Fast(er) Roasted Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes

Click here for – Fast(er) Roasted Potatoes

His scent was that of a printing press. Inky. Mixed with a bit of Old Spice. An earthy undertone brought it all together in a warm blanket of protection. Consistency. He was my short, solid, bearded, refuge. He was my Dad.

Certain memories of him are in full, vibrant color. The sounds fill my ears like a wave of warmth. I can easily  trick my brain to go there.  On his lap of his La-Z-Boy recliner. The orchard. The garden.

Especially the garden. Every time I bend over the sink and wash potatoes I go to him in the garden.

It was a damp day, but he needed the soil to give way to the shovel. If we waited, the new red potatoes would get too big. The earth too hard. So I stood by the empty bushel basket and waited for him to bring up the first blade-full of dirt. The soil gave way and little burgundy gems peaked out to the daylight. I eagerly fell to my knees and plucked them out.

He moved on down the row and brought up each mound of dirt, his smile getting bigger all the way. It was a good crop. I scooted on my little bottom and knees, filling the bushel basket handfuls at a time, pushing the dirt back into place with my bare hands.

He stood at the edge of the garden. Sweaty. Smiling. Admiring the full basket of labor. I stood up and he looked in my direction. His eyes went from my head, to my filthy hands, to my soiled clothes.

With a smirk, he said, “Your Mother’s going to kill me.”

Finish tilling garden

 

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes (Mystery Man Part 3)

Buttermilk PancakesThis week is Mystery Man’s birthday and one of the things he will be enjoying is pancakes for breakfast. Unlike most gluten free pancakes, these are light and airy, and there is not a hint of grit or heaviness. I took a page from my Best Buttermilk Waffle recipe and whipped the egg whites to add extra fluff. I dare you to compare these to ‘the real thing’.

Mystery Man Part 3

Ever since he showed up in my store on Valentines Day, Mystery Man never left my thoughts for long. I hated that I thought of him so often and tried to squelch these thoughts with futile rebuttals.

‘He is such a great friend, I don’t want to ruin it’.

‘I love being his dance partner. I can’t risk losing that for just a fling’.

The mental excuses ran on and on and on. For months, upon months, and we continued to dance together nearly five nights a week.

One of our favorite places was a club called El Diablo Lounge. The owner dabbled in Swing dancing himself, and the interior was a cross between a tiki lounge and swanky 1940s Rat Pack Swing club, with sidewalk seating out front and a billiards room in the back. The booths were red leather, lighting low, and in the center, a small but inviting dance floor. We met every Thursday around nine o’clock, and joined Spunky Girl among others to dance off some energy, socialize, and catch up.

It was the middle of summer and the humidity was high. There was a particular energy in the air and the DJ was hot, playing one favorite after another.

He dipped me at the end of the song, and as I went to walk away, the first few notes of a Rumba, and the hand of Mystery Man drew me back onto the floor. He pulled me slightly closer than usual, and I smelled his aftershave and could feel the heat coming from his body. I didn’t know much more than the Rumba basic, so we whispered to me now and then.

“Walk forward”   “Come back to me”   “Follow me around”   “Step back”

For more than five minutes I followed his every lead. Felt his every touch and heard his every whisper. All the other couples on the dance floor melted away from my vision and the only thing I saw was him.

At the end of the song, breathless, and fully aware, yet unaware of what just happened, he dipped me. Once on my feet again, I squeaked out a “thank you” and we headed opposite directions – me to the billiards room, him to the front sidewalk seating.

I entered the room with my head spinning, my body overheating, and my face flushed. Spunky Girl looked at me and asked if I was O.K. “yeah. I don’t know what just happened there…” I trailed off. It was then she knew exactly what had just happened.

Mystery Man walked out to the front sidewalk, took out his handkerchief and patted his brow. Spunky Girl’s partner was standing there taking in some cooler air. “I’m not quite sure what just happened there,” he said. 

It would take Mystery Man and I another six months to figure it out on our own.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes

Ingredients

10 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil

*Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, pus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)

Method

Mix flour blend, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium to large bowl. In a 2-3 cup liquid measuring cup, measure buttermilk. Add eggs and blend well with a fork. In a thin, steady stream, add melted butter while stirring. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk very well until little to no lumps remain.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low/medium for about one minute. Increase speed to medium high for an additional minute. Gradually add sugar and whip until stiff peaks form (about 3 additional minutes).

