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Pear Muffins

I love pears, but they're never ripe when you buy them, and they seem to take so long to ripen.  Half the time I totally forget about them until they're overripe, and then I feel guilty for throwing them out.  The last time this happened I decided to try using them to make muffins and it worked!  The spices weren't quite right, but on the second try they came out tasting the way I had hoped. time you have overripe pears, or are just craving something warm and sweet, try these.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Pear Muffins

1 cup fully ripe or overripe pears (about 2 medium) cored, peeled, and mashed (a pastry blender works well for mashing)
2 eggs
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 Cup oil
1/2 Cup golden raisins (optional)
Combine above ingredients in large bowl and mix well.  In a smaller bowl combine:
1-3/4 Cups Four Flour Bean Mix
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease 12 muffin tins.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir together until mixed.  Do not overbeat.  Spoon into prepared pans.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on rack.  Makes 12 muffins.


No. 1 Caramel Corn

No. 1 is kind of a play on words, because each of the ingredients and the instructions has 1 in it, which makes it easy to remember in case you want to make some when you're at a friend's house and don't have your recipe with you :).  It's also a wonderful ooey, gooey totally yummy caramel sauce that doesn't sugar or go hard by the next day if you happen to have some left over, which isn't likely, and that you can also use as a dipping sauce for cut up fruit if you don't want to pour it over popcorn or make popcorn balls.  It's No. 1 at our house!  Hope it'll be No. 1 for you too!

No. 1 Caramel Corn

1 lb. (2-1/3 Cups) brown sugar
1 cube (1/2 Cup) butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 Cup light corn syrup

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 minute.  Pour over approximately 3 gallons of popped corn. 

Remember those big old Tupperware bowls.  I still have mine (they last forever) and 3 gallons filled two of them with enough room to stir.  Just pour about half of the caramel sauce over each bowl and stir.  I also have a giant stainless steel bowl that I use for canning that all of the popcorn would fit in, but I found it easier to stir it into the popcorn and get it evenly coated in the smaller bowls.

To form the popcorn balls, though, I went ahead and poured the contents of the smaller bowls into the bigger bowl, buttered up my hands, and dived in.

Be sure you have some room temperature butter nearby when forming the popcorn balls, so you can butter up your hands often.  One recipe makes 16 big popcorn balls.


For you sharp-eyed readers who will notice that there are only 15 popcorn balls on the cookie sheet, that's because my husband snagged one to eat before I could get the picture taken :)  Enjoy!


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cake

Seems like forever since I've posted on this blog.  Apologies to my faithful readers.  My mom and mother-in-law (93 and 90 respectively) have both been through a long rough patch, but are both doing better now, so back to cooking!  I adapted this recipe from a recipe I got from my friend Gail (of the Gail's Green Beans fame).  She brought this cake to a party we attended and I loved it!  It's a snack cake -- so no frosting is needed (call me crazy, but I've never been a fan of frosting).  You can drizzle it with chocolate sauce or sprinkle it with powdered sugar, if you like, or you can serve it up my favorite way -- with Magic Vanilla Ice Cream on top, drizzled with Hot Fudge Sauce.  Yummmm.....decadence at its best!

This cake also transports well, which makes it a great picnic cake for all your summer outings.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cake

1 Cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (see note below)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1-3/4 Cups water
Put in a large bowl and microwave for 4 minutes on high.  Remove from microwave and cover to steam while doing the next two steps.
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup white sugar
2 eggs, whisked
Mix sugars and eggs together.
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
Whisk dry ingredients together. 
10 oz. chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)
Add chocolate chips to the flour mixture and stir to coat the chocolate chips.  This keeps the chips from sinking to the bottom of the batter when baking (great hint Gail -- thank you!)

Now take the cover off the oatmeal/butter mixture and stir in the sugar/egg mixture, then the flour/chocolate chip mixture.  Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. 

Note:  if you prefer less oatmeal texture, you can substitute Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal.

Also, for you wheat-OK followers, just leave out the xanthan gum and use regular oatmeal and flour.  No change in quantities.


