Keep Calm & Carry on Cooking

Simply put and oh so true – “Keep calm and carry on cooking”. When Trump is blowing up Twitter and I can’t take any more political talk, I cook. When I’m happy, sad, nervous, or excited… I cook. Food heals, lights a fire in you; calms and fills our souls. Food connects us all across our world. The connections and memories we make sharing a meal and a feeling comes from the flavors we experience at that time. Cooking is my go-to for an escape – it can even be a quiet time to reflect and connect within myself.

If you’re into gluten free, vegan, vegetarian or like to whip up burgers, steaks, and meatballs, cooking is a great way to let your mind play and your soul escape. There’s a reason they call some food “soul food”, because it really does nurture your soul.

People, including myself, worry day to day about all sorts of troubles. If you take a step back and take a deep breath, you’ll see life is truly simple. I know I need to look at life with the ten thousand foot approach more often and as a big picture vs the little problems that won’t matter later on. Take each day as it comes, be grateful, be kind, and most important, “KEEP CALM and CARRY ON COOKING”.

Simple Days

Simple start to the day with a delicious breakfast of gluten free Bob’s Red Mill whole grain rolled oats drizzled with local honey and topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries. When time is not pressing me the old fashioned rolled oats are my favorite to cook, but if I have just a few minutes then Bob’s Red Mill quick cook rolled oats are a close second for a nutritious breakfast. Gluten free labeling can be an issue with oats because a lot of facilities that handle oats are also handling wheat and other grains so cross contamination becomes an issue – I like these oats because they’re made in a dedicated gluten free facility and so that worry is eliminated.

We made it safely to our destination of New England to visit and spend some much-needed time with family. Gray did amazing on the plane; noise cancelling headphones were a lifesaver to prevent him from being startled on the flight and he was able to get a long nap in. That, along with a couple of toys and lots of bouncing on my knee, made the trip easy, quiet and stress-free.

Visiting back home grounds me. It brings me back to simple, happy childhood memories of letting my imagination run wild and watching my mother cook in the kitchen, helping peel veggies and mash potatoes without a worry in the world; before real adult life experiences and responsibilities and before Grayson.

Even though he may not remember these early days, I’ll always hold dear to my heart these new memories I’ve made with him; sleeping in my old bedroom with me, playing, laughing, and visiting with family. New England in October is breathtaking with all the leaves changing color – you need not do much other than go for a ride and walks outside for some amazing leaf peeping. I feel very blessed for these simple, memorable days.

Power-Breakfast Bowl

Power-breakfast bowl this morning! Need to be energized for the day as Gray and I are flying to see my family and that means lots of walking, standing, and taking care of my little guy. I know I can’t do a full day such as today without a full breakfast! Preparation is key and that means eating well with lots of nutrients packed into a bowl for fun and easy eating.

Today’s breakfast bowl consists of:

  • egg for protein and choline (choline promotes healthy cell activity, transportation of nutrients in the body, and healthy liver function)
  • spinach, tomatoes and onion that pack a tremendous amount of vitamins and antioxidants such as C, K, and lycopene, along with other nutrtional benefits which give me a great immunity boost while traveling
  • bacon, because bacon belongs in just about everything plus it balances out my bowl with a nice salty flavor
  • Nature’s Earthly Choice Premium Organic 100% Whole Grain Quinoa for protein, fiber, along with nine (nine! excuse my excitement) essential amino acids
  • cheddar cheese sprinkled in to give the quinoa a creamy texture – I cook my quinoa as per box instructions, but when done I mix in a little butter and chedder cheese (add as little or as much as desired – just mix in slowly to the consistency you desire).

Now that’s a lot of amazing, healthy goodness all packed in a bowl! What would you put in your breakfast bowl?

Shrimp & Chicken Stir Fry with Homemade Sauce

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One of the biggest challenges I came across when I switched to eating gluten free 10+ years ago was taking a wheat-filled recipe and giving it a gluten free makeover. Even though it was and is still challenging, there are so many good things that come out of this adventure; one of them is learning about the healing properties of different foods. Convenience is nice, but when you take a recipe and make it from scratch, such as my stir fry sauce below, it’s amazing how much you learn about all the different ingredients and how they work together.

