Fun Friday: One-bowl brownies from Gluten-Free Living

6 Oct

Since finding this recipe at the end of the summer, we have made it at least four or five times.

Recently, I mentioned that when we cleaned out our kitchen to be redone, I had a huge pile of recipes and cookbooks to go through once we were ready to reload. In that pile was also a small pile of Gluten-Free Living magazines that I had put aside as they came in every other month, hoping for a day to go through them with my daughter.

At some point near the middle of August we found a day and we went through and pulled out any recipes we wanted to try, and recycled the rest of the magazines. Today’s recipe is one of the ones we pulled out to try. It’s from the newest issue, the September/October 2017 magazine that had just come in August. It is for a one-bowl recipe for brownies. I love anything that has very little cleanup, so one bowl appeals to me. I also love my new glass mixing bowl that I got in the springtime when my old plastic bowl broke, so I looked forward to the chance to use it as our one bowl.

This recipe was so easy that my daughter, who is 12, could make the whole thing by herself, with very little direction or help from me, other than some clarifying details. Additionally, I always enjoy a good teachable moment in the kitchen, and I loved showing her how the brownie batter doesn’t start out dark, but becomes so when you add in the unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s a simple thing, but when we make them out of a box, they start out chocolatey, so it was unusual for her to see the transition from a plain batter to a chocolate batter.

Like magic, it becomes chocolatey.

 

I’ll never not use parchment paper again.

In the months since we made this recipe for the first time, we have used it at least four or five more times, and we have doubled it depending on how many we were baking for. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s delicious. More importantly, people say that it doesn’t taste gluten-free. The brownies are thick and fudgy, just as brownies should be.

We started a new baking habit with this recipe and actually followed the directions for lining the bowl with parchment paper, which we sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. I always skipped doing this in the past, just spraying my baking dish, but my daughter wanted to use the paper, and we had it, and we’ll never go back to not using it again. The cleanup is super easy and the brownies can be lifted out, cooled and cut right on the paper.

Here is the recipe, I hope you’ll give it a try!

One-Bowl Brownies
from Gluten-Free Living magazine

Makes 12 brownies

Ingredients

non-stick cooking spray

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend (they recommended Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour, which we use as well.)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing the edges to hang over the side. This makes removal easy. Spray the foil or parchment paper lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together butter and granulated sugar until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir batter until smooth.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the center of the pan should come out with a few damp crumbs clinging to it.

Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack, about two hours.

Lift the brownies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares.

Advertisements

Monday Musings: The story of our Little Free Library

2 Oct

It took us a couple of years, but we were finally able to open our Little Free Library yesterday!

Yesterday, October 1, 2017, we officially opened our very own Little Free Library. It was a project two years in the making and it means a great deal to us. Inside our library I have placed a binder which tells the history of our library along with some photos of the process from 2015 to now. I thought I’d share it here as well, for those who are not local and can’t just take a drive by to check it out in person.

In 2013, a friend gave us an article about a local Little Free Library from the Providence Journal. You can read that article here.

“If anyone would want to do this, it would be you and your family,” they said.

That following winter, we were in Providence with my brother for brunch, and we went looking for the Little Free Library we’d read about in the article, and found it.

We went exploring and found the Little Free Library from the article.

We decided that we too, wanted to have a Little Free Library. We began considering what sort of material to use for ours, but it seemed a bit beyond us, and buying a ready-made one was cost prohibitive for us.

 

 

 

 

 

In the summer of 2015, Chloe Rigg contacted me to do a story for the Cranston Herald about the Little Free Library she and her husband Jim had opened at their home in Cranston. You can read that story here.

I loved visiting with Jim and Chloe Rigg and learning about their Little Free Library. I even found a cookbook inside, that I still have today.

When I told Jim and Chloe Rigg that our family had really wanted to do a Little Free Library too, he offered to help us. He’d use his leftover scraps to create a kit for us. The girls and I could come to their house one Sunday and make it with him, step by step. He had the girls send him some design ideas for our library. A treehouse design, incorporating a fairy garden was soon in the works.

On September 20, 2015, we spent the day at the Rigg house, creating our library together with Jim.

Jim Rigg spent the entire day with us in his garage, walking us through every step of building our library and explaining what we were doing and why.