Gently fold egg whites into pancake batter until just a few white streaks remain.

Heat griddle to 350 degrees or a skillet on a medium/high burner. Brush with one teaspoon of vegetable oil. Once hot, add pancake batter 1/4 cup at a time – or make any size pancakes you wish. Wait until the pancakes have bubbles on top that have popped, and they look slightly dry around the edges. Flip to other side for about two more minutes, or until they are the desired color. Add vegetable oil to griddle or skillet as needed.

Serve with your favorite toppings!

Strawberry Pie (with bonus gluten free dough recipe!)

Strawberry Pie 1

Finish tilling gardenIt has been more than twenty years since I sat in the garden at the farm house. The wide patch of strawberries sat perpendicular to the rows of onions, potatoes, green beans, and corn, and I sprawled out in the gap in between. With my Tonka trucks and dirt movers, die cast cars and a small trowel, I mounded dirt, made roads and dug rivers. My parents spent the day bent at the waist, weeding, planting, and tending to their precious crop, and our Black Labrador wondered about. She eventually ended up huffing and plopping right down in the middle of my ‘town’. Nosing my leg for attention, I complied and drove cars up and over her like a big mountain.

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I didn’t even give my husband a chance to think about it or plan something special. When I saw that my neighbor wanted to remove the neglected raised garden beds from his property, I eagerly made a deal that we (my husband!) would remove them if I could have all the (rich and beautiful!) soil they contained. “Hey, Honey…. you don’t have to worry about getting me anything for Mother’s Day! Just move these for me!”

“Fine, but you get to move the dirt.”

Raised Beds Before and After

(Here is a before and after of the rebuild/relocation.
It took me two weeks to play in, I mean move, the dirt.)

So now I have a garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, cabbage, oregano, basil, and asparagus. For those of you wondering how I planted all of that in just these two boxes? Well… I kinda, sorta, expanded to a third. And I might have two blueberry bushes now, too.

Is this my midlife crisis?

I better just eat this pie and think about that for a while.

(There are three – count em! – THREE recipes here. Two pie crusts, and the strawberry pie filling with topping.)

Strawberry Pie  (Adapted from From Cook’s Country Icebox Strawberry Pie – June 2009)

Serves 8

It is imperative that the cooked strawberry mixture measures 2 cups; any more and the filling will be loose. If your fresh berries aren’t fully ripe, you may want to add extra sugar to taste in step 2. Use your favorite pie dough or use the ‘Oil Pie Crust for Fruit Pies’ or ‘Gluten Free Pie Crust’ below. This pie is even tastier after living in the refrigerator for twenty four hours.

Ingredients

1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled (see recipes below)

Filling:

2 pounds frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (or two 1/4 ounce envelopes of Knox Gelatine)
1 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin

Topping:

4 ounces cream cheese , softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Filling Preparation:

Cook frozen berries in large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until thick and jam-like, about 25 minutes (mixture should measure 2 cups, exactly). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, water, and gelatin with a fork. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar, and salt into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Fold fresh berries into filling. Spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Filled pie can, and is better tasting, after refrigerated for 24 hours.)

Topping Preparation:

With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, slowly add cream in one continuous stream. Stop mixer and scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Return mixer to medium/high speed and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Serve pie with whipped cream topping. (I spread the topping over the entire pie and smooth with an off-set spatula. Others prefer to dollop the topping on each piece of sliced pie. Do what feels right to you – I won’t judge!)

Oil Pie Crust (for fruit pies)

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons milk
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack to the middle position.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, salt and sugar on low for about ten seconds. In a steady stream, slowly add oil and milk. Mix until dough is a sandy texture.

Transfer dough to a glass or aluminum pie pan. Pat dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using a fork, prick the bottom four times, and evenly around the sides eight times. This will help prevent bubbling while baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is no longer moist and is starting to slightly brown.
Cool the baked pie crust on a wire rack for at least one hour before filling.

Gluten Free Pie Dough

Yields 1, 9″ Pie Shell

Ingredients
2 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 tablespoons very cold sour cream
1 1/2 ounce white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
6 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend**
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon zanthan gum
8 tablespoons frozen butter cut (with a very sharp knife) into 1/4 square inch pieces

**Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, plus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)
¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)

Preparation

(Notes: Use a seven cup, or larger, food processor for this single batch. If you want to make a double crust pie, do not double this recipe in one food processor batch. Take the time to do it twice, trust me. This is experience talking. Do not skimp on freezing the butter. Again, trust me on this one.)

