For The Gluten Free

If you’re eating gluten free just because you think it’s healthier, I say forget about it. None of us are getting out of here alive so we might as eat, drink and be merry.

However, we do have a family member with celiac disease, which is a cruel fate for an Italian. Barilla makes a pretty good gluten free pasta, but that doesn’t help when it’s holiday time and nothing will do but homemade ravioli. So I found this gluten free pasta recipe and used it to make some darn good ravioli, and I didn’t even have to say so myself.

One of these days I’ll get around to publishing our family’s ravioli recipe. They’re really not that hard to make. But in the meantime I’ll share my recipe for gluten free pasta.

The dough has a different texture, rather slippery when wet. Without gluten, it lacks elasticity, which makes it really impossible to make ravoilis the way we usually do. You really need to make raviolis one at a time when using gluten free pasta. Just wet the edges of both pieces of pasta and crimp well.

OR you can roll out your dough, spread on the filling, then roll up jelly roll style. Wrap the roll in cheesecloth, tie the ends so it looks like a big firecracker, and drop it boiling water to cook. When done, cut in slices and top with your sauce and cheese. Looks different, but is easier and tastes just the same. In this case it would be called “Rotolo Italiano”. (Italian Roll)

The Ham That Wouldn’t Die

Curse of the Holiday Ham. We gave half of it away. We made ham, biscuits and gravy. We made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. I think the ham was somehow growing in the refrigerator when we weren’t looking.

Today I decided to kill the beast once and for all, so I made some crock pot split pea soup. I really should make soup more often, but I’m pretty lazy. This is about as effortless as it gets and I can barely manage that. But, for all of us who set the bar really low when it comes to effort made in the kitchen, or for those who just need one more way to kill off that holiday ham, split pea soup is about as easy as it gets.

Sweet Potatoes

Holiday time has rolled around again. Time to prep for my standing assignment, sweet potatoes. No, I don’t mean yams. Grocery stores sometimes label them as yams, but they’re really sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes sound delicious. Yams sound like something you just yacked up. But whatever you call them, we’re cooking the taters that are purple outside and orange inside. The ones that are about 2″ in diameter work best in this dish, and try to get them fairly uniform in size so they cook at the same time. So, pick through that potato bin like it’s your job.

My sweet potato recipe comes from my Aunt Violet, who was my Dad’s older sister and my stand-in grandmother, since his mother died before I was born. She owned a little restaurant in Fowler, California for a while, and she was a really awesome cook. She taught me all about healthy eating. Fruit pies & her homemade jams & jellies contained fruit. Fruit is good for you. Hence her pies and jelly were health foods and must be eaten at every opportunity. Same goes for these sweet potatoes. Remember that under all the butter and sugar are sweet potatoes, which are very good for you, so you can feel good about shoveling them in.

Her sweet potatoes have spread to my Mom’s family, and to my husband’s family, who now require them at all holiday meals. Fortunately these are a dish best made ahead of time, so the sweet potatoes get to soak in all the tasty goodness of the syrup we cook them in. You can make them a day or two ahead of time, or even a month ahead and stick them in the freezer. Freezing doesn’t hurt a thing, in fact it might even make them better.

I bake them at home and transport them to family dinners in an electric roaster, to keep them warm until serving time. Two 9 X 13 pans full is enough for our big family dinners of about 35 people.

So, check out Aunt Violet’s sweet potato recipe. Somebody else better learn to make them because I can’t do it forever!

sweet-potatoes-done

 

Here Comes The Bride!

Tomorrow we’ll be the proud parents of a bouncing baby girl. Fully grown! No sleepless nights! One more chance there will be somebody to feed us when we’re old and drooling!

Angela’s been part of the family for years but tomorrow it becomes official. She’s had more than enough time to figure out what she’s getting into but she’s marrying Jace anyway, and we go along with the deal. All I can say is she’s a brave girl.

The kids didn’t want traditional wedding cake. Angela is a girl after my own heart. She’s having an ice cream bar. Jace wanted his favorite strawberry swirl cheesecake with strawberry sauce. I just finished making the last two. (Insert sigh of relief) But I say there’s no such thing as too much dessert, so I made some rum cakes too. Just in case we’re feeling a mite peckish after all that dancing.

