January 27th, 2011

Crack Corn

This past Christmas, we had a big Christmas party for B’s family. I was trying not to over do it by making everything from scratch, and giving myself a guilt-free pass by buying some short cuts.

While we were at Target, of all places, I found the most delicious organic kettle corn. I didn’t know I liked kettle corn all that much, but this was hitting the spot! I kept going back for more and then I thought, I can probably make this. I guess I always assumed to get good kettle corn, you had to go to a fair and get it from a big guy in bib over-alls, and get it in a brown paper bag.

It turns out I’m wrong! It makes me feel bad that I bought packaged kettle corn. It also makes me feel bad that it’s as easy as it is. I call the recipe “Crack Corn” because you can’t stop eating it! The first time I made it, I had a couple of handfuls and said that was enough, and put the rest in a tin for later. I popped the tin open for just a little more. The tin was empty before I knew it! Oh bother. I was happy to know I wasn’t the only one though, everyone else can’t seem to stop either.

I think the secret is in the salt. Making it very fine and dust-like, helps it melt into the warm caremelized popcorn. I think the coconut oil is also a fresher choice of oil, whereas butter would make it too heavy. I hated microwave kettlecorn, back in the day. It was just too strong and I think that was because of the fake butter taste.

I also discovered how to make perfect popcorn. I had been using a pot with a lid all this time, and all this time I get wet soggy bits on the popped kernels. I thought I was good at making popcorn, until making it this way. I read around on a bunch of sites how to make it perfect and the best way is – a heavy bottomed pot with enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan (the oil is just a conductor of heat to the corn so you don’t have to go nuts) and a piece of aluminum foil covering the pot tightly with holes poked through it for the steam to escape and give it a shake every now and then so it doesn’t burn. Voila! Perfect crisp popcorn.

Make it and tell me it’s not addictive!

Crack Corn aka Kettle Corn

1 heavy bottomed pot
1 piece of aluminum foil to cover to pot
1 tooth pick
1 rimmed cookie sheet
2 T. organic virgin coconut oil
1/2 C. organic popping corn
1/4 C+ 2 T organic cane sugar
1 t sea salt

In a food processor, blend your salt until fine and powdery and set aside.
In the bottom of the pot on med/high heat melt the oil
Add a kernel of corn to the pot and wait until it pops to let you know when the oil is ready.
Add the corn kernels and stir them around to coat, then add the sugar and stir everything a couple of times
Quickly cover with the aluminum foil tightly and them poke holes in it with the tooth pick.
Let the kernels start popping and give it a shake every now and then so it doesn’t burn.
Once the popping slows ( this all takes about 1.5 minutes) turn off the heat and wait til there is no more popping.
Empty the pot onto a rimmed cookie sheet and quickly and evenly sprinkle the salt over the pop corn and stir to coat it all while its hot.
*You can add or decrease the sugar to your taste as well as the salt.

January 20th, 2011

Organic Facial Scrub

Going through the beauty aisle can be a daunting thing, especially if you’re looking for something organic and natural. Some people feel like when they go to a health food store, anything they pick up is “safe”. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While yes, there are some great all natural products, others have a long list of ingredients, that you don’t know what they are. Just because something says “natural” on the label, doesn’t mean you get to skip doing your homework and investigate the ingredients.

If one of the ingredients is methlyparaben, or any type of paraben, put it down. This is a common ingredient in beauty products that has harmful effects on your health. Parabens mimic estrogen in the body and can disrupt hormon balance. It’s used a a cheap preservative. A common natural preservative is vitamin E.

This is why I prefer to make my own facial scrubs. It couldn’t be easier and you know exactly what’s in it. You can put as much organic ingredients as you want with out compromise. I really do feel like buying facial scrubs is a waste of money when it’s so easy to make yourself. This is far superior than any scrubs I’ve ever bought. This will keep your skin fresh, renewed and moisturized. I do this once a week.

Organic Sugar Scrub

2 T of organic sugar (not the chunky raw sugar)
1 t organic extra virgin olive oil

Mix the sugar and oil together in a small bowl until the sugar is moist, not soupy.

Take a handful and massage your skin gently. This is best done in the shower.

January 19th, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

January 10th, 2011

Birth and Death

We started the year off by ringing in the New Year and celebrating two births, my Husband’s and my Mother-In-Law’s. We were almost pooped with celebrating. In the early days of January, I always think about the year ahead and what’s going to be in my parent’s annual Christmas letter. When we were kids, it was all about our accomplishments, who we were dating, what we were up to, our family vacation’s etc. Now that my Brother and I are married and out of the house, the letter is a little shorter and filled with a vacation experiences, monumental birthday’s and a few sad announcements about someone’s passing.

The letter in 2011 will not be lacking any sadness. My dad woke me up with news that my “Uncle” had passed away this morning. I knew my Dad (and Mom) had already been through the ringer for hours, since they were able to bring themselves to bear the bad news, all by 9 AM. They were there, lending their support and shoulders to cry on for my “Aunt”. I made sure my Dad was “okay” before I hung up and absorbed the news.

I had been prepared in advance that this was a possibility, since my “Uncle” had been fighting cancer for awhile. It still seems so unreal. I’m honestly disturbed and shocked at how fast news travels. I was already receiving texts of sympathy a half hour after I found out. This bugs me in a way. Sometimes I feel like people are bragging that they already know.

I keep putting quotations around Uncle because I’m not related to him by blood. He’s the “best friend” Uncle. My Dad and Mom’s best friends. My Uncle was the one who did all our family films, cracked jokes, and pulled pranks. He wasn’t afraid to “let one” in public and blame it on my “Aunt”! He was the first person I learned the “pull my finger” joke from. I learned a lot of culture and manners from them. I ate fancy dinners at their house, and got spoiled with VHS tapes of all the Disney Princess movies he taped for me. He always had a soft spot for me, and he was the man in my life, aside from my dad and husband, who ALWAYS told me how beautiful I was. He had a beautiful daughter that modeled, so I always felt flattered.

My Uncle will be missed for sure but Heaven will be a lot funnier now that he’s there.

January 7th, 2011

The Hubs Turns 28!

Yesterday, my beloved turned 28. I was hoping to make the day spectacular and special, but he genuinely just wanted to chill out and not do much of anything. I always feel bad, because B always makes a big deal out of my birthday, but his birthday is usually snowy and it seems like it’s always falls on a weekday.

We did have a nice day though. We went to breakfast with friends and went to the outdoor mall to spend some of the Christmas money we got. It started to snow while we were there. I love the insulated sound the snow creates, everything seems so still and peaceful. We walked in the streets under stranded white lights, with fluffy white snow under foot. It was magical and we realized how blessed our lives are.

For his gift, I got him a fancy-schmancy espresso maker. I think he’s in love. Now we can stop spending money at “4bucks”. It’s a sexy little machine and is very small. I’ll post some recipes I’m working on for latte’s, later.

We dared to make the trip down town for a healthy birthday dinner. It seemed like everyone in Ohio forgot how to drive in the snow. B didn’t want to celebrate with food. He’s been very conscious of how he’s been eating and didn’t want to spoil it on his birthday. We both got delicious entree salads and didn’t feel guilt afterwards.

Instead of cake he wanted cookies. Thoughtful cookies. Cookies that wouldn’t make him feel terrible. I knew just what to make. Flour-less peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. A friend of mine made them at a few parties and she tried very hard to convince me that they were flour-less. They looked too good to be flour-less. They were so fast and so easy, I can’t believe I hadn’t made them before now. They were quite oily but they turned out great.

These will definitely be my go to, quick cookies!

Flour-less Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees

1/2 C. organic peanut butter
1/4 C. + 2 T. organic sugar
1 egg
1/4 t. baking soda
a pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 C semi sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix all ingredients except the chocolate chips, until well combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and scoop out your dough balls. I like smaller cookies, so I use about a small spoon full. Keep them about 1 inch apart (they don’t spread too bad though).

