Saturday, October 30, 2010

spinach pesto egg casserole

Over the Rhine concert last night with my love.  I’ve never met Karin and Linford, but somehow feel like they’ve become part of our lives.  Their lyrics and tunes were more than another show to me, but a nostalgic trip down memory lane… 
:. 10 years ago, dreaming with a shimmering engagement ring in a certain boy's humble apartment on Chestnut St. “We don’t need a lot of money, we’ll be sleeping on the beach, keeping oceans within reach…”
:.Newlyweds at Cornerstone holding each other under the stars listening to Karin sing “The heart that beats is yours inside of me…”
:.Starting many a road trip with “Take a slow curve on a back road with one hand on the wheel…”
:.Rocking our colicky babies with the resolve to “No more drowning in my sorrow, no more drowning in my pride, I will ride on the backs of angels tonight...”
:.Our years in Ohio “Hello Ohio, the back roads, I know Ohio like the back of my hand…”
:.The many lyrics I can’t listen to when Andy’s away because they remind me so much of him it hurts.  “There is no home without you..."
:.Turning to her magic voice in the car when our babes need to fall asleep so we can have some quiet conversation to be reminded “I was born to laugh, I learn to laugh through my tears.  I was born to love, I’m gonna learn to love without fear…”   
:.And at the end of a weary day, longing for that moment when “The trumpet child will lift a glass.  His bride now leaning in at last.  His final aim to fill with joy the earth that man all but destroyed…”

This is a casserole I made for MOM’s group yesterday.  For those who asked for the recipe, here ya go!

 Spinach Pesto Egg Casserole
4 potatoes, cut into small cubes and placed in cold water, then drained (I didn't peel them)
1/4 - 1/3 c. oil (didn't measure this time...)
salt and pepper
8 eggs3-4 T. pesto (I used homemade, which was just lots of basil, so I used more like 1/3 cup)
1 c. milk
1 t. salt 
2 c. spinach, finely chopped
2 c. cheese (I used a blend of parmesan, romano, asiago)

Toss well-drained potatoes with oil, salt and pepper.  Roast on a greased cookie sheet at 400 for 1 hour until browned, turning throughout.  (I did this the night before.)  Whisk eggs, milk, pesto, salt and pepper.  Layer potatoes, then spinach, then cheese.  Pour egg mixture over.  Bake covered 350 for 30 minutes.  Uncover if cheese needs browned on top a bit.

This was all very much improvised, and I'm sure you could do all sorts of different combinations - bacon and cheddar, italian sausage, mushrooms, green pepper...

You could also use store-bought frozen hash brown cubes in place of the potatoes.

Enjoy your weekend everyone.
 Over here, we're learning to sing "the world can wait..."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

black bean soup

We all love this soup.  And make it often.  This will make a big batch, but it freezes well, or is dropped off to someone who needs a meal well, or heats well for lunch leftovers...It goes well with rice or tortilla chips.

Black Bean Soup
2 cups dry black beans, cooked and drained
6 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups salsa
1 T. cumin  
sour cream, cheese, green onion, and/or cilantro for garnish
Cover black beans with water and add 1 t. salt, bring to boil, then simmer until tender (around 2 hours), adding more water as needed so they stay covered.  Combine beans, broth, salsa and cumin in food processor.  Blend until fairly smooth.  (Or, I use an immersion blender.) Heat soup in pan over medium heat until heated through.  This can be transferred to a crockpot on low if needed for later or ladled into bowls and garnished.

Source: Adapted from good ole Annie :)

And these are the characters I enjoyed the soup with for dinner tonight.  Each of them a personality of their own.  Each of them with their own thoughts to talk through over soup tonight. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

chicken tikka masala

A few weeks ago, we said good-bye to dear friends and neighbors.  Each of us has been missing them.  I found a letter that Jack had made to send to their sweet daughters.  Can you read what it says?  “I HOP I SE U SON FRUM JACKSON.”  He included a treasured rubber snake for them.  How sweet :)

The other night, I made Chicken Tikki Masala, which Neiru made the last time they were here, for a going-away party.  She taught me a lot, and this is just one of many I may post...

