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Fun Friday: chocolate banana pudding pie

8 Feb

This was such a great treat and the single pudding recipe made two pies!

Last weekend was Superbowl Sunday. For the first time in a long time, we were not hosting and my husband was heading out to watch the game. We girls had lots of great foods to eat for the game but hadn’t really given dessert much thought. We’d had a super-busy day so I hadn’t even had a chance to think much about it.

That evening as the game was getting started and before any points had been scored, I sat and googled random things like “Dessert right now” and just “Dessert” to see what would come up. I figured I’d see something that would trigger an idea for me. Sure enough, something came up about a pudding pie, and that’s when I knew what I could do.

I had two ready-made, gluten-free graham cracker pie crusts that I’d bought and not used, I had three bananas that were on their way to the freezer if I didn’t use them soon, and I had all the ingredients to make our favorite homemade chocolate pudding. I polled the girls and we all agreed that this sounded like a great idea. It was early enough that the pie could chill for a bit while we ate and watched the game.

I am so glad that we gave this idea a try because this dessert was delicious!! My daughter Liz sliced the bananas and we split them so that we used 1 and 1/2 banana in each crust. The batch of pudding made exactly enough pudding to fill two pies and that gave us enough dessert for three nights.

I’d definitely make this dessert again. It reminded me of a layered graham cracker and pudding dessert my mom used to make us when we were younger, but with the addition of the bananas. Because it had a lot of time to chill, the dessert was even better the second night. You can definitely add a dollop of whipped cream to the top if you’d like, although none of us did. We liked it just the way it was.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Meal Inspiration: Where do you find yours?

16 Jan

This salad wasn’t even on our radar until I saw a similar one pictured in a magazine.

Do you ever find you’re stuck in a meal-planning rut? I know that I easily tire of planning “the same old thing” week after week, and we try to mix it up every two-week meal menu. Therefore, I’m always looking for inspiration for our menus. We love cooking, we love eating and we love trying new things all the time.

Recently, I was thumbing through an issue of the Gluten-Free Living Magazine that had come in over the vacation week or sometime in that mad rush of weeks and I came across an advertisement for their newsletter.

It wasn’t the idea of the newsletter that struck me, however, but more so the salad pictured on the page in front of me. We love a good salad at our house and often times we will schedule a grilled chicken Caesar salad or a taco salad as one of our meals. Recently though, we’ve been loving fresh spinach, so when I saw it pictured in the advertisement, I stopped and paid attention.

I quickly ripped this ad out of the magazine and started to plan our next meal.

I am definitely a person who is drawn to food photos and videos, and I get a lot of my inspiration in this way. I took a long look at the salad in the picture, checked out what was in it and then made a note at the top of the page of the ingredients and what else we could add to it to make it even better and more to our family’s liking. When I showed the page to my family four out of five of us thought it looked great, so we planned it for a night the fifth one of us was not going to be home.

The original ingredients were spinach, craisins, pomegranate seeds, crumbled cheese, quinoa, and nuts. To that list, I also added in grilled chicken and crumbled bacon. During our most recent shopping trip we bought it all and on Monday night we laid it all out in a make-your-own salad bar style.

Initially, we forgot to put the quinoa out, but when I pulled out the original magazine photo to compare pictures, I quickly realized it and we added it in after the photos had been taken.

The good thing about this meal besides the flavor and the fact that it’s a healthy choice is that it was fast and had a simple cleanup. The nuts were pre-crumbled, the chicken was Perdue Shortcuts, and the bacon was pre-cooked. Quinoa is easy to cook and I cooked it ahead of time that afternoon so it could chill. The hardest thing was cutting and seeding the pomegranate, and although I know that they come already done for you, the store we were at didn’t have them that way at the time we were there, so we grabbed a whole one and enjoyed figuring that process out. Otherwise, it was quick and easy. There were almost no leftovers and everyone had two bowls. For dressings, we put out a bottle of Panera Fuji Apple that my parents recently introduced us to and which is gluten and dairy free, and a Balsamic Vinaigrette which is also gluten and dairy free. I had the apple, but either would have been good.

This was a completely different salad than what we normally would’ve thought of on our own, and we all raved about it. We’d definitely make it again and it’ll be a staple in our menu cycles going forward. It looked pretty, tasted great and cleaned up well. All in all, a successful meal.

Spinach salad has quickly become a favorite of ours.

 

Fun Friday: Dairy-free cream cheese filling for crepes

11 Jan

This was a great new option for our crepe fillings!

TGIF! It’s Friday and it was our first full week back to school. For me personally, it wasn’t a bad week, but for the kids, it was exhausting to be full-on, back at it again after the break.

