Monday, September 30, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Meal PlanPretty easy week ahead, since we’ve got a big BBQ planned for Saturday – after about 5 months of living here, we are finally ready to have our housewarming!  We waited partly because we wanted to have our kitchen remodel finished and partly because we wanted the cooler fall weather.  I’ve got a great menu planned for the party, and I’m really excited as it’s all GF except for the sandwich buns! (mine of course will be GF, and Hubs will set aside my BBQ before anyone digs in Winking smile)

Monday

  • Grilled Pork Chops
  • Green Beans
  • Roasted Butternut Squash

Tuesday

  • Chicken Sausage
  • Broccoli
  • Brown Rice & Kale

Wednesday

  • Baked salmon
  • Green Beans
  • Brown Rice & Kale

Thursday

  • Turkey Burgers
  • Ore Ida French Fries
  • Broccoli

Friday

Saturday

     Housewarming Party!  We’ve got quite the menu planned, and making it all ourselves – hope it all turns out, I plan to lots of pictures to share on the blog. 

  • Caprese Sticks
  • Roasted Garlic Bacon Dip
  • Atomic Buffalo Turds (I know…weird name, but so tasty, and one of Hubs’ specialties!)
  • Bacon Brown Sugar Smokies
  • Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches with Coleslaw
  • Roasted Potato Salad
  • Smores on a Stick
  • Pillsbury GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sunday

  • Leftovers (cause there is no way we are cooking after all that on Saturday!)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Gluten-Free Friday: Udi's Frozen Pizzas

Have I got a fantastic product to share today!  I've reviewed the Udi's pizza crusts, but I hadn't bought the premade pizza before.  Then I read a review on Gluten Hates Me, and I knew I had to give it a try.

UdisPizza3

One word - wow.  I was floored by how good it was, and how much better it was than the pizza crusts!  Don't get me wrong, the pizza crusts are good and definitely more affordable than the ready-made pizza, but they don't have the same crunch and flavor.   

UdisPizza1

It cooked up in just 12 minutes in my toaster oven, and came out perfectly golden brown.  It had just the right amount of cheese, and while I am not normally a pepperoni fan since I find it tends to overwhelm the flavor of the pizza, in this case it added the perfect meaty saltiness.  Maybe because it is uncured pepperoni?  Anyway, two thumbs up!  The crust was the real winner though - I could actually hear the sound of the crispness when I sliced into the pizza, and the slice stood up to the test and didn't flop down.

UdisPizza2

I bought just one small pizza to share with Hubs as a backup for the Pillsbury gluten-free pizza dough in case it was inedible (not unheard of in my gluten-free pizza experience), and after finishing my half I worked the puppy-dog eyes on Hubs until he offered up the rest of his last slice!  What a guy :)  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Grain Brain

Grain BrainFor a long time, Hubs has argued that the overemphasis on whole grain everything has been one of the big issues in the modern diet, since it seems so many of our dietary issues have become more prevalent as that campaign grows.  Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, agrees with him wholeheartedly and has the research to back it up.

I recently received an advance copy of the book via Goodreads, and reading it has totally woken me up to the detrimental effects of grains in our diets, particularly to our brains.  I have obviously been strictly gluten free for years now, so that was nothing new to me, but Dr. Perlmutter has compelling evidence backing up his argument that all grains, not just gluten-containing ones, have a negative impact.

We mostly focus on the effects that gluten has on your gut, but I'm sure most of you that are celiac or gluten sensitive are very familiar with the brain fog associated with eating gluten.  When I first went gluten free it was like a dark cloud lifted from over my head, and any time I get contaminated I feel the effects immediately.  This book explains these effects on your brain, and even has an illustration via an MRI scan.  I was definitely very fascinated by all his research on gluten and the information regarding the history of celiac and gluten sensitivity in our culture.  For that alone, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about being gluten free.

What really surprised me though was the type of diet he advocates - I have always been taught that fat and cholesterol are bad for me, and have eaten accordingly.  Contrary to popular belief, apparently those two things are exactly what your brain needs to stay healthy!  Of course, he is not saying you should go stuff yourself with tons of fatty food - he recommends healthy fats like olive oil, and good sources of cholesterol like whole eggs.  He also advises that you avoid all carbs as much as possible, including grains like rice and corn.  And once again, his arguments are very compelling and backed up by lots of convincing (and slightly scary) research.  

The last part of the book outlines a basic diet plan with lots of suggestions on foods that fit into his guidelines, and also some recipes to get you started.  I haven't gone fully into the diet yet, but I plan to do it next week, and I'm already starting to wean myself off the carbs as much as possible, particularly sugar, since I was getting really bad about the sweets lately.  And it's not super strict - things like low-carb GF crackers and low-sugar fruits are fine, the idea is just to minimize those things but not eliminate them.  Plus red wine and dark chocolate (70% cacao) in moderation are both okay, and those are my minimum requirements in any diet plan!