Chicken Tikki Masala
1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ c. butter
Chicken Tikki Masala ready to cook spice mix (the one I used is Paramapara brand)
½ c. Plain yogurt (or coconut milk)
Follow the instructions on the packet, only if you want your tastebuds to catch on fire!  (Trust me, I did this the first time…)
1.  It says to whisk the entire contents of this packet with 2 cups of water, and I now use 1/4th of the packet in 2 cups of water. 
2.  Saute chicken cut into small pieces in butter on medium until golden brown.
3.  Add the mixture from the bowl and cook until the sauce is thick.  (8-10 minutes)
4.  Add either plain yogurt or coconut milk and heat through.
5.  You can also add cilantro and chopped tomato.
Serve with rice.  If it’s too spicy for the kids, adding lime juice helps, or I just let them put some sour cream on it, and they’re happy :)

I’m sorry that my recipe includes a spice packet I get from an Indian Grocery Store, which is truly how she taught me to make it. 

The ingredients in the packet are: Onion, Oil, Coriander Leaves, Garlic, Ginger, Milk Powder, Tomato, Salt, Spices, Red Chili Powder, Green Chili, Turmeric.  

I’m sure you could find a recipe online that has the spices separate, if you’re interested and not near such a store. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

breakfast quesadilla

We used to make breakfast burritos, but I can’t get the rice tortillas to bend well like a burrito yet.  I’ll bet a microwave would help, but doesn’t seem worth purchasing just for this, so quesadillas it is.  The top pic is Bacon and Smoked Cheddar.  The middle two pics are Sausage and Monterey Jack.  And the bottom pic is Veggie and Asiago Cheese.

Breakfast Quesadilla
(recipe based off making for 4 people)
4 tortillas (I use Food for Life brown rice tortillas - shown in pic)
4 eggs
4 T. milk
salt and pepper to taste
veggies of choice (we typically use peppers and onions)
cooked meat 
chopped cilantro or parsley

Warm tortillas.  Whisk eggs and milk with salt and pepper (smoked paprika is yummy to add too).  Saute veggies in butter or oil in skillet to liking.  Add whisked eggs, stirring as you would scrambled eggs.  Add cooked bacon or sausage.  Add cheese and cilantro or parsley, if using.  Put on tortilla and fold as a quesadilla (or let me know if you figure out how to do a burrito :)  Serve for breakfast.

Or, anytime.  This was lunch today, with a spinach salad topped with apples and walnuts.  

Today has been particularly windy and tornado-ey.  I'm usually partial to sunny days, but there is just something about standing this morning out in the open field behind our house as the century-old maple trees flop around in the wind and the clouds race through the sky.  (Because apparently there was a tornado warning and 70 mph winds...)   But asking where God is in this day.  That I would see Him more clearly, feel His hand, discern His heart, hear His truth.  Where is God in Your day?  I hope you’re able to see Him in little things this day, like a baby asking you to carry him and knowing that is exactly what you need to ask again of the Father.  Or, truth spoken to you by a wise and caring mom.  Or, trusting His plan when you don’t get the house you put an offer on and thought would be perfect.  Or, knowing it is in these moments of unsettledness and uncertainty that He is worshipped.  He is in our midst.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

zuppa toscana (tuscan soup)

This was a joint-effort gluten free meal.  We invited some dear friends of ours over, but it was very last minute, like at 5 o’clock.  I had made soup, salad and brownies, and Brooke turned it into a feast when she showed up with her GF garlic-cheddar biscuits and stuffed mushrooms (not shown in pic).  It was delicious!
Zuppa Toscana
1 lb. italian sausage, cooked and crumbled (this time I used some Yoder's sausage that was seasoned only with salt and pepper, so I added italian seasoning and oregano)
2 large potatoes,  peeled and cubed
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
2 cups water
2 cups kale, chopped (or you can use spinach)
1 cup heavy cream (sometimes we use whole milk)
Salt and Pepper
Cook potatoes, onion, garlic in chicken broth, and water on medium heat until potatoes are tender.  Add sausage, simmer 10 min.  Reduce heat to low and add kale and cream.  Season to taste.  Heat and serve.

Source: Adapted from an Olive Garden copycat recipe

.I was asked awhile ago how I went completely gluten-free.  Well, I didn’t have much of a choice.  When I read about leaving celiac disease untreated, going gluten-free didn’t sound so bad!  We went completely GF for Miles when he was 3, and that seemed like the longest 3 months…..Well, it’s been over 3 months, and I’m completely honest when I say it’s not been that hard.  I think the no choice thing helps, and there is just so much more out there now – even Aldi is carrying gluten-free items now, and I have such amazing support.  I’m truly blessed with friends who brought us GF meals when we were moving and I couldn’t just order a pizza, friends who let me know when they see GF deals, friends who bring GF biscuits to our house for dinner even when I tell them regular ones are great…
I have found the following sites helpful:
Eating out is still the hardest, which means we just don’t much.  Chipotle’s GF steak salad with black beans is the food of choice when we do.  And, there are several restaurants (in larger cities than ours) with GF menus.  I have just found, for us, to stay within our food budget, we make more soups, vegetable-based dishes and more rice-based dishes rather than trying to cook the same foods and substitute GF products.  