Bake for 12-14 minutes, depending if you like them soft or crisp. 14 minutes, with smaller scoops will be on the crisp side.

January 1st, 2011

Happy New Year

I feel like this is the first year I’ve actually paid attention to meaning of “Happy-New-Year”. Even though it’s just another group of days, organized into 30 or 31 days that equal months, and twelve of those months equal a year, it does some how give you the feeling that you can make a change.

I’ve never felt like I needed to make resolutions. This is impart to most people not being able to keep them, or making unrealistic resolutions. When I was a little girl, my resolution was always to stop biting my nails. I always failed a couple of weeks in. I still bite my nails occasionally but at least I have the long nails I always dreamed of. It turns out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s actually kind of gross because things can get trapped under your nails!

I feel very hopeful about this year, not that I want to make a lot of changes, just that there will be change, and I’m willing to accept it with excitement. I hope to be healthier than ever this year, make smart decisions and live a happy and fulfilling life. and learn a lot of new things, and share them.

I know a lot/most people make some type of health resolution at the beginning of the year. Gym memberships start flying off the shelves at this time. If I can give any advise in regards to exercise, it would be to do something that’s not a hassle to do. Driving to a gym, for me, just got to be more of a hassle than was it was worth.

The method I found that has really been working out for me is rebounding. I feel amazing, it’s convenient, it’s effective and easy. I have toned up so well, in hard to work places and it makes me feel so energized. I used to spend an hour, at least at the gym, running, using the elliptical and also doing weight training, with little to no results. I don’t mean to sound like an infomercial, but rebounding really is the best form of exercise I have found with more results than I could even imagine! It’s a total health booster.

To find out more information on them, check out the masters of rebounding, Bellicon. It really is like bouncing on a cloud!

Happy New Year to you and your families. I hope that this will be your happiest, healthiest year yet.

December 23rd, 2010

Seven Layer Cookies

I don’t know why I feel like I have the go-ahead to eat like Buddy The Elf during the holidays. The first thing that I eat in the morning is some form of chocolate, and then I eat a healthy breakfast and then I finish it with multiple forms of sugar, such as cookies, chocolate, or a sweet drink.

I’m not the normal Christmas cookie maker. I don’t share! I make these cookies with myself in mind. Sure, I consider what would be good to other people, but only if I know I’ll have lots of left overs. I make my goodies and hide them. This has definitely gotten a little out of hand, but I figured out how to combat my holiday sugar addiction.

Two years ago, I was introduced to seven layer cookies. It had marzipan in it, which I adore! It has chocolate, and layers of apricot jam, which is always the perfect compliment to intense flavors. This was my kind of cookie! I made them right before we left to head home for Christmas. I had the scraps in the fridge at home and displayed the rest at Christmas dinner. I was slightly shocked to see people eating one after the other. I got a little panicky because I didn’t get to really enjoy them yet! Before I knew it, I had just one or two left, so I hi-jacked them, to eat myself. They were perfection in the form of sugar!

The next year, I made them a little earlier and I made quite a dent in the final count before I even packed them up. This year, I made them 1 day before we leave. Once I taste one, I can’t stop, so it’s best when I don’t have multiple days to nosh on them.

This year, I changed the recipe a little bit, making it more wholesome and less damaging. It’s still a lot of sugar, but I swapped out the butter for virgin coconut oil, and replaced the food colors with vegetable juices. The colors don’t pop like the ones made with the artificial colors, but who cares! They’re delicious.

Merry Christmas to all of you and your families!

Seven Layer cookies

4 large eggs, separated
1 c sugar
8 Oz. homemade almond paste
1 1/4 C virgin coconut oil at room temp.
1 t almond extract
2 c King Arthur Gluten Free flour mix
A pinch of baking powder
1/2 t xanthan gum
1/2 t salt
red and green food coloring, I used beet juice for the red and spinach juice for green (pre packaged)
1 (12 oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
1 c dark chocolate chunks

Almond Paste/ marzipan

1 egg white
8 oz. blanched almonds
8 oz. powdered sugar

In a Food processor, grind almonds until very very fine and a little warm. Pulse in the powdered sugar until well combined. With the machine running, add the egg white slowly. Process until it forms a dough, about 3 minutes.