I was very carb heavy over my weekend on Fire Island with Hubs' family, so I eased myself into it my first week back at work.  It worked out surprisingly well - I can already completely understand his argument that the effects of carbs in your blood sugar can drive your appetite and signal your body to want to eat more.  I didn't get nearly as hungry/snacky throughout the day, and I also didn't experience the afternoon slump that I tend to get at work that makes me dig for a sweet treat.  I've also been making healthy swaps at dinner - still eating some carbs, but very tiny portions mixed in with lots of veggies like sauteed kale.   

I'm going to keep on working at it and see how it works out - I figure if I can improve not only my physical appearance but also my mental well-being, it's worth a try.  Want to read about Grain Brain for yourself?  It's available now on Amazon in hardback, Kindle and audio versions.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Meal PlanWe had an extremely thrilling weekend getting caught up on errands and some home projects, including coating our outdoor teak furniture with protector and sealer - it's a big table with 6 chairs, so it was quite a task!  We did fit in a couple of fun things at least, had a nice lunch out by the water on Saturday and a quick beach trip on Sunday evening so Hubs could catch some waves and I could catch some time with my latest book, but my mental energy did not extend beyond picking old familiar meals before our shopping trip.  I am at least working in a lot of greens thanks to the big bag of kale I bought!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Grilled Flank Steak
  • Sauteed Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Baked Butternut Squash

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gluten-Free Friday: New Pillsbury Pizza Dough

When I was perusing for printable coupons recently, I was very intrigued when I spotted one for a new line of gluten-free doughs by Pillsbury.  As I am always in search of my next favorite product, I printed the coupon and picked up a tub at my local Publix, where I found all three varieties - chocolate chip cookie dough, pie crust and pizza dough.  Since I don't need cookies in my house at the moment and pies are not usually a part of my cooking routine, I figured I'd give the pizza dough a shot.

Pillsbury1

I had noticed on Facebook and Instagram that the pizza dough was getting slammed pretty badly, so I was a bit apprehensive going in.  A lot of people were saying it got too crispy on the outside and too mushy in the middle, so I decided that instead of adding sauce, potentially adding to the soggy factor, that I'd just do cheese sticks.  

I rolled out just half of the dough in the container, using a rolling pin to get it evenly thin - when I initially flattened it with my hands, I was reminded of the consistency of play-doh, and due to the sticky factor I figured a rolling pin was my best option.

Pillsbury2Pillsbury3

I parbaked the dough in my toaster oven per the package instructions, until it got slightly golden brown.  At this point, I was actually pretty impressed - it looked pretty delicious!

Pillsbury4

Then I brushed the crust with olive oil, added a handful of shredded Italian cheese, sprinkled it with Garlic Gold and oregano, and popped it back in the oven.  

Pillsbury6

I ended up pulling it out a little sooner than the recommended time, since I noticed the edges getting golden.  

Pillsbury7

It ended up being not quite fully cooked I think, since the dough still looked a bit wet in the middle, and it was pretty dense when we bit in.  It also didn't have any crisp to it, which is something I've come to appreciate in gluten-free pizza since we don't get the chew factor that gluten provides.  However, it wasn't as bad as I'd been led to think it would be, and we polished off the entire thing pretty quickly.  

Would I buy it again?  Probably not.  I do have the other half of the dough still, so I might have better luck next time leaving it in a bit longer and maybe I'll change my mind.  I have heard that the cookie dough is fantastic from several sources, though - check out the review on the I'm a Celiac blog!  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Super quick planning this week since I'm not all that sure what I've got in my freezer - hoping it all comes together! Got a mix of mostly easy meals with a few of our favorites mixed in for interest.



Monday

  • Dinner Out - traveling home

Tuesday

  • Chicken Sausage
  • Brown Rice
  • Broccoli

Wednesday

  • Baked Salmon
  • Brown Rice
  • Green Beans & Shallots

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

  • Grilled NY Strip
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Broccoli

Sunday

 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gluten-Free Long Island: Fratelli's Pizza

One of my favorite food memories is of the first time Hubs took me home to meet his family and fed me real New York pizza for the very first time. I could see what the fuss was all about, easily the best pizza I've had. The last few visits though I have had to settle for watching him enjoy his pizza, but not this time!

My mother-in-law scouted out this place for me - when she asked about the gluten free the owner showed her exactly how careful they are with it - they not only have specially designated bowls and pans for prep, they even have separate spices and toppings. I was eager to give it a try on this year's visit.
It comes in a "personal" size only, although it was pretty large - probably similar in size to a medium (they do pizzas big up here!). It was really good - they don't go for the flatbread thing like a lot of GF pizza places, the crust had some heft to it. It was a bready crust, you can't expect to get the chew without gluten, but a good substitute for sure.
What made it really amazing was the cheese - I'm not sure exactly what the cheese blend is, but it was so flavorful and worked perfectly with the sauce. And they are very generous with it!
So happy that I get to participate in the pizza meals again - thanks, Fratelli's!

 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Kitchen Reveal!

We recently bought our first house together here in Florida, and one of the things that we knew we wanted to update pretty quickly was the kitchen.  It was functional enough, and the appliances are great, but it just didn't work as well for our needs since we spend a LOT of time there.  It also didn't have a pantry, which made food storage more difficult.