This rum cake is no family secret. It’s the old Bacardi Rum Cake recipe that’s been around forever. And yet, I’ve never seen anyone else made it. That’s really a pity because this is the most awesome go-to holiday dessert ever. It’s really moist, so it keeps for days. You can make it a day or two ahead of your holiday party, or a month ahead and just stick it in the freezer. It freezes really well. Best of all, everybody loves it.

I always make it with Bacardi rum. It’s the least I can do to pay them back for all the years of tastiness.

rum-cake

My Favorite Apple Pie!

This isn’t just my favorite apple pie in the whole world, it’s the only apple pie I’m allowed to make for the rest of my life. I’m always trying to improve on perfection, but my last attempt at making a better apple pie was my last, period.

Son Jace was soooo looking forward to apple pie because it’s one of his favorite desserts. Sadly, I was trying a new recipe. He took one bite and looked at me like I’d just ripped the ears off a kitten. He was horrified, disgusted, disappointed, all in one very expressive look I’ll never forget, and will never live down.

He wanted to know what was wrong with the pie. I told him I was trying a new recipe. He said, “Why would you do that”? Why indeed. Every time I serve apple pie now, the family teases me about the horrible apple pie debacle of 2013 and I have to relieve the horror all over again. Lesson learned. You just don’t mess with perfection.

This was not the first time apples got me in trouble with Jace by the way. It all started when he was still really little, less than two years old certainly because he was sitting in his high chair eating lunch. Apparently he had done something that displeased me, don’t remember what now. I remember I delivered what I thought was a very eloquent lecture designed to induce immediate attitude adjustment, which I concluded by saying in the time honored words handed down by my mother, “So, how do you like them apples?”. He just looked at me and said, “No, Mommy. It’s not THEM apples, it’s THOSE apples”. Sigh! It was then I knew I was in over my head, and I’m still trying to keep my parental head above water. Lesson #5,652: don’t mess with his apple pie.

So this is what perfection looks like. It tastes even better! Plus it’s EASY!!!

Apple Pie

I LOVE Stew!!!

stew

Apparently most people think stew is like tuna casserole, something you’ll only choke down if there isn’t something better. But give me a bowl of stew and some biscuits, and my stomach goes into it’s happy dance. It takes a while to make stew, but it’s a good weekend endeavor. Kind of like a food mullet. Not much business to attend to up front, big party in the rear. Yes, my mind does work in mysterious ways.

Stew’s in the pot getting delicate. Think I’ll go read a book and enjoy doing nothing for a while, since it’s back to the old grindstone tomorrow. Sigh!

When A Pie’s Too Much….

When a whole pie is just more than you want, or making a pie is just too much trouble, don’t do without, make a galette! Nothing could be faster or easier, especially if you use a ready made pie crust. (I should have stock in the Pillsbury company.)

galette done

The nectarines are getting ripe on our little tree, so Mr. Man brought some in and left them sitting on the counter. Yeah, I can take a hint. But I could not possibly put out less effort making anything than it takes to make a galette, and he’ll be a happy camper. That’s what I call a win, win.

Of course most of the time we want some nectarines, we have to resort to buying them at the store or some local fruit stand. Either way, you’re apt to be looking at fruit that was picked before it was quite ripe and put into cold storage. So I’ll pass along some advice I got from a fruit inspector. Look at the nectarine right around where the stem was attached. You’re looking for a nice warm, golden yellow color. Those will be the ones that were ripest when they were picked. OK, there are white nectarines, and I can’t help you there, but those aren’t the ones you usually see at the grocery store.

You can make a galette with nectarines, peaches, plums, apples, whatever you have on hand. I’m ashamed to admit that it’s not really a problem for two of us to polish off a whole galette of an evening. But, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it makes a nice and rather elegant dessert for four.

Summer’s here and fruit’s ripe. Now’s the perfect time for a galette!

