3 years later?

Okay, okay… so a lot has happened since the last time I updated my blog. And for the record, it hasn’t been quite three years (phew – yay me).

  1.  Since the last time I blogged, I have (quite literally) changed professions 3 times!  Insurance Agent, Photographer (both professional and the launch of my own company) and now… drum roll please… Travel Adviser!   Wanna know what the secret life of a Travel Adviser?  I am now your go to girl.  And after a massive snowstorm, boy am I ever ready to feel some sun and sand between my toes. But more on that later.  We’ll take baby steps together until we catch up!
  2. I’ve moved only 2 times but have a 3rd one on the horizon 😉  I am now writing to you from the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.02242015 snow day5
  3. And lastly I was featured on blogher.  Here’s the badge to prove it! 🙂 2016 is already such an awesome year!

 

#GlutenFree Chicken Marsala

Image

I love Marsala.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Steak Marsala or Chicken Marsala … I love them both.  Until last night, I never knew how ridiculously easy it was to make it.  It even rivaled Carraba’s at a fraction of the cost.  Go check it out for yourself over at http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/speedy-chicken-marsala.  You won’t be sorry and save it for your next dinner party.  It’s that good.  Oh!  And if you are #glutenfree like me, substitute  brown rice flour for wheat flour.  Bon Appetit!

Who Needs Panda Express Chicken Anyway? Sticky Chicken

stickychickenplatter

So once again, here I am already apologizing in the wee hours of the morning.

 

As promised, here is the Thing 1’s beloved favorite new recipe, “Who Needs Panda Express Chicken Anyway? Sticky Chicken” (Do you think Thing 1 has a future in marketing? *grin*)

The original recipe comes courtesy to us from Farm Girl Gourmet.  The Farm Girl Gourmet, btw, is a very talent food blogger and comes highly recommended.  Check out her site if you get a chance, you won’t be disappointed. As previously mentioned, I am a rule breaker and cook much like MacGyver at times.  For those old enough to understand that TV reference, I apologize profusely and for those too young.. he was the coolest guy evah.

Moving right along 😉

Ingredients

1/2 cup local honey (My honey came from the great state of North Carolina! Go Tar Heels!  But I’m sure any honey would do just fine.  I would strongly recommend, however, to use a golden thicker, honey versus the kind you find in a plastic honey bear found in your “local grocery store”

1/2 cup light brown sugar (we tend to have a “sweet tooth” in our house, so we added between another 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce (Because we are a gluten free home, we used tamari sauce.  I cannot stress how much better tamari tastes so much better than soy sauce.)

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger

2 teaspoons sriracha (or other hot pepper sauce)  (sriracha all the way, baby!)

black pepper

10 chicken drumsticks, skin removed and discarded (Unfortunately, my local grocery store did not sell drumsticks unskinned so I had to rely on kitchen shears to do the job. Yuck! Do yourself a favor and pay the extra $ and buy them skinned if available)

cilantro (These last two ingredients I did not use only because Thing 1 and Thing 2 were home and can be picky eaters at times.  This would be a great addition to the meal I am sure)

toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

In a sauce pan add the honey, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sriracha and season to taste with black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugars have dissolved and the sauce is beginning to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
In the bowl of a slow cooker, add the skinned chicken drumsticks and pour the sauce over. Move the chicken around a bit with tongs to coat completely. Put the lid on and cook on high for 4 hours, flipping chicken a couple of times during the cooking process. Just before serving, sprinkle with torn cilantro leaves and sesame seeds.
Serve with steamed white rice and your favorite veggie and devour!

Source Link:  Farm Girl Gourmet

My Notes:  The biggest “trick” to this recipe is to remember two things.   (1) When preparing the Sticky Sauce, you will need to boil it down to the “candy apple stage”. (2)   Slow cookers do not cook down liquids.

So what the heck does this exactly mean?  Stay with me and hopefully this will make sense.  *Fingers crossed*.   It is very important to boil the sauce down the “candy stage” and to let it cool for at least a couple of minutes before dipping the chicken into the sauce.  If you do not get the consistency of the sauce thick enough, it won’t adhere to the chicken.  It’s just that simple folks.  You can’t rush it.

Regarding the  slow cookers do not cook down liquids comment.  A word of warning:  you will be very disappointed when you take the chicken out of the slow cooker because it will not look the chicken in these pictures.

image

As the chicken is cooking in the original sauce, moisture is added into the slow cooker and the original glaze remains in the bottom of the pot.  To achieve the “sticky” back in the “sticky chicken”, about 15 minutes before the chicken was about to finished cooking, I threw together another batch of the sauce on the stove.  Once the chicken had completely cooked, I removed the chicken with kitchen tongs, gave it a couple of swirls in the new sauce and voila beautiful sticky chicken.  I know what you are thinking… that sounds like a awful lot of work.  But pinkie swear, that whole platter took me less than 5 minutes and achieved me Rock Star status for at least 24 hours in Thing 1’s world even over his beloved Mindcraft.  Enough said.

