“Comfort Food”

What happens when your worst nightmare comes true? What do you do when your life will never be the same?

I don’t have those answers … yet. I’m knee deep in it. I know there is an end. Not an end that I can process yet, but an end with a changed life.

In the meantime, it’s A day AT a Time. Days filled with QUALITY time, saying everything and anything BIG and small, feeling gratitude for the life we’ve had together and struggling to understand how to process the rest. Does God really only give us what we can handle, or are we strong enough to deal with whatever we HAVE to.

I write this post as I am COOKING for the first time in about 18 days!? (I literally haven’t boiled water, made coffee, made toast … nothing 😦  THANKS to an incredible support system. The many Thank you’s will never be enough to convey what these people mean to us.

Today I cooked. It felt therapeutic, and brought about this blog post to explain my absence and share my gratitude.

Pasta bake with spinach, tomatoes & sausage

First found this recipe on bevcooks.com, we’ve made it a few times and made some additions … it’s a great “comfort food” and full of nourishment.

  1. Cook some sort of pasta. I used GF Corn Rotelli.
  2. In a large skillet, heat evoo, add minced garlic, 1 yellow onion diced, sautee.
  3. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and 1/2 tbs of paprika.
  4. Add thinly sliced sausage of your choice ( we used garlic), sautee for awhile to cook sausage through
  5. Add 1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, and pepper.
  6. Add 2 -4 cups of baby spinach. Combine and cook down for a few minutes.
  7. Add cooked pasta.
  8. Pour pasta mixture into 8×11 dish and cover with shredded mozzarella cheese & GF breadcrumbs.
  9. Cook at 400 for 20 minutes.

Enjoy.

I hope 2012 is finding you healthy, happy and spending time with the people who are most important to you. ♥

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Posted in Dinner, Gluten Free, LIFE, Lunch | 2 Comments

4th Annual Christmas Cookie Swap

I’m Full. Full of yummy, sugary Christmas goodies. Full from spending the morning with good friends. Today was our 4th Annual Christmas Cookie Swap. It’s a common party theme now and there are many different ways to throw a cookie swap. Here is what we do … along with some yummy recipes from the other gals & some pictures of the goodies! EnJoy.

How to throw a cookie swap:

1. Invite people with plenty of notice so that people have time to make (and possibly freeze) their treats prior to the party, as well as book time during busy holiday months, such as December. Another fun cookie swap would be around Valentine’s day. I like one in December because it stocks your pantry & freezer with beautiful, tasty treats for your guest and lovely hostess gifts.

2. Over the past 4 years we’ve tried some different methods. The one that has worked well is as follows. Invite as many people as you’d like. Have them RSVP and confirm their attendance for your information (snacks / beverages etc). Have each guest make 6 dozen (cookies, squares, treats) and pkg them per dozen. Works well if there are 6-10 people. As people arrive you can label their treats with a number. Cut up strips of paper and write down 6, #1’s, 6 #2’s, etc. up until the number of people you have. Once everyone arrives, each guest gets to choose 6 numbers from a hat (they can throw it back if they get their own number). Then they grab the treats that correspond to those 6 numbers. This works really well and then it isn’t a problem if someone can’t attend last minute, etc.

3. Also remind your guests to bring a box or bag to take their treats home in … as well as a copy of the recipe for each of their 6 dozen.

4. Make some light snacks. I try to make something other than sweets … 😉 Today I made mini quiches, fruit, baked brie, crackers, water, a festive “drink” (raspberry ginger ale) ..

Festive beverages

 

Savoury snacks

 

5. We like to have a “taste test” for tastiest goodie! Just for fun … my husband is more than happy to be the tester … so ask your guests to bring an extra treat or two for tasting.

6. Pop on some holiday tunes & enjoy another excuse to visit with good friends! Happy swapping 😉

PS. It’s nice to have your guests bring food bank or silent santa items as well …

Mountains of festive goodies!

Recipes that were generously shared from friends at today’s swap (many or all of these recipes are not original) :

I am currently enjoying this!!

