New Year’s Martinis

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!  I had a fantastic time celebrating with my family and I did not want to head back to work, but such is life.  I am looking forward to ringing in 2012 with a couple of new martini recipes that I thought I would share.  I love trying new martinis at home on New Years while enjoying some good quality food and playing board games with my family.  Sure, we have Dick Clark/Ryan Seacrest on in the background, but we are usually dying of laughter while playing some hilarous games and sipping on some coctails.

French Martini

2 oz vodka

2 oz canned pineapple juice

1/2 oz raspberry di Amore liqueur or Chambord

twist of lemon juice

Fill a shaker halfway with ice cubes or crushed ice.  Pour in vodka, pineapple juice and raspberry liqueur.  Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass and add a twist of lemon juice.

New Years Eve Martini

2 oz light rum

1/2 oz Grand Marnier

1/2 oz white cream de cacao or cocoa

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

dash of simple syrup

Fill a shaker halfway with ice cubes or crushed ice.  Pour in rum, Grand Marnier, creme de cacoa, lemon juice and simple syrup.  Shake well and strain in a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

I am so excited about the possibilities for 2012!  Happy New Year!

What is your New Years cocktail of choice?

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The True Story of St. Nicholas

I’m going to be taking some time off to enjoy this Christmas season with my family, but I shall return soon with lots of good gluten-free recipes.  Before I go I thought I would leave you with the real story of St. Nicholas and what this holiday means to me.

St. Nicholas was a real man who was born in the third century to wealthy parents.  When Nicholas was very young he lost his parents in an epidemic.  He believed in the words of Jesus to give to those in need so he took his entire inheritance and gave it to the needy, sick and those who were suffering.  He was a Christian and dedicated is life to serving God and he became a bishop while still a young man.  He was known for his generosity and his love of children, but because of his faith he was exhiled and imprisoned.  The anniversay of his death, December 6th, became St. Nicholas Day and is still widely celebrated in Europe.

Many stories and legends surround St. Nicholas and he eventually turned into Santa Claus in the United States, but his spirit is alive and well all around ….. if we look for it.  There is no other time of year that brings out such generosity of spirit in those around us then right now.  While there may not be a rotund jolly man climbing down each child’s chimney, I like to think that it is pretty impressive that so many parents around the globe carry forward the spirit and wonder of St. Nicholas each Christmas. 

Remember in giving to others whether it is financially, spiritually or emotionally you will get so much back in return.

Merry Christmas!

Crave Bake Shop

Who watched the 100th episode of Cupcake Wars on Food Network?  It was an amazing episode!  They always have very creative bakers on this show combining lots of yummy cupcake flavors, but this episode was really special because for the first time ever a gluten-free cupcakery took home the prize!

Crave Bake Shop in Portland, Oregon has a reputation for making the best cupcakes, cookies and cinnamon rolls and they are ALL gluten-free.  They ship all items overnight ($42 aprox.) and a dozen will run you about $39 so they are pricey if you have to have them shipped, but I’m dying to try some.  The cupcakes available for shipping are limited, but they also have dinner rolls, garlic knots and scones too.  Check out their website for more info.

So proud of how this cupcakery represented on Cupcake Wars…..way to go!

Brussels with Bacon and Cheese Crisps

Okay, I’ll confess.  I HATED brussel sprouts as a kid.  The thought of eating those little cabbages made me want to gag.  Now, however, my taste buds have grown up and I’ve become quite fond of these little guys.  This weekend I roasted them in the oven and then added bacon and parmesan cheese crisps…..YUM!

Ingredients:

1 to 1 1/2 lbs brussel sprouts (remove stems and any loose or discolored outer leaves)

4 strips of bacon cooked until crisp and bacon fat

1 T olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Place brussels in a bowl and coat with olive oil, bacon fat and salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in 400F oven for about 15 minutes.  While brussels are roasting make your cheese crisps by heating a dry non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add1-2 T of parmesan cheese in the skillet to create a large circle.  Cook until browned on one side and then flip over and brown the other side.  Once brussels are done garnish with crumbled bacon and crumbled cheese crisps.

