Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Smoky Tomato Bacon Pasta (Gluten Free & Organic)

Today it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL outside! Hardly any humidity, it hasn't hit 80 degrees yet, the sun is bright, and the sky is blue with hardly a cloud in the sky. Very uncharacterstic KY summer day....and I LOVE IT!!!

So, what better reason is there to post a new recipe. Now, this one is super easy and absolutely delicious. I originally got it from Paula Deen's Family Cookbook that I received (signed) when Jen and I went to see her. I love this recipe and I've made it several times. has bacon in the title. What's not to love??? It easily makes enough for 6 people, but it's just fine for a couple because the leftovers are just as yummy!

I adapted it to make it both GF and organic and served it when we had Molly & Eric over for lunch the day. There's not as many pictures of this since I was enjoying my time with our guests.

You'll need:

  • 1/2 lb. bacon (~10 slices) I got mine from Hillside Heritage Farm at the Lexington Farmer's Market thanks to a recommendation from a friend. I will never look back!
  • 1 large organic onion, chopped
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of organic diced tomatoes, undrained
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. organic cream cheese (1/2 of a package)
  • 1 lb. gluten-free pasta First time I used the Tinkyada brand & LOVED it! I used penne, but the original recipe calls for rigatoni. Hard to find GF rigatoni, go figure!

1. In a large bowl, begin to boil your water and cook your pasta according to the box/bag. Tinkyada gave energy saving instructions. Just had to boil water, boil pasta for 1-2 minutes, turn off heat, and cover for 20 minutes. Pasta came out perfect and it was very energy efficient!

2. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp & brown. Place bacon on a paper-lined plate. Pour off all but 1/4 c. of fat from skillet.

3. Add the onion & cook over medium heat, stirring occassionaly until soft (5-7 min).

4. Stir in diced tomatoes & crumbled bacon. Season with salt & pepper & simmer until thick & chunky (~10 min). Stir cream cheese in until melted.

5. Pour sauce over pasta & mix together. Serve immediately.

See, how easy is that! This picture was taken after we devoured it because I was too distracted and hungry to take one when it was ready. Better late than never, right?

I definitely recommend trying it. Eric is a picky eater and doesn't care for onions & tomatoes (great recipe for him, right?), but he ate around it and said he still really liked the taste.

I served this with fresh green beans (not pictured) that I just steamed. I placed them in a collander, put a tiny bit of organic olive oil on them, and grated some fresh Parmesan on them. They went together well.

Enjoy the recipe and enjoy this GORGEOUS day!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vacation #1

Right when school let out (actually a day after to be exact), the family headed down to Tampa for the wedding of one of my brother's longtime friends. We stayed in the hotel that they got married at so we were able to enjoy a walk on the beach in the morning followed by breakfast on the beach. After a quick change, we were able to go downstairs to the wedding. Can't beat the view!

All of the family together

As soon as we got done (except for Daniel, he had to stay longer since he was in the wedding), we headed out to the beach to soak in as much sun as possible on this unfortunately short trip.

Look how cute the hubs is!

Made a friend on the beach. I have a serious problem with birds and this one wasn't going away. He did remind me of the bird from the Pigeon book series although I clearly know he's a seagull.

After hours at the beach and by the pool, we had to find some local ice cream. It was delish!

The next morning was the day we had to go home (told ya it was quick!) and my parents offered to pay for Mark and I to go parasailing. Mark and I had gone years before separately, but we were so excited to go again and take it all in.

I didn't put any pictures in of us high in the sky because we were just tiny specks. That had us up between 500 & 600 ft. It was so beautiful and peaceful up there! We could see the entire bay area and it was the perfect way to end our trip to FL.

On the way out, we saw this while walking down the beach and I just had to get a picture! Doesn't it look like a postcard???

We had a great time. I'd love to go back again and stay much longer!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Simply Citrus Cream Cake (gluten-free)

On Sunday, we had some great friends over for lunch. Eric and Molly are one of our favorite couples. I've known Eric since he was a wee lad, and he and Molly make a wonderful duo.

Molly is the first person I knew with Celiac disease and she's really one of the reasons I was so inspired into looking into gluten-free. I was excited to have her over, but also had to make sure everything was just right since there was no room for error here. I couldn't be responsible for her health. Yikes!

I made some Smoky Tomato Bacon Pasta for lunch (I'll share the recipe also), but one of the big things that would be/is tough to go without is obviously desserts. I mentioned making Simply Citrus Cream Cake in my post about going gluten-free, and I decided to make it for Molly & Eric.

I've had others ask for this recipe as well, so thought it'd be easiest to post it here.