It was our intention to put it up the following spring, but it was that spring that we ended up unexpectedly having to start our kitchen renovations, and it delayed our ability to get the library up and finished. This summer, we finished up the bulk of the kitchen work and in September we were able to change our focus back to finishing up the Little Free Library project.

Now, exactly two years later, almost to the day, we are ready to open our Little Free Library.

Sadly, Jim Rigg passed away unexpectedly, just four months after we spent the day with him. We were devastated to receive that news, and we attended his memorial service that January of 2016.

We have dedicated our Little Free Library to Jim and his memory. Without him, it would not be possible and we know he would be so proud to see it open for business now.

We were incredibly sad to hear that Jim Rigg had passed away soon after our day spent together. We will think of him every day as we run our own Little Free Library. We made a plaque for ours, to honor him and the dedication he showed us out of the goodness of his heart.

We are forever grateful for Jim’s time and dedication and for the impact he has had on us and our memories from the making of our own Little Free Library and we can’t wait to see what stories we will have to share from this new endeavor.

    20150920_133840

A Cave Tools product review

29 Sep

This fish basket keeps the fish off of the grill itself, and is dishwasher safe.

I love grilled salmon. I love it plain, but I love it even more when it is smothered in pesto sauce. This past week, we chose to have grilled salmon with pesto sauce for dinner one night and I had the chance to try out the latest Cave Tools product that I had been given to review.

The basket is made of stainless steel and comes in two sizes, large and small. Here, we have the small and we were able to fit four salmon steaks inside of it. We found that thicker fish works better than a something like a piece of flounder would work because the thicker fish holds itself together better.

Our fish cooked well in the fish basket, and we recommend using a non-stick spray to help keep anything from sticking to the basket itself. However, should you have anything stuck to your basket, it’s easy to just put it right into the dishwasher and it all comes off.

One of our favorite ways to eat salmon, this time using the Cave Tools small fish basket.

The Cave Tools small fish basket is easy to store, given its compact shape and size and fits right into a cabinet or inside the bottom drawer of a stove when not in use. Its small size also allows for other things to be cooked on your grill at the same time, which was helpful to us since not everyone likes salmon as much as we do at our house! By keeping things separate on our grill, my husband and I could have salmon while the kids could enjoy hot dogs.

Although we have not tried it ourselves, I have also read that grilling vegetables is made easier in the fish basket and I’d like to give that a try. Sometimes grilling things such as asparagus can be tricky on a grill, given the wider spaces between slats. This might just be exactly what we needed to solve that problem.

Our salmon came out great and we enjoyed our meal very much. If you’re looking for the Cave Tools small fish basket, you can find it here on their website or on Amazon as well. If you choose to purchase directly from the Cave Tools site, you can use the coupon code FISH15 to receive a 15% discount.

Of course, all Cave Tools products come with a lifetime warranty in case you’re not happy with your purchase. There is also a free downloadable BBQ recipe guide included with your purchase.

**I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review of this product. Although I was compensated for the review with the free product, all thoughts, opinions and statements are my own.**

 

 

 

What’s for dinner Wednesday: two weeks of meals and a new kitchen toy

27 Sep

It seemed as if everyone was getting one of these for Christmas last year. I watched, and I waited, and then I bargain-shopped.

Happy Wednesday! Since it’s been a while since I gave you a two week menu, I thought I owed you a really good post when I shared one this time around. To that end, I have the two week menu, some new recipes to go along with it, and our experiences with a new kitchen toy.

It’s been a while since we got a new”toy” to add to our collection of small kitchen appliances, but around Christmastime last year, I started seeing this new Instant Pot appliance floating around blog posts and status updates, and my interest was definitely piqued. When I looked it up, the appliance was a bit costly, and with our impending kitchen renovations, not a priority at the time.

However, it’s a new school year, we have the usual “stuff” each night and/or after school, and yet we still try to eat as healthy as we can, at home, as often as we can, together. This Instant Pot seemed to really be calling my name, in that it seemed it might be able to help us continue to achieve those goals.

I finally bit the bullet, as they say, and on the advice of my friend Kim, I used a Kohl’s coupon code to get one for 30% off, on sale, with Kohl’s Cash (and earning Kohl’s cash with the purchase too) and I scored the Instant Pot for $75 (no shipping, including tax). I picked it up in the store, carried it home, and then I wondered what exactly to do with it. It reminded me of when they send you home with a new baby: it’s very intimidating, it makes some crazy noises, and you’re not quite sure if you know what to do if something goes wrong, or how to know if you’re doing everything right. For such a tiny appliance, it’s got a big intimidation factor, just like a new baby.

