was an amazing meatless lasagna. The leftovers are divine.

My wonderful parents were able to find me some gluten free lasagna noodles last week. I was so excited to be able to have mom's lasagna again. We made a double batch last night- it was just as good as the original. My mom and dad, who still eat gluten, couldn't tell the difference in the pasta. Hurray!

The pasta they found was from Tinkyada. I was very pleased with the results. The noodles weren't mushy or mealy. The texture was that of a traditional lasagna noodle. If you can find Tinkyada products- give them a try.

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

Artichoke & Spinach Lasagna
Serves 4

  ½ cup onion                                        
  14 oz spaghetti sauce             
  1/2 to 1 can artichokes, drained and chopped (I like to use one
  2 cloves garlic
  ½ tsp dry rosemary
  4 lasagna noodles (traditional or gluten free depending on your
  2-3 oz feta
  1 cup chicken stock*         
  1 ½ cups mozzarella                          
  5 oz thawed frozen spinach

Preheat oven to 350.

 Press spinach dry. I do this in a clean tea towel or cheesecloth, but you can just squeeze the water out with your hands.

 Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Sauté onion and garlic for 3 min. Stir in broth and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Add chopped artichokes and spinach. Reduce heat. Simmer 5 minutes. Add spaghetti sauce.

In a large pot of salted water, simmer noodles about 10 minutes. (I prefer to put bring the water to a boil, add the noodles. Put a lid on the pot and turn off the heat. Let the pasta hang out in the water for 10-12 minutes. I find my noodles don't break as easily this way.)
Spray a 10x6 pan with cooking spray.

Spread 1/3 of the artichoke mix in prepared pan. Top with 2 noodles. Sprinkle ½ cup mozzarella over noodles. Repeat. Top with feta and remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella.

 Bake covered 25 minutes. Uncovered 10. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

* You can sub with vegetarian chicken flavor broth or vegetable broth if you choose.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pear & Almond Muffins- GF

I love muffins. They are a quick and filling snack that I can throw in my bag and go.

When I went gluten free I had lost hope in ever having a tender muffin again. Most mixes and recipes produce a dense, heavy baked product. And that's just not what I think of when I think muffin.

When I saw muffin recipes in the Cooking Light Gluten Free cookbook, I will admit, I had my doubts. But I had several pears sitting on my counter that I wanted to do something with. Jon had recently purchased some pumpkin spiced almonds. I thought that the muffins would be a perfect opportunity to use them both.

Jon, who isn't a big muffin fan, gave them his approval.

I love that this recipe has no oil, no butter, no shortening of any kind- and yet the end result is super flavorful and moist. I will admit, it was a very pleasant surprise!

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

Pear & Almond Muffins
Makes 12 

3 medium pears, peeled and cored
1 TBS lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup egg beaters
2 cups gluten free flour*
1 tsp xanthan gum*
1/2 tsp baking soda*
1/2 tsp baking powder*
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup almonds (I used pumpkin spiced almonds)
1 TBS powdered milk
Coarse sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 4 minutes or until pear is very tender. Mash pear with a potato masher until pureed. Cool slightly.

Place almonds in a food processor; process until finely ground.

Combine flour, almonds, salt, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk.

Combine egg beaters, vanilla, and pear puree, stirring well with a whisk. Add to almond/flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter evenly into muffin tins coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center.

* The original recipe calls for 2 cups of a gluten free baking mix instead of gluten free flour. If you chose to go this route, check the mix for xanthan gum, baking powder, and baking soda. Omit them if they are already contained in the mix.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Brussels Sprout Gratin

Welcome to the first post of 2012!

So glad you could join us for a new year of adventures.

Jon and I were looking back on 2011 a few days ago while sitting on the beach together. It was a very crisp day as old man winter finally showed up in GA. But, it worked out well for us. We went to a popular stretch of beach that we normally don't frequent. It's a beautiful little spot on the coast- soft white sand, salty sea breeze, and a great view of not only the coastline, but the edge of the city as well. We like it because we can watch the sun set from the beach. The problem is that many of the locals and most of the tourists like it for the same reason. So, on nice days it can become a bit crowded for my taste.