It’s the difference we see in how we feel that makes it so worth it.  I never realized how much of a “fog” I was in, like my whole life, just tired.  And, I won’t scar Jude for life and say online what his diapers used to be like, but we’ll just say there’s been a huge improvement there.  Gluten is difficult to digest, which isn’t a problem if it’s in moderation.  But you never realize how much it’s in American diet until you try to cut it out – besides bread and pasta, it’s in barbecue sauce, soy sauce, malt vinegar, flavored coffee and creamers and most processed foods.  I don’t know if this completely answers your question, Wendy, or is helpful to the rest of you.  I’d love to answer any questions or help as I can.  I’m still learning, but I have several people I can ask! 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

almond feta cheese

We’re home!!!  And what a wonderful little getaway it was – full of laughs, adventures, and savoring our not-so-little-anymore boys.  We drove to Indy with our Hotwire deal for a room at the downtown Hilton for $59, and they ended up giving us a deluxe suite for that price, which came in VERY handy at 4.30 am when Jude decided there were white caterpillars in his pack and play and didn’t want to sleep in it.  We had nothing planned other than to enjoy one another and ReLax.  I marveled at Andy’s grace and love for us, Miles’ sense of creativity, Jack’s love for adventure and Jude’s new phrase “Look at me.  I changed my MIND!”  I ate gluten-free at 3 different restaurants (although, one literal phone conversation...ME: “do you have a gluten free menu?” HER: “do we have a WHO?”  ME: “a gluten-free menu?”  HER:  “I have no idea!”)  And, I really enjoyed my “no computer/tv days” (and may have cheated once to check my e-mail).  I plan to do the same on Sundays.  Because I keep hearing “Be still and know that I am God.” Stillness is hard to come by, especially in this stage of life, and I don't like that I’ve grown used to looking for it in the wrong places.  

This is one recipe that requires patience.  It's not hard.  It just takes a few days to make, but it's SO worth it!  I had to be dairy-free when I was nursing Jude, and this was one gem of a recipe I came across at that time, but we still enjoy it.

Almond Feta Cheese
  • 1 cup whole blanched almonds* (see below)
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1. Place almonds in medium bowl, and cover with 3 inches cold water. Let soak 24 hours. Drain soaking liquid, rinse almonds under cold running water, and drain again.
    2. Purée almonds, lemon juice, 3 Tbs. oil, garlic, salt, and 1/2 cup cold water in food processor 6 minutes, or until very smooth and creamy.
    3. Place large strainer over bowl, and line with triple layer of cheesecloth. Spoon almond mixture into cheesecloth. Bring corners and sides of cloth together, and twist around cheese, forming into orange-size ball and squeezing to help extract moisture. Secure with rubber band or kitchen twine. Chill 12 hours, or overnight. Discard excess liquid.

    4. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap cheese (it will be soft), and transfer from cheesecloth to prepared baking sheet. Flatten to form 6-inch round about 3/4-inch thick. Bake 40 minutes, or until top is slightly firm. Cool, then chill. (Cheese can be made up to this point 2 days ahead; keep refrigerated.)

    I think Trader Joe's rice crackers go perfectly with this.

    Source: Adapted from vegetarian times.

    * I get blanched almonds from a bulk food store.  There are directions online to blanch regular almonds.  Don't use roasted almonds, but Trader Joe's does sell slivered blanched almonds I have used before for this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

pao de queijo (cheese bread)

These were one of my favorites long before I had to be gluten-free. I am so relieved they're on the "safe list."  We used to get quick mixes online to make these.   But, after they raised the price of shipping and the mix, I started looking around for a good recipe.  Again, there are many different methods out there of making them.  The first I tried used cold mashed potatoes, and while Andy thought they tasted authentic, it added an extra step to have to think of making mashed potatoes first, and it was just weird to add potatoes ...So, this is the one we found and like. 