My Top 10 Reasons Why I Haven’t Updated My Blog

Just in case you are wondering where the heck I’ve been… because I just know you’ve been losing sleep each night and we just can’t have that can we?

image

10.  Sticky Chicken.  The very last recipe I was making before my world became turned upside down.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is one sticky but delicious mess.  Being the procrastinator that I can be at times, I am still trying to rework the instructions to ensure success before posting the recipe on my blog.  This recipe is actually prepared mostly in the crock-pot but there is definitely a science to it.  When the Test Panel tried it, they declared it an immediate winner!

image

My Test Panel, consisted of Thing 1 (soon to be age 16) and Thing 2 (soon to be 30… I mean 13.  For further clarification on this matter, you can read all about Thing 2 right over here. Thing 1 (my pickiest eater) instantly proclaimed, “with chicken like this, who needs Panda Express?”  As of this writing, I’m still not sure if I should be flattered or insulted by this declaration but I’m sure through the lense of a teenage boy, this is the most highest form of flattery.

9.   A call from the Emergency Room.  Literally, the day after I made the sticky chicken, I received a call at one o’clock in the morning from the hospital.  My 82 year-old dad had a heart attack.

8.  Non-stop trips to the Cardiac ICU.  Unfortunately, the heart attack led his admission to two hospitals, a triple bypass surgery and countless trips to ICU.

7.  A week’s long staycation with my family. Sadly, this event all coincided with my family’s first cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines.  We, of course, cancelled our trip so we could support each other and white knuckle our way through the endless tests, surgery and recovery of my Dad.  On a brighter and more personal note, my husband and I consider ourselves to be 100% optimist most of the time.  And the one positive thing we took out of this horrid experience (besides the given – my Dad fully recovered) is this…

We are a “blended” family of 6 and oh by the way, a newlywed couple of one year this month.  During this past week, a lot of tears were shed by everybody but as a family every single member came together as one.  During this emotionally charged week, our family pulled together like it never did before.  There were unsolicited hugs, random acts of kindness, somber moments of support and incredible moments of bravery, self sacrifice and selflessness.  While we never would wish this circumstance to ever happen in a million years, the outcome and aftermath is truly a blessing beyond even words I can express.

6. Movies.  On a much lighter note, we did manage to squeeze in some fun family moments during the week.  Seeing Despicable Me 2 being one of the more noteworthy.  How can anyone NOT smile at the beloved minions?

Despicable-me-minions

5.   Summer Waves, Jekkyl Island.  We managed to do what Floridians do best… have fun in the sun.. and hit a local Water Park.

08312013SummerWaves4

4. Adventure Landing, Jacksonville Beach.

adventure-landing-water-park

 

We played mini golf, air hockey, road on go-karts, and played mini-golf!

3. Jacksonville Beach.  We walked on the beach at sunset.

jaxbeach

 

2. After a whirlwind week full of both ups and down, tears and hugs, laughter … complete exhaustion.

1. And the number reason I didn’t update my blog over the past 13 days… (besides of my Dad, of course 😉  I didn’t cook!  Not once.

With that I leave you today, with the promise of posting the infamous “Who Needs Panda Express Anyway?  Sticky Chicken” tomorrow.

Easy Peasy Oven Roasted Ribs

Image

A common misconception that I’ve run across being a gluten free  girl is that I feast nearly on a diet that consists of  a very fussy, high maintenance almost “chick-like” fare consisting mainly of bunny food like organic lettuce, edamame, tofu and spring fed water.  Hrmpf, if only they knew.  Not only did I never seem to ditch my inner adolescent tomboy *smile*, this girl … right here…  is not afraid to eat seriously, messy, comfort food in any shape or form.

Take last night’s dinner, for example.  Easy Peasy Oven Roasted Ribs.  Roasted in the oven in 15 minutes on each side, throw them in your crockpot for the day and ladies and gentlemen, you will have the most delicious, tender,  meat-falling-off-the-bone ribs you have ever made without the fuss.  It’s that simple.

But for those who like to look at pictures and follow recipes along (like me) … I’ll start by introducing:

The cast of characters:

ingredients

Nothing out of the unusual and totally customizable to your taste.   In our home, we are big garlic and onion powder fans, so in this picture, you see Smithfield ribs (on sale for $7.99!), garlic salt, onion powder, salt, pepper and granulated garlic.   You should also add to this list your favorite barbecue sauce.  If you are gluten free or are serving this dish to a person you love that is gluten free, please be sure to check the ingredients to make sure it does not include modified food starch.  And on that same note, as silly as this seems, check and recheck the ingredients listed on the packaging of your ribs.  Food manufacturers are actually sneaking in wheat and modified food starch in places where they definitely DON’T belong like MEAT for example.  Trust me on this one.  I know.  Nothing ruins a great meal for person with Celiacs or Crohns Disease  than being surprised with a unexpected gluten reaction.