But, since there was a nip in the air, the beach was very sparse. And that's just the way I like it. Mostly, we had the beach to ourselves save the masses of fluffed up sea gulls and the occasional bundled up runner. We sat in our little chairs and soaked in the sunshine.

We talked about how many challenges we've overcome in the past year and half- we moved across country, got new jobs, changed our dietary lifestyle, and have grown closer to God through out the entire process. It was a great time of reflection, laughter, prayer, and meditation. And, Jon played a bit of Angry Birds on his phone. I informed him there were actual angry birds on the beach to look at, but he was less than interested in those...At any rate, we are very thankful for the blessings that we were given in 2011 and have no doubt that our Father will be faithful once again this year.

In fun new food news- We can resume the cooking light project! Well, with a twist. But it's back nonetheless. My parents gifted me with a copy of The Cooking Light Gluten Free Cookbook. Yippee! I am very excited to have some new ideas and recipes. And I always enjoy the cooking light books.

Also in food fun- Jon bought me a juicer for Christmas. I've been having fun making fruity juices for my breakfast and veggie juices for snacks. Which helps with our "Year of healthier us!" plan.

First off, let me say- I don't do resolutions. I personally think they set you up for failure. And no one wants to feel like a looser. So, periodically through out the year I make mini goals. Last year, going gluten free was a big thing. For the longest time, I was struggling with what I could eat and not feel sick. Now that I have that under control, I wanted to move to the next level. Healthier gluten free, on a budget.

So, after discussing this with my husband he purchased the juicer as a fun surprise. It's a great way to get a lot of good, healthy nutrients in a tasty drink. After I had been making my own juice for a few days I found myself less likely to grab a handful of m&m's and more apt to grab an apple or pear. (I must admit, I was startled the first time I realized I chose fruit over chocolate, by choice...) Upon this realization, I decided it was time to add the next goal- incorporate more veggies and less meat into our diet.

I say less meat because A. Jon LOVES meat and B. I enjoy a good, thick, medium rare steak or some salty ham on occasion.

I have eased our suppers into this by making more veggie side dishes that I know Jon does enjoy (cucumber & tomato salad tossed with a little Italian dressing for example) or by reducing the amount of meat in a recipe. We had a "clean out the fridge" veggie soup a few days ago- it was completely meatless. (We love this sort of soup and it's so easy- a can of veggie broth, a can of diced tomatoes, a few seasonings, and whatever raw veggies you've got in the fridge. Simmer together until the veggies are tender.)We both enjoyed it so much that we just about had to rock-paper-scissors for who got to take the last cup for lunch.

I am very impressed with the way that Jon has embraced the increase in veggies. He's even making better snacking choices- light popcorn, almonds, string cheese.

So, here we are. A new year of culinary adventures. Lots of exciting new side dishes and main dishes coming our way. I must say, I am looking forward to the tasting of it all!

I will be sharing an easy side dish today. We had it as an accompaniment to some grilled chicken and fresh sliced tomatoes. It made for a great looking plate and a great combo of different flavor profiles.

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

Brussels Sprout Gratin

24 oz Brussels sprouts
1 ½ TBS butter
1 ½ TBS gluten free flour
1 cup milk, warmed
salt and pepper to taste
3 oz Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or Gouda cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife or a mandolin, thinly slice the sprouts. Simmer in a pot of lightly salted water until just tender. Shock in an ice bath.

Make the sauce by melting the butter and flour together in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until smooth and bubbling, about 1 minute; slowly whisk in milk and continue to cook, whisking frequently, until thick and creamy. Season the sauce well with salt and heavily with pepper. 

Spread the sprouts in an even layer in a 2 quart baking dish. Pour the sauce over the sprouts and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. 

Bake in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling.