Menu Plan ~ December 21, 2008 ~ Christmas Week

As the Holiday season is quickly moving forward, things are getting busier, if that is possible. At least the kids are done with school until January 5th. Jon had 3 hockey games this past weekend and still has a practice before Christmas. Then, I believe he is done until the new year. I have my Honey Baked Ham defrosting in my fridge for Christmas Eve, my fudge is made, I still need to make 1 or 2 more kinds of cookies, including some gluten-filled chocolate chip cookies for my husband’s boss. I made an attempt at these last week and somehow screwed them up. Not quite sure what happened there. I am trying to take things easy and not stress to much. Meals this week will be very simple and uncomplicated so taht I can concentrate on family and finishing up the tasks at hand. I vow to not wrap gifts on Christmas Eve this year. I should have plenty of time to wrap, as my shopping is done.

Sunday ~ BBQ pulled pork leftovers, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli & salad
Monday ~ Spaghetti (we have been using Quinoa pasta…YUM) with meat sauce, veggies & salad
Tuesday ~ Salmon (either with Sweet Thai Chile Sauce or Garlic & Lime), quinoa, sauteed zuchinni & spinach salad
Wednesday ~ Christmas Eve ~ Honey Baked Ham, Catholic Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli, Salad, veggie tray, cocktail weinies, cheese & crackers and shrimp cocktail. Dessert is GF chocolate roll, assorted Christmas cookies & fudge
Thursday ~ Turkey Dinner at Dad’s house; I will bring cornbread & sausage stuffing & some kind of dessert, maybe just brownies & fudge
Friday ~ Leftovers
Saturday ~ Leftovers or homemade pizza if the leftovers are gone

Baked Goods
Cranberry Cornbread
Cornbread (for the stuffing)
Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten-filled)
Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten-free)
Brownies or a simple dessert for Christmas Day
Russian Teacakes (if I have time)

Hope you all have a wonderful Holiday season! 🙂

This week Angela of Angela’s Kitchen is hosting the Gluten-Free Menu swap. Thanks for hosting, Angela! Also, don’t forget to head over to Orgjunkie for more great menus!

Eating Safe at Holiday Parties

With the Holiday season in full swing, there are bound to be situations where it may be tougher than usual to get a safe meal. I have always been scared to eat at gatherings, especially where you have multiple people bringing food to share. I was always embarassed to ask how something was made or what exactly went into a dish, but I am learning to get past that. Just last night I went to an ornament exchange party. I made Buffalo Chicken Dip so that I would have something safe to eat. At the very least I knew I could eat that with some celery and tortilla chips and not be starving. I also brought along some Peanut Butter Fudge so I knew that I would have a safe “treat” as well. I was very pleased to find out that there were some cookies that I could eat (flourless PB cookies with Hershey’s kisses in the middle). YAY!! Also, I don’t know where my courage came from, but I was quizzing people as they placed their dishes down to see if the food was something I could have or not. Surprisingly, there were only a few things that I couldn’t have! I was able to have the following:

Hashbrown potato casserole (made without cream of something soup….only had butter, sour cream and cheese in it) ~ amazing
Collard Greens with smoked turkey ~ OMG….this was out-of-this-world.
Salad with feta, raspberries, northern beans and a wishbone spray balsamic dressing
Sangria ~ wine, ginger ale and fruit

So, really, along with the chicken dip, celery & chips that I brought, I had a decent “meal” and left feeling very full and satisified. Everyone was very accommodating when it came to the ingredients and I didn’t feel strange asking about the food. I knew that if I wanted to partake and have a nice time, it was what I had to do to be safe. I have found that being upfront and planning are the best ways to handle situations like this. You won’t leave hungry if you make sure to snack upfront before going or bringing something along that is safe. I know for myself, hungry = cranky, very cranky, so I must make sure that I have food.

Enjoy your Holiday festivities!

Buffalo Chicken Dip ~ Party Nectar of the Gods

Not only is this dip amazing, but it is naturally GF!!! I love recipes that don’t have to be modified, though most times it is fairly easy to modify a recipe. I feel like bowing down to the dip and saying…..”Dip, oh sweet Buffalo Dip, thank you for not having any gluten-containing ingredients in your recipe!”

I am going to an ornament exchange Holiday party tonight and this dip will be my contribution (and probably most of my dinner, as I am not sure what else I will be able to consume safely aside from this and my GF Redbridge or a glass of wine). I am bringing along celery and tortilla chips to dip/scoop the dip with.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Yields: 20 servings

INGREDIENTS:
2 (10 ounce) cans chunk
chicken, drained (I used 3 cooked chicken breast and it came out wonderfully)
2 (8 ounce) packages cream
cheese, softened (I used Light Philadelphia)
1 cup Ranch dressing (I used Light Kraft Ranch)
3/4 cup pepper sauce, such as
Franks® Red Hot®
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
cheese (I used 2% milk cheddar cheese make by Kraft)

1 bunch celery, cleaned and
cut into 4 inch pieces
Tortilla Chips

DIRECTIONS:
1. Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat, until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese, and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover, and cook on Low setting until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and crackers.

This is always a big hit. I didn’t use to make this with light cheese & dressing, but honestly, you can’t tell the difference and most people at the party were shocked to hear that it was “low-fat” or as low in fat as the dip could be. 😉

Gingersnaps

I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. This time of the year is so stinkin’ busy. I have come to reason that I am not going to stress anymore. I am going to get done what I can get done and focus on my family. If I don’t get around to making a 5th kind of cookie, then so be it.

I did have to make gingersnaps, though, as they are one of my favorites. I love the crunch on the outside and the subtle softness on the inside. Just the right touch of spices. Yum!! This is a recipe that I have been making since I was in high school. I just modified it to be GF 2 years ago. It has never failed me. ****knocking on wood****

Gingersnaps
**Originally from The Betty Crocker Cookbook, modified to be GF by me

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups GF flour mix (I used a rice, tapioca & potato starch blend)
2 tsps. xanthan gum
2 tsps. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
Granulated Sugar (for rolling cookies in before baking)

1. Mix thoroughly shortening, brown sugar, egg and molasses. Blend in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar. Cover; chill at least 1 hour (I chilled over night b/c I ran out of time and patience 😉 )

2. Heat oven to 375. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar. Place balls, sugar side up on ightly greased lbaking sheet (I covered mine with parchment paper, but you don’t have to). Bake 10 – 12 minutes (I baked 10) or just until set. Immediately remove from baking sheet. Makes approx. 4 dozen. Mine made less, but I think they were a little bigger.

Enjoy! I had one of these for dessert with a piece of peanut butter fudge. YUM!! The Holidays have officially arrived!!!

I do have to share a quick story of a baking failure that I had last night. I was making gluten-filled chocolate chip cookies for my husband’s boss and they flopped, big-time. I don’t know what went wrong. The only thing I can think of is maybe the butter was too soft b/c it took me longer to get to making the cookies than I had anticipated. I probably should have chilled the dough before baking, but I was in a hurry, go figure. I ended up throwing all but a dozen away. The dozen that were salvaged tasted great, or so I was told, I obviously didn’t taste them. (BTW, if I am ever going to intentionally eat gluten, I am going BIG! I am talking Big Mac, Philly Cheesesteak, pizza….that kind of BIG!) Of course, that is not going to happen, it is just nice to think about every once in a while. 😉 So, I have to make attempt #2 at some point in the next week, though it will most likely not happen until after Christmas. Maybe I should have had that glass of wine last night….it couldn’t have hurt the outcome, huh?

Peanut Butter Fudge

Is there anything better in the world besides peanut butter fudge? Maybe fudge fudge or dark chocolate fudge. Still, PB rocks and this recipe from my Grandmother is the BEST! I remember her making fudge for the Holidays when I was little. She would make all kinds….PB, plain fudge, fudge with nuts, white chocolate fudge. Really, there was way too much fudge, if there can be such a thing. I think that I am going to try to make Dark Chocolate Fudge this year. This is an afterthought, though, as I just bought the supplies for all of my baking yesterday and it didn’t dawn on me to try dark chocolate.

Peanut Butter Fudge

12 oz Peanut Butter
½ pound oleo (butter)
3 TBSP milk
4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Melt the first 3 ingredients over low heat and add vanilla. Work in powdered sugar. Press into pan. Grandma’s recipe didn’t say what size pan, I think an 8 x 11 would work great. Cool in the fridge for several hours before cutting.

In the pan before cutting.

Cut into small squares and wrap for gifts or enjoy! The moans & groans coming from Jon and I after eating this were enough to make Aaron look at us like we were crazy! LOL!

Inside Out Burgers ~ Take #2

I posted a week or so ago that I had tried to make Inside Out Burgers and it hadn’t worked out so well. I had hypothesized that I needed to cook the burgers in a pan or on a grill, not on the George Foreman Grill because I figured out that that had squeezed all of my toppings out. So, tonight we went for “Take #2” and had success!! YAY!! I used the same recipe for the meat. The only change I made was using hot pepperjack cheese in the middle of my burger. What I ended up with was excellent! I placed my burger on a bed of iceburg lettuce & roma tomatoes, flanked with portabella mushrooms sauteed in Ken’s Lite Olive Oil Vinaigrette. YUM!! I served steamed broccoli and sweet potato french fries on the side. A very tasty dinner. The hot pepperjack cheese added just the right kick to my burger. Normally I put Frank’s Red Hot on my burger, but there was no need to tonight.

Here are a couple of shots:

Cheesy, yummy goodness…

So, here is the meat mixture again:

1 – 1.5 pounds ground beef (or half ground turkey)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used hot pepperjack tonight)
1 1/2 tsps paprika
1 TBSP worchestershire (I use Lea & Perrins)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

I mixed all ingredients, except the cheese, together in a bowl. I then formed thin patties and placed a bit of cheese on each patty, then another small patty on top. I sealed those patties around the cheese.

**you could add any number of things to the inside mix….bacon, olives, spinach….anything you like.

When life gives you lemons….

You make lemonade. When life gives you very ripe bananas, you make banana bread. 🙂 Or, at least I do. I admit that I buy bananas and let them get over-ripe on purpose so I can make banana bread. 🙂 I have many banana bread recipes, some that I have shared here, some that I haven’t had a chance to share here yet. There is my traditional Banana Nut Bread, which I remember eating as a child. Then, there is the new, updated, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. You can play around with that recipe and add pumpkin, that is yummy too. Then, there is the Cadillac of banana breads and this would be that one. This bread is everything you always wanted in a banana bread and more. All the bells & whistles. It R.O.C.K.S. I got this recipe from my sister long before I had to go gluten-free and have since transformed it to suit my GF needs. It wasn’t hard, I just subbed Pamela’s Pancake & Baking Mix for the all-purpose flour. If you use any other flour mix without guar or xanthan gum, remember to add it in ~ 1 tsp. per cup of flour mix. The original recipes comes from Southern Living. That right there, folks, speaks and says this is one serious banana bread. So, without further ado, I give you:

Orange-Pecan-Topped Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread
***(You can also try as muffins – yummer!)

Prep: 15 min., Bake: 1 hr., Cool: 40 min. Warm bread is yummy, but to get perfect slices, let bread cool 30 minutes, and cut with a serrated or electric knife.

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour (I used Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (1 1/4 pounds unpeeled bananas, about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I didn’t toast, too lazy today)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans (again, no toasty b/c I was lazy)

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8- x 4-inch loafpans. Sprinkle pecans evenly over batter in pans.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary. Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Stir together powdered sugar and orange juice until blended. Drizzle evenly over warm bread, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks.

Yield: Makes 2 loaves

Southern Living, JANUARY 2005

Now, the nuts add extra weight on top, so when you are making this GF, you may not want to sprinkle on as many as I did b/c it makes the bread sink more in the middle. GF quick breads will tend to sink anyway and adding that weight just makes it do so even more.

A before baking shot: