Monday, January 30, 2012

a note to the chillens....your parents are still hip!

Kids...this one is for you. You wonder why Mommy and Daddy have to go and leave you with a sitter sometimes...why wouldn't we want to take you with us? I know it's hard to understand now, but we are learning valuable skills that will make us better parents, and funner too. Promise. In fact, even though you may think thirty-somethings like us don't really have much fun, I'm sure you think we just go to bed just minutes after tucking you in. But I need to let you in on a little secret.

Mommy and Daddy are crazy. YEs. Believe it. We sneak out to go to concerts and crazy stuff like that when we leave you with a sitter. So our latest adventure? The Album Leaf.

That's the name of the band. The Album Leaf is the solo project of Jimmy LaValle, a San Diego-based songwriter who began recording solo material one year after forming the post-rock band Tristeza. Inspired by a number of genres, classical, jazz and post rock among them, LaValle constructed his own songs in a similarly electric manner, utilizing everything from ambient noises to field recordings to radio transmissions.

The sound is somewhat eclectic but it will draw you in. The show is exciting to watch as LaValle and his band use unconventional ways to come up with each sound. Chances are you've heard some of their music in videos you've seen, as The Album Leaf's sound mesh well with that genre. I have some of their music in my player on the side.

You can also check them out at www.thealbumleaf.com


(these pics from my phone, not the best quality, but I didn't feel cool enough lugging my big camera to the concert)

We had a good time!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Foodie Friday: Feeding a crowd!

We've had a busy week over here at my house. Feeding groups of 8-10 can be exhausting and stressful trying to figure out what to make. I get sick of the normal pizza, burgers, and hotdog routines. So this week and the next I've got some menu's for a crowd that are simple and tasty. The trick: slow cooker, or making ahead of time. This week's menu takes on a flare for fresh tex mex and the ultimate dessert! Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup



Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, rice-free
(easily corn-free w/out corn and tortillas)
Serves 10-12
Cook time 2-7 hours (you pick what fits best for you)

For this recipe I usually slow roast a small chicken or two the day before. Then I can divide up the meat for casseroles, salad or soups and use the rest to make chicken stock. You can also use a whole package of taco seasoning instead of all the spices below. And if you prefer not to fry up some soft tortillas for the topping, you could just crush up some tortilla chips for texture. This soup is so easy to make, if you don’t have all day to put it in the slow cooker, you could make a quick version on the stoup and serve right away. I usually make this the night before right in the slow cooker pot. Then I plug it in the next morning and by noon it’s all ready to go. Enjoy!

 Ingredients
                  1 onion, chopped
                  1 15 oz can kidney beans (undrained)
                  1 15 oz can black beans (undrained)
                  1 15 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
                  1 8 oz can tomato sauce
                  2 12 fluid oz cans or bottles gluten-free beer (Rebridge, Bard’s or Greens)
                  2 10 oz cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
                  2 tsp ground Cumin
                  2 tsp ground Chili powder
                  1 tsp dried Oregano
                  1 Tbsp Garlic powder
                  1 tsp (or more) salt
                  3-4 cups of shredded chicken (from a whole bird or from a can)
                  1 cup fresh chopped cilantro (divided in half) (optional)
                  shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
                  sour cream (optional)
                  soft corn tortillas (optional)

Directions
Place the onion, chili beans, black beans, corn, tomato sauce, beer, chicken and diced tomatoes in a slow cooker. Add spices, and stir to blend. Set slow cooker for low heat, cover, and cook for 5-7 hours or on high heat for 2-4 hours.

When nearing the time to serve, add ½ cup of the chopped cilantro to the soup. Take a stack of soft corn tortillas and cut into strips. Heat about an inch of oil in a saucepan on med high heat. When the oil is heated, drop in the tortilla strips until the oil is filled with them. Serve topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and crushed tortilla chips, and cilantro if desired.


-----

Since there is so much in our main entree and I've planned a heavy dessert, I only add to this the ultimate black bean and corn salsa. It has rich flavor of the beans, the sweetness of corn, the zest of lime, cilantro and avocado and actually very nutritious. The key to making your tortilla chips more gourmet is buying the super thin ones and heating them on low in your oven just before your guests come.

Black bean and corn salsa

Black Bean and Corn Salsa
naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, rice-free
(easily made corn-free w/out corn and tortillas)
Serves 10-15
Chill time 1 hour

You could easily make this salsa the night before. Just remember to add the avocado’s before serving the dish to keep them looking fresh and not turning brown.