Ratitouille was a request from our oldest daughter as a new recipe to try. She cited the fact that we like all the veggies that come in it, so why not try it?

We let it sit there for almost a week, and then as the following weekend approached, we broke it out and did just what you’re not supposed to do: we used it (or attempted to) without reading the directions. We were also making a new recipe for Ratitouille, which is something we’d never made before with any recipe, never mind a recipe for use with a new appliance. New recipe, new appliance, no directions. Well played. Dinner took over an hour to make because we had no idea what we were doing, but it was delicious and although we were still a bit wary, we were thinking we liked this new toy. If we knew what we were doing, we’d like it even more.

These potatoes were so fast, so easy and I used them a total of three different times, for pork, for leftover salmon, and for a potato and egg omelet.

In the meantime, two of my friends, Gina and Marcia, also bought an Instant Pot the same week I did, and we all took our new “babies” home within days of each other and a texting thread emerged, sharing recipes, tips, new “parent” fears and more.  There were some successes in that thread, and we began to try each other’s recipes the following week. I chose to make Gina’s potatoes to go along with our grilled pork tenderloin one night and Marcia inspired me to try out a Mac and Cheese recipe another night.

During our trial week, the kids would come home each night from wherever, and joke that we were at it again, making something in the Instant Pot, moving it around to the best location in the kitchen, and they’d shake their heads, but they enjoyed each and every meal we made with it, and I joked that by using it every day, we didn’t need to find a place to store it. (I wasn’t really joking.)

On Sunday, a few days into our Instapot cooking adventures, we tried something new. We took a recipe we’d made before, nicknamed “Liz’s soup” because she requested it last year and I copied the recipe off a video and I have no idea where it came from originally. It was a crockpot recipe last year, but we didn’t have enough time to devote to using the crockpot this time around. Instead we found a recipe that was similar, had the same sorts of ingredients more or less, but used the Instant Pot to cook it. We adapted our recipe for Liz’s soup to that recipe for chicken stew, and presto….we had a delicious soup in a short amount of time. Each time we cooked, we seemed to have more of an idea of what we were doing, and in the meantime, with three of us friends trying out recipes every night, we had triple the ideas and solutions to any problems.

And so, today I share with you our two week menu, some new recipe links to go along with the menu items, and my encouragement for you to try out your Instant Pot too, if you haven’t yet, and if you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon, maybe this will be helpful to you in your own decision-making and bargain-shopping process.

Growing up, I’d only had Ratitouille at my friend Jen’s house. Her mom made it often. I channeled my memories of them as we ate this delicious meal over rice and chicken.

Two Weeks of Meals

WEEK ONE: In the days before the Instant Pot

Monday: Pastene Soup recipe here (Today I brought the Instant Pot home!)

Tuesday: Meatloaf Burgers recipe here

Wednesday: Paninis recipe here

Thursday: The Instant Pot is Opened:
Ratitouille recipe here 

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Grilled salmon with pesto (be watching for a post about this meal in the coming days!

WEEK TWO:

This soup is delicious and makes the house smell wonderful!

Sunday: Liz’s soup, adapted using this recipe

Monday: Grilled pork tenderloin, frozen homemade applesauce from the last time we grilled pork, and these Instant Pot potatoes.

Tuesday: Leftovers again!

Wednesday: Six Sisters Macaroni and Cheese (I am making this recipe tonight, but sharing it now. Gina and Marcia have made it already, and I love the Six Sisters’ recipes any time I try them!)

Thursday: Burritos and Quesadillas

Friday: We are leaving our new “baby” home and going out to dinner, we’ve definitely earned a night out tonight!

Liz’s Soup is amazing, especially if you top it with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese and use some crunchy tortilla chips on the side!

 

If I still used refrigerator magnets…

18 Sep

Even though I wasn’t busy blogging, I was still busy writing for you!

Which I don’t, because they would scratch my new refrigerator, but if I did…I’d want to post some of my latest work with the Cranston Herald and with the Providence Journal.

Although wasn’t active on this blog all summer, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t writing and eating, and eating and writing, because I definitely was!

In addition to writing about eating and eating so I can write about it, I was also preparing for the school year ahead, which will be our first senior year. Of course that means that not only was I preparing for it, I was also writing about it. I also chose to write about other experiences that people have had with their senior years as well as people who have a little more experience and could share their advice with the rest of us.

