herbed wild rice & quinoa stuffing

So, while I’m not vegan, I am vegetarian and have been for nearly 34 years – this was a choice. My yeast free, dairy free, gluten free needs (more recently) – not so much…so, as a result of liking to eat and liking to eat well, I cook.

A lot.

Here’s a delicious gluten, dairy and yeast free recipe for ‘stuffing’. I finished it with mushroom gravy and served it alongside mashed potatoes and vegan pot pie. So good.

Let me know what you think!

wild-ricequinoa-stuffing

Herbed Wild Rice & Quinoa Stuffing

Ingredients;

2 tablespoons olive oil + a bit more for greasing the baking dish and drizzling…

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 medium Granny smith apple – peeled and diced

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste (I used about 3 good pinches)

1/2 cup dryish white wine – use one you’d like to enjoy while cooking…(:  Sauv blanc or chard works well. Or if you can’d do the wine – the juice of one lemon + a little more…

4 cups low salt vegetable stock

2 cups wild rice blend

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well

1 cup cranberries – chopped

1 cup raw pecans, chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley + 1/4 cup more for garnish.

1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, minced

Place a large pot over medium heat. Add enough oil to coat bottom – saute onion until slightly browned, add celery and stir occasionally until soft – about 5 minutes or so. Add the apples, garlic, thyme and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for one more minute. Stir in the wine, then add the broth. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the wild rice blend and reduce heat to a medium low and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 34-40 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and stir in quinoa and cover again. Cook until quinoa is tender, about 15 more minutes – or until water is absorbed.

Stir in the cranberries, pecans, 1/2 cup parsley and sage. Taste and add additional salt if desired. Remove from heat. Blend well, drizzle with olive oil and finish with chopped parsley and serve – unless grains need a bit more cooking…

*The next step can be omitted if grains are already fully cooked. If not, see below;  If you want to make ahead stop here and reheat using the following step.

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub a large (9″ X 13″ ) casserole dish with a little olive oil. Lightly scoop the rice mixture into the casserole dish, lightly mounding instead of mashing it down.

Bake until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and finish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Enjoy!

halloween 2014

Halloween is such a fun holiday. Everyone gets to be whatever they want…and what a holiday to get creative!

Now, I’m not usually the type of person who goes all out on holidays, but this past Halloween I did.

My son, Finn, is so into holidays, especially Halloween, that this year we hosted a Halloween party. A Halloween party which has taken the entire past year to plan. We had  very few dinner conversations where Halloween decor was not the main topic of conversation… Finn is that serious about Halloween (clearly, I am too!).

A Halloween party for kids and grown-ups alike and what a blast it was! Complete with lots of handmade decorations and games – a bat pinata, driftwood burning man, witch finger cookies, a mummy head, and specimen jars are just a few of the things we made…and the dance floor (aka our barn) was complete with a disco ball (this we did buy – but what an investment!)…

I cut out bats to hang from the ceiling, made hanging ghosts from found (at the freebie barn of course) sheer curtains and metal hangers, baked witch finger cookies (made weeks in advance then froze) and caramel apples, created a bat pinata by covering layers of glue and newspaper over a blown-up balloon, designed a ‘catch the cat’ toss game (from found bucket and construction paper) and constructed a monster mash can (recycled cans and construction paper) toss, plus shadow puppets (card stock paper) for the kids and gauze-like curtains (also found for free from our dump), which we made c-r-e-e-p-y… Oh and so much more…blood dripping candles, ghost cut-outs, a ghost toss…the list goes on and on. I hadn’t realized how much I made until this post!

I also realized that I really like making stuff.

Staying up late, cutting, gluing, assembling..it was like being a kid again! I had so much fun! The best part would be Finns expression in the morning, when he’d look around to see what mamma made last night…all our ideas were coming to life!

Handmade decorations are not only re-usable and fun, they also save money and are way cooler than any store bought decoration! Plus, thanks to our local transfer station I was able to create many things for free! It also helps to have a brother in-law with a professional sound system and a partner who can do (and make and fix) just about anything! Now, this party was not all free, we did spend some money, but it was money well spent!