In the dish below, I’d like to highlight garlic’s healing properties. Even though it’s a physically small contribution to the stir fry recipe, garlic packs a big punch. Not only is garlic a natural antibiotic warding off and healing infections, it’s also known to have anti-cancer properties, help our hearts by healing and preventing cardiovascular disease, preventing metabolic disease, regulating blood sugar, and scaring off vampires (just kidding… wanted to make sure you’re paying attention 🙂 ). The list goes on and on about garlic; definitely making my own personal list of super foods I like to cook with weekly in my dishes.

Shrimp & Chicken Stir Fry with Homemade Sauce on Rice Noodles

Ingredients

    • 6 ounces raw medium-sized shrimp; deveined, tail and shell off, rinsed and pat dry
    • 1 medium chicken breast – sliced thin
    • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
    • 1/2 cup gluten free soy sauce (Kikkoman Gluten-Free Soy Sauce)
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, separated
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 7 ounces mushrooms, white
    • 8 ounce can water chestnuts
    • 16 ounce bag frozen stir fry veggies
    • 1/2 large red onion, sliced into thin, long slices
    • Package of Thai Kitchen Gluten-Free Thin Rice NoodlesEdit
    • 2 tablespoons Argo 100% Pure Corn Starch

Directions

  1. Prepare stir fry sauce: in medium-sized bowl combine soy sauce, water, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, garlic, and honey. Mix well (work garlic juices out by smooshing it against the side of the bowl with spoon). Set aside.
  2. In medium-sized wok (my favorite is the Cuisinart wok – Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 14-Inch Wok) heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil on medium heat – saute onion until soft. Add veggies, 1/3 cup of prepared sauce. Cover, turn heat to low-medium, and let cook for about 10 minutes, or until veggies are almost soft, still a little crisp.
  3. While veggies are cooking, prepare chicken. In separate pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium to high heat. Saute chicken for about 5-7 minutes (if sliced very thin chicken will cook quick. Chicken shouldn’t be completely done as it will cook for few more minutes with veggies). Set aside.
  4. Prepare noodles according to box instruction and set aside. Be sure to shake out extra water from noodles so it won’t dilute your sauce.
  5. Once veggies are done to desired tenderness, remove cover from wok and add shrimp, remainder of sauce, and chicken. Cook in wok for another 3-5 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked (shrimp will no longer be pink and tails will curl in).
  6. Turn up heat to medium-high, mix in corn starch, and let thicken – about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest.
  7. Spoon noodles in bowls and top with stir fry.

Enjoy!

*I used frozen veggies for convenience, but substituting fresh veggies is even tastier! Just adjust your cooking time and check your veggies for crispness.  Cooking the shrimp at the end with the veggies vs separate adds flavor to the sauce while they cook.

Garfield Approved Lasagna

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There’s some truth behind Garfield the cat’s love for lasagna! In honor of Garfield and his Monday-hating grouchy attitude, I’d like to share a recipe for lasagna that my real life Garfield would even devour. Lasagna is comfort food; great pick-me-up dinner on Monday, especially if Monday’s aren’t your thing.  There are so many variations of cooking lasagna; all the different cheeses, meats, veggies, and sauce combinations make this dish fun to cook. Life is all about variety; experimenting, changing, evolving – doing things differently to spice up your life. This is one of many gluten free lasagna recipes that I enjoy cooking and sharing. It’s a little different then your typical lasagna recipe as it only uses mozzarella cheese and gives the lasagna a different texture vs adding in ricotta. I also use a local hot sausage, Neese’s Sausage, which gives the lasagna such an amazing flavor. And don’t let the gluten free scare you; my non-gluten free family can’t tell a difference and doesn’t leave any slices behind, even to share with our real-life Garfield.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces hot ground sausage
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 13.25 ounce can of mushrooms, white
  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce, plain
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes in sauce
  • 23.5 ounce jar of your favorite tomato sauce
  • 9 ounce package chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and set aside
  • 32 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 16 ounce packages of mozzarella cheese slices
  • 1 package of Heartland Gluten Free Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