So today I have many things to share with you.

First off: I had two great dining experiences at Milestone Kitchen & Bar here in Cranston, and I wrote about them in the Providence Journal here. If you are looking for an affordable dining spot with a varied menu for all taste buds, I highly recommend you give Milestone a try. You can check out their website here.

Eating, and writing about eating!

Next up: I had the pleasure of interviewing Murray and Deby Kaplan who own Rainbow Bakery, a Jewish Bakery here in Cranston. I learned about Murray’s grandfather and the bakery he started 100 years ago this year, and all that Murray and his family have done to keep his family’s baking legacy alive. I also sampled many delicious pastries! I loved meeting the Kaplans and telling their story. You can read it here. To see what they’re offering for the upcoming High Holidays, check out their Facebook Page here.

And I thought college times one was a big deal…

And finally: I have done a series of three (so far) Cranston Herald articles about high school seniors/college freshman and the experience of that journey for parents and kids alike. The first article is about sending not one, not two, but three high school seniors to college at the same time! I have known these triplets since they were three, when my oldest daughter went to preschool with them, and now in the blink of an eye, they are off to college. You can read about their senior year and summer preparations here. You can read about our own preparations as we head into our first senior year with our daughter here. And, just so we all know that it does get easier from there, you can read some perspective from other parents who have done this before, in the latest article, here. Let’s hope they’re right!

I made several trips to Rainbow Bakery this summer and fall!

They say it does get better…

 

 

 

Are we back in the swing of things? I think we are!

12 Sep

Back to delicious fall meals on our menu!

Happy fall y’all!

Technically, it’s not quite fall yet, and it’s actually still warm out. But, meal-wise, we’re all in. It’s fall on our menu here at home.

After a pretty lengthy absence here on the blog, I am back at it. Our kitchen is fully functional, although not completely finished (and won’t be for a while) and our kids are back to school- week two, so my schedule is much more normal and structured, our meals are back to normal, and I’m ready to share some great new things with you.

Today’s photo does not do my new recipe any justice at all, but I didn’t realize it until I looked at the picture later on, that I must’ve taken it after we’d eaten all of the broccoli, and there was barely any left on my plate when I snapped the photo that night. (I guess I still wasn’t 100% back in the game at that point last week!)

So you must take my word for it, our word for it. This recipe was simple and amazingly good; a great way to dress up a simple vegetable. Everyone in my family raved about it, and to be honest, it wasn’t even the recipe I started out looking to make. I stumbled on it completely by accident.

Just a few recipes I’d put aside to go through “some day.”

When we first emptied our kitchen, I had a whole big, long countertop of cookbooks to store until I found them a new home. On top of that big pile was a big pile of torn out, pulled out, printed out recipes I’d stuck on top of the pile to go through at some point.

During the summer, after the kitchen work had ended, I found my cookbooks a new home on a couple of closet shelves, but I couldn’t avoid the obvious: I had to go through the pile.

In doing so, I found many new recipes I’d been meaning to try and a whole year’s worth of Gluten Free Living magazines to go through. Some my daughter and I had already tabbed the recipes we wanted to try, and some still needed to be tabbed. Then I needed to pull those recipes out and put all my single recipes into a folder to store on the shelf.

A couple of weeks later, I was looking for a smashed broccoli recipe from Whole Foods that I’d tried a couple of years ago, and I went to my folder and pulled it out. Turns out though, although it was on the same paper as the one I’d gone in for, this broccoli recipe wasn’t the same one. Instead, it was for a Broccoli Parmesan side dish. It looked good though, easy and it looked like something everyone would like so instead of hunting around for the other recipe, I tried this one out. It said right on it that we’d tried it before, but I had no memory of it.

Everyone loved it. They all thought for sure I’d never made it before and all requested that I make it again. Being such a simple recipe, I told them I definitely could do a repeat performance, even if this might have been a repeat already.

So, although you can’t quite get a good look at it here, since we’d eaten most of it by the time I took the photo, you can get the general idea, and then when you make it, you can get the full picture.

Here is the recipe, thanks to our local Whole Foods.

Garlic Parmesan Broccoli

Ingredients

1/2 Broccoli

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Instructions

Cook broccoli to your preference. Add oil to saucepan.