Ingredients
        1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
        1 can whole kernel corn, drained
        2 t minced fresh jalpaeno pepper
        2 avocados, chopped
        4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
        1 red bell pepper, chopped
        1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
        1/4 c. diced red onion
        1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes, squeezed)
        1 t. salt
         tortilla chips for dipping (the thin ones are the best)

Directions
Combine all ingredients except avocado and chips. Cover and chill for at least one hour. Add avocado just before serving. To keep avocado lasting for days splash with extra lime juice as you add it to the salsa.Warm a bowl of tortilla chips in a 300-degree oven just before serving. Serve with the chips.

------


And the finally of this menu is my all time favorite dessert. I order it often at restaurants, and so happy it is naturally gluten-free, however lots of eggs and dairy. It's sweet on top and has a perfect balance of richness and creaminess on the inside. Your guests can each have a ramekin all to themselves and will be wowed by your mad kitchen skills, because this dessert is super easy!

Easy Vanilla  Crème Brulee


Vanilla 
Crème Brulee

naturally gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, rice-free and corn-free
serves 10-12 (depending on the size of ramekins used)
cook time 1 1/2 - 2 hours
chill time 2 hours - overnight
It can be teadious to crack a dozen eggs and separate the yolks, I actually enjoy the process and I save my whites for omelets. But you can pick up pre-separated yolks at some grocery stores. Look for them in the egg section. I also make this custard ahead of time and pour into ramekins and refridgerate overnight. Then about an hour before my guests come I create the carmelized sugar topping and place back into the fridge until guests come. Oh ps. If you don’t have a double boiler (I don’t) just put a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water being careful that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.


Ingredients
        12 egg yolks
        12 tablespoons white sugar, divided
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract (about ½ a teaspoon more if you want your vanilla flavor to be strong)
        5 cups heavy cream
        handful of blackberries and mint leaves for garnish

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Beat egg yolks, 8 tablespoons sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until thick and creamy.

Pour cream into a saucepan and stir over low heat until it almost comes to boil. Remove the cream from heat immediately. Stir cream into the egg yolk mixture; beat until combined.

Pour cream mixture into the top of a double boiler. Stir over simmering water until mixture lightly coats the back of a spoon; about 3 minutes. Remove mixture from heat immediately and pour into a shallow heat-proof dish. Only fill up half to ¾ of the bowl.

For baking place the ramekins in a oven proof casserole dish (I use a big lasagna pan and a big casserole dish) that is lined with a kitchen towel. Boil some water in a sauce pan and pour it around the ramekins, do not get any water into your ramekins. The water should come up to almost the top of the side of your ramekins.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 ½ hours to 2 hours, until the custard looks set (not jiggling all over, just a little in the middle). Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

Preheat oven to broil. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the crème in each ramekin. Place as many ramekins as you can fit on your top oven rack just under the broiler, stay there and watch until you reached the desired brownness on the top of your crème. The broiler is carmelizing the sugar through this process and creating a crispy crust on the top of your crème. It should look golden brown to medium brown. Don’t let it burn.

Do this until each ramekin has been carmelized and put in the fridge to cool and set. Garnish with blackberries and mint leaves. Serve. 


Thanks for joining me for Foodie Friday! Please let me know if you have any thoughts, ideas or questions. Enjoy.

all recipes and photos copyright Julie Luse




Monday, January 23, 2012

Well, I miss snow...oh, and I'm FATastic!

(Update: While I was writing this blog post last night, it actually started snowing outside...he he he)
not enough to count though...
I know it will make some cringe, but I'm just gonna say it...I miss the snow. It's been a bleak winter here in Nebraska. And although I don't miss the bitter cold temperatures, ya know, the kind that freeze the snot in your nose the second you walk out the door. But I sure do miss the white stuff to go out and play in. We've had two snows this winter that didn't stick around long enough to plan an outing or didn't amount to much.

But you know what I mean? Those huge fluffy snowflakes that just keep falling, school gets called off, and  it feels like christmas morning. And the kid inside wants to come out and play. The kind of snow days that urge you to light the fire, make the cocoa and plan a stocking up trip to the store.

 Yes, this kind of snow. Which actually took place in Colorado. Oh what fun we had!
And when it snows in Colorado, you really do take advantage of it, because it truly does disappear quickly.

Oh, and the baking. I really am not a huge baker. But when it snows, it's a family affair...

Oh and Asher got ahold of my label maker and was making labels for each person in our household. Like for himself he printed out Cool Kid, and dad had some cool name like Shark. And I found this little nugget on my nightstand.