    1. In medium-sized pot, saute onion and garlic for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add mushrooms.
    2. Add spinach, tomato sauces and diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low while you cook the sausage.
    3. In medium-sized pan, cook sausage on medium heat, breaking up pieces with spatula until done, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain and add to pot of sauce.
    4. Pre-heat oven according to noodle instructions.
    5. In lasagna dish (I prefer porcelain dishes for even cooking and easy clean up like the
      Porcelain Lasagna Pan 13-Inches x 9-Inches x 2.5-Inches) scoop about 1/2 cup of sauce on bottom of pan and spread out, then layer with noodles (I break up my noodles as overlapping them sometimes leads to noodles not cooking evenly), followed by about 2 cups sauce, then 2 cups shredded cheese, then repeat until you are out of sauce and cheese. I alternate using shredded cheese and layering cheese slices to give my lasagna different textures. I end my top layer with the cheese slices to allow for a good seal for baking,
    6. Bake in oven as per noodle instructions. Once done, let sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.
    7. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Smazcnego!

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Truly Loyal

One thought comes to mind when I think of Loyal, and that thought goes to my Sophie. I always heard people say dogs are a man’s best friend, they are loyal and care so much for their human; after being fortunate to have my Sophie in my life, I must agree.

Through thick and thin, through moving states, introducing my now husband into our life, gaining 2 step-children, a cat, recently having a baby, my Sophie has been through it all; being as big of a sweatheart as a pup can be.

Years, years ago I was in a not-so-healthy relationship where I was faced with turmoil brought on by my ex-husband; for no other reason then to be hateful towards me he put me in a corner and wanted to give away, our dog at the time, Sophie.

I thought how could anyone want to get rid of such a sweet, gentle, caring pup? She did not mess on the floors; nor was she aggressive or misbehaved. She was loyal; always greeting us at the door; tail wagging – eyes expressive telling us how much she loved us and missed us when we were away every day. She just wanted to sit with us, play games, and show us love. So how could someone want to get rid of her, nevermind someone who found her with me and took her in; made her part of our family?

When faced with such a decision I stood up for myself; I pushed back and said no. She didn’t deserve to go, she was here to stay. Years later I clearly made the right decision; my Sophie continues to be loyal to me, and I to her. For all dogs that show such unconditional love, they deserve all the loyalty you have to give.

For my Sophie, I will always be loyal to you as you have been to me; I will care for you ’til you take your last breath one day – until then we will take lazy naps in the sun and enjoy each others company. My love for you is deep; not until I found you did I truly realize how much loyalty, care and love a dog can truly bring. I am the fortunate one and will be loyal to you every day, as you have been to me.

Inspiration

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Life is all about balance; the balance of chi, aka the vital energy that unites mind, body and spirit – the principal of Ying and Yang, where an imbalance will create catastrophe and plague. Sometimes too much of a good thing can create an imbalance. That is why I like to indulge now and then with a treat and to keep my body in harmony with a reward that tickles my taste buds.

I had the pleasure of attending a fall food festival in my town and was lucky enough to come across a wonderful cupcake stand with gluten free cupcakes baked by Gigi’s cupcakes. It was amazing: triple chocolate torte cupcakes – moist, fluffy, chocolatey, and best of all, gluten free. I savored each and every bite and felt fortunate to have been able to treat myself with such deliciousness. Best of all, it put my body and mind back in balance with this little reward. Now it’s got my mind ticking of how I can replicate such fluffiness in a gluten free cupcake. From this delicious cupcake a recipe will be born as this chocolatey goodness has inspired me to come up with my version of a delicious cupcake that promises to deliver such wonderful flavor and texture. Off to the kitchen!

You Bacon Me Crazy

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“You bacon me crazy” said the egg. Why is that? Because he was loaded with bacon! I love bacon; thick, thin, crispy, soft; on everything and in anything, bacon just adds a deliciously salty unmistakable flavor.