In a small bowl, combine the ice water, sour cream and vinegar with a fork. Place bowl in freezer while you prep the next steps.

Place flour blend, sugar, salt and zanthan gum in the food processor. Combine for five seconds. Scatter frozen butter pieces over top and pulse ten times. Dollop the (very cold) sour cream mixture over top and pulse until the texture is sandy, about ten times.

Spread a large piece of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Carefully dump the contents of the food processor onto the wrap. Gather the dough into the center and work it into a solid six inch round disk. Wrap the disk tightly with the wrap and refrigerate for one hour. (This one hour resting time is important. Your dough will be sandy and gritty if you skip this step.)

Rolling the dough:

Prep your pie pan. Lightly grease the very bottom of the pie pan – not the sides. Set aside.

First rule – do not add flour!

Adding flour to the rolling process negates the resting time to rid of the gritty texture. Instead, place two lengths of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Slightly overlap them to make a continuous 18″x18″ covered work surface. Unwrap the chilled dough disk and place it in the center of your prepare surface. Cover the disk with another two sheets of wrap, again, slightly overlapping to make a continuous 18′”x18″ sheet.

Using a rolling pin, start in the center of the dough disk and roll out to the edge. Bring the pin back to the center and roll out the edge in a different direction. Do this over and over again until the disk doubles is size. Sometimes the dough will not roll out in a perfect circle, leaving gaps and cracks. Stop, remove the top wrap and pinch the dough into a circle. Replace wrap and continue to roll from the center in all directions until you have a pie shell measuring about 12″ across.

Transfer the dough to the pie pan:

Remove the top layer of wrap from your pie shell. Lift the bottom layer of wrap and slide a flat hand under the dough to the center of the circle. With your other hand, invert the pie pan over your dough and carefully turn (slowly flip) both hands over, ending up with the pie pan right side up and the dough resting inside. Work the dough into the sides of the pan and very carefully remove the (now top) layer of wrap.

Gently roll the extra dough under the edge and pinch all the way around the pan, making the design of your choice.

Strawberry Pie 3

Loosely cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for one hour, or the freezer for thirty minutes.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake 24-30 minutes, rotating half way through, until no longer doughy and slightly brown along the edges. Cool completely before adding fruit filling.

Meaty, Cheesy Lasagna (with gluten free option)

Lasagna

A few months ago I was standing in the checkout line at Kohl’s with an armload of clothes for my growing-too-fast kids, and a timetable that was pushing the boundaries. Rocking my weight from one foot to another, I impatiently waited for the lovely, older lady in front of me to get situated before moving along with her bagged items, when she suddenly turned to face me.

“I smell donuts.” She said, then turned to the cashier and asked her if she smelled donuts. The cashier thoughtfully sniffed the air and said, “Yes! I do smell donuts.” They both looked at me for confirmation. I casually sniffed the sleeve of my arm. Yep, the sweet smell was coming from me. “Um, I think you are smelling me. I am a baker.”

While I thought it was a slightly odd experience, it got me thinking of how smells are so much of a memory trigger. My Dad was an Olde Spice Man. My friend Marge is lavender. Great Grandma was ginger. Mystery Man is a blend of a certain shampoo and aftershave.  And I guess I am baked treats, and if it’s not, it is most likely Italian food. Things could be worse.

Best Lasagna

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb spicy Italian Sausage, removed from casings
15 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
48 ounces marinara sauce (two 24 ounce jars) or 1/2 recipe Meaty Marinara Sauce Sauce
9 Ounce box no-boil lasagne noodles* (such as Barilla)

*Gluten free version: Use one box Tinkyada Gluten free Lasagna Noodles, boiled for 1/2 suggested cooking time, then rinsed under cool water. I have found these locally in Meijer grocery stores.

Equipment:
• Skillet for browning meat, 9″x13″ pyrex (or similar) glass baking dish.