  • Pao de Queijo 
(Brazilian Cheese Bread)
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups tapioca flour (same as tapioca starch)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Asiago cheese)
1 beaten egg 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour butter, water, milk, and salt into a large saucepan, and heat on medium-high. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat immediately.  Stir in tapioca flour, garlic powder and baking powder until smooth. Set aside to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. 
Stir the cheese and egg into the tapioca mixture until well combined, the mixture will be chunky like cottage cheese. (I have found they puff up better if you wait an other 10-15 minutes before putting them on baking sheets.) Drop rounded, 1/4 cup-sized balls of the mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven until the tops are lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Source: adapted from
What you have here is a crispy-on-the-outside ball of gooey-cheesy-goodness in the middle.  I place them in a towel-lined bowl and try to hide them so they're not gone before dinner...
We are taking off a few days. Don't miss me too much :)
Destination unknown at this point - we may priceline a hotel in Indy or Chicago...or stay around here. If our boys had their dream, we'd go to LegoLand. If we had ours, it would be Brown County. I'm excited to see where we end up. Last night I felt conviction that wherever we are, it will be sans computer (even if we're here). We need some days of stillness. To quiet ourselves to listen better to His voice.

Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom. Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Psalm 90

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

rice and beans. beans and rice.

In honor of Dave Ramsey, this post is about rice and beans, beans and rice.  I first started making this dish when I married a Brazilian almost 10yrs. ago.  It became a staple in our home, atleast once a week - more during seminary and even more when we went through "Financial Peace University" with Dave Ramsey.  We eat it daily the week before family vacation (and sometimes daily the week after...)  Awhile ago, I started making extra rice for a quick fried rice the next day.  It's become one of our boys' favorite meals.  And now, with adding a pao di queijo (cheese bread, that happens to be gluten free and delicious!) recipe to it I found, it's one of mine.  Brazilians typically eat rice and beans with every meal.  And, as we look at put an offer on a house this week, we may soon be eating it every meal too :)

There are so many variations to making this.  Have fun tweaking it to your taste.  I have through the years, and have grown to like this method because it's fast, easy, yummy and cheap.

Brazilian Rice and Beans (or atleast my version of it)
1 c. brown rice (I personally like basmati rice better, but do this because it's better for us)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 c. water
1 t. salt (I use arisco, a brazilian garlic salt seasoning)
Rinse rice with water until clear.  Dry saute rice with garlic in skillet over medium heat until it has the nutty smell to it, and is dry.  Add hot water.  Bring to boil.  Reduce to low and cover.  SImmer 45 min.  (Don't peak - keep the lid on!)  Remove from heat and let sit covered 10 min.  Fluff with fork and serve with beans.

1 clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans (or dry beans cooked to soft consistency covered in salt water)
cumin (I use lots, maybe 1 T.)
Saute garlic in 1 T. oil.  Add beans, not drained (unless using dry beans, drain the water until it's the amount of liquid in a can and mash some of the beans).  Add cumin and simmer on low until heated through.

2 roma tomatoes (don't have to be, but for an idea of volume of tomatoes)
1/4 green pepper
1/4 red onion
as much cilantro as desired
olive oil
apple cider vinegar (OR freshly squeezed lime juice)
In small bowl, combine finely chopped veggies.  Pour over olive oil and vinegar.  Season with salt (again, I use arisco, but you could use garlic salt).

Stay tuned for a whole other post about the pao di queijo because they're just that good!  I'm glad I was able to crop out the 4 boys who were trying to gnaw off my hand while I had to take a quick picture of them :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

basil mac and cheese

This dish came about with not much time to think about dinner.  We were getting family pictures taken, and needed to eat something quick, gluten-free, and using 2 bunches of basil before they went bad.  When I told the boys we were having mac and cheese for dinner, they were floored.  They kept asking me "JUST mac and cheese???  Nothing else???"  I didn't tell them there would be a ton of basil hidden in there, and they didn't seem to notice, or mind.  You could easily make this with regular flour and noodles, and I think you should :)

homemade mac and cheese

2 c. GF macaroni (I use tinkyada brown rice spirals)

3 T. butter

2 T. GF flour (I use a tapioca, potato,rice flour mix)

1/2 t. salt


2 c. milk

2 c. cheese (calls for sharp cheddar, but I used 1 c. parmesan and 1 c. monterey jack)

2 bunches of basil (I had some big bunches and chopped them in the food processor)

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a 1 ½ quart casserole.  

Cook GF macaroni in salted water according to package directions.  

In a saucepan, melt 3 T butter.  On medium heat, blend in 2 T GF flour, salt and pepper.

