Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Baking for Santa--and my family

The past few days I have been baking to get a jump on the holidays and I am having a bit of trouble keeping sneaky fingers out of the cookie jar. The goal is to cook early and freeze items to have in a couple of weeks.

I started with cookies and made some to eat and some to freeze. That went pretty well but I only was able to freeze about half of them. Then I moved on to cinnamon rolls. I baked some for the freezer and some for our new neighbors. It was a great thought, but the neighbors weren't at home and we wound up giving some to family members and then the rest of them are almost gone. Not a great start.

I know it CAN be done since my Mother did it every Christmas when we were growing up. At Christmas, an abundant supply of cookies, candies, and cakes did seem to magically appear. This was because Mother had been baking and stashing them away in the freezer and refrigerator while we were at school. We did bake a few things, but most things she prepared when we were unaware of her incredible baking that was going on while we were away. We didn't really get to sample items made for Christmas. I now think this was probably by design to make sure she didn't have to bake perpetually from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.

Starting tomorrow, I will just have to have to take a firm stand with the goodies I am preparing. Rather than sharing them, I will have to slap away the hands from the cooling rack where the cookies are waiting to be packaged and frozen. I will say in my best "food Nazi" tone-- "No cookies for you!" before I stash them away in plastic and store them in the freezer for the next week or two.

My family will be glad I did, especially with the gluten-free cookies I am baking. There are times I realize my Mother had some cunningly ingenious ideas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What can I get for a dollar?

A couple of days ago I went to the Dollar Store. I must admit it is one of my favorite places. Every year about this time I go there to get some cute items that include Christmas bags, a few ornaments and paper goods, Christmas cards, and to see what else they might offer. 

This year we have a new, local store that is laid out very effectively. They keep their seasonal items mostly up front and then have seasonal items in aisle displays, which keep you moving throughout the store. The exciting thing is that every item is just a dollar. Though some of the items can be cheaply made, many of the items are surprisingly nice and that is why I love shopping there.

I found some very nice bows, 3 for $1, that look really nice on my packages.

I often buy candy canes but since I could only find yellow and blue ones, I opted for these plastic ones that came in a package of 6--also $1.

I had never seen these doves before. I always have a few cardinals but the doves give the right message. Of course the cost is $1.

I also like to add some silk poinsettias to my tree and these were in bunches of five. I don't know if they are a better value than those at the craft store and were a bit small but I was there, so I picked up a few and had 15 little ornaments for my tree.

I also purchased Christmas cards which are a major bargain. Each package of 15 or more are just $1 and a package of money holders, $1 for 8.

I do realize that most things sold there are made in China but that is true for most discount stores. I don't usually buy foods there, though they do stock packaged and frozen foods. My problem with the food is that there is less in each package than in the grocery stores. It might pay you to shop there if you figured out the price per item, but I think some items were about the same a grocery prices and I have concerns about the freshness.

Good items to buy: Reading glasses, table covers and party supplies, small cheap toys and puzzles, buckets, cleaning supplies and tools, foil cooking pans, cooking utensils, sometimes craft items, little baskets for giveaways, inexpensive Christmas stockings and cute stocking stuffers.

Go there. I think you will like it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Smoothies--a holiday indulgence

Around this time of year I try very hard to eat a little better so that I don't have to lose quite so much weight in the New Year. It is a constant struggle but the thing is making choices that are healthy.

One of the choices we make is to exercise and then have a green smoothie instead of breakfast. Below is one of our favorite recipes.

Does it help? I can't really say. I usually lose focus a couple of times during the holiday season but it makes me feel better to at least try. The smoothies are good, too--so good we are talking about making it a habit year-round. We think of it as an indulgence that tastes good and is good for us, too.

Veggie–Berry Smoothie 

This is our favorite smoothie recipe. It has a little bit of everything and is very tasty. 

1/2 banana 1/2 apple, cored 1/2 orange, remove orange outer peel by thinly peeling, leaving the white pith and the seeds 1 cup raw kale 1/2 carrot 1/4 cup frozen blueberries 3 to 4 frozen strawberries 4 ice cubes 1/2 cup water Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender. Use the tamper tool to push down ingredients into the blade. Blend until smooth and pour into a glass using a silicone spatula. You will need to use a straw with this smoothie to get all of the nutritious and yummy goodness from the bottom of the glass.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Turkey Casserole with Cheesy Biscuit Topping

Our family had such a nice Thanksgiving but, I am one of those cooks who probably overestimated how much my family would need on Thanksgiving, and the day after, and the next day, and ...

You get the idea! I had too many leftovers.

We were all a bit tired of heating up leftovers with food that was way too heavy. I decided to make a casserole that was a bit lighter with my leftovers, plus it needed to be gluten-free. I had seen those casseroles for leftover turkey with cheese biscuits cooked on top and I decided I could make a good gf version that could be a crowd pleaser, if I used that model.

The leftovers I wanted to incorporate: turkey, gravy, cream-style corn. The things I decided to add: chopped carrots, celery, onions, parsley and of course some lower-fat cheese biscuits for the topping.

And the result was a great casserole that smelled delicious and one that everyone really enjoyed. It was kind of like we had it for the first time rather than a recycled meal.

I even had enough to share with my Mom. We made it a Happy after Thanksgiving Non Warmed-Over Casserole that lifted our spirits. You ought to try it.

Here's my recipe. Mine is gluten-free. Of course this would be good if self-rising wheat flour were used, too,

Turkey Casserole with Cheesy Biscuit Topping

4-5 cups pre-cooked chopped turkey
3 small carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 onion (about 1/4 cup), chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 to 1/2 cups creamed corn
1-1/2 cup gravy (or substitute 1 can of broth with 1 tablespoon corn starch stirred in)
Biscuit topping (recipe below)

In a large greased casserole dish layer turkey, carrots, celery, onion, and parsley. Mix together the corn and gravy (or broth mixture) and pour over the top of the ingredients in the casserole dish. Top with Biscuit Topping and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until topping is nice and browned. To serve: dish out biscuit and turn over, then spoon filling over the top of the biscuit.

Biscuit Topping
1/2 cup sweet (glutinous) rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1-1/4 cups buttermilk (more if needed)

 Mix together rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, cornstarch, baking powder, xanthan gum, and garlic salt. Mix in small pieces of butter with a pastry knife. Mix in cheese. Pour buttermilk into mixture and stir until well mixed. Mixture will be thinner than regular biscuit batter. Spoon on top of the Turkey Casserole and bake as directed.