Preparation:
• Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Over Medium/High heat and in batches if necessary, brown ground beef and sausage, breaking up into crumbles as it cooks. Drain and return to skillet.
• Add 24 ounces (half) of the Marinara Sauce to the meat mixture and combine.
• In a 9×13 glass dish, spread about one cup of marinara sauce (without meat) evenly covering the bottom of the dish.
• Now it is time to layer. Here is the order:
• Arrange 4 to 5 noodles across the dish. Overlap the noodles slightly if needed.
• About 4 cups of the sauce/meat mixture on top of the noodles.
• Evenly dot with ricotta cheese.
• Another layer of noodles, slightly press them into the pan without breaking or tearing.
• Sauce/meat mixture.
• 1/2 Parmesan cheese and 1/2 of mozzarella cheese evenly over top.
• One last layer of noodles.
• Remaining meat/sauce mixture and remaining marinara sauce.
•  Remaining cheese, making sure the cheese is spread all the way out the the edges of the pan.
• Place dish on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover dish with a foil tent, taking care that the foil is not touching the Cheese topping.
• Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
• Remove the foil tent and place back in the oven set to BROIL.
• Broil until the top is nicely browned and the cheese is bubbly, about 3 to 5 minutes.
• Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Sweet Potato, Apple, Cranberry. Perfect Trifecta.

Sweet Potato Side2

Because I have an undying love for apples, I have decided to continue the trend and share another recipe featuring these autumn beauties. 

The other day I was talking with a friend and she mentioned how overwhelming it can be in the produce department with all the new apple varieties. “What ever happened to Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious and Granny Smith?” While I agree that it can be confusing, please remember that in general, apples are apples. I know, I know. I am about to be burned at the stake by foodies near and far. But, I really do think that some of us (even me, on occasion) get hung up on the small stuff. This is the time of year apples are cheap, so if you haven’t heard of that-variety-over-there before, pick one out, take it home and give it a taste. Is it sweet? Sour? Bitter? Crunchy? Soft? Most importantly, do you honestly like it?

My friend listened to my answer, smiled, then asked if I could just help her skip to the end of the process and tell her what to buy. I figured she is not alone, so I put together this list to help.

 There are over 7,500 apple varieties.

I have scavenged my local grocery stores and listed the most widely available here in the mid-west.

* Indicates variety can be used for either baking or sauce, but they appear in the category where they perform the best.

Baking Apples

*Braeburn, *Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Melrose, Mutsu, Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Rhode Island Greening, Rome Beauty, *Winesap

Sauce Apples

Gravenstein, Ida Red, *Jonamac, *Jonathan, Liberty, *Maiden Blush, McIntosh, *Newtown Pippin (should be cold-stored for 1-2 months before eaten to reduce bitterness), *Snow

AND NOW FOR THE RECIPE…

Sweet Potato Side

Sweet Potato, Apples & Cranberries

Makes 4 (small) servings

Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bit-sized pieces
1 medium granny smith apple, cored, peeled, and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

(sugar and cinnamon for dusting)

Preparation A:
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Place in a Ziploc brand steamer bag and seal.
• Microwave on high for 8-9 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
• Allow bag to stand for 1 minute before pour contents into a serving dish.

Dust with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

OR

Preparation B:
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Place in sauce pan and add 1/4 cup water. Cover.
• Steam over medium heat for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
• Remove from heat and let stand for 1 minute before transferring to a serving dish.

Dust with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

One-Pot Mexican Chicken & Rice (Gluten Free)

Nappy's Chicken Shit

I was on a school bus,  for the first time in more than a decade, and much earlier than ever in my life. Still dark, we couldn’t see the landscape. It was quite chilly, there was no sound except the motor. All the passengers where silent with their thoughts and the bus rocked us gently back and forth. I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere, but right then my nerves where taking over and keeping my stomach uncomfortable and fluttery. ‘How long is twenty six miles, anyway?’ It seemed like an eternity getting to the marathon start line and every second I sat there I pictured my legs having to carry me all the way back.

Yes, I had put skates on again, even after my disastrous start in the sport.  Mystery Man and I put the inline skates on every weekend and racked up the miles on the local trails. My miles were much different than his. As I pushed, sweated, and worked for every stride, most of his time was spent skating backwards in front of me, coaching me along, and on occasion would break away to ‘stretch his legs’, then wait patiently for me to catch up.

I reminded myself that we were here for fun. After all, we had met up at this race in Duluth Minnesota for more than the skating. Friends came from several states away. Ones we hadn’t seen in far too long. The skating, to them, was only secondary.