Now I'm guessing he thinks I'm a Fantastic Mom and I would had been pretty impressed, only there is no way my 5 yr old would be even this close to the right spelling. So imagine how interesting I thought it was that my hubby helped him spell all the labels. "Umm, honey, you think I'm Fat or was this just some kind of slip of subconscious?" To his defense, he was just spelling it the way he was pronouncing it, in which he is correct. He does say it like Fah-tastic. Okay Honey you're off the hook! :) 

Happy Monday!



Friday, January 20, 2012

You know what today is...right?

Yay! It's Foodie Friday and I get to talk about food again!

I love chicken. Sorry my vegan friends, if this grosses you out! I love veggies and fruits too, oh yeah, and BREAD! But there is something so magnificent about chicken. I think it's that there are countless old ways and constantly forming new ways to prepare chicken. Oh, I've got lots of recipes to continue to share with you on this subject...but today's recipes is one of my favorites bc it's so easy and it relies on an underdog food named capers (I call it underdog bc it doesn't get used in a lot of recipes), and they sure do pack a punch...a good punch!
Capers are actually immature buds plucked from a small bush native to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions of the world. Fresh caper blossoms are not especially flavorful, but their sharpness increases dramatically after sun-drying and brining in vinegar. - definition from WiseGeek.com
The curing brings out their tangy lemony flavor, kind of like a green olive. And they play a vital role in the making of Chicken Piccata, today's scrumptious, family-approved recipe.
Chicken Lemon Piccata (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, corn-free)

Chicken Piccata is an Italian dish known by a dish of chicken breast scaloppini (cutlets),  capers, lemon and white wine. It usually calls for butterflied chicken, although we are just flattening chicken breast for this recipe. Served best with pasta, polenta or rice.

Prep 15 min
Cook 10 min
Serves 4

Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast filets
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup gluten-free all purpose flour
2 tablespoon butter (or dairy-free substitute)
½ cup dry white wine
2 lemons
2 tablespoon capers
1 cup chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
Kosher salt to taste

Directions
1. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl and set aside. Slice thinly the other lemon and set aside.

2. Stretch a piece of plastic across your working surface and put chicken breasts on it and use another piece of plastic to lay over the top of chicken. Use a mallet or rolling pin to flatten the chicken breast until they are about ¼ inch thick.

3. In a shallow elongated dish, combine gluten-free flour and salt.

4. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat for one minute, then add the olive oil and heat for another 30 seconds. Add onion and garlic to pan and sauté until the onion is slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Remove the onion and garlic from the pan and set them aside.

5. Add the butter to the pan and let it heat until it turns foamy. Dredge both sides of the chicken breast through the flour mix, and add them one at a time to the hot pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until they are nicely browned.


6. Remove them from the pan and aside on a plate, covered with the foil, while you make the sauce.


7. Add the stock or broth, white wine, lemon juice and capers to the pan to the pan and scrape off any flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan. Then return the onion-garlic mixture to the pan and heat it through, adding a bit more oil or butter if necessary.

8. Return the chicken to the pan, bring the liquid to a boil, then lower it to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes or until the mixture has reduced by about one third. Add the chopped parsley just at the end of the cooking.


9. With a  pair of tongs, remove the chicken breasts and plate them. Adjust the seasoning on the sauce with Kosher salt and lemon juice. Sauce generously, top each portion with a lemon slice and serve immediately. Yum!


photos and recipes copyright Julie Ann Luse
If you'd like to participate in Foodie Fridays I would love to have you link up with me. 
It could be food you made this week, a special recipe, or even a great place you ate at. 
If you're interested leave a comment here or on facebook (find me at facebook.com/julieluse) 
or email me - julie(at)delightglutenfree(dot)com. 
And I'll check into making Foodie Friday a linky party so we can do it together.

If you'd like to grab the Food Friday button to mention it on your blog or site, just copy and paste this image and link it with my blog http://bedheadandbrainfarts.blogspot.com 
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teach them to care for the world....a fun story that started with leftover rice!

Teach them to care for the world...


This story starts with a handful of rice...


Okay, it all started with one of those parent moments that you told yourself when you were a kid would never happen. You know when something flies out of your mouth and suddenly you realize that your saying the things that your parents said to you.

So picture it, takes place at the dinner table. Asher doesn't want to finish his rice and out of my mouth comes "you know there is actually a rice shortage in some parts of the world..." No, really, I heard there is. I meant in a "can you believe that?" kind of way because I don't understand why there is so much rice wasting away on supermarket shelves in the US when other countries are in need. And for that reason, I wanted him to eat it up.

But it turned into something else.

Picture me cleaning Lydie up and rinsing off dishes at the sink, while my hubs begins to tell my son this big ficticious story about a boy in Africa named, Garhakdklhksee (yeah, he couldn't say it the same each time he said it) and his whole family who sleep on the ground and sometimes don't have enough to eat.