For today’s Fun Friday post, I thought I’d share a cream cheese filling that I made for our New Year’s Day brunch here at home. We don’t entertain guests that morning, but we generally do a very special breakfast just for our own little family to celebrate the new year. This year we opted to do crepes. We usually put out a variety of fillings including eggs/ham/cheese, bacon, berries, Nutella, peanut butter, bananas, and sometimes we’ll make a hot compote of apples and raisins. This year we also made a chocolate fondue on New Year’s Eve night while we waited for the ball to drop, so we were strategic when shopping for our dipping items for that treat so we’d have some fruits leftover for the next morning’s fillings.

This was a brand I’d already come to trust with a few other products, so that’s how I chose the cream cheese for my recipes.

When I made our Christmas cookies this year, I had one cookie I was particularly nervous about because it had a cream cheese filling and I had yet to try out a dairy-free option for cream cheese. When I bought my cookie-baking ingredients I had yet to do a “trial run” of these cookies, so I just purchased a cream cheese substitute that came from a brand whose products I already liked, and I crossed my fingers, hoping the filling would come out well, and it did. Everyone raved about these cookies, and I was just thrilled. And, relieved.

The cream cheese filling came out so well in fact, that I thought that I would try making a new filling for our crepes, since Nutella is not dairy-free and therefore, it eliminated one of the filling options for some of us.

I went back to the store and I picked up another package of the Daiya cream cheese spread, and I looked up a recipe online for a cream cheese filling for crepes. I assumed it would be pretty similar to the cookie filling, and it was. I found the recipe here, which included the recipe for the crepes themselves as well, and I used just the filling ingredients as my guide, not including berries, although I did have them ready to go:

For the Filling:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    When the time came, we had a lot of filling options for our crepes.

    That morning’s brunch was delicious, and I was so pleased with the filling. It worked out very well, and I’d definitely use it again. I am happy with the Daiya cream cheese substitute. They also have a flavored one that I would consider using in my recipes as well, which replaces a staple for one of our favorite chicken recipes over the years, and it’s a recipe I haven’t made in the past year or so.

    I hope you’ll give this cream cheese filling a try too. If you’re not in need of a cream cheese replacement, the recipe is one that ordinarily uses regular cream cheese, so you don’t need to do anything different.

    Have a wonderful weekend and I hope you too, have a Fun Friday!

    You can add a little whipped cream to the top of your crepes, dairy-free or not, and you’ll have quite the treat!

New year, new two-week menu, new recipes, new kitchen toys

9 Jan

One of many new recipes we’ve tried recently

Happy New Year!

It’s suddenly January.

The holidays have passed, the vacation week off of school is over, and we’re suddenly back at it. School and work are back to their regularly scheduled programming, with the exception of our college kid, who still has a couple more weeks of vacation.

The month of December was like Cookie Central on the blog, as it always is. It was Cookie Central in my kitchen too, and I was so pleased with the results. I had been apprehensive about trying some of our favorite recipes as both gluten and dairy free this year, but I have to say that all went well and the recipes went off without a hitch. I was able to pull them all off with the exception of just one. Next year I’ll be able to do them all, as I’ll have a year to solve this year’s minor issue.

One of two new kitchen toys we have been playing with since the holidays: an air fryer

Now that we’re done with cookies and my jobs are back to their normal pace for a couple of months, I’m looking forward to sharing some new dinner recipes on the blog. Even though I haven’t been sharing them, we’ve been trying them. We also have two new kitchen toys: an air fryer and a new Belgian Waffle maker. The waffle maker was done out of necessity when our old one broke during dinner prep one evening and the air fryer was a gift from my husband to me. I have wanted one since they’ve been all the hype over the past year.

As my New Year’s gift to you, today’s post will contain a Two Weeks of Meals list for you as well as the link to the new recipe we tried, which is pictured above for Creamy Steak Alfredo. We actually made two versions of the recipe at once, in order to accommodate allergies, which we don’t often do. I’ll explain that part later and show the second version then as well.

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS (Because of the holidays, this two weeks of meals is not a full two weeks. We had a couple of meals out, so I started with New Year’s day as our first day.)

Chicken and Waffles: This is a new recipe we made on New Year’s day. We fried the chicken in the air fryer and used the new waffle maker for the waffles. Our plan was to use our old waffle maker until it was broken when it came time for dinner. I will share our air fryer and waffle maker adventures in future posts.

Chourico and Peppers: This is a spicy Portuguese sausage recipe cooked in a tomato sauce with peppers. My husband’s recipe is similar to this recipe.

Zucchini Shrimp Scampi: This is a favorite recipe of ours and you can find it here.