Add broccoli, minced garlic and Parmesan cheese. Cook until broccoli is coated.

Enjoy!

 

Missing in action, but for good reasons!

4 Aug

We spent two weeks camping at the beginning of the summer, and enjoying sunsets like this one every night.

Hello and happy August!

Yes, I know it’s August.

And yes, I know I haven’t posted a blog post in a very long time, and I am here to say that although I have been MIA for a while, it’s been for good reasons and that we are all well!

When school ended at the end of June, we had one week and then we were very lucky to head almost immediately into two weeks of vacation for the first two weeks of July. We took the camper to a state campground right here in our very own state for a much-needed Staycation. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, nor could the location. We had an amazing time enjoying each other, our friends and the treasure that is our home state. So often we feel the need to go away to get away, and although we technically did go away, it was only about a half hour away, but yet we felt as if we were away-away.

We spent two very relaxing weeks reading, resting and getting our energy back from a busy school year, but also getting ourselves ready for a huge kitchen renovation project ahead.

In the meantime, we were getting ourselves ready for a huge project that we’d be in the thick of once we were home from our two weeks. We were going to be finishing up a kitchen renovation project that we started, somewhat unexpectedly, last February 2016.

Our old kitchen was out-dated and in need of pretty much everything.

As a family who does a whole lot of cooking, we have always been frustrated that we had a pretty small, closed in, cramped and out-dated kitchen. In February 2016 we were given a generous gift: all new appliances. We were so excited when they arrived, and we could not wait to use them all. Our old dishwasher hadn’t worked in a couple of years, our old fridge no longer made ice or dispensed water on the door, and our old stove didn’t cook things properly or consistently.

When the delivery guy from the store brought in our new appliances, he commented that the layout of our kitchen, with the stove and fridge so close together, was odd and not usually recommended. The layout had always been this way since the house was built in 1976, and we really had no other options than the way it was, so he put the new ones just as the old ones had been.

What could possibly happen?

What could possibly go wrong?

Within weeks, our new stove was melting the side of our new fridge.

Panic set in as we realized we had to quickly fix the situation. We opted to do a partial renovation of our kitchen last year in order to remedy the problem as best we could at the time. So last April we ripped out one set of cabinets and counter tops and ripped out five layers of flooring in order to move our fridge into a new spot. It meant getting a new tile floor (which we also needed badly) and putting up some new wall covering, and painting. Once we did all of that, we put in some temporary cabinets and a temporary counter top where the fridge used to be and then stopped where we were and took more than a year “off” to regroup, save some money and ready ourselves for the rest of the project.

This always-cluttered back counter and cabinet space would soon be a new home for our new fridge.

This summer our focus was taking down a wall to knee wall height in order to open up our kitchen and dining area a bit, and replacing all of the rest of the kitchen cabinets and counter tops.

We took out a wall to open up our space significantly.

In order to keep costs down, we did all of the demolition ourselves and assembled our kitchen cabinets ourselves too, rather than having our contractor or the cabinet store do any of it for us. I use the words “we” and “us” quite liberally, since I wasn’t the one actually doing a lot of the manual labor. I did my part, emptying and later re-loading the kitchen, and helped with demolition and assembly in any way I could. Even the kids helped out with demolition, happy to put a hammer to a wall and put a hole through it with permission.

As I type this post, we are about 3/4 of the way done. Our demolition was started before we went camping and finished when we returned, and our contractor arrived the very next week to do the work we couldn’t do on our own. That one week was a bit chaotic, although not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be.

Our kitchen was a mix of old and new for more than a year before we continued with our renovation project this summer, knocking down a wall and taking out the rest of the old cabinets.

Now, we are down to waiting for our new counter tops and sink to arrive so that we can stop doing dishes in our bathroom sink and tub.

We still have a lot to do, and I am sure we will be finishing up this project for quite a while, with a tile backsplash still to go in and touch up painting still to be done on the walls and ceiling, but it’ll be more complete than it’s been in a long time, and for that, I am thankful.

Below are some photos of where we are at right now as we are awaiting the arrival of our granite counters and our kitchen sink this weekend.

I will end my post with a promise that I will eventually post again soon, but it may be a little while longer until I do. At least for now, while you wait, you know what I’m doing instead!

A new home for the refrigerator solved our melting problem.

Looking in from the dining room, which we can do now that the wall is gone.

 

 

 

We can hardly remember what it looked like when the wall was there.