I don't think Josh knew what the outcome of that story would be.
Asher did eat his rice.
But became very very curious.
He started asking questions...well, does Garkehjkhls have shoes, a bed, toys? How about his sister? And his mom and dad? We answered as truthfully as we thought we could about this fake character.
While getting Asher in his pjs and getting ready for bed, the questions would not stop. "Does he get to go to school?" "Does he have medicine when he is sick?" "Is his water clean?" on and on.

Finally, he says. "Can we send him some food and toys?" 
"Well, no, but we could send some money so his family can get these things." Josh said.
So he pulls out his piggy bank full of coins. (mind you, this is a boy who is usually very greedy with his money and is convinced he's saving up for a humongous four wheeler or something).
Josh gets an envelope, and Asher scoops handfuls of his money into it. He says, "How many shirts and pants to I have in my closet." He makes Josh count, it was like 10 maybe. 
"I want him to be able to buy more than 10 shirts and pants, 
and how many pairs of shoes does mom have"? 
Josh says, "Oh, I don't know like 7 pairs or more."
"Well, I want this boy to be able to buy like 17 pairs of shoes. Is there enough in there for that?"
Josh says, "We might not have quite enough for that."
Asher scoops more handfuls from his piggy bank. 

And then he makes Josh write a note to Gukjljfghjkehly telling him that he wants him to buy all the things that he has and all the food his family needs and especially a bed for each member of his family.
Asher is really concerned that this money gets to this boy with clear instructions. Josh assures him that it will.

We put the kids to bed. But Asher cannot sleep. He keeps coming out to ask more questions..."Do you think he has a cool car blanket and a lamp in his room in case he's scared at night?" We finally have to tell him he just has to go to bed and he has to stop thinking about this boy for tonight.

So after all of that, we are compelled to do something. We were considering supporting a kid or family through some agency for a while now and Josh and I were convinced we needed to be able to tell Asher in the morning that his money was really going to help a boy from another country.

So we did it.
He was very excited.

The funny thing is, he really takes it seriously. He started telling everyone that he has a brother. 

Imagine the confusion when Grammy came to visit and the first thing he said to her was "I have a brother!" We had to explain that one. He knows we didn't adopt, that we are just supporting. But he thinks about this guy all the time. 
His name is Guyvenson Jean. I tried to choose a name as crazy as the one Josh made up. He's 5, same age as Asher and his birthday is in the same month as Asher's. He has a brother and a mom and dad. 
Josh wanted me to pick a child from an area of the world that we are interested in adopting someday and he's always had Africa on his heart, but in recent years, Haiti has been on mine. 
So Guyvenson is from Haiti. 
Asher prays for Guyvenson on his own at night so often. And sometimes he says to me "I just want to play with Guyvenson, can we visit him?" Well, someday son we might be able to. 

Thank you for caring for the world Asher! I love how tender your heart is!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's all about perspective...now if only I could remember that

Ya know when you find one of those word art pictures on pinterest or whereever and it's like the most simplest thing you've ever seen but you keep thinking about the words over and over and over? It may not even be biblical or true or right, but whatever it was, it touches you and you cannot forget about it.

Well, here's the one I found on pinterest and it has really rocked my world. So simple, yet profound.


I don't know why I am the way that I am, but there is a side of my personality that can really throw a good pitty party. And the strong side of me is like "Pull yourself together girl! What's happened to you. Why can't you be just like all the awesome, always joyful, grateful, patient, gorgeous and creative women and bloggers you compare yourself too? Why do you have to even spend any time of your day thinking about what is not going right, where you have failed, what you don't have, who you are never going to be?"

This "word art" is SO true to me. When I think about my problems, and I compare myself to other women, I don't think about their problems. I think about their lack of problems stacked up against all of my shortcomings and issues.
Nah, Not Fair!!!! 
Seriously, how utterly nuts is that?
If I'm going to compare myself to others, I at least have to play fair
I have to compare my blessings with their blessings, sure, but If I compare my baggage, I have to compare their baggage. 
If I compare my issues, I have to compare their issues. 
And hands down, every time, when I think of their issues, I would never want them

Do you think God knows what some people can handle and what others can? Do you think that our adversity was meant specifically for us in our specific season? I'm starting to think so.