Carmel Popcorn

Carmel Popcorn

  • 5-6 Quarts popped popcorn (large roasted pan full or the top of your cake carrier almost full)
  • 1 cup margarine or butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Combine in medium saucepan the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Caution: this could froth over if your pot is not big enough.

Pour carmel sauce over popcorn, toss until all is coated. Place in baking pans/roaster and bake uncovered at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.

Spread popcorn over waxed paper to cool. Freezes well.

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Fabulous Five-minutes Fudge wreath

Fabulous Five-Minute Fudge Wreath

  • 1 bag semisweet chocolate morsels (12 ounces)
  • 9 ounces butterscotch morsels (3/4 of 12 ounce bag)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds (or nut of choice)
  • 1/3 cup of craisins
  • 8 inch cake pan, lightly greased with softened butter
  • serves 36-48 (2 lbs)

Place a heavy pot on the stove and pre-heat it over low heat. Add chocolate and butterscotch morsels and milk and stir until morsels are melted and milk is combined. Save the empty condensed milk can. Stir in the vanilla and remove the fudge from the heat. Add the nuts and currants and stir in immediately.

Cover the empty condensed milk can with plastic wrap and center it in the greased cake pan. Spoon fudge into pan around can, making sure to centre the can if it drifts.

The fudge will set up almost immediately. Garnish can only be added in the first minute or two that the fudge is in the pan, so work quickly. Decorate your wreath with “holly” made from cut candied red and green cherries. A wreath left plain can be garnished with pretty fabric bow when serving.

**I love this fudge recipe because the possibilities are endless. You can add anything, or leave it plain chocolate!**

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Another favourite of our little boys were these oh so pretty …

Swirl Sugar Cookies

Swirl Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter cut in chunks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups holiday sprinkles

In a stand mixer, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugars with paddle on medium until well blended.

Add butter in, gradually, and continue mixing. Add in vanilla. At this point, your dough will form a ball on your paddle.

Remove all of your dough and divide into two equal parts. Return one portion back in the mixer and add the food coloring and any extra extracts. I used Wilton gel food coloring in leaf green and vanilla extract. If you are using liquid food coloring, you will need to add a few tbsp of flour to keep the dough from becoming too wet. Mix until the color is spread out evenly.

Roll out each portions of your dough, between two sheets of wax paper until it reaches about 11×9 inches and is 1/4 inch thick. Slide both onto a cookie sheet and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. When firm remove the top sheets of wax paper from both. Brush the uncolored vanilla dough lightly with water using a pastry brush. Then flip the colored dough onto the vanilla uncolored dough so they are stacked a top each other and even.

Press the edges lightly with your fingers to seal the edges. Using a small pairing knife, trim the edges of the dough to make straight even lines.

Pour sprinkles onto a large platter and set aside. Be sure your dough is still cold, but flexible. Once it’s ready, begin rolling the long side of dough into a swirl, jelly-roll style.

Gently lift your dough log onto the sprinkles and roll away. Cover the log completely with your sprinkles. Wrap the colorfully decorated log in plastic wrap twice. Depending on when you want to bake the cookies, either place the wrapped dough in the fridge for about 3-4 hours or you can put it in the freezer and keep it there for up to 2 months.

Slice your dough into 1/4-1/8 inch slices and bake on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes until edges are slightly golden. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then move to baking rack to cool.

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We had 2 ladies bring Whipped shortbread (both looked fantastic .. and very similar .. the recipes were almost identical. One of them won the “tastiest treat” award .. and here it is

Whipped Shortbread

Whipped Shortbread

  • 1/2 lb butter softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour

Beat 10 minutes with mixer. Drop in spoon fulls on an ungreased pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

** I need to find a fantastic GF shortbread recipe … anyone have one??**

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Always a party FAVOURITE is Nuts & Bolts!

Nuts & Bolts

  • 1/2 -1 box Cheerios
  • 1/2-1 box Shreddies
  • 1/2-1 box Crispix
  • 4-5 cups pretzels
  • Peanuts (plain or bbq) 2 cups
  • 1 1/2 cup butter or marg
  • 3 tbsp Seasoning salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

*You may want to double ingredients from butter down if you are doing full boxes of cereals

Put first 5 ingredients into a large roaster. Melt butter in bowl, then stir in seasoned salt, onion powder and garlic powder. Drizzle over contents in roaster. Stir carefully and mix well. Roast uncovered in 250 degrees oven for 1 1/2 hours. Stir about every 20 minutes while roasting. Cool. Store in airtight containers. Makes about 5 quarts.

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My treats were Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cup Brownies adapted from Nestle’s very best baking

Gluten free peanut butter brownies

  • 1 box of your favourite Brownie mix (CHEATING!!) hehe … I used Betty Crocker GF chocolate cake mix
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease 40 mini muffin cups (mine made 60 mini muffin cups.vPrepare boxed boxed brownie or cake mix as directed. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake for 13-15 minutes. After brownies are out of oven, push the centre down with small spoon. Put tsp of peanut butter in the centre. Add peanut butter & chocolate chips over top … let melt and then cool on baking rack.

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A really cool treat, were the homemade mints!

Creamy no-cook mints

Creamy no-cook mints

Yield 7 dozen

  • 1 pkg light cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • 2 drop of green food coloring (or color of choice)
  • 4 1/4 – 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • super fine sugar
Place cream cheese, mint extract, and food color in mixer bowl. Mix about 30 seconds or until smooth. Continue mixing and add powdered sugar and mix about 1 1/2 minutes or until mixture becomes very stiff.
To make mints, shape into 3/4 inch balls, using tspful for each ball. Roll in superfine sugar. Place on waxed paper covered with superfine sugar. Flatten slightly with thumb to form 1/4 inch thick patties. Or press with back of fork lightly in patties to form ridges. Store mints tightly covered in fridge. Mints also freeze well.
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Another guest brought Monster Cookies … this recipes comes from allrecipes.com

Monster Cookies

    • 1 cup margarine, softened
    • 2 cups white sugar
    • 2 cups packed brown sugar
    • 3 cups peanut butter
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 4 teaspoons baking soda
    • 9 cups rolled oats
    • 1/2 pound candy-coated milk chocolate pieces
    • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, white sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs, two at a time, then stir in the corn syrup and vanilla. Mix in baking soda and oats until well blended. Stir in the chocolate candies and chocolate chips. Roll dough into 2 inch balls, and place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork.
    3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
    Who else enjoyed today’s party  …

    Chippy!!

    Hope you are all enjoying December and all of it’s holiday celebrations!


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Healthier Chinese takeout (Asian slaw & orange fried chicken)

Happy Sunday evening all! Sorry it’s been so long. The weeks have been filled with Christmas prep, some time away, and the rest of life that keeps us so busy 😉

I’ll preface this post by saying this dinner was fantastic…utterly enjoyed by all …but labor and time intensive. My warning is … Make sure another adult is watching the kids (while you slave in the kitchen) and steer clear of oil burns 😦 This is my first real attempt at “deep frying” …. I will have the scar to remember it!

Time wise this recipe took me a solid 1.5 hrs start to finish. An eternity in mommy land!

Asian slaw (pinned from http://www.onceuponachef.com) With a few changes
For the dressing, combine:
-1/4 cup honey
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1/4 unseasoned rice vinegar
-1 tbs soy sauce (gluten free)
-1 tsp sesame oil
-1 tbs peanut butter
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tbs minced ginger
-1 clove garlic,minced

In a large bowl, combine: 1 bag prepared coleslaw, 1 bag shredded carrots, 1 red pepper thinly sliced, 3 medium green onions thinly sliced at an angle.

Toss the dressing and veg. Enjoy cold!

Orange Chicken
Pinned from http://www.pink-parsley.com with a few changes

For the marinade & sauce combine all of the blew in a medium sauce pan and whisk to blend well.
-3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (gluten free)
-3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
-1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
-5tbs white vinegar
-1/4 cup soy sauce (gluten free)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-3 cloves garlic minced
-1 tbs fresh ginger,grated
-1 tbs cornstarch (gluten free)

Measure out 3/4 of the above mixture and put into a large ziplock with cut up chicken beasts ( we used two large breasts and it made for 4 plus a lot of leftovers). Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.