Seven Layer cookies

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 13×9 pan with parchment paper.

Beat egg white with a whisk attachment of a stand (or hand) mixer until stiff peaks. Sprinkle 1/4 c sugar and continue beating until glossy and stiff. Transfer to another bowl, then switch to the paddle attachment. Beat almond paste and remaining 3/4 c of sugar until well combined. Beat in oil until light and fluffy. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined.

Turn mixer to low, and add flour mix, salt, and xanthan gum and baking powder. Mix until just combined. Fold in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten (it won’t do much lightening) and then fold in the rest. If dough feels too thick to spread, fold in a tablespoon or two of milk. Divide dough into three bowls. Add beet juice food coloring in one bowl, then green in another, just until you get the color you desire. Spread red dough into prepared pan (will be thin), and bake 10-12 minutes until slightly firm and a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. Remove red layer to a rack to cool, prepare another sheet of parchment paper (or another silicon liner) and spread white layer as before. Bake, then repeat with the green.

Once all layers are cooked and cooled, divide the preserves in half. Spread half of the preserves on the green layer, then lay the white layer on top. Spread that with the rest of the preserves, then carefully place the red layer on top. Cover with wax paper, then top with a heavy cutting board or cookie sheet, and refrigerate for 8 hours.

Bring to cake to room temp. and heat the chocolate over a double boiler until just melted. Spread a thin layer on one side and freeze until it sets. Once it sets, flip it over and do the same one the other side, and freeze. Cut in1x1 inch squares and keep cool!

December 17th, 2010

Chocolate Pistachio Gems

I don’t know whether this is a cookie or a candy. Either way, they are my favorite Christmas treat EVER! I can’t stop eating the batter, the chocolate, the filling, etc. It’s all so horribly addictive.

I was sad thinking that I couldn’t make these this year, because of my gluten-free diet but I re-read the recipe, thinking I might be able to switch out a few things, and I realized that they were gluten free anyways! I was so pumped! It’s sort of hard to get motivated to make these because it seems like there’s a ton of steps, but it’s not that bad. They make quite a mess but it’s so worth it in the end.

I personally like to keep these in the freezer (where no one else knows where they are), making them crisp, hard and cold. They are salty, sweet and rich. I’m tell you, they are the best little cookie/candy I’ve ever made. They will be made by me, for years to come!

Chocolate Pistachio Gems

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 15

1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
4 ounces salted shelled pistachios (about 1 cup), ground to a paste in a food processor
1 large egg white
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt
1 1/2 C bittersweet chocolate, chopped
For the garnish: slivered, unsalted, shelled pistachios (optional) and Fler de Sel (sea salt)

Make filling: Bring 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved; set aside.

Put egg yolks in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk by hand until yolks are warm to the touch, about 2 minutes. Fit mixer with the whisk attachment. Mix yolks on medium speed; pour in sugar syrup. Raise speed to high; mix until mixture is cool and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium; drizzle in melted chocolate. Refrigerate until firm, about 1-2 hours.

Make cookies: Put pistachio paste and rest of sugar in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth. Mix in the egg white, vanilla, and salt.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a small (about 1/4 inch) plain round tip (such as Ateco #10). Pipe 1-inch rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until firm and golden around edges, about 10 minutes. Transfer on parchment to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Place cookies, bottom sides up, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Spread 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chocolate filling on bottom of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies. Freeze 1 hour.

Make glaze:tempered chocolate

1 1/2 C organic chocolate chips
in a double boiler melt 2/3 of the chocolate, until it reachers 110-115 degrees F. Take off the heat and add in (seed) the rest of the chocolate chips. Stir until it cools to 80 degrees F. After it gets down to temp. put it back on the double boiler till it reaches 90 degrees F. Dip the macaroons immediately and put on parchment or wax paper.