You will need:

  • 1 or 2 pkgs of gluten-free yellow cake mix (you need 2 layers & most GF packages only make one layer so you may need to buy a 2nd box. I HIGHLY recommend Betty Crocker's GF yellow cake mix, but Whole Foods did not carry it.)
  • 1 pkg (3.4 oz) Jello lemon instant pudding mix (I know for sure that Kraft Jello mix is GF)
  • 1 1/3 cups organic sour cream, divided
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 eggs (look how colorful my farm fresh eggs are!)
  • 2 T. orange zest (1 medium orange)
  • 1/4 cup powder sugar
  • 1 tub Cool Whip, thawed (I used a Whole Foods GF whipped cream, but I know Cool Whip is GF)
  • 1 can organic mandarin oranges, drained


*I have found that most organic items are GF

*You can always use regular ingredients if GF is not your thing.

*Please take notice of my little measuring cup of powder sugar. I had 2 bags of powder sugar in my cabinet and went to look at the label just to double check and was shocked to find that it had a wheat starch in it to keep the sugar from sticking! I was blown away! So, I searched the web for what to do and it just said I could make my own. I'm quite embarrassed that I didn't know how to make my own powdered sugar. Maybe I missed Cooking 101. You just take your sugar and stick it in the blender and let it do it's thing for about a minute. neat is that? I tried my food processor at first and the blades just weren't able to get down low enough for the small amount I was making. I also came to find out that my 2nd bag in my cupboard used corn starch, so it would've been OK to use, but I got a special learning moment.

As a side note, the 1st bag was from the "Evil Empire", so I have yet another reason to dislike them...they sell cheap food because they use cheaper ingredients. Sorry, I'll get off of my soapbox.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the cake mix, dry pudding mix, only 1 cup of the sour cream, the water, oil, eggs, and orange zest in a large bowl with a mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. Beat on medium for 2 minutes.

Pour mix into 2 greased 9 inch pans (In the past, I've floured my pans but just greasing them worked fine).

The packages say to bake for 25-30 minutes, but since there are 2 cakes and I have found that GF baking takes a bit longer, I would say it'd be closer to 45-50 minutes. However, keep checking it and use the toothpick to test to figure out if it's done.

The smell in my house while these were baking was HEAVENLY! At one point, I stopped and thought about the smell almost reminded me of the way it smells when you first walk into Baskin-Robbins. Weird, right? You can definitely smell the citrus.

My kitchen helper, Guinness, waits patiently and hopes to get a bite.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Next, invert the cakes on a cooling rack and let them cool completely.

You can go ahead and get your cream icing ready now.

Whisk the remaining 1/3 sour cream & the powdered sugar together in a large bowl. Fold in the Cool Whip.

Now for the layers! Place one cooled cake on the bottom. Place a little less than half of the cream on the cake. Spread evenly. Add half of the mandarin oranges on top of the cream. Repeat the layers and be sure to ice around the outside of the cake. I've just done cream in between and on the top before, but I liked this better.

Keep this cake refrigerated until you are ready to eat.

This picture's a little dark, but you can see that we enjoyed it! It is such a yummy cake! Molly did say that one of the things that she's missed is the Starbucks lemon pound cake and that this was the closest to it since she's been without gluten. So...WIN! I love Sbux lemon pound cake and I love this cake, I'd just never thought of that before!

It does have a pound cake feel to it and Mark and I agree that it's always better the next day. He enjoys it most for breakfast!

This recipe is great for the summer time and it's even better because it's gluten-free!


Summertime Beverages

Seeing as it's summer, there is nothing I enjoy more than finding a good book to read and enjoying it with a nice, cold drink on these hot, summer days. Now, the hubs carries around his infamous gallon jug of water at all times. There's no way I can carry that around all day, but I do like to tote my little bottle of water and refill throughout the day to keep hydrated.

In the past week I've been drinking my daily intake of water, but I just can't get enough of those typical summer drinks. Last night, I made Mark's stepmom's recipe for lemonade and there's truly nothing better on a hot day.

It's the easiest thing ever. All you have to remember is 4-1-1.

Take 4 lemons and squeeze them into your container. I like to use a strainer so I don't end up picking out a bunch of seeds.
Add 1 cup of sugar.

Add 1 cup of water.
Stir until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Fill up the rest of the container with water.
How easy is that??? And trust me, it's so good! I always like to cut up an extra lemon, but it's not necessary.

If there's one thing that reminds me of childhood summers, it would be my mom's sun tea. I love iced tea, so I finally bought a container the other day so that the sun could do all the work for me.

(Mark says my green sun tea looked like pickle juice!)

Fill your clear gallon container with water.

Add 6-9 tea bags (I used 7 and I used organic green tea since it's so full of antioxidants).

Let the container sit in direct sunlight for several hours. The sun heats it up and the teas steeps.

Remove the tea bags.

If you want sweet tea....and I do LOVE sweet tea, this is where you add your sugar. I added about 1 1/2 cups of sugar, but since I'm a true southern girl and I live for the sweet tea that will make a northern's stomach sick, I'll probably make it 2 cups next time.