All I Know About Asparagus

All I’ve been doing for weeks is working. No time to cook anything really fun, let alone post any recipes. But, I have a little time today so let’s talk about asparagus.

First, what do you look for when you’re trying to get the best asparagus?  Well, it depends on who you ask. Some say it doesn’t matter what size the stalks are, it’s all good. Just pick whatever size works best for what you’re going to use it for.

On the other hand, I’ve heard that asparagus spears have X number of fibrous strands running through them, no matter how thin or how thick. So the thin spears are mostly fiber, while the thick spears have more “meat” and actually cook up more tender. Personally, that’s been my experience. The last time I cooked skinny little asparagus it was like trying to eat twigs, so I’ve sworn off skinny asparagus for good.

On the other hand, when the bottoms of the spears get really thick and old, and turn white, does that mean they’re tough? That’s been my experience too but again, to each his own. I figure it’s like men. You don’t want the scrawny wiry little dude, you want the nice beefy guy, until he turns old and grey, then he’s not so good anymore. And you want spears that are firm, and not limp or wrinkled, with a tight and purplish tip. Yes, we’re still talking about asparagus.

To store asparagus, you can cut an inch off of the bottom of the spears, drop them into a jar with about an inch of water in the bottom, and put a plastic bag over the top. Or you can wrap them in a damp paper towel and put them in a plastic bag.

When it’s cooking time, most people line their asparagus up and cut off a little bit of the bottoms, so the spears are all the same size. I just snap off the tough part & don’t worry about uniformity. I hold the spear in the middle with one hand, hold the fat end in the other, and bend the spear until it snaps. In theory it will snap off where the stem is starting to get tough. That’s my plan anyway, and I’m sticking with it. It does waste more asparagus, which is expensive, so do whatever you want.

Types of asparagus? Well, there’s green, white, and purple. White asparagus is the geek version of green asparagus. It’s the same thing, tastes the same, it just never sees the light of day so it’s all white and pasty. Purple asparagus is a different variety, supposedly sweeter and more tender, but never having eaten any myself, I can’t confirm that.

Anyway, that’s all I know on the subject of asparagus. I make roasted/broiled asparagus pretty often, so you can check out my recipe if you have nothing better to do.

Crescent Roll Beerocks

I love beerocks. What’s not to love? But most often you get a wad of too much bread, with some too wet filling inside, that isn’t all that tasty. And then if you want to make them at home, you have to make bread, or at least get some frozen bread, and wait for it to thaw, and rise, and make the beerocks. And you have to make way too many, just to make it worthwhile, because you have all that bread. And now you have a whole afternoon invested and you’re still starving. Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, years ago I found this recipe that I think was from one of those Pillsbury bake-off contests, where you get some crappy prize for making something edible with one of their products. But this one’s a winner! OK, they’re definitely not on anyone’s healthy diet plan, and certainly not cheap to make, but they’re fast and easy and delicious. I mean, they’re made with crescent rolls, what could be better? Don’t they look yummy? You want some. You know you do. Listen to your bad self and make some crescent roll beerocks.

beerock dinner

Apparently Mom’s Not Cooking!

Welcome to life. Summertime is appraiser Hell on Earth. I’m lucky to have clean clothes to wear these days, let alone fix something great for dinner. But Mr. Man isn’t complaining. He’s busy fixing up the house and spending money faster than I can make it, so he’s more than willing to have me with my nose to the grindstone instead of in some cookbook. Besides, we’re both so fat we can afford to miss a few good meals.

These days he’s been cooking on occasion, for which I’m so grateful I don’t care what he fixes. Whatever it is, I’ll swear it’s the best thing ever even if I have to massage it down my throat. OK, seriously, he’s a pretty good cook as long as you like things grilled, or fried, preferably with gravy.

Or, sometime I throw something together that takes as little effort as possible. Survival Cooking 101. Yesterday it was roast in a crock pot. I’ve fixed roast every way you can think of, but I’m down to the absolute laziest way imaginable and frankly, they all taste about the same. So I figure, why work any harder than I have to?

Somebody asked me if I have any crock pot recipes the other day. So, here’s how I fix crock pot roast when cooking just isn’t a priority.