Magic Cookie Bars

This is the time of year when everyone is making lots of holiday cookies and candies.  This is one of my Mom’s favorite treats to have around Christmas so I had to come up with a gluten-free way to make them.  The taste is just as good as the original and my Mom can’t get enough of them.

Ingredients:

Non-stick cooking spray

1 1/2 c gluten-free graham cookies or I use MI-DEL arrowroot cookies

1/2 c unsalted butter melted

14oz can of sweetened condensed milk

2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/3 c flaked coconut

1 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat a 9X13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Place cookies in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Pour cookies into a bowl and add your melted butter and then stir to combine.  Press your cookie layer in the bottom of your pan spreading out evenly.  Pour condensed milk over cookie layer and spread evenly.  Sprinkle chocolate chips, then coconut and then top with your nuts. 

Now you are ready to bake!

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Loosen sides of pan with knife while still warm and then let cool.  Cut into bars or diamond shapes.

TIP – you can also line your pan with aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and then lift the foil out of the pan once bars have cooled.

McKendricks Steakhouse

Let me preface this post by saying that last weekend my husband and I had a wonderful meal at Ruths Chris Steakhouse.  It was our first visit and once my husband inquired if they had a gluten-free menu the waiter was happy to oblige.  We tried the Crabtini for our appetizer which was delicate and mouthwatering.  I opted for the 8oz filet with mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms all served to perfection.  All of their filets are served with butter and parsley on top….YUMMO!  It was a wonderful meal.

Now, fast forward to last night when my company had their Christmas party at McKendricks in Atlanta.  I called the restaurant ahead of time to see if they offered a gluten-free menu since I could not locate one searching the internet was told by the delightful lady that answered the phone that they don’t have a menu they can send me, but the most of their food is gluten-free.  Most?  WTH?  What kind of an answer is that? 

The company ordered these appetizer towers for the table which contained lobster tempura (no), crab cakes (no) and stone crab claws (yes!).  The crab claws came with a horseradish type dipping sauce and were delicious, but not sure what was in the sauce.  I figured the escargot would be safe so I started with that and then got the 8oz filet, lobster mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts.  The escargot was submerged in garlic butter with small bits of tomato in it and was very tasty.  The filet was cooked with this great crust on it and it tasted amazing.  The brussel sprouts had bacon and parmesan cheese and I’m going to have to steal that idea and make them that way at home.

All in all the food was delicious, but I wish McKendricks would get with the gluten-free program so customers are not playing guesswork when placing an order.

McKendrick's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Darling Clementine!

A few years ago I had no idea what a clementine was and had never experienced this wonderful citrus fruit.  I bought a few of them to try them out and ever since our family has been hooked on this variety of a mandarin orange.  They are very easy to peel and the best part is they are seedless!   These babies are juicy, sweet and have less acidity than an orange.  You can use the zest of this fruit just like you can orange zest in recipes.  You’ll see them arrive in grocery stores around mid-November through January (giving them the name Christmas oranges) usually in bags or little crates.  The Cuties brand often has coupons found in your local Sunday paper.

We look forward to getting our suppy of these Christmas oranges this time of year as they make great healthy snacks.  If you haven’t tried them yet please pick some up!

What are your favorite uses for these Christmas oranges?

Beef Stew and Yorkshire Pudding

I found an interesting recipe for beef stew courtesy of Nigella Lawson that contained orange no less so I thought I would give it a try.  It definitely had an interesting flavor with the hint of citrus in the background.  I really enjoyed the gluten-free yorkshire pudding I made to accompany the stew.  It was perfect for dipping into the warm beefy stew.

Stew Ingredients:

vegetable oil

2lb onions roughly chopped

2 lb carrots peeled and sliced on the bias

1/2 c gluten free flour blend

1 T ground sage

1 T  beef rub (Penzey’s makes some good ones)

3.5-4 lbs of beef stew meat

one orange zested and juiced or 1/4 c orange juice

half of a bottle of gluten-free beer (I used Hornsby’s Cider which after some research appeared to be gluten-free)

4c beef broth

1 T brown sugar

2-3 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Place the flour and spices in a ziploc bag and toss to combine.  Add your beef and toss to thoroughly coat.  Heat 2-3 T of oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions and carrots for 5-10 minutes until they soften.  Remove the veggies from the pot and set aside.  Add a little more oil to the pan and brown half of your beef.  Remove the beef and add the other half until browned.  Add the beer and OJ to the pot and bring to a boil and reduce for 2-3 minutes.  Add your broth, zest, beef, bay leaves, veggies and brown sugar to the pot (adding water or more stock if needed).  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook for 2 – 2 1/2 hours until beef is tender.  Remove bay leaves and enjoy.