Next time I feel like throwing a pity party maybe I should consider...
...the woman who just shaved her head in expectation of it falling out from the chemotherapy she is going through.
...Maybe I should consider the woman who is coming up on the birthday of her child who never made it to the delivery room.
...Maybe I should think of the woman who lost her dad so unexpectantly last year and has just tried to survive the holidays.
...Or the woman whose husband is gone all the time for work, and their relationship is suffering.
...How about the woman who is overly tired all the time due to a rare and untreatable disease.
...Or the woman who has just been widowed just a week short of having their life insurance approved. ...And not to forget the woman who just had a baby and is now dealing with her 15 month old's tumor and his chemotherapy.

Oh, these things are too horrible to mention. But they happen.
And I am lucky enough not to be one of  them.

Isn't that something to celebrate? 

Oh how perspective, the right perspective, can really change the light in which we see our situations. 

Next time I want to throw a fit 
about not feeling pretty enough, 
skinny enough, 
not being a better blogger.
The next time I cry about my tiny apartment and all I want is a house with a yard. 
The next time I compare my wardrobe, 
my children, 
my marriage, 
my belongings, 
my skills
... I need to take a trip down reality lane 
and really remember what's going on for real in other people's lives. 

Folks, this world has a cruel way of trying to tell us who we are and how we measure up. As women, it is way to easy to succumb the the pressure and instinct of comparisons, and untrue ones at that. But this world and the lies we believe can never give us an accurate picture, only our creator can do that. And this is what I am...
I AM FREE
I AM HIS
I AM CALLED
I AM LOVED
I AM BEAUTIFUL

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy FOODIE FRIDAY!

I love food! Always have. And since I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen over the last several years, learning to make allergy-free food taste and look better than the real thing, I thought I should start sharing my food love with you. Some of you may know that 3 years ago I started a food magazine for people with food allergies called Delight Gluten Free Magazine. Last spring I sold the magazine to the potential filled people at SideWalk Media. I plan to share my story of starting a food publication with you this year, but for now, I would love to start sharing some of my favorite old recipes and the new ones I create in my kitchen each week!

This weeks amazingly delicious and family approved recipe....



This recipe was inspired by an old Betty Crocker cook book turtle cheesecake I used to make before my hubby and son were diagnosed with a gluten-intolerance. Graham cracker crust became hard to find in the gluten-free market, so along with changing the cheesecake recipe, we found a more delicious crust...gluten-free "Oreo's" crushed. If you like the taste of the gluten-free alternatives ( I suggest Kinni-toos by Kinnikinnick), use those and scrape out the cream filling. However I make my own gluten-free oreo cookies, and keep them on hand for easy crusts or after school cookies--the recipe is below.

Heath Toffee Caramel Cheesecake
gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free and corn-free
serves 8-10
cook and refrigerate 5 hrs 30 mins

INGREDIENTS        
1 1/4 cups Gluten-Free “oreo” cookie crumbs, we like Kinni Toos by Kinnikinnick. 
Or use our Gluten-Free “Oreo” cookie recipe below.
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 (250 g) packages Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 package of Heath Toffee topping (located in the baking isle)

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix crumbs and butter; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan.
3. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
4. Bake 40 to 45 min. or until centre is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours. Spread caramel topping over cheesecake just before serving. 5. Garnish with chopped Heath Toffee topping or chocolate.




Gluten-Free "Oreo" Cookie recipe
gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, corn-free
serves 50 cookies
cook 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 box gluten-free chocolate cake mix
(use dairy-free if needed, double check that it's nut-free)
2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup hot cocoa mix (double check that it's dairy-free if needed)
1/4 cup cold water

1 cup Crisco (shortening)
1 pound confectioners sugar PLUS
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
For the Cookies:
1. Blend cake mix, eggs, water, oil and cocoa.
2. Shape into ball; let stand 20 minutes.
3. Roll into 1/2-inch balls, place on greased cookie sheets.
4. Flatten each with smooth bottom on a drinking glass. (Grease glass once, dip into the Nestle Quick each time.)
5. Bake in 400 degrees oven for 8 minutes. Remove cookies at once, immediately flatten with the back of a spatula. Let cool 20 minutes. Makes 100 cookie sides (50 cookie sandwiches).


For the Filling:
1. Place gelatin in a heatproof cup. Add cold water; stir well.
2. Put it in a pan of hot water until mixture clears and gelatin is softened.
3. Beat Crisco until fluffy. Add sugar gradually and beat about 10 minutes. Mix in vanilla.
4. Beat in cooled gelatin mixture. (The gelatin keeps the filling in place inside the cookies.
5. Spread about 1 tablespoon filling between 2 cookies. Chill until set. Fills 50 cookies.

 adapted from cdkitchen.com

For any questions please email me julie at delightglutenfree dot com
Recipes and photography by Julie Ann Luse.  Copyright Julie Luse
*CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR MORE DELICIOUS RECIPES!

ENJOY!

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