My parents never liked sweet tea (they are those northerners), so I always had unsweetened sun tea growing up. If you're not a sweet tea fan, might I suggest what I did all the time as a kid. Fill your glass up 3/4 of the way with tea and then finish it off with some of that lemonade.

Now I just need my book and the rocking chair on the front porch. Ahh, I love summer!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

OK, so I was asked to put up some recipes that are gluten-free and honestly, I've been wanting to put up recipes for a while now, so we'll just see how it goes. As you can see, and feel free to make fun of me, I got a little Pioneer Woman-esque and took pictures along the way. I did this for 2 reasons: my favorite recipe sites always use pictures and I just wanted an excuse to borrow Mark's camera.

This Shepherd's Pie recipe originally came from here, but I decided to make a few changes while also making it 100% gluten-free AND organic!
Here's what you need:
  • 1 1/2 lb. organic russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3 T. butter, divided
  • 3 T. organic olive oil
  • 1 med-lg organic carrot
  • 2 organic celery stalks
  • 1 medium organic onion
  • 1 bag frozen organic peas
  • 1 lb organic beef
  • 1/2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup organic beef broth
  • salt, to taste
  • white pepper, to taste
  • paprika, to taste
  • fresh grated parmesan cheese (optional)

I got almost all of my organic items at Kroger. I've been really pleased with their selection and I can tell they are making more of an effort to provide healthy, organic products. The only things I didn't get at the store was the onion (got that at the Farmer's Market last weekend) and the beef (got that from our CSA). Now, you could use the frozen bags of the organic vegetables (like I did with the peas) if you wanted to and I can't imagine there'd be any difference.

The first thing you'll want to do is peel and chop your potatoes into 1-in cubes. Put them in a large pot and fit with just enough water so that you cover them. Boil them for about 10-15 minutes or until they are tender (just like you would do for mashed potatoes). You can boil while you're working on the other veggies.

If you're not doing the frozen veggies, go ahead and dice up your carrots, celery, & onions. Apparently these three are none as mirepoix (I did not know that, but there's a little useless knowledge for ya!) Go ahead and put 3 Tbs. of olive oil in a large skillet or large pot and heat over medium heat.

Once heated, throw in your veggies and toss so that they are coated with the oil. Note: If you're using frozen peas like I did, throw this in about a minute before the other vegetables.

Let those vegetables cook for about 15 minutes or until they are tender. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 degrees here so it has some time to heat up.

Back to those taters. Once they are tender, drain them of their water then mash them with 1 Tbs. of butter and 1/2 cup of cream (you could use milk here, but I love cream in my potatoes). Add some salt and white pepper here to taste. You can use regular pepper here instead also. Yum! I had to sample these as soon as they were mashed...that's the Irish in me!

Now, back to the veggies. Once those are tender, add your ground beef and cook until there is no longer any pink. This takes about 5 minutes. Once that is done, you want to tilt your pot and spoon out any extra fat, but this beef didn't really produce much fat so I skipped that step.

Now, the next part calls for 1 Tbs. of flour, but since we are gluten-free, I relied on my trusty friend: corn starch. Corn starch actually thickens better than flour so you only need to add 1/2 Tbs. of corn starch. Stir it in and let it cook for a minute or so to get rid of the starch taste.

Add the beef stock (you can see my preferred brand in the picture with the corn starch), thyme, rosemary, and nutmeg. Let those cook and keep stirring until the liquid thickens to almost a gravy. This takes about 5 minutes. You can add in salt and pepper at this time to get it to the right taste.

Pur your meat and veg mixture into a casserole or baking dish.

Cover your meat mixture with the mashed potatoes and fluff them just a bit with a fork. Cut up 2 Tbs. of butter into small pieces and put on top. Cover with paprika and then grate some parmesan cheese on top if you like. If you're gonna do it gluten-free, you'll need to grate it yourself.

Place the shepherd's pie in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool before serving (it's HOT!).

Normally, I would not pair shepherd's pie with anything because it's a meal in itself, but we have SO MUCH squash and zucchini right now that I just cooked some up for the side.

So, there it is! A 100% gluten-free and organic meal. I will say that this dish would be best in the winter or late fall, but I just really had a craving for it the other day and I had all of the ingredients so I figured "why not?" This is not the shepherd's pie that I make for Irish Thanksgiving (that one is very time consuming), but this was a good substitute to meet my craving.

Hope you enjoy!

On The Road Again

After almost exactly 3 months to the day, my dad was finally cleared to go back to work today!

Back in March, Dad was diagnosed with pneumonia in both of his lungs. 17 of those days entailed my dad being in the hospital. While we knew it would be a bit of a recovery, I don't think any of us could have predicted it would take close to 90 days.

