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.