Yorkshire Pudding Ingredients:

2/3 c gluten free flour mix

1/3 c cornstarch or potato starch

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp xanthan gum

2 large eggs

1 c half and half

Preheat oven to 425F.   Mix all dry ingredients well.  Beat eggs separately and then add to dry ingredients and mix with electric mixer.  Add the cream and beat for 2 minutes.  Grease an 8X8 pan and pour your batter into the pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Shameless Plug

A couple of years ago I wrote a preschool children’s book and I’m excited to share that Lil Glimmer is free on Kindle for a limited time.  You can also find in on Amazon if you prefer to have a hard copy.  This book is about patience and sharing and it was a lot of fun to create for my children.  My brother illustrated the book and I love the adorable character he created in Lil Glimmer.  We are in the works to bring other books to life also so I’ll keep you posted on the progress. 

Also, I’ll plug my brother’s coupon book that is now available on Kindle.  If you have never couponed before or just dabbled in it my brother shares his tips on how to get many items for free or for just pennies.  Check it out if you want to devote some time to couponing to save money on your groceries and health and beauty products.

Perfect Pie Crust Chicken Pot Pie

Look no further for the perfect gluten-free pie crust…..I have found it courtesy of Betty Hagman!  I decided to make a chicken pot pie this weekend and this recipe for the pie crust and the filling was absolutely out of this world.  Feel free to use this crust recipe for all your pies though because it is so light and flaky……I was delighted.  My Thanksgiving pie crusts were not the greatest so I’ll be updating my pie recipes to include this new crust recipe for pie perfection.

Crust Ingredients:

2 1/2 c gluten-free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose or you can blend 1c rice flour, 1c corn starch, 1c tapioca starch and 1T potato flour NOT starch and then use 2 1/2 cups of your mix)

1 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 tsp salt

1 T granulated sugar

3/4 c shortening

1 T rice vinegar

1 large egg slightly beaten

4 T ice water

extra rice flour for rolling

Blend flour mix, xanthan gum, salt and sugar.  Cut in your shortening until coarse crumbs form.  In another bowl beat the egg and vinegar with a fork and then add your ice water.  Stir egg mixture into your dry ingredients until dough forms a ball (you can use a dough hook on a mixer if you have one, but I did this by hand).  Work dough with hands until it forms a smooth texture (add more ice water if it still seems crumbly).  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight before rolling out.  When ready to roll divide dough in half and place between 2 sheets of wax paper dusted with some rice flour.  Make sure pie plate is coated with non-stick cooking spray before placing crust inside.

Filling Ingredients:

3 large chicken breasts cut into small chunks

1 c carrots chopped thin

1/2  c celery chopped thin

1/3 c unsalted butter

1/2 c yellow onion chopped

1/3 c gluten-free rice flour or blend

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp poultry seasoning

12 oz box of Pacific Natural cream of mushroom soup

12 oz box of Pacific Natural cream of celery soup

1/3 c chicken broth (I used what was created when boiling the chicken and veggies)

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg whisked

Preheat oven to 450F.  Boil chicken, carrots and celery for 15 minutes in a saucepan half filled with water.  Remove chicken and veggies from pot and set aside to cool.  In a large pot over medium heat melt butter and then cook onions until translucent.  Stir in flour, xanthan gum and spices.  Add the soups and broth and simmer for 5-10 minutes until thick.  If your mixture gets too thick add more broth as needed.  Baste the bottom crust with half of the whisked egg and then fill crust with chicken and veggies.  Pour your soup mixture on top and then cover with top crust.  Pinch the crust together and then baste with remaining egg wash.  Cut 4 slits in top crust and bake pie on cookie sheet in oven for 25-35 minutes until golden.  Check your pie about halfway through cooking process and cover outer crust with aluminum foil if it is getting too brown.