Stepping off the bus, I was astounded. Three thousand five hundred people where here to skate this race and yet everyone was calm, collected, and making their way to the appropriate fitness stage for start times. We found ours, but not our friends. The crowd was too thick. Bang! Here we go!

I have seen wonderful sites in my life. The Sistine Chapel. The Rome Colosseum, Big Ben, the canals of Amsterdam. But, that finish line is one of the most memorable and beautiful things. Bleachers full of people flanked each side of the the road. Flags, banners and festive music filled our senses and took the pain from our legs. Mystery Man stayed with me all the way to the end and we crossed the finish line together.

We found our friends and hugs lasted minutes as we soaked everyone in. It had, indeed, been way too long.  We had two days and we planned to make the most of it. Lunches lasted through dinner. Toasts where made with silly sayings and laughter, and solemn memories and wet eyes. Laughter rang in our ears long after retiring for the evening, and as I lay there and took stock of my body that I had pushed to the limit, the parts that hurt most were not my legs, but my cheeks and abdomen from smiling and laughing. Suddenly the skating, for me, was secondary.

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This is a recipe from a friend in the skating community.  We (lovingly) call it Chicken Shit in our house, but I have renamed it for you. Your welcome.

 

One-Pot Mexican Chicken & Rice

Ingredients:
1 Pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 – 13 Ounce can chicken broth
1 – 8 Ounce can tomato sauce
1 Package taco seasoning (check for gluten in the ingredients)
1 can corn, drained
1 green pepper (diced)
1 1/2 Cup minute rice
1/2 Teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
Corn chips

Toppings:
All Toppings are Optional
1 – 2 Ounce can Sliced Olives
Shredded Mexican/Spicy Cheese
Sour Cream
Lettuce
Tomatoes (diced)

Preparation:
• Heat olive oil in 4” deep heavy pan over medium heat until shimmering
• Add chicken and cook (stirring) until no loner pink
• Add broth, tomato sauce and seasoning packet. Stir and bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat and simmer for minutes.
• Add corn and pepper, stir and bring to a boil.
• Stir in rice, cover the pan and remove from heat.
• Fluff with fork and adjust spice with hot sauce if desired.
• Serve with toppings and corn chips.

Notes:
For a crowd – Do not drain corn. Add one cup of water and one additional cup of rice. Transfer to crock pot on low. Serve directly out of crock pot. Check periodically to make sure it does not dry out. Add water as needed. This dish is just as good, or better the next day.

Options:
Vegetarian –  Add one can of thoroughly rinsed black beans, omit the chicken, use vegetable broth.

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Beef Roast (Gluten Free)

Crock Pot Roast

Dressed in new clothes and carrying a new back pack, I stood at the end of the gravel drive way and kicked some stones around with my spot-free velcro-topped shoes. Hearing a vehicle in the distance, I squinted down the two-lane country road with my hand across my brow. The sun was just coming over the hill and it was big, blazing, and threatening to make it one of the hottest first days of school yet.

They would have the cattle barn fans set in the corners of the school hallways. Turned on top speed they could make the whole school vibrate, and the low and loud growl came in stereo everywhere you turned. Luckily the school grounds had very nice and tall shade trees, and on days like this class would be held outside under a canopy of leaves.

The start of school was always the start of a hectic schedule. The days of bike riding, rock collecting, and the constant pestering of my sister were ending (ok, I never stopped pestering her…) and were replaced with school during the day, and homework, apple picking, garden harvesting and canning in the evenings and on weekends.

Now years later, my environment has changed but the onset of Fall still brings a busy schedule unlike any other time of the year. While my days of apple picking and garden harvesting are gone, they have been replaced by increased baking orders, new teaching sessions for dance, and a back to school push that has me drowning in permission slips, health forms and supply hunting for my children’s classrooms.

While my days get shorter, I still manage to get dinner on the table and (try to) avoid the take-out trap as much as possible. There are two ways I accomplish this. My slow cooker, and easy recipes that are tried and true.

 

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

(adapted from my friend Vintage Thread‘s recipe)

 

Ingredients:

1 – 2.5 to 3 pound beef roast

1 can Gluten Free Cafe’ Mushroom Soup (or one can Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup.)