While the oven is preheating, remove the packaging of your ribs and generously sprinkle the ribs with the spices on one side and place them on a foil lined pan for easy clean up.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Flip the ribs over and repeat the process.

ribs partially cooked

After both sides have been browned in the oven,  remove the ribs and let them cool just a little bit to make them easier to carve.  Cut ribs in slabs of 2 to 3 (depending on the size of your ribs) and place them in your crockpot standing up on their side.

ribs in crockpot

Standing the ribs on the side is important as it allows the grease to drain off the ribs and helps the ribs brown.  Using a pastry brush, very lightly sauce each all sides of each riblet.  I’ll warn you, this part is messy but oh-so-worth-it!  I also sprinkle on just a smidge more spices on at this point if I’m feeling naughty.

And that’s it; that’s all she wrote!  Cook on low for 8 hours you will get ribs that will make grown men cry and teenagers hug you:

finised ribs

The bad news:  They won’t want to go out for ribs ever again.  Oh the sacrifices we endure for our families 🙂

Easy Peasy Oven Roasted Ribs 

• Any type and amount of beef or pork ribs that will fit in your slow cooker
• Salt and pepper
• Garlic powder, Onion powder, creole seasoning, seasoning salt or whatever tickles your fancy

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

2. Remove packaging, rinse meat, and place in deep baking pan in single layer

3. Sprinkle both sides of meat with salt and pepper to season. (I prefer to season mine individually so the spices don’t cook off during the cooking process)

4. Bake meat in oven for 15 minutes, flip meat over and bake on other side for 15 minutes

5.Remove meat from oven cover all sides of meat completely with bbq sauce and place in slow cooker on side if possible

6. Cook on high in crock-pot for 6 hours or on low for 8 – 10 hours

7. Serve and enjoy!

The Pie that landed me a proposal

image

This pie recipe, will always be, near and dear to my heart.  You may have seen it floating around the internet under the name Shoney’s Strawberry Pie.  But in our home,  we call it the Engagement pie or The Pie That Will Make Any Man Propose  😉

One summer’s day, not too awfully long ago, my then boyfriend (and bachelor of 20 years, I might add) turned to me and said, “Honey, You know what my Mom use to make when I was a kid that I loved?  Strawberry Pie. ”  “Really?”, I replied.  “Go on.  Tell me more like what?  A glazed pie, a cream pie, a gel pie, what…?  I’ve never really made a strawberry pie but I’ll give it a shot. What made it so special?”  He looked at me and smiled with a some what quizzical expression and said, “I think … oh heck I don’t know.  You know me.  I don’t exactly have a refined palate like you do.  My Mom is a very traditional Southern cook.  She just cooks and bakes really wholesome good food.  Oh wait!  I think she calls it Shoney’s pie or something like that.  I don’t know why I like it so much.  I think it just invokes so many good memories from  my childhood.  It always just tasted so fresh and tastes like Summer to me.”

So with this arsenal of information, I scoured the internet and poured through reviews of various Shoney’s pies and gluten free pastry pie crusts and voila!  The perfect gluten Strawberry Pie.

Three days later… on a sunset beach, he proprosed.   During the very surreal moment where a beautiful diamond was being placed on my finger, I smiled and said, “It was the pie that closed it was the deal wasn’t it.”  We both laughed.  He replied, “I’m not saying if it was or if it was or wasn’t…but is it too early to ask if we can have this on our 50th anniversary together?”

I now present to you… The Engagement Pie 🙂

To make the Pie:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoon strawberry Jell-O
  • Enough cleaned strawberries to cover the pie shell

Directions:

Blend sugar, cornstarch and water together and cook to almost pudding stage. Add Strawberry Jell-O. Place drained whole fresh strawberries into baked deep-dish 9-inch pie shell. Pour cooked mixture over berries. Chill 2 hours at least. Top with whipped cream.

To Make The Most Amazing Homemade Whipped Cream:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions:

Whip heavy whipping cream with vanilla, almond extract and powdered sugar until stiff. I use a Kitchen Aid Mixer and let it really set up to the consistency of frosting.

To Make The Gluten Free Pie Crust:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups gluten free flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter or margerine, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup shortening, cold
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Combine flour, sugar, xanthan gum and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Combine egg, cold water and apple cider vinegar in small bowl; beat with fork until mixed. Add egg mixture to flour blend mixture; stir just until moistened. Shape pastry into a ball; flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic food wrap; refrigerate until chilled (at least 1 hour).

Remove from refrigerator; let stand 15 minutes at room temperature. Unwrap pastry; place onto parchment paper lightly floured with gluten-free flour blend. Lightly flour pastry with gluten-free flour blend.  Roll out pastry into 12-inch circle. Transfer pastry to ungreased 9-inch pie pan, pressing firmly against bottom and sides and sealing any cracks as necessary. Crimp or flute edge.

For baked unfilled pie shell, prick crust all over with fork. Bake at 475°F. for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Fill as desired.