Using a chocolate fork or regular fork, hold 1 cookie at a time above bowl of chocolate glaze. Spoon glaze over cookie, letting excess drip back into bowl. Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Garnish with slivered pistachios and a sprinkling of sea salt. Refrigerate until set, 5 minutes. Cookies can be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers up to 3 days.

December 15th, 2010

Zimtsterne Cinnamon Stars

I’m a little late jumping into Christmas baking. Honestly, I was a little discouraged at what I thought was my lack of options. I’ve never had a gluten-free Christmas. Having a GF Thanksgiving wasn’t all that fun, if I’m being honest. I’m really missing my traditional Christmas breakfast, which is “coffee cake”. It’s my Grandma’s recipe for a sweet, cinnamon topped bread. It’s perfect toasted and slathered with salty butter. I may need to make some exceptions! I just realized that I don’t need to make as many exceptions as I thought, with cookies.

I feel like I haven’t been making Christmas cookies, on my own, for that long. It’s true and false at the same time. I was always in the kitchen helping my mom during Christmas. When I was younger, I would be making the more “American” cookies, while my mom would be crankin’ out the German cookies. I guess I should have paid more attention to our traditional recipes. We always had several tins full of all kinds of cookies and my mom would put them on the porch, where it would stay nice and cool, and the cookies would last a long time.

My favorite German cookies were the nut/meringue cookies. I loved the crisp texture of them. It took me forever to make these right, on my own. I would always end up “trying” to making them, and my mom would have to come in and finish them- this is a recurrent pattern in my baking history!

I was glad to realize that my favorite German cookies, that give me that “Christmas” feeling, were naturally gluten-free. A lot of German cookies are made with meringue and nuts, which is very good for me! I guess I just never realized there was no flour in them until I couldn’t have it!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Merry Christmas!

Zimsterne Cinnamon Stars

2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling*
15 ounces sliced almonds, with skin (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites, room temperature

Sift the powdered sugar

Add 1/2 C. 10x sugar and 10 oz. of sliced almonds to a food processor and process until ground into a meal. It can be a little chunky, if you like bigger chunks of almonds in the cookies.

Add 3 room temp egg whites to a clean bowl of an electric mixer and whip on med high until you get a stiff peak.

On medium speed, add the rest of the powdered sugar and whip until thick and creamy and stiff.

Set aside about 1/2 C. of the meringue for icing the cookies

Fold in the nut mix gently into the meringue.

On a piece of parchment sprinkle it with powdered sugar and dump the mix on the parchment and cover it with more powdered sugar and flatten with your hands as much as you can. Add another piece of parchment and roll out until 1/4 inch thick.

Cut out in star shapes put it on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

With the remaining meringue, paint on the frosting as thick as you like, without letting it seep off the sides. Top with the rest of the sliced almonds.

Bake for 30 minutes until the cookies are slightly browned on the botom and the icing is dry. Crack the door and leave the cookies in for another 10 minutes.

Store in a cookie tin.

December 10th, 2010

Dreams Do Come True!

I normally wouldn’t post something like this, but it’s just too funny not to share! My Mom sent this to me, probably a couple of years ago! She knew how much I enjoyed the claw game. I even would have dreams about winning all the toys. I spent every indoor soccer game, of my brothers, at the mercy of this machine. I would constantly be running back and forth from the arcade to the bleachers where my mom was, begging for another quarter. When she finally turned me down, I would search under the bleachers for the quarter that fell from someones unlucky pocket or purse!

I still remember the time when a couple of the kids and I got so close to getting a stuffed animal, the loop on the top of it’s head was hanging over the side where it would drop. I got real inventive all of the sudden! I ran to the concession stand and asked for a bunch of straws and smiled as the attendant eyed my rye smile with caution. He gave them to me any way, and I got to work. I made a pole out of flexible straws and piped it through the door of the machine and viola! The bear was mine!

So, I say Bravo to this little girl (and the one I saw on the news this morning that did the same thing) for livin’ the dream!