Friday, February 25, 2011

Bountiful Baskets

I was complaining to a friend about the lack of good produce available in our area (or at a reasonable price). She suggested Bountiful Baskets. At that time, she hadn't tried it yet but had heard great things about the program.
Bountiful Baskets is a non-profit group that makes produce available for a low cost. At $15 a basket, it seems quite economical so I thought I'd try it. There were a few things that would have been good to know:
1. There's a $1.50 handling fee
2. There's a $3 first time user fee
Making my total for the first basket nearly $20. I still went ahead and found myself pleasantly surprised. For that money we got a bunch of bananas, 2 mangos, 5-6 granny smith apples, 5-6 oranges, 7-8 kiwis, a head of romaine, 10 heads of garlic, 1 bag carrots (1pd I believe), and 1 sm bag of potatoes. I believe that was everything. It was a nice change from iceberg lettuce salad mix. We made Beef stew on Sunday that was so good. The oranges and mangos went fairly quickly and so did about half the apples (I am trying to save them to make apple pie jam - if we get more). The kiwis are a little more time consuming than just grabbing the apples, bananas or oranges but I look forward to getting into them soon (we are thinking kiwi pancakes on Sunday).
All in all it was a good deal. This next week will be even better.
We opted to buy two baskets (1 for us and 1 for my Dad). This makes our baskets $15.75 each since they only charge the handling fee once. My dad also saves on the first time user fee.
There are some catches to this program. You have to sign up at their website on Monday or Tuesday (you can look to see if there is a program in your area). Then on the pick up day, which seems to mostly be Saturdays, you have a 20 minute window to pick up your food or it's donated to the food bank. There are no refunds. The good thing is that you decide each week if you want a basket, a bad thing is there is a limit to how many baskets are sold but they may expand the baskets if there is more demand.
The website is not as user friendly as I would like. It seemed difficult to find the information I wanted. Part of that stems from their inability to see in the future - they can't guarantee what will be available from week to week but they always seem to have a good selection (you also don't get to pick and choose - you get what they give).
They do have extra stuff from time to time. This week there was an option to get a big thing of strawberries. I highly recommend trying the program and seeing what you think.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sloppy Joes

This recipe was given to me by a little old lady that used to come in the gas station I worked at many, many years ago. It's a great crock pot recipe but this week we made it with canned pork and it was still great. The recipe says to serve on buttered buns but you can serve it on anything - rice, potatoes, gluten free toast, etc. We, also, substituted the tomato soup and water for a quart of canned tomatoes and added a little extra worchestershire sauce.

Sloppy Joes
2 pd hamburger
1 onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 tbs. mustard
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup catsup
1 can tomato soup
1 can water
Brown hamburger. Put all ingredients into crock pot and cook. (can add onions and celery to hamburger while browning).
Serve on buttered buns.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Corn Dogs

A year ago (or so) my husband bought me a corn dog maker for about $20 at Shopko. I still see these around and highly recommend them. They look like waffle makers with six depressions to make the corn dogs. They are not big enough for a whole hot dog but if you buy the bun size hot dogs and cut them in half - it's about perfect. I have bought regular sized dogs and cut off the excess and then used the little pieces in a corn dog and it worked out fine.
I have noticed that pretty much any corn bread recipe will work. We use the recipe that I shared in an October 2009 post (I'm not savvy enough to know how to link that to here).
You start with oiling the compartments and putting a spoonful of corn bread batter in. You can spread the batter evenly or press a hot dog into the batter to spread it. Top with a little more batter and close the machine. After about 5-6 minutes the corn dogs are cooked. It does take some trial and error to get it right but they are a great treat.
I have even put cake batter in the maker and made a version of "Twinkies". I sliced a line down the cakes and put vanilla frosting in the center and then frosted the top over the split. They tasted great but Chocolate versions get a lot of jokes which made me really not want to do that again.

Bee's Knees Brownies

These brownies are a creation by my friend Michele over at Blue Hive journals She raises her own bees and has so many great posts about her bee adventures. She created this recipe for her local fair and I have to say it's a really good recipe. I have a bunch of creamed honey left over from Scout fundraisers so I thought this would be a good way to use some of it. I will warn you - it's a lot of honey. I was actually surprised how much honey it was but the brownies were amazing. Of course we don't work with butter but the recipe worked great with margarine. (I didn't have unsweetened chocolate but semi sweet worked great - giradelli makes a good DF semi sweet chocolate chip).
A slightly bigger pan will make thinner brownies. I was really surprised by these treats - the batter's flavor was very vanilla-y but the end result was a light chocolate-y flavor. Though it's a lot of honey, the brownies are not overly sweet and made a nice accompaniment to ice cream (soy or coconut would work great).
I am really grateful to Michele for sharing this recipe and look forward to trying it with some of the fruit flavored honey that I have left over (I think we've used up all the "normal" flavors).