1 package dried onion soup mix (if making gluten free, be sure to check the label.)

salt and pepper

Crock Pot Roast2

 

Preparation:

Salt and pepper both sides of roast and place in slow cooker. Pour or spoon mushroom soup over the top. Sprinkle with entire package of dry soup mix.

Set the slow cooker to 6-8 hours on low.

 

Best served with white rice or mashed potatoes and a green salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Accidental Collection

Display

The rolling pins were here and there. Taking up space. Pushing cooking tools around in the drawer like school yard bullies. Threatening to roll off the top of the microwave onto my foot, smashing it like a drunk relative on a wedding dance floor.

I took stock of them. My ‘donate’ pile for the rest of the house was about big enough to make a trip to the local drop-off, so I figured weeding through the rolling pins was in order.

“How did I get so many of these?” as I lay them all out on the counter.

‘That one’ was an original from my Mom’s kitchen. A gift to me along with other must-haves for a new life in the city. This one stays.

‘This one’ is a memento for all the trips our family has taken to Disney. Plus, it’s the only French rolling pin in the collection. Must keep.

The ‘Bites of Nostalgia Pin’ is the trademark to my many shortbread cookies. Not. Going. Anywhere.

Shortbread

Then there is my Work Horse. My five pound, solid marble go-to pin. Also known as the Biscotti and bicep-maker, it will be itemized in my Will.

Ok, I had it down to four.

Now what? A trip to Ikea, naturally.

Then, a trip to Auto Zone for automobile door trim.

And of course, a trip to Home Depot for the right wall anchors.

The only thing left was a little batting of the eye lashes to Mystery Man for the install.

Finished!

Wine Rack

 

 

Chicken Piccata

Image

We were dance partners first. For three years. He had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend – our dancing together was nothing but that, and a good time. The local Lindy Hop teach­ers had given us all the material they had, and we sucked the knowledge out of all of our peers. We wanted more. This only meant one thing. Travel.

We heard about a clinic in Atlanta. National instructors, hours upon hours of dancing crammed into one weekend, it was close enough to drive, and Mystery Man had friends in the area who would put us up for a few days.

Paul and Cindy were friends when he was an inline skating instructor years ago. “Hey man! Good to see you. Dude, lets gear up and go for a trip around the park”. That is pretty much the first thing out of Paul’s mouth.

These people not only did a little inline skating, they lived it. It was their business. The garage did not hold a car, a lawn mower, a tool bench or anything else a normal person would have. It held hundreds of skates, pads, helmets, and two full leg plaster casts hung on the wall like trophies. Cindy took me in and fitted me with gear. We piled into the truck and went off to the park.

Now, I had been on skates before. The kind with four wheels NOT in a straight line. On a nice smooth hard surface. With music. Flashing lights. And a railing around the outside of the rink. No biggie. I can do this. This inline thing can’t be that much dif­ferent.

The beginning was good. I was upright. The street was level. Everyone was having a good time. It was a beautiful afternoon, not too hot for Atlanta. Cindy hung back with me to give me some pointers. Picking up speed I was getting a little wobbly and uncomfortable, but still holding my own. Until the hill. A steep cliff, really. One that lemmings would run off of and never see the likes of their family again. I hurled myself uncontrollably down the slope and then I committed the number one sin of beginner skater. I stood straight up. Locking my knees and flailing my arms, I was done. Jessica, meet street. Street, meet Jessica.

I learned a new word that day, besides the general skate talk. ‘Road rash’. All the way up my thigh’s backside and stopping right around the bootie area. It also said hello to my elbow. Luckily the padding warded off the asphalt to some degree, but my arm still showed quite a war wound.

Coming to my rescue, Cindy immediately jumped into skating coach mode. Helping me up, brushing me off, and assessing the damage. Determining right away that I was done for the day, she helped my wobbly, bleeding behind to the truck. The guys would skate home.

The next morning started a full day’s worth of dance instruction. I woke up in the guest room and rummaged through my suitcase. A skirt was in order for the day – I couldn’t imagine pants rubbing on the wound, even if it was covered. I needed fresh bandages, so I finished getting dressed and wondered out into the house looking for Cindy to help me out.

Cindy wasn’t there. Paul wasn’t there. They left hours before us for a skate marathon. Crap. Now what?