Start to heat the remaining sauce on the stove until it thickens, set aside.

To coat the chicken:
-have a shallow dish with 3 egg whites, whisk till they are frothy
– a second shallow dish with 1 cup of cornstarch, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
– heat Dutch over or large sauce pan with 3 cups of canola oil
-take 1/2 of the chicken pieces out of the ziplock and pat dry on a pepper towel. Then soak in the egg whites and coat in the cornstarch mixture. Shake off excess and carefully put into hot oil. Cook about 4 minutes each side. Take out onto paper towl.
-put cooked chicken into sauce mix on stove and coat.
-serve on rice

Super delicious and not as unhealthy as take out!

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Peanut butter & jelly cookies

Found this great (quick) cookie recipe on Pinterest. It’s from joythebaker.com
It’s a fantastic, simple, gluten free cookie recipe. The kids loved it and they are flying out of the Tupperware! Next time I need to experiment with less (gasp) white sugar … but this is how we made the, this time!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In mixer combine 1 cup all natural peanut butter, 1 cup sugar until well combined. Add 1 egg and 1 tsp baking soda and mix till combined again. Roll into tsp sized balls and make a small indent in the middle. Fill the ident with your favorite jam or fruit jelly. Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool.

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Beet & quinoa salad

After another fantastic visit to The Enjoy Centre in St.Albert…I was on a mission to recreate a beet and quinoa salad I had at lunch from the Prairie Bistro.

I googled a few and found a few ideas. I modified them a bit and came up with this.

1. Preheated the oven to 400 degrees. Diced 3 beets. Tossed them in olive oil, s & p. Roasted them in the oven for 30 minutes.

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2. While the beets were cooking I cooked 1 cup of quinoa.

3. To make the dressing I combined: 1 1/2 tbs of red wine vinegar, 1 tbs orange juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp olive oil and salt and pepper.

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4. Once the beets and quinoa were done I combined everything. I added about 3 handfuls of mixed spinach and arugula chopped up. Stirred it all together and popped it in the fridge (I like it cold, but it could be eaten warm).

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Turned out delish! Next time I’d add some lemon juice.
Looking forward to having it for lunch this week!
Two SUPER foods combined!

Hope you had a lovely weekend! We sure did 😉

Posted in Dinner, Gluten Free, Lunch, Salad, Side dishes | 1 Comment

Homemade peanut butter chocolate granola bars

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These were a hit! Pinned them from themarathonmom.com

Living on the couch checking out pinterest and found this EASY granola bar recipe. Literally took me 5 minutes! Love it 😉
They were a little too chocolatey for the kids. Next time I’d leave that out for them but it was perfect for me!

Here’s what I did:

1. Melt 1/4 cup of butter, 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, and 1/3 cup local honey in a pot over medium to low heat. Stir often. Take off burner when melted.
2. Pour in 1 cup of oats (GF if need). Stir until combined.
3. Pour in 1/2 cup shredded coconut and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Stir.
4. Pour into wax or foil lined 8×8 pan and stick in fridge.
5. Once cooled, cut bars the size you like.

Enjoy!

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BLT Chicken salad

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This was as delicious as it sounds! Pinned this from perrysplate.com

1. Roasted thin pieces of chicken strips in the oven. Lightly seasoned with olive oil, s & p, herbs. Or sauté.
2. Heated skillet and added 6 pieces of bacon sliced into 1/2 inch pieces. Once cooked poured onto paper towel to drain. Leave about 2 tbsp of bacon drippings in pan and throw in 1/2 of a red onion thinly sliced.
3. Add 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar to onion and cook 2-3 minutes, remove from heat.
4. Prepare mixed greens in bowel. Cut up the chicken and add. Cut up an avocado and throw in. Cut up cherry tomatoes and add. Add the bacon and pour the warm dressing over top.

Very good! Filling meal in itself! Great for lunches 😉

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