Stirring constantly, slowly add 2 cups milk.  
Cook and stir until thick and bubbly.
Add the onions (optional) and cubed cheddar cheese.  Stir until melted.
Mix with the cooked macaroni and turn into the casserole dish. 
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 - 30 min.
Source: Adapted from gluten free mom

Also, I made pumpkin pie bars last night for Life Group, and they turned out well de-glutenized.  I substituted gluten-free oats for the regular oats and a rice flour-based blend for the flour.  
Did you catch that???  We had people over!!!  Which means, the kids are all better!!!  It's amazing how those times of sickness and isolation and weariness make the normal days seem all the sweeter :) 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

freezing apples

I tried something new this year.  I enjoy canning applesauce and apple butter.  But I didn't pick many apples this year.  And the ones I picked seemed too precious to throw into applesauce.  
So, I peeled the apples we picked and froze them for apple pie or apple crisp.  It didn't take long at all, and I know I will be thankful to pull these out of the freezer for  a fast, harvest-fresh treat on a cold winter's night.

3 c. peeled, sliced apples
1/3 c. sucanat or sugar 
2 T. flour (I use a GF rice flour-based blend)
2 t. cinnamon
Mix all ingredients in saucepan and stir on medium heat until apples are starting to cook.  Cool and place into bags.  I measured 3 cups in a bag because 1 bag will make apple crisp and 2 bags will make a pie.  

To use:  Thaw in fridge overnight and follow recipe of your choice.  This is the one we use:

apple crisp
3 c. peeled, sliced apples
1/3 c. sucanat or sugar
2 T. flour (I use a GF rice flour-based blend)
2 t. cinnamon
Mix all ingredients in saucepan and stir on medium heat until apples are starting to cook.  Pour into oblong-shaped dish and top with:
¾ c. oats
½ c. sucanat or brown sugar
¼ t. baking powder
¼ c. nuts
¾ c. flour (again, I use a GF rice flour blend)
¼ t. soda
¼ t. salt
1/3 c. melted butter
Mix well.  Sprinkle over apples.  Bake at 375 for 30 min.

This may be the reason why so little apples were picked this year...but he sure is cute!

Friday, October 15, 2010

pizza night!

Pizza has always been on my list of favorite foods.  In fact, in high school I thought marrying a youth pastor was just about the best idea ever because who eats more pizza than a youth pastor and his wife?  So, when a dr. looks at me and tells me I no longer can have any gluten – nothing with wheat, barley or rye – without it damaging my body, immediately my mind goes to pizza…what am I going to do about my affection for pizza?  I went to Border’s, collected all the gluten-free cookbooks with good pictures in them and scoured which had the best-sounding pizza recipe, bought the book, came home and made it.  Success on the first try.  So, the Royers can still have our pizza night even if my husband is no longer a youth pastor :)
This was my Pizza Crust recipe for years:
1 ½ c. warm water
2 T. olive oil
2 t. salt
3 c. flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
¼ c. ground flaxmeal
2 t. sugar
1 pkg. yeast
Dough setting in breadmaker.  Parbake the crust before adding toppings. Makes 2 large crusts.

And now, GF Pizza Crust (AKA, "Mama Johns" Pizza)
1 ½ c. warm water
2 T. honey
2 pkg. yeast
2 T. olive oil
2 t. xanthan gum
2 t. dried basil (I've been using our fresh herbs: oregano, thyme and basil)
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. garlic powder (I use 1 T. fresh minced garlic)
2 t. salt
2 1/3 c. artisan GF flour mix (see below)
1/3 c. ground flax meal
Oven to 400.  Combine water, honey and yeast in large bowl and let stand until mixture bubbles, about 5 min.  Stir in olive oil, xanthan gum, herbs, garlic and salt.  Mix in flour to firm dough that is soft, but not sticky to touch.  Drizzle 1 T. olive oil into mixing bowl, and roll dough to coat it.  Cover, set in warm location and let rise 20 min.  Grease fingers with olive oil and spread on 2 pizza pans.  Par-bake dough 10 min.  Add toppings and bake until desired doneness.

Artisan GF Flour Mix
1 ¼ c. brown rice flour
¾ c. sorghum flour
2/3 c. cornstarch
¼ c. potato starch
1 T. + 1 t. potato flour
1 t. xanthan gum

This crust freezes well if you bake it 8 minutes, cool, then wrap in plastic and foil.  I double this recipe and freeze half for a quick gluten-free meal.

Source: Adapted from Artisinal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski

I spent this afternoon at a friend's learning how to make Indian dosa and sambar.  Oh man, am I excited to make those rice pancakes more of a staple in our home.  I first tasted them a few months ago and have craved them ever since!  

I came home to a combine in our backyard.  Jack's dream come true!  I imagine he will be out there as long as the farmer will...

There is just something about waking up to roosters crowing, the sunrise and sunset over an open field, watching the harvest in our backyard, feeding horses in a pasture nearby apples every night that fills my heart.  I love it out here in the country.