Bee's Knees Brownies
1 cup butter, the real stuff
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cup honey from happy bees
1 tsp good vanilla
3 large eggs from a local farm
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup of pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350' and grease a 9x12 pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a water bath (for me that is a glass bowl nestled in a small pot with water it). Mix until very smooth. Add honey and vanilla and let cool. Whip the eggs until frothy and add a small amount of the chocolate to temper the eggs. Then add the remaining chocolate. Add cocoa and flour and stir until just moistened. Pour in to pan and top with nuts.

Bake 35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting and use a very sharp knife when you do.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Papa Murphy's Pizza

I get that this isn't really a recipe but it's a great affordable way to eat pizza. It's not gluten free but they will make a dairy free version if you ask. We used to love Papa Murphy's but when we went gluten free we forgot all about it. On Sunday, I decided it was time to cash in all those free mini-pizza coupons my son gets from the library (Papa Murphy offers their own version of Book-it). The mini pizzas are so cute and unfortunately won't last the week since my son couldn't wait to eat them.
For Valentine's Day Papa Murphy's does a heart shaped pepperoni pizza. It's a really cute idea especially for kids. This year they have introduced a S'mores dessert pizza. For $9 you could get both as their "Sweetheart" deal. I don't know when this special ends but they have plenty of specials all year long. The S'mores pizza is only $4 right now. This was plenty filling for three people. Add a salad or something else and it could be stretched to four or five, depending on how big of an eater they are.
Our Papa Murphy's store is not all that big but when we arrived on Monday at 5ish to get our pizza there was a line to the door. It still only took 15 minutes to walk out with our freshly made pizza - it's cool you get to watch them make the pizza, similar to watching Subway make your sandwich. At home, it took about 15 minutes to cook both pizza's to perfection. We managed to have our pizza in time to finish before our company arrived at 6:30.
For take away it is the cheapest you will find and so much better than McDonalds. They have a family size "perfect" pizza that is half cheese and half pepperoni for about $9. Keep an eye out for specials and you can get it even cheaper.
The pizza is cooked at home but it's never frozen so you can easily add other ingredients to your pizza to make it more healthy.
Now I say it's never frozen but it freezes beautifully. We have bought extra pizzas from them when we lived in the country and stuck them in the freezer. They still cook nicely, just need a little extra time (either to defrost before cooking or to defrost while cooking). If you leave them out the dough will continue to rise which is not a bad thing.
Take the chance and try Papa Murphy's - it's cheap, it's quick and it tastes so good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Picnic Salads

Sunday, we thought it would be fun to make corn dogs and have picnic salads. We put off the corn dogs til later in the week and opted for chili dogs. That works for me because corn dogs are work and I really want to share with you the whole technique (secret is in a corn dog maker which is wonderful but that's for next time. Picnic salads, to me, are potato salad, macaroni salad - anything you'll make for a picnic or barbeque. Sunday's weather was unseasonably warm and sunny which made us want to spend time outside. Even though it was warmer, it wasn't warm enough for a picnic.
My son requested potato salad for dinner and my husband wanted macaroni salad. Both salads are best when they sit for awhile but we couldn't wait.

Macaroni Salad
This can easily be made gluten free by subing gf pasta. To be dairy free omit the cheese.
1 pound macaroni (I actually made 2 12 oz boxes of spiral pasta because it was on sale)
onion powder (or finely chopped onion - I don't like raw onion so I sub)
3-5 hard boiled eggs (depends on the amount of pasta, for 24 ozs I used 5 eggs)
3-5 TB sweet relish (I just use a big spoonful)
1/2 cups shredded cheese
3 celery stalks, sliced thin
Miracle Whip salad dressing

Boil noodles until firm tender. Drain and rinse with cold water until the noodles are all cold to the touch.
In a large bowl, mix celery, onion powder and relish. Add noodles and mix thoroughly. Add Miracle Whip by the spoonful until all the pasta is thinly coated. Stir in cheese and give the salad a good stirring to catch anything that might be sitting at the bottom. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving for a good flavor, overnight for a better flavor (can be eaten right away but may be a little bland).

Potato Salad (gf,df)
6 medium potatoes
4 eggs
seasoning salt
finely chopped onion, if desired (I often leave out the onion)
Boil potatoes until they are tender but not soft (too soft and they won't cube) in a large pot. In a small pot (with lid) bring eggs to a boil. Turn off burner and let sit until potatoes are ready. If you have time, let potatoes and eggs cool. Peel eggs and potatoes. Chop into bite sized peices. Add mayo until all ingredients are lightly covered (not dry but not soupy). Add 1-2 TBs mustard, to taste. Season with seasoning salt.