Sunday funday in our house is all about our spread.  Todays Sunday funday menu features deliciously zesty deviled eggs. The deviled eggs I grew up on seemed to always be a little bland, not setting my taste buds on fire. I find the one mistake with cooking is food doesn’t get seasoned enough – if it be from fear that too much seasoning will ruin the dish or not taste testing during cooking. Life is all about stepping outside your comfort zone – experimenting and experiencing; once you do you’ll find all sorts of new adventures, accomplishments, and most important, happiness.

These creamy deviled eggs are deviled eggs with a zing; made outside of the traditional “comfort zone” recipe. Soon you will hear your eggs saying “ya bacon me crazy”!

Smacnego!

 

You Bacon Me Crazy Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • Smoked paprika for garnish
  • 1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place eggs in single layer in a sauce pan and cover with water so there’s 2 inches of water above the eggs.
  2. Turn up the heat to high until water begins to boil.
  3. Once boiling, cover the eggs, turn down the heat to low, and let cook for 1 minute.
  4. After 1 minute, move the covered pot off the heat and let sit for 14 minutes.
  5. Remove eggs and put in ice bath for 5 minutes.
  6. Peel eggs, rinse, and gently pat dry with paper towels.
  7. Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Scoop out yolk into a separate bowl and place egg whites on serving plate.
  8. Mash the egg yolks. Add mayo, seasoning, pepper to taste and half of your bacon (I put my crumbled bacon through my grinder to make it a little more fine). Mix well.
  9. Scoop about 1-2 tablespoons of yolk mixture into egg white shells. Sprinkle smoked paprika and garnish with remainder of the crumbled bacon.
  10. Chill deviled eggs in fridge, covered, for about 30 minutes before serving.

*Side note…Any extra yolk mixture left over makes for a great spread on crackers or bread. Gluten free crackers have come a long way over the past years. I’ve tried them all, and my two favorite are Van’s The Perfect 10 Gluten Free Crackers and Schar Gluten Free Table Crackers. The Van’s crackers have a little more flavor and are smaller in size, while Schar’s crackers are closer to a traditional cracker with more of an airy, plain cracker taste. Both are delicious!

Tomato Soup with Rump Roast

 

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Happiness, aka a big delicious bowl of tomato soup. Nothing makes me happier then cooking up a delicious dish that fills my home with a wonderful aroma. The process of cooking is just as important as your final dish. Cooking really is a great metaphor for life. You have all these amazing ingredients that you carefully prepare; chopping, searing, blending them together. Seasoning just right – not too little, not too much, just enough to compliment your ingredients and bring everything together. During this process your mind is being creative, your senses are excited, and your heart is skipping a beat in anticipation of this wonderful, delicious creation that you’ll soon get to enjoy.

Life itself is a process filled with trial and error; patience, heartache, excitement, experiences and accomplishments. Cooking teaches us to be thankful for our ingredients; being careful to wash, prepare and handle them all with respect; reading about and understanding the different flavors and the magic that happens when you combine everything together.

I find my happiness in the kitchen. My mind escapes while I whip up dishes like a mad scientist; experimenting, testing and creating. My reward to having my patience tested, my mind stimulated, and my palate teased? A tasty bowl of goodness.

The best part about cooking is it’s completely in the hands of the chef. You are in the driver’s seat. Your creation is your interpretation, your opinion, your creativity. Cooking is never a failure because if your dish doesn’t come out as you wished then the next time you’ll do something different…And that truly is just like life!

The recipe below is my interpretation of the ingredients I had at hand, but honestly, season as you find appropriate and substitute – create your own happiness. Enjoy, have fun, laugh, relax; let your mind escape while you take my recipe below and make it your own. Any comments are welcome! I love to read about other people’s take on recipes to see what I can do different next time around.