I didn't blog during this time and that's really OK since I don't think many of us in our family have really fond memories of a good portion of that time. It got pretty scary there for a little bit, but I'm incredibly happy to say Dad is doing well (I know he's happy too) and is now ready to head back to work!!! So, be on the lookout for him!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy June 23rd!!!

Today, is indeed, a Bennett family holiday! Today is known in our household as "The Day That Mark Is Right About Everything!"

I'm surprised I haven't mentioned it before, but one of the things that Mark and I love best is our little celebrations of our own personal holidays. Many moons ago when Mark and I were just dating, there was a day (it was a Sunday...I remember it well) where Mark was just right about EVERYTHING!

I can think of at least 4 or 5 instances that day where he was just right about stuff and I was completely wrong. After each of these instances, his excitement continued to grow as I had to admit time and time again that he was right, I was wrong. We were both in shock and decided right then and there that this particular day needed to go down in history. We both agreed that each year we would celebrate that June 23rd was the day that Mark was right about everything!

We truly do celebrate this every year. We've done everything from special dinners, small gifts from me, and myself always conceding in any argument or dispute on this day. I got a text this morning that simply said, "Do you know what day it is?" This is without a doubt one of Mark's favorite days! So, babe, enjoy your day! Have a blast! You are truly the king of it all today and you are right about anything and everything today!

(Don't worry, I'll be back tomorrow!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Goodbye Gluten!

(Disclaimer: This is a LONG post. Read only if you're interested!)
I have not blogged in what seems like forever, but since school is out and I've got a little extra time on my hands, I'll share something that has become a big part of our family's life in the last 4 months or so. Mark and I have decided to say goodbye to gluten...for the most part, that is. Let me explain.

No, neither of us have celiac disease and neither of us are gluten-intolerant. However, we have become aware of several people in a short amount of time who are. Mark suggested doing a diet without gluten a while back and I could not bear to do life without my breads and pasta. These were a huge staple of my life! However, after seeing and hearing stories about the effects of gluten on so many people, it got me wondering if there really was something to this life without gluten.

Let me start at square one for anyone who is not familiar with what I mean by gluten. Gluten is defined by as "An inherent starch that exists in most grain or wheat sources. Gluten is an important source of nutritional protein and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein. Gluten is also used as a flavoring additive or a thickening agent." You find gluten in many of your obvious wheat sources: cereal, bread, pasta, pizza, cake, cookies, and pastries, but also can be found in many of your processed foods and even in things like shredded cheese. Gluten products can be added as an extra source of protein to many processed foods and can also be used as a non-caking agent. This website is one I use as a reference often to figure out what foods do contain gluten.

However, let me be VERY clear on something, I am by no means an expert on gluten at all. In fact, I enjoy learning more about it every day. I find it very interesting. Like I said before, I do not have an intolerance, so I will still have gluten products time and again. I find it interesting to see how my own body reacts to gluten. This article was written by a man in a similar situation to myself (no gluten intolerance, just trying it out) and his results are very similar to my own. Like I said, I still have gluten occassionally, and I have found that I can tell when I DO have it. No, unlike celiac disease, my intenstines do attack themselves when I have it, but I can feel a general sluggishness and change in demeanor. I know that many people think it's strange that we are going without gluten or I get funny looks, but I know how much it has helped us and I believe in the power of food, so we're sticking with it.

I've actually enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to enjoy many of my favorites, but in a gluten-free way. We are now in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with Triple J Farms here in Georgetown....which we LOVE!!! We get our weekly share of beef, vegetables, and eggs, which keep us from doing much processed foods and the vegetables are used in our meals rather than filling our meals with a bunch of grains (which I did a lot before). So, now I'm always trying to alter recipes a tad to fit our diet. I find it pretty fun! When I do use grains, I try to use gluten-free alternatives, which can be found at Kroger or Meijer (I find Wal-Mart doesn't have much, but that's not surprising). It does cost more, but we find it to be a good sacrifice.

Gluten-free Simply Citrus Cream Cake

(used Betty Crocker's gluten-free cake mix. Delish!)

Carmelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza

(Pioneer Woman recipe...used gluten-free pizza crust)

Turkey Asian Lettuce Wraps

We've also learned some other tricks, such as to use a block of cheese and shred it ourselves instead of using bagged, shredded cheese, try to not eat out much, use cornstarch as a thickening agent rather than flour, and we try to shop the "perimeter" of the grocery store.

I've added some new links to my site that include some of my favorite recipes (since I'm truly a "foodie" at heart) and I included a great one for finding recipes on gluten-free stuff called Gluten-Free Girl. Another link that I use for educating myself on the flours I can use for cooking is here.

Saying goodbye to gluten is a challenge and definite undertaking. I'm not trying to encourage anyone to do it themselves, I'm just letting everyone know what's going on in our little ole home in Gtown. Happy cooking!