Super easy salads for any time of the year. Best served with hot dogs, hamburgers or fried chicken but really anything is good.
I prefer to heat my potato salad just a little before eating so it has the best flavor.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I would share a favorite chocolate recipe. This was actually a recipe from the Two Fat Ladies called Adult Chocolate Cake. I don't know if I have altered it in any way since I've had it in my files for many years. This was a wonderful recipe I discovered before going gluten free but was a nice recipe to have when flour was a no-no. It's a really rich dessert. It should be refrigerated overnight but we've eaten it pretty fresh out of the oven and it was still good. Feel free to use semi-sweet or dark chocolate since they are similar in texture to bittersweet (I haven't tried milk chocolate so I don't know how it would alter the recipe).

Flourless Chocolate Cake
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 1/2 cup sugar
5 eggs
Grease 8" - 9" cake pan. Break chocolate into bowl. Set over saucepan of barely simmering water and melt chocolate. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Cut butter into little pieces and beat into chocolate. Add sugar and blend well. In other bowl, beat eggs until very frothy, then gently fold into mixture. Pour into cake pan and place in roasting pan. Add water to roasting pan - 1 inch up side of cake pan. Bake in a preheat oven at 350 for 1 hour, then let cool completely in roasting pan. When cold, remove from water and chill in refrigerator overnight.


Growing up "smoothies" were a standard breakfast except in those days we referred to them as breakfast milkshakes. They are still a treat we like on hot summer mornings or really any time we want something cold and fruity.
There is no real recipe for our smoothies since they are catered to each drinker.

Start with frozen fruit. Our favorite has always been bananas. I have a freezer full of bananas. What I do is - when a banana has gotten to that point I know no one will eat it, I throw it in the freezer (peel and all). For me there's a lot of convinience in this. When I need to use a frozen banana, I run it under hot water for no more than 30 seconds and peel. I may need to use a butter knife to scrape all the stuff off but it doesn't take very long. Other family members, peel the banana and set it on cookie sheets to freeze and then pile them in freezer bags. My method has no freezer burnt bananas but it does mean a lot of slippery bananas falling out of the freezer when we over fill it. Either method works - it just depends on you.
You can also use any other frozen fruit. My grandmother would make them with frozen strawberries. The problem with strawberries is they are not always sweet and can make a pretty sour shake. I have used mixed berries, peaches and others but banana is what we seem to come back to.

We have a "bullet" type blender which makes everything in one serving. So I use 1-2 bananas, depending on their size and cover them with milk. Blend until smooth, you may have to stop now and again and add a little more milk to keep it smooth. Easy peasy - you have a basic smoothie. We like to add peanut butter and chocolate syrup to our banana smoothie but you can really add anything, including fresh fruit (with frozen fruit).

What I like best about this particular method is there is no added water - no ice chunks, nor is there any ice cream. The fruit acts as ice so if there are chunks - it's kind of nice. I like working my way through a piece of soft frozen banana, more than I like hitting a piece of ice. I, also, like that I have complete control of the nutrients, full serving of fruit and milk. And the best part is if they do melt, it's not a watered down version of the drink.


Stroganoff has been a family favorite all my life. It's a mix of sour cream, mushrooms and beef that is heavenly. My mother developed this recipe as a way to stretch the sauce to feed our family of eaters. I will include a method to make this gluten free but alas it's full of dairy (you can use say alternatives but it's not really the same).

Boil a bag of egg noodles. A pound should feed 4 people but don't count on it.

1 pound beef steak (any cut desired, cubed
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, chopped (optional)
16 oz sour cream
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1/2 cup flour
2-4 cups milk
au jus seasoning
oil or more butter for browning beef
Brown beef in a deep skillet or in saucepan that has a fine layer of oil. Make sure not to crowd the beef or it won't brown. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in shifts. Remove the beef to a bowl. Saute onions and mushrooms, add to bowl of beef. Melt butter in pan (be careful not to burn your drippings). Add flour and mix with whisk until all the flour is wet. Pour in 1/2-1 cup milk and whisk until the milk has turned into a paste. Repeat until you have a thick gravy. Add au jus seasoning (if you bought it in a packet, add about half and taste. In a container, add about 1-2 TB and taste). The gravy should be slightly overseasoned at this point. When the gravy is slightly more thick then you would like it, remove from heat. Add sour cream (this will thin the gravy some). Add beef and veggies.
Serve over hot and buttered egg noodles.

For a Gluten Free variety - Mix 1 TB corn starch for every 1 cup cold milk (1 cup milk equals about 1 serving). When they are well combined add to hot butter in pan. Add au jus seasoning and sour cream. Add meat and veggies. Tip: do not taste the gravy and then return the utensil to the gravy. Saliva breaks down corn starch. Always taste a cornstarch gravy with a clean utensil (or finger).

I rarely measure anything when I am making this recipe. I find a nice inexpensive steak and use the entire thing. I use about 1/2 stick of butter and enough flour to make a wet paste. If there is too much flour I add a little more butter. I pour the milk in gradually until I get a gravy that is thick and not pasty. Over the years we added onion because my son loves sauteed onions and any opportunity to add them is great. I have made this without beef and I have made it with hamburger (even without mushrooms) so it's a nice fall back recipe. Feel free to serve it over other things - rice, potatoes, toast.