Tomato Soup with Seared Rump Roast

Ingredients

3 lb rump roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
32 ounces of beef stock
4 large whole peeled garlic cloves
Half a red onion chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
All purpose seasoning to taste – about 1/4 teaspoon
1/2 can chopped carrots, drained
1/2 can sweet peas, drained
1/2 can sweet corn, drained
1 white potato, peeled and chopped
28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
28 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cream cheese

Directions

  1. Trim fat and generously season your roast with coarse sea salt, dry rosemary, thyme, pepper and paprika.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-hot heat in 6 quart pot – sear all sides of roast until browned.
  3. Add in beef stock, onions and garlic to pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to bring up all the deliciousness from searing your meat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 3 hours, or until meat is tender and falls apart with fork.
  4. Transfer meat to plate, strain out fat (discard) and strain out garlic from beef stock along with 1/2 to 1 cup of beef stock, set aside. Freeze remainder stock to use in the future (if you freeze in an ice-cube tray you can pop out beef stock cubes for when you want to add some flavor!).
  5. Add the 2 cans of tomatoes to the pot, veggies, beef stock, and garlic, one cup of water, and shredded rump roast meat.
  6. Mix well and season to taste with all-purpose seasoning.
  7. Bring everything to a simmer, cover, and let get happy for about 10 minutes (or until potato is fork tender).
  8. Add the cream cheese to thicken – mix well. Serve with crusty bread, noodles, or just how it is.

                                                    Enjoy!

 

Gluten Free Omelette with Avocado Toast

Days off are for cooking, baking and regenerating.  They are for spending time with family and sharing amazing meals that bring us all together.  The word “food” doesn’t describe what food really does to the soul.  I feel like it should be a softer word, like “love” or “kind”.  Food heals and comforts; it rebuilds our mind, body, and soul.  It is an understatement to say food is just food.  It brings us together in our world of different races, cultures, and religion – our minds connect on a silent level when we share and experience all sorts of ingredients.  I love food; how it makes me feel warm, fulfilled, and happy. With the hustle and bustle of the work week sometimes I rush at meals and don’t get to really sit down and enjoy each and every bite – days off are for savoring all those bites of deliciousness and enjoying every single ingredient as it dances in my mouth.

This recipe will fill your body with amazing nutrients that regenerate and re-energize the body with vitamin C and K; nutrients that will cleanse the body of everyday toxins; protein to rebuild and feed your muscles, and vitamins and minerals to rebuild your cells as well as warm your heart.

I’m thankful to have these simple, fresh ingredients to make one of my favorite dishes – a mushroom, spinach, cheese omelette with avocado gluten free toast.  There are many variations of the recipe below, feel free to experiment and substitute as desired!  As we say in Poland at all of our meals, smacznego!

Gluten Free Omelette with Avocado Toast

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh, washed and chopped mushrooms (chefs’ preference)
  • Handful of fresh, raw baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Half of a soft avocado
  • 1-2 pieces Gluten free bread – my go to gf bread is Udi’s Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread
  • 1/2 Roma tomato, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a 10 inch skillet on medium heat. Add mushrooms once hot, about 3 minutes; sprinkle with sea salt and pepper; saute until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. While mushrooms are getting happy, crack eggs into dish, add sea salt and pepper to taste; add milk – mix gently. Set aside cooked mushrooms.  Add about 1/2 tablespoon oil to grease pan on medium heat and add egg mixture.  Egg mixture will fill pan – cook about 3-5 minutes or until bottom is a little bit firm (lift ends of eggs up with spatula to see if mixture stays together in order to be able to flip).
  3. Once underside of egg mixture is firm like a pancake, take spatula and place under egg mixture – carefully flip onto top side. Continue cooking while you layer your omelette.
  4. On half the egg mixture layer cheese, mushrooms, and spinach. After about 3 minutes of cooking, fold over the egg mixture that has nothing on it onto the cheese, mushroom, spinach side.
  5. Place a cover or plate over the skillet to allow the cheese to melt and remove from heat.  While the omelette is sitting, place toast in toaster.
  6. Peel avocado, slice, then smoosh with fork until soft and smooth.  Wash and chop tomato; sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Set aside.
  7. Once toast is toasted, spread avocado onto it; sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  8. Remove omelette from pan after about 5 minutes and place on plate, top with tomato mixture and serve with avocado toast.  Enjoy!

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