Soup and sandwiches: We had this on a Friday night and had a homemade chicken and rice soup and grilled tuna and cheese sandwiches.

Steak and Chicken Fajitas: We use our cast iron skillet to make these and they’re delicious. We don’t use a specific recipe but they’re similar to this one. We also use a homemade fajita spice mix.

Meatloaf: I love this Weight Watchers recipe and I’ve been craving it. Now that we have had it, my craving has been satisfied for a while.

This was our allergy-friendly version of the new Alfredo pasta recipe also shown above. It was completely gluten and dairy free and she opted for no steak.

Creamy Steak Fettucini: I saw this recipe go by on my social media feed and emailed the link to myself so that we could try it. We actually used almond milk and bow tie pasta for our version above, but we had to make a smaller version that used dairy-free Parmesan cheese, almond milk, and gluten-free spaghetti. This recipe got a thumbs up from all five of us. It was very tasty and we’d most definitely make it again. We used fresh spinach and I did try putting a little bit of Balsamic Glaze on mine as was suggested in the recipe, and it was delicious.

Burritos: This is a quick and easy meal for us for a busy night.

Chicken Marsala: Another favorite meal of ours that can be served over pasta, over rice, or over mashed potatoes.

Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Casserole: I am going to be preparing this meal using a new dairy-free sauce recipe instead of cheese. I’ll keep you posted.

Hot Dogs, Hamburgers: This is a Friday night meal for us and not my favorite, so we’ve planned it for a night that I’ll be out.

Enjoy the rest of your week and be on the lookout for some new recipes I’ll be sharing soon!

Saving My Sanity Holiday Chex Mix

7 Dec
This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year.

This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year. I filled an entire laundry basket with gift bags, plus a Tupperware Cake Taker full of the mix itself.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 20, 2013:

I think we’d all agree that the holidays are much more enjoyable when you’re not totally and completely stressed out.

Agreed?

Agreed.

That being said, this school year, the holidays and the treat-giving season that goes along with them, had the potential to put me right over the edge. And really, as a working mom of three this time of year, that edge is awfully close most of the time anyway, so I really didn’t have far to be pushed.

Normally, I’m a cookie baker at Christmastime. Between my mom and I, we bake over a dozen different types of cookies, creating cookie trays for our family and friends.

As a mom of three, I have always given all of our kids’ teachers a cookie plate at Christmastime. I also have given one to the secretary, bus driver and bus monitor, teacher aides, principal and I make a tray for the faculty room. I also treat the staff at my husband’s school to a tray of cookies in the teachers’ room, and then I make them for our family as well.

It seemed doable when my oldest was first in school, and even when two were in school. It started to get a little tougher when all three were in school, as well as my husband at his own school, but I continued on.

Then last year came middle school.

SEVEN TEACHERS. A whole new set of office staff. A principal AND an assistant. TWO secretaries.

A lot of people will say, “Oh, in middle school that all ends. No gifts for those teachers anymore.”

I’m not sure where that theory came from, but I will say I used to BE a middle school teacher, and I love cookies, but more than that, I liked being thought of at this time of year just as much as when I was an elementary teacher.

My daughter didn’t want to stop our treat-giving tradition, and I couldn’t find a good reason why she had to. And she didn’t want to leave any of her teachers out. So we didn’t.

This year, my husband has a new job at a larger school.

With 90 staff members.

I knew something had to give. I was not going to be able to do it. There wasn’t any way that I could possibly make enough cookies for all of the teachers and staff in all three schools and my family, and keep my job. Or my sanity. I’d be baking all hours of the day and night for weeks to make that happen.

There had to be another answer.

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Enter The Tailgateista and her Homemade Crock Pot Apple Cinnamon Chex Mix.

That’s right. I said CROCK POT.

That was the answer to my problem, thanks to my Crock Pot partner in crime, Gina, who was also searching for another solution to the gift-giving issue. She’s the one who found this recipe and sent it to me.

We both decided to go with Chex Mix gifts this year, although we each chose a different mix to make, and today, as I type this three days before the last day of school before the vacation, I can honestly say that this saved my sanity.

My gifts are done. Cooked, cooled, bagged, tagged and ready to be handed out on Friday, the day you’ll be reading this.

And I still have my job and my sanity, thanks to this recipe from The Tailgateista.

I doubled her original recipe and made a few modifications to it, to serve my purposes. I will put her recipe and my modifications below.

I doubled the recipe SIX TIMES.

That’s right, six times. 72 cups of cereal, and the equivalent of 48 two-cup gift bags of Chex Mix.