I shyly approached my totally platonic dance partner. This was not going to be good. These bandages were way, way, up the leg. He agreed to help me out. I spent next several minutes bent at the waist, lifting up my skirt, with him on his knees trying his best to place the gauze. A perfect gentleman about it, I was soon fixed up and we went on our way.

Paul and Cindy continue to open their house to us without question. Whether we are passing through for one night or in town for a week-long conference, they are always eager to lend us a place and a home cooked meal. The evenings on their patio with good food, wine and stories are ones to remember, even if some memories include the term ‘road rash’.

This is one of my favorites that Cindy was generous enough to share with me. I make it on a regular basis and hope you will, too.

I did finally conquer inline skating. This is me at the Deluth Inline Marathon (right) and the Disney Inline Half Marathon (left).

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Chicken Picatta

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 breasts)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for a gluten free meal, use corn starch)

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons capers (rinsed)

1 lemon (peeled, seeds removed and sliced very thin)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons parsley

Preparation:

• Slice chicken in half lengthwise to make two thin cutlets each. (Place on cutting board and press down on breasts with one hand while horizon­tally cutting the chicken with a sharp knife.) You should have 4-6 cutlets.

• Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or into a plastic bag) and pound with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to an even 1/4 inch thickness.

• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet (12”) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

• Pat chicken dry with paper towels.

• Salt and pepper chicken on both sides.

• Coat with flour on both sides, shake off excess.

• Place cutlets in the heated skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until chicken is no longer pink in the center, it should be slightly browned.

• Remove chicken from pan and cover with foil. Set aside.

• Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet and add garlic. Saute’ for about one minute.

• Add wine and broth wine. Whisk or stir to incorporate the garlic and loosen any bits from the skillet. Bring to a simmer and reduce by about half.

• Stir in capers and lemon slices. Return to boil and add butter and parsley.

• Add chicken back into the skillet and warm through.

• Serve over your favorite pasta.

Note: Cooking for two? Reduce the amount of chicken by half. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written. Freeze half of the sauce for a fast and easy weeknight dinner (just thaw sauce, brown chicken and serve over pasta!)

7 Ingredient Artichoke Dip

Art Dip

While it is cool to say we have posh British friends, that is not the reason we are friends with R & S at all. Ok, I take that back, some of the reasons have to do with their British-ness, but I am quite certain we would still be friends regardless of their birth country.  It all started roughly ten years ago when Mr. and Mrs. Air Force were being PCS’d (moved, in military terms) to England. Mr. Air Force learned there was a Royal Air Force chap within his offices who he should seek out for advice.

R & S agreed to give them tips on fitting in across the pond and Mr. & Mrs. Air Force returned the favor by introducing them to Swing Dancing.

Enter Mystery Man and I – fellow Swing Dancers of Mr. & Mrs. Air Force for years.

Our first impression of R & S was they were a little shy and to be honest, we had trouble understanding them at times with their accents and British colloquialisms. These things did not prevent us from getting to know them. We found it very interesting to be in their company and enjoyed learning about their culture and teaching them how to Swing Dance.

Mystery Man and R share a passion for technology and can talk for hours about hardware, software, apps…. S and I enjoy a bit of gardening, recipe sharing and can talk on and on about kitchen crockery and gadgets. But with all that in common, I think the real reason we are such great friends is because they are some of the most genuine people I know. Giving. Gentle.

Most Friday evenings they come over to our house for after dinner drinks and a chat, but only after my two children climb on them like jungle gyms, demand books to be read and are given the mandatory high-fives in all directions before bed time. My babies squeal with glee when I announce it Uncle R and Aunt S are coming over. R & S don’t have children of their own, but they have embraced ours with all the love they could ever give.

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This is one of the many recipes S has shared with me and it continues to be a favorite for parties. I will typically throw it together a day in advance then transfer it to a small crock pot for the gathering. It can be served with crackers, a nice rye bread, tortilla chips or what ever your heart desires.

_DSC0137Art Dip2

7 Ingredient Artichoke Dip
Ingredients
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
8 oz feta cheese (crumbled)
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup and 2 oz Parmesan cheese (I use Parmesan or Romano)
2 oz jar pimentos
1 large garlic clove (minced)
pinch black pepper
Preparation
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Combine all ingredients and place in a 9” baking dish.
• Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Serve hot, or transfer to a small crock pot on low for more lengthy parties.