Initially we went into this project thinking we would just get a pantry cabinet and new counters installed, but when we realized how much more organized and efficient the kitchen space could be, we decided to go ahead and replace all the cabinets.  We kept the appliances, though, which makes a big difference in terms of budget.  

Presenting the final product!

NewKitchenPanorama

The panorama photo makes it look like the middle is curved, but it's not - still like seeing the full effect though! Here are some before and after shots to give you an idea of what we started with compared to what we ended up with.

Kitchen1NewKitchen1

Kitchen2NewKitchen2

Kitchen3NewKitchen3

Kitchen4NewKitchen4

We worked a lot of little details into the design that made a huge difference in terms of organization.  We replaced one of the large lower cabinets with two deep drawers for pots and pans - no more kneeling on the floor to dig out the pan I need!  The lids and a couple of the larger pots are in the lowest drawer.

NewKitchenPotDrawer

We also replaced one of the narrow cabinets on the side of the stove with a built-in spice rack, freeing up space in other cabinets and making it really easy to both find and use spices while cooking.

NewKitchenSpiceRack

For the largest section of the pantry, we had drawers installed instead of shelves to make food easier to access.

NewKitchenPantry

We also ordered cabinets that were 6" taller than the previous ones, which allowed for a bit more storage space per shelf inside.  The biggest storage addition though was turning the built-in desk into a pantry, something we knew we needed to add when we bought the house.  The desk space was basically useless to us - the surface became the dropoff area for our things after we came in the door.  Now we are using one of the built-in shelves on the side of the pantry for this purpose, and it looks a lot neater!  

NewKitchenKeys

There is so much less visible clutter, which makes me really happy.  Not to mention the wow factor thanks to the beautiful granite countertops!  The granite is Santa Cecelia Light, and we thought it really complemented the brushed-chrome hardware look and all of our stainless steel small counter appliances.

NewKitchenGranite

In case anyone is curious - the cabinets are by Kabinart, and the whole thing was designed and put together by Heller Cabinetry in Melbourne, Florida.  The initial demo/preparation and the final tasks involving plumbing and electric installation/adjustments were all Hubs' handiwork.  Having a handy husband is definitely something I am extremely grateful for!  

Hope you guys enjoyed the tour of our new kitchen – cooking is even more of a pleasure now and I am totally loving it Smile

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pesto Compound Butter

This past weekend we were doing steak night and our basil plant needed to be trimmed, so I had the idea to try my hand at compound butter.  It sounds fancy, but it's really not complicated at all, and I wish I'd tried making it sooner!  I don't have many photos since I didn't think to take any while I was putting it together, but it was so good that I had to share it.

09102013 - 2

To start, I whirred up a quick version of pesto in the food processor - just garlic, basil, olive oil and salt & pepper.  I've found that the trick to getting a good consistency is to put in the garlic cloves first and process them well before adding anything else, otherwise you can get big chunks of garlic.  

Once I had my pesto sauce, I grabbed a half stick of butter from the fridge and microwaved it at 20% power for 30 seconds to soften it slightly (if I'd planned this in advance I would've just left it out on the counter awhile, but using the microwave at low power is a great shortcut).  Once I had soft butter, I added in a couple tablespoons of the pesto and stirred it all together until well combined.

Next, I scooped it out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, then folded over the wrap and started forming it into a log shape.  Once I had the basic shape, I squeezed the ends of the plastic wrap in my hands and whirled it in small circles until both ends were fully twisted up, then folded them under the butter and put it back in the fridge.  I could've probably spent a bit more time on this and gotten a uniform log, but I knew it wasn't going to affect the taste!

When it was time to serve, I unwrapped the butter, cut off a couple slices and placed them on top of the steak to melt down.

09102013 - 1

It was so delicious!  Something about the butter and beef was beyond decadent, and the pesto was a great flavor addition.  I also spread it on the grilled corn, and it was fantastic there too.

I'm looking forward to spreading this on some garlic toast - I just snagged some of the new Udi's french bread baguettes at Publix yesterday - and I know I am going to have fun trying out different combos now that I've gotten the idea in my head.  It's certainly going to make our meats and veggies a lot more interesting!  I'm thinking of a roasted garlic and herb butter next...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Meal PlanJust a short meal plan this week - going to be spending a long weekend with family so no advance planning needed!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Monday, September 2, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Meal PlanAfter a week hiatus involving complete demolition and the installation of brand-new cabinets and counters, the kitchen is back in business!  I had a busy weekend getting everything put away again, and it is absolutely amazing how much more storage space we were able to get in that kitchen - it's not quite done yet, still have a few final touches of the installation coming this week, but I will post pictures as soon as it's officially complete!  I'm sticking with tried and true again this week since I didn't have much mental energy after all that organizing.

Monday

  • Baked Chicken Breasts
  • Broccoli
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

  • Pork Chops
  • Annie's GF Mac & Cheese
  • Broccoli

Sunday

  • Turkey Meatloaf
  • Acorn Squash
  • Broccoli
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