And the best part of all? Not only is it a very cost-effective gift, but it cooks while you accomplish other tasks!!

For me, a journalist who works from home a good part of the week, I could type all day and my gifts were cooking themselves over in the crock pot behind me as I worked. Or, if I was working away from the house all day, I could throw in a batch at night to cook itself while we worked on homework and showers and cleaned up from dinner. Some days, I did both: a batch in the daytime if I was here, and a batch again in the evening or after school.

Phenomenal.

And delicious.

I’ll still be making Christmas Cookies this weekend, all our favorites, and I’ll still share them amongst our family and some close friends, but I won’t be cooking over the mixer and oven,rolling and frosting, baking and cooling late at night for a week in between working and parenting obligations, and still not  having enough cookies to go around.

We’ve found a way to thank our teachers and staff members for their time, talent and hard work without pushing me over the proverbial edge the week before Christmas.

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn't ever have enough!

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn’t ever have enough!

Below is the Tailgateista’s recipe and my modifications follow below it.

Give it a try, it’s delicious! Maybe this Chex Mix will be the key to saving your sanity too!

Ingredients

6 Cups Chex Corn Cereal
1/4 Stick Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Cup Chopped Dried Apples

***You can also add Pecans, M&M’s, any other candy,dried fruit or nuts!!

Instructions

* In a microwave combine all spices, sugar and butter until it is melted.
* Add the Dry ingredients (cereal, apples) into crock-pot
* Add all melted ingredients into the crock-pot and mix
* Cook in crock-pot on low for 3 hours
* Enjoy!

I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.

I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.

MY MODIFICATIONS

1) I doubled this recipe each time, since my crock pot is large enough to hold a double recipe.  ***2014: Another sanity-saving tip I have added in this year is using the plastic bag liners for the crock pot for every batch. The brand I used is an Aldi’s brand, Boulder, and they’ve been amazing. I would not make this again without using the bags.***

2) I substituted the Dulche le Leche flavored Cheerios for one cup of the Chex, (so two cups of Cheerios for a double recipe and ten cups of Chex.)  ***2014: Substituted Frosted Cheerios instead of Dulche le Leche.***

3) The butter should read 1/4 cup for a single recipe, in my opinion, not stick. I used 1 stick per double recipe.

4) I opted not to use the apples, because the first time I did a trial run, they burned.

5) I did not stir the Chex Mix in my trial run, which may be the reason why the apples burned. In every subsequent time however, I stirred the Chex Mix every 45-60 minutes while it cooked for the 3 hrs.

6) For my mix-ins, I used 1/2 bag of mini marshmallows, 1/2 bag of red and green mini M&Ms, and one full bag of white yogurt covered raisins, per double recipe.

7) Each double recipe with my mix-ins filled eight gift bags. For my husband’s school, I filled  a large Tupperware Cake Taker, normally used to carry layer cakes, with an entire double recipe, just for his faculty room. I sent in small plastic drinking cups for them to eat it out of.

Although cost is not always the deciding factor in gift-giving, it’s certainly taken into account. I think most everyone sticks to a budget when shopping for gifts. With each of the six double recipes yielding 8 two-cup bags of mix, and my ingredients costing a total of $40.68 for all six batches (I used coupons for the M&Ms and the cereals), these 48 gifts cost me $.85 per bag to make. I spent just under $2.00 on two packs of 20 gift baggies to put them in. Even still, that cost me less than $1 per gift.

Over 100 people will be enjoying my Sanity Saving Chex Mix this weekend, and I was able to accomplish it relatively stress-free and budget-consciously.

Have a great Christmas everyone!!

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

3 Oct

Tis’ the season!

As they say… Happy Fall Y’all!

It’s fall in New England and that means two things: apples and pumpkins. We’ve been doing the apple thing in September, saving the pumpkins for October. Therefore, today’s post will be all apple, all day long.

It’s been a while since I posted a two-week menu, so I thought I’d do that today as well as share a new recipe that we tried and liked, apple-related, of course.

Where I have them, I have included the links to the recipes I have shared before so that hopefully makes it easier for you.

When you come home with so many apples, it’s time to get cooking.

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

Sunday: Shepherd’s Pie (Although we’ve been having this for years with the recipe I’ve linked here, we now make it a new way, courtesy of a trip last spring to visit my mother in-law, MaryLou. Our meat now contains both creamed corn and cut green beans and has tomato sauce mixed in. We also took the cheese out of the mashed potatoes on top, since we can’t all eat it. This new recipe is a little bit healthier and it combines the recipes of both our mothers. It has been a hit with our whole family.)

Monday: Tacos

If you’ve never made homemade applesauce, it’s so delicious and makes your house smell wonderful.