Here’s a few pics of what I’ve been up to these past six weeks.

bat template

Bat template. Cut-out can be hung from ceilings or on walls. They look great indoors or out.

creepy curtains

making creepy curtains

Finn helped me with the ‘creepy’ curtains. I was so psyched when I found an entire bag full of white, sheer curtains, for free at our local transfer station! Use old curtains, sheets or cheesecloth, cut small holes and strips into each. Spray with coffee to create an aged look…it works great! Then tack/hang up when dry. They are now packed away for next year, as are most of the decorations…

glitter skull and candles

I picked up this super cool glitter skull at a thrift shop for $2. The mason jars I had, but if you don’t have mason jars, just recycle glass jars and add tea lights (every inexpensive, yet effective!)

everybody dance!

Now, this sound system made the party, and we didn’t rent it, we borrowed it from my brother-in-law…but an i-pod or computer with speakers will do too!

brain speciman

This is just cauliflower in water colored with red food coloring. Great effect and cheap! Fennel bulbs work amazingly as hearts too. Cauliflower looks great cut in half with the leaves slightly peeled back too. Bummer, I didn’t get a photo of my knife stabbed ‘heart’…

slime and eyeball

One of our guests decided to use the glow-in-dark slime and eye balls together…gross!!

headless scarecrow

More free stuff (lucky me, I know) – the flannel, pants and boots I picked up at our dump too! The rats and spider were purchased. Now, while I am not an advocate for plastic, these decorations will be used for years to come…

eyes and owls

The owl cut-outs I made using a template and the eyes were very small stickers that I had enlarged and then cut out…another inexpensive idea. Copy, enlarge and cut-out!

labels

The bar area was complete with cobwebs (taken down and will re-use) and inexpensive wine with new labels! I downloaded templates, cut-out and glued on…it takes a bit of time, but well worth it! If possible, rinse the bottles (careful not to wet the labels) and store for next year!paper skeletonsThis idea, the paper skeleton, I just LOVE!  I couldn’t figure out how to fold paper in order to have it come out as garland, so I ordered it. I actually ordered two, it made more sense with the shipping costs and now I have garland for next year too! The rest consists of paper and one white balloon…so much fun!

shadow puppets

Shadow puppets! Great for any kids party. These fabulous templates I found on the crafty crow. That is such a great site!! I designed the holders out of recycled paper towel tubes and toilet paper roll (my idea)…

spider ice

The mandatory spiders frozen in ice! So effective! Put water in ice trays, place spiders in each holder, freeze and voila! If children are involved, be sure they are not too small – choking hazard!

red slime

Red slime…another mandatory item…looks a lot like blood…that expression is purposeful!

cat siloette

Don’t forget your windows…paper cut-outs are another effective, yet inexpensive way to decorate! I found this image, had it enlarged, then cut out on card stock paper…

spider web

Panty hose leg filled with stuffing and spiders…creeepy…stuffing I picked up at my freebie barn.

monster mash

This was so fun! I was up very late one night making each of these ‘monster’ cans…I designed each can, yet the idea is an old one! Try it. I used plastic eyeballs and table tennis balls…again, plastic items which will be packed away and used for more projects/games…The large skull in the background was an enlarged image from one of Finns Bones books…

cat toss

This was fun. It’s a toss game. I called it ‘Catch the Cat.’ Object, see how many hula hoops you can ‘catch’ the cat with…this was a fun project to design!

skull under cover

Use what you have. I had a cake plate, so why not put a skull in it! Place it on a bed of moss with some over sized ants crawling out of its mouth and well, you have a creepy table piece…

stuffed ghost

This is another effective idea! I found it through Martha Stewart, though I altered it to fit my needs and budget.  I used a wire hanger (from the dump) as the head and stuffed that too, thus allowing a sturdy support and ‘built-in’ hanger…I also added cut-out black construction paper eyes and moth and glued them on.  So much fun!

mummy head

I made a mummy head like this years ago and still love the idea. The head cost me $4 at a local cosmetic supply store, then it’s covered with paper towels which have been stained with coffee, then dried. Applied with corn syrup…a messy, but thrilling project. It looks amazing with coffee stained gauze surrounding the base, served up on a sliver platter!

witch finger cookiesAnd finally these incredible witch fingers!  This idea has been on my mind for years now and I was so pleased with the results that they are definitely going on my ‘next years’ list! They are really almond cookies, with almond slivers as nails and raspberry jam (I substituted jam for the red food gel) as the ‘glue’. Very convincing. Bonus, these can be made weeks in advance and frozen. Simply create the ‘finger’, shape, mark, and press an imprint of the almond (remove almond before baking) on the tip, then bake. Cool on rack, then store in airtight container in freezer. No need to defrost either. Simply remove on the day of the party, apply jam and press nail on. Yummy!

Almost forgot the pinata! This took some time, but oh so worth it!

bat pinata

Do you have a favorite Halloween recipe or decorative idea? If so, please share below, my list is never ending…

Happy Haunting.

Enjoy.

handmade chocolate, almond, coconut bars

A few weeks ago I posted about roasting almonds. What a simple and delicious treat that was to make (and give)…

Though, I must be honest, the real reason behind roasting almonds was to make handmade coconut, almond bars!

The recipe calls for roasted almonds, so, I made them… 

Then, I enjoyed a few and stored the rest until I had time to begin the process of making what I was really wanting to make – the handmade chocolate bars…

I’ve always wanted to try making homemade chocolate treats and Karen Solomon offers up an irresistible recipe in her book, jam it, pickle it, cure it. 

So I tried it.

Though, not in one day. Not with a busy schedule and an even busier four year old…this was a project spread out over a few days and one late night…late because I had to wait until the boys were asleep – these were going to be a surprise!

First I roasted the almonds. Then stored them. Well, not all of them, I did enjoy a few…

roasted almonds

Then, a few days later I prepared and baked the coconut, almond bars.

bars cooling

Then wrapped, stored, and hid (they were going to be a surprise, remember?) the prepared bars for a few more days…

And finally, when time allowed (under the cover of darkness) I coated each with chocolate…I don’t have photos of this step because I lacked natural light (it was late at night while the boys slept)…plus, I needed both hands to dip and twirl the bars once coated…

chocolate covered bars

The finished product was well worth the wait (and planning time), so don’t let a lack of time stand in your way. Consider spreading the process over a few days and you’ll be rewarded with a sweet treat unlike any other.

bar split in two

No additives, preservatives or things unknown to most…just simple ingredients arranged with love. Too bad I didn’t get an almond in the shot…

No need for a dozen candy bars? Why not wrap individually and give as gifts? Or freeze a few for those days when nothing but chocolate will do…or add a few to a little ones Easter basket or give as party favors? The ideas are endless…

So much joy in a little bar. Who knew?

Coconut almond bars

Print this recipe!

slightly adapted from – jam it, pickle it, cure it, and other cooking projects, by Karen Solomon

Here’s what you’ll need;

2 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

24-28 whole roasted salted almonds

2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

What to do;

To make the bars, preheat oven to 350 degrees F., and prepare a rimmed baking sheet with a thin sheen of oil.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl and mix with a fork. You don’t have to beat the whites – just make sure the sugar, vanilla and salt are well incorporated.

Fold in the coconut. The batter will be stiff, like oatmeal.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the batter into your hand, and shape into a 1 1/2 inch log. (*side note – these bars could be made smaller too and then just use one almond per bar) Press 2 almonds into the top of the log, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

bars ready to be baked

Follow suit with the remainder of the batter. You should have at least 12 bars.

Bake for 13-17 minutes, or until the bars are just brown at the edges.

bars browned

Let cool 1 minute, transfer to a wire rack, and leave for about 30 minutes, or until completely cool.

bars cooling

To coat the bars, prepare the baking sheet with a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper, and have it ready.

Heat the chocolate over a double boiler and stir until it is melted and quite satiny. You should be able to drop it in ribbons from the end of the fork.

Using two forks, drop a bar into the chocolate and coat lightly on all sides, then quickly transfer to the waxed paper. Dip the remaining bars. If the chocolate gets too thick or your chocolate starts to get stiff, heat the chocolate some more, stirring well to distribute the heat.

Leave the finished candies at room temperature for about 4 hours, or until completely cool.

chocolate covered bars

How to store;

Store in an airtight tin or a sealable plastic bag, at room temperature, for up to two weeks or freeze.

Do you have a favorite homemade candy recipe? If so, share a link below!

enjoy!

roasted almonds

I’m attempting to make hand made chocolate bars for Valentines day and was in need of roasted almonds…I had almonds, but not roasted almonds…after a quick (well, not so quick with my dial-up internet connection – I know, what?) search online, I realized these smokey beauties would be a cinch to make.

olive oil and salt covered almonds

All you need is a bit of kosher salt, some olive oil and a cookie sheet.

I placed a cup of raw almonds in a bowl, drizzled with a bit of olive oil (just enough to coat each nut), threw in a good pinch of kosher salt – tossed well and then placed nuts onto a baking sheet.

Baking sheet went into a pre-heated 400 degree F. oven and baked for 10 minutes.

roasted almonds 2

Voila – roasted almonds.

roasted almonds

Such a simple snack to make!

Roasted nuts will keep for weeks in an airtight container…

Do you have a favorite recipe for roasted nuts?

If so, please share below!

Enjoy.

more muffins!

Muffins. Who doesn’t like a muffin? OK, I’m sure someone, somewhere doesn’t like muffins or perhaps has never even heard of a muffin, but for me, I love muffins. Not all the time mind you, but when a situation calls for muffins, muffins I will bake.

muffins under glass

It was our familys’ turn to provide snack for Finns’ classroom (once a month, each family is responsible for providing snack for 25 students), and since cranberry season is upon us, cranberry orange muffins only made sense.

Prefer blueberries? Check this recipe out!

Nuts (of any kind) are not allowed at Finns school (nut allergies), so I couldn’t use them, but if I could have, walnuts would have been my choice. The combination of cranberries and orange zest scream for walnuts…at least in my opinion…so if I could have, I would have added walnuts!

The tart sweetness of the cranberry, the pop of orange zest, combined with the velvety crunch of the walnuts (or not), make this recipe irresistible this time of year…

Assemble your ingredients, blend, mix and bake. Muffins in about an hour. Why not?

muffin on paper

If the thought of cranberries and orange zest makes you swoon, why not try this fancier version for holiday get togethers – Orange cranberry cake!

finished cranberry-orange cake

Enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Print this recipe!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients;

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 beaten egg

1 2/3 cups milk

1/4 cooking oil (I used olive oil)

2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel (or any orange – like citrus fruit – I used clementine rind)

1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

3/4 cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)

Here’s what to do;

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Blend in finely shredded orange peel.

Create a well in center of dry mixture.

In medium mixing bowl combine the egg, milk and oil.

Add egg mixture to the ‘well’ in the dry mixture.

Stir just until moistened – this is the key for fluffy muffins – do not over mix.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until fork comes out clean. Rest in muffin tins until able to touch, then remove and allow to cool on rack.

Enjoy immediately or freeze for another day.

muffin on plate

 Enjoy!

mixed nut bars on the run…

Fall is in the air…leaves are turning crimson, mustard and golden…smoke fills the morning air and being outside to enjoy it all is a necessity.

And so is snacking. Healthy snacking.

I always have snacks. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll confirm, I always have food and beverages on hand…one never knows when hunger will strike, right?

That little tummy grumble is inevitable (especially with busy little ones), so why not be prepared with a tasty treat?

Especially one which will not only satisfy any budget, but will also appeal to the desires of both sweet and savory lovers…everyone wins…

Plus, it’s easy and only requires the most basic of ingredients and a few minutes of your time.

You’ll need one sauce pan and one baking dish.

Simply melt and mix ingredients in sauce pan…

Spoon into baking dish and bake.

That’s it!

Easy clean-up too (no one ever seems to mention the clean-up part of cooking and baking)…

These little nuggets are way better than any store bought protein bar, you know all the ingredients (and most likely have them on hand), plus, you’ll save money baking these beauties at home, so why not whip up a batch for your favorite people?

Enjoy.

Mixed Nut Bars*

Print this!

ingredients

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup butter

1 beaten egg

1/2 reaspoon vanilla

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup mixed nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, or peanuts, coarsely chopped

Grease an 8X8 inch baking pan; set aside.

butter and sugar

In medium saucepan heat brown sugar and butter over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.Cool slightly

melted butter:sugar

Stir in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour and baking powder until just combined. Stir in nuts. Spread battter in the prepared pan.

nuts added

in pan

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars while warm; cool completely in pan.

baked

served

Want a little extra love in your nut bar? Sprinkle with grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips for the last few minutes of baking…

Everyone will thank you.

Enjoy.

*Better Homes and Garden’ New baking book 1998

fresh corn, basil and tomato tart…perfect for a maine lobster bake…

Michael (my partner) and Finn (my 3.5 year old son) were out for a few hours, helping a friend put together the necessary components for a lobster bake…

Seaweed. Rocks. Wood to build the fire (and maintain it for hours). A few canvas tarps. And most importantly, a dug space. A pot in the earth so to speak… in which to bake the lobsters, corn and clams.  A real Maine lobster bake.

Hot rocks layer the bottom of the ‘pot’ (a hole dug into sand or soil). Seaweed is dropped on top, creating steam…lobsters are placed on top of this, and then they are topped with another layer of seaweed and a few splashes of sea water…sizzle, sizzle, sizzle…

seaweed + steam

lobsters, corn + seaweed

Corn is layered next, followed by more water, seaweed and then finally, the clams…more sea water and more seaweed are added, and then the tarps are tossed over, covering the opening, thus creating a ‘lid.’

tarps

As the sun sets over the Atlantic, lobsters bake, in the ground, on an island…

sunset

freshly steamed lobsters, corn and clams

I digress…this (potluck) lobster bake, and the fact that Michael and Finn were out for a few hours helping organize the party, is what inspired me to try this recipe.

It’s a recipe I found some time ago…torn from a magazine I regretfully do not know (note to self, write down the month, the year and the title of the magazine, from which the recipe was removed…), and I had yet to make it…

Basil was in the garden, corn I could buy 6 minutes down the road at a local farm stand (my corn is not ready yet), I had eggs (from same local farm stand), cream and enough grape tomatoes to give it a go…I decided this is what I was going to bring to the potluck lobster bake;

A fresh corn, basil and tomato tart.

complete

Plus, I had one hour of uninterrupted time – something truly treasured – now that I’m a parent, and phenomenal lighting, so I prepped, photographed and baked this scrumptious tart in only 60 minutes.

Fun.

Gluten free? Just substitute flour with a gluten free flour and enjoy…

 Fresh corn, basil and tomato tart

Print this recipe!

Ingredients;

ingrediants 1

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs (despite only seeing one in the photo)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

1.5 cups fresh corn kernels (2-3 ears of corn, depending on size) – steamed or boiled for 2-3 minutes

peel the corn 1

remove corn kernals

1/2+ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

chopped basil

1/2+ tsp. salt

1/2+ tsp. freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup freshly chopped tomato

fresh basil

spring of fresh basil for garnish

First the cornmeal crust;

What to do;

adding dry to wet 2

1. In a medium bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high for about 30 seconds.

2. Add sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Beat until combined.

3. Beat in 1 of the eggs until combined.

ball is formed 3

4. Beat in cornmeal and flour, until ball begins to form.

5. Shape into disk with hands and wrap in wax paper and chill for 30-60 minutes or until easy to handle.

chilled dough + tart pan

Next, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

– Lightly press dough on bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom…

press into pan and up sides

work dough towards the sides of the pan and then gently with your fingertips, force the dough upwards, along the sides of the tart pan,

even sides

keeping the thickness even all around and up to the brim. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The dough is so malleable, it moves upwards with ease…make sure you keep all sides uniform and to the brim (to prevent overflow, over the top of the crust, when filling).

crust close-up

– Line crust with double thickness of foil and bake for 10 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 6-10 minutes more, or until pastry is set.

While that is happening…

pouring cream

eggs + cream blended

– In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining two eggs and cream.

corn + basil added to eggs

blend all

– Stir in corn, basil and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

tart filled

– Pour over crust.

baked

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Remove sides of pan to serve.

complete

Top with chopped tomato and fresh basil.

top view slices

side angle view sliced

Makes 8 servings or more if sliced smaller…

tart with cucumbers

 Sliced cucumbers and lime are in the background – I brought a plate of these (cucumbers are plentiful right now) as well as blueberry crisp. Abundant summer fruits – love it!

Enjoy.