Tuesday: Pork tenderloin (pre-marinated in the package), homemade applesauce

Wednesday: Marinated steaks

Thursday: BBQ Ribs (prepackaged, pre-bbq’d, just cook and eat)

Friday: Cast iron skillet fajitas- both chicken and steak (homemade fajita seasoning recipe from Allrecipes.com)

This was a delicious new way to have kielbasa and very fall-ish. Thanks to A Spicy Perspective for the recipe!

Saturday: Light apple onion kielbasa skillet from A Spicy Perspective

Sunday: Eggplant Parmesan

Monday: Cranberry Chicken

Tuesday: Hot Dogs/Hamburgers

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie (sometimes homemade using this recipe, but this time not and we have one that is a separate gluten free, dairy free pie which we buy pre-made and pre-frozen at our local bakery.)

Thursday: Homemade Pizzas

Friday: Chicken/Broccoli/Pasta

A great new meal to add to our fall menu!

 

 

 

Fun Friday: Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding (dairy and gluten-free)

21 Sep

We’ve been working with some new ingredients most recently, but we’re still turning out some delicious meals and desserts!

Since the spring, we’ve been working with a new set of dietary restrictions, adding in dairy-free to the gluten-free mix. Although it’s been a bit of a challenge (understatement), it’s been an education and it’s been a success overall. We’ve found many good substitutions for the ingredients we used to use, and we’ve been experimenting for many months now and we have found that it’s still very do-able to bake and cook great recipes.

During the summertime, my oldest daughter was having a craving for bread pudding. We had an amazing bread pudding dessert in 2015 at the Grand Canyon that hadn’t been beat in the years since. I have a great cookbook, called “Gluten-Free Bible” which had two different bread pudding recipes in it, and she decided to give one of them a try. We had all of the ingredients for it and when I list the original recipe, I will list our substitutions, but you can see them here in the picture as well.

The funny thing about this particular recipe is that we originally started out thinking it was going to be dessert, but ended up making it for our breakfast because we broke one of the golden rules of recipes and didn’t read it all the way through before starting. Partway through our preparations we got to the “refrigerate for two hours” part and suddenly we were looking at bread pudding for breakfast. I was able to justify this because I felt that the recipe wasn’t much different than an overnight baked french toast recipe. We weren’t eating it every day of the week, so just this once (and the next day with leftovers) it would be just fine for breakfast.

Caroline had been craving a good bread pudding since the Grand Canyon in 2015.

This recipe was quick, easy and delicious, and those are three things we love in a recipe. Other than the prep of the apples and the bread, neither of which took very long, the rest was super-easy, and we definitely would make this recipe again. We used whipped cream on top (both the dairy and the non-dairy kinds) and it was a really fun dessert for breakfast meal.

Here is the recipe as written in my “Gluten-Free Bible” cookbook.

OLD FASHIONED BREAD PUDDING
Makes 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS

10 slices gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (We used Rudy’s bread.)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted (We used Earth’s Balance sticks, vegan)
2 cups whole milk (We used unsweetend almond milk)
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
(We almost added dairy-free chocolate chips to this recipe, but we were ultimately glad we didn’t as it would’ve been more of a stretch to call that a breakfast item once we added chocolate into the mix.)

Lesson learned (again and again): always read the recipe all the way through first.

DIRECTIONS

1: Grease 9-inch baking dish.

2: Combine bread cubes and butter in prepared baking dish; toss to coat.

3: Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in medium bowl. Stir in raisins and dried apples. Pour over bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours.

4: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Bake 50-55 minutes or until golden brown and center is set. Let stand ten minutes before serving.

The whipped cream that we buy which is dairy-free is the Reddi-Wip almond cream, but they also sell a coconut cream for those who can’t do almond. I’ve found it at our local Stop and Shop and at our PriceRite.

This was a very, very close second to the bread pudding which we had at the Grand Canyon in 2015. I think that part of that dessert experience was the Grand Canyon itself, and part of it was that it was topped in hot caramel topping, whereas ours was not (but could be!) I was also happy that our daughter who doesn’t like raisins, and hence hadn’t eaten this bread up to this point in time, ended up liking them in the bread pudding recipe. I felt like we’d managed to hide an extra serving of fruit in this meal, the way I used to do when they were all little. I don’t know if it matters that I was hiding it in a dessert. She ate raisins. Mission accomplished.

If you’re looking for a great recipe for fall that is easy, gluten and dairy-free, good for breakfast or dessert, and rivals that which is served at the Grand Canyon, I recommend you give this one a try.

This was so delicious, and great for any time of day or night!