Wonderful Waffles

I adapted this recipe from one that I received with my power bill -- you never know where you're going to find a good recipe!  I hope you've discovered Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Oats.  They are wonderful!  They work great in this recipe, and are a delicious hot breakfast cereal all by themselves.  They give these waffles a chewy texture, which is quite delightful. 

Wonderful Waffles

1-1/2 Cups gluten-free Four Flour Bean Mix
1 Cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Stir together in a large bowl.  Set aside.

2 eggs, separated
1-1/2 Cups milk
1/3 Cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp brown sugar

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form;  set aside.  In another medium bowl beat egg yolks slightly; stir in milk, oil, vanilla and brown sugar.  Add egg yolk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moistened.  Gently fold in egg whites.

Pour about 1/2 Cup batter onto grids of a preheated, lightly greased waffle baker (if it has a non-stick surface, it doesn't need to be greased).  Close lid.  Bake according to manufacturer's instructions.  When done, use a fork to lift waffle off grid.  Repeat with remaining batter. 

Makes 7 (6-1/2-inch) waffles.

I love sliced up bananas and light syrup on waffles, but use whatever you love best.


Valentine's Day Breakfast Cake/Valentine's Day Special Breakfast

There was a reason I decided on Valentine's Day Breakfast Cake as the item for the sweet course at the Sweetheart Tea-- I knew my daughters would immediately remember our Valentine's Day breakfasts when they were children as soon as they saw it.  Years ago when I was newly married, a neighbor down the street from my parent's house, Wanda Johnson (who had eight children), told me about their tradition of a special breakfast on Valentine's Day, and gave me this recipe.  I loved the idea and immediately implemented it.  Every Valentine's Day, no matter which day of the week it fell on, we had a special breakfast.  Even though I worked full-time outside the home while my kids were growing up, it was still possible to do this because the Breakfast Cake (their favorite part of the breakfast, of course) could be made the night before and refrigerated.  The next morning, I would just pop it in the oven to bake while I was preparing the other parts of breakfast, and it would fill the house with the most amazing aroma.  That was one morning that no one had to be coaxed out of bed!  It turned out to be one of our favorite family traditions.  Here's the menu:

Valentine's Day Special Breakfast

Fresh orange slices (twisty oranges, as the kids called them -- see picture)
Bacon or sausage (it's fun to make heart-shaped patties out of bulk sausage)
Scrambled eggs (if anyone wants my husband's delicious scrambled eggs recipe, leave me a comment)
Valentine's Day Breakfast Cake
Milk or juice

Valentine's Day Breakfast Cake

2-1/4 Cups GF Rice Powder Mix
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 Cup sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Cup shortening
1-1/3 Cups milk
2 eggs

Whisk together dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening.  Beat milk and egg together and add to flour/shortening mixture.  Stir together.  Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle topping over batter.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, if desired.  To bake, remove plastic wrap and put in preheated 400 oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Let cool briefly.  Serve.  (For the non-GF version, just substitute 2-1/2 Cups regular flour in the batter and 1/2 Cup in the topping and eliminate the xanthan gum.)


1/3 Cup brown or white rice flour
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Whisk together.  Cut in:

6 Tbsp butter.  Sprinkle over top of cake batter.

This is easy to do and a fun tradition.  I hope you'll try it!


Chicken Salad Sandwich Filling/Sweetheart Tea

Last weekend I threw a Sweetheart Tea for all the women in my family (there were 17 of us!).  Originally it was supposed to be one year after our Teddy Bear Tea, which would have put it last November, but on calling around to my daughters, they all agreed that November/December was too busy, and why not schedule it for January/February when the weather is terrible and you're just dying for a party to go to to break up the monotony of winter.  I thought that sounded like a good idea, so we had it last Saturday, Feb. 5th, which was a little early for Valentine's Day (hence the theme) but I also wanted to work in a celebration of my mom's 93rd birthday on Feb. 4th.  Everyone was supposed to wear a Valentine shirt or Valentine colors, bring a card for my mom, and could bring their favorite doll if they wished.  My mom brought her only doll from her childhood (it's 81 years old) and told us about it.  I decorated with dolls from my childhood

and several of the granddaughters brought their dolls.  Here's Lauren showing us her doll:

For the menu, we had mini croissant chicken salad sandwichs (no gluten intolerance in this group) and Pasta Chicken Fruit Salad for the savory course, mini Poppy Seed Muffins and Applesauce Spice Raisin Muffins, and Orange-Cranberry Scones cut in heart shapes (recipe coming soon) for the scone course, and Valentine's Day Breakfast Cake (also coming soon) for the sweet course.  Here's a picture of the table with the above dishes on it:

I got the recipe for the sandwich filling from my daughter-in-law Julie (who also supplied the recipe for the previous post).  It would look and taste great on any of the GF breads sliced thin, lightly toasted, crusts cut off and cut into small squares or triangles (or hearts for a Sweetheart Tea :), especially the Soft White Bread

Chicken Salad Sandwich Filling

3 Cups cubed cooked chicken
1-1/2 Cups grapes, sliced in half
1/2 Cup sliced almonds or roughly chopped cashews
4-5 diced green onions
2 stalks celery, diced
8 fresh basil leaves, minced (if you can't find fresh basil leaves, substitute 1 tsp dried basil)
3-4 - 1 Cup mayonnaise
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Havarti cheese

Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper and basil together until well mixed.  Combine chicken, grapes, nuts, onions and celery.  Fold in mayonnaise mixture.  Refrigerate.  When making sandwiches, top filling with a thin slice of Havarti cheese and a lettuce leaf.  Serve immediately.

I decided to serve all the courses at once this year because at the Teddy Bear Tea I did each course separately, and everyone was too full by the time we got to the sweet course.  Here's everyone filling up their plates:

and our group shot:

A good time was had by all!


Yummy Fall Salad

This is a wonderful recipe that I got from my daughter-in-law, Julie.  Whenever we have a family get together, it's always a potluck (there are 30 of us and there's no way I'm cooking for that many on a regular basis :) and she brought this salad to one of them.  Everyone loved it so much that she has to bring it to every party now.  As a side note, we usually serve the cashews in a little bowl separately rather than mixed in the salad since we have some family members who are allergic to nuts.  It's such a tasty salad, that it's good even without them, although better with!  Also, don't let the Fall in the name deter you from making this anytime -- I think it's called that because of the apples and pears which are usually considered fall fruits, but which you can find most of the year.  Be sure that the pears are perfectly ripe so that they'll be full of flavor.  You'll also notice that there are no amounts for the salad -- make as much as you need!  Serve the dressing separately too, letting each person put on the amount they want.  You'll find yourself hoping that there is some left over for later -- it's a wonderful dressing.  Enjoy!

Yummy Fall Salad

Salad:  Romaine lettuce, chopped
            Swiss cheese, cubed tiny
            Cubed apples
            Cubed pears
Dressing: 1/2 Cup sugar
                1/3 Cup lemon juice
                1/2 tsp dry mustard
                1 tsp salt
                2 tsp chopped onion
                2/3 Cup oil
                1 Tbsp poppy seeds

Combine sugar, lemon juice, dry mustard, salt and onion in blender; blend well.  While blender is running, add oil in a slow, steady stream;  blend until smooth.  Pulse or stir in poppy seeds.


Applesauce Spice Raisin Muffins

I tried these muffins tonight for dinner and they turned out so well that I thought I'd share them with you.  I had made them before but hadn't really liked the texture, so I made some alterations and they came out just right.  You could serve these to guests and they would never guess that they're gluten free.

Applesauce Spice Raisin Muffins

In large bowl, add and combine well:
2 eggs
1/3 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup oil
1 Cup applesauce (preferably unsweetened)
1/2 Cup raisins

In a smaller bowl, combine well:
1-3/4 Cups gluten-free Four Flour Bean Mix
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease 12 medium muffin tins.  Combine wet and dry mixtures together until mixed.  Spoon into prepared pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on rack.  Makes 12 muffins.


Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin

This is a recipe I got on (Better Homes and Gardens website).  I'm always looking for new recipes using my slow cooker, and this one sounded good to me, so I tried it.  It turned out scrumptious and made 4 generous servings.  If you're like me and don't drink and therefore have no experience with liquor stores, don't panic when you get to the "dry red wine" ingredient.  I recently discovered that you can buy red and white and Marsala wine for cooking in the grocery store, on the same shelf as the vinegars!  I like the flavor that wine imparts to food, and since all the alcohol cooks out, that's all you're left with!  Perfect!

Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin (that's French for Chicken with Wine :)

3 pounds chicken thighs, skinned
1 envelope beefy onion soup mix
2 Cups quartered fresh mushrooms
1-1/2 Cups frozen small whole onions (I didn't have any, so I just quartered a small onion and threw it in)
3 medium carrots, cut into 3-1/2 inch sticks
1/2 Cup dry red wine
Hot cooked mashed potatoes (optional)

Brown chicken thighs in a hot skillet with a small amount of oil.  Remove to paper towels and let drain.  Place chicken thighs in bottom of slow cooker.  Sprinkle with the dry soup mix.  Add mushrooms, onions, and carrots.  Pour wine over all.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.  If desired, serve with mashed potatoes and sprinkle with parsley.

We're trying to eat more vegetables, so I added some steamed broccoli too.


Chicken Chowder

I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but it has been cold where I live!  Days (and nights) like this just cry out for hot homemade soup, don't you think?  This is a recipe that I concocted out of about three other recipes.  I thought it turned out well and hope you'll enjoy it too.  It makes enough for 6-8 people.

Chicken Chowder

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes (about 3 Cups)
1 Cup chopped onion (about 1/2 large)
1 Cup chopped celery (about 3 medium stalks)
3/4 lb cooked, cubed chicken (about 2 Cups)
1/2 Cup dehydrated potato flakes OR 3 Tbsp rice flour
2 tsp instant minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp parsley flakes
2 cans Swanson chicken broth
2 Cups frozen corn, thawed
1 Cup half-and-half
1/2 Cup cooked, chopped bacon (about 6 slices) (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes, onion, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.  If you don't have cooked chicken on hand and are using raw, add the raw cubed chicken along with the vegetables and cook it all together.  The chicken will be done about the same time as the vegetables get softened.  If using previously cooked chicken, add it after the vegetables have softened.

Sprinkle the potato flakes or rice flour (or regular flour if you're gluten tolerant) over the chicken and vegetables, mixing in well.  In a small bowl, mix together the instant minced onion, salt, garlic powder and parley flakes.  Add to the chicken/vegetable mix.  Add broth, corn, half-and-half, and bacon, if using.  Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors have blended and the soup is thickened slightly, about 20-25 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Stay warm!


Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip

This is a delish hot dip that I made for our annual Christmas Eve family dinner and festivities.  I had had the recipe for a long time (I got it years ago from my beautiful niece Ashley), but for some reason had never gotten around to making it.  However, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand and needed a dip, so I tried it.  I must warn you that it's totally addicting.  So yummy, and the leftovers (if there are any) are even good cold.  Hot is even better, though, especially on a cold night.  It's great on rice crackers, or if you're feeling extra ambitious, you can cut up a skinny loaf of GF French Bread into little rounds, brush both sides with a little olive oil, put them on a cookie sheet and pop them under your broiler for just a minute or two until they're toasted.  Then turn them over and toast the other side.  Warning:  do not take your eyes off them for a second!  They're super easy to burn (I speak from sad experience). 

Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 Cup mayonnaise
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 Cup grated Romano cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 Cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (or you can quickly cook up some fresh spinach, drain, measure out a half cup and chop it)
1/4 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt and pepper.  Gently stir in chopped artichoke hearts and spinach.  Transfer mexture to a small lightly greased baking dish.  Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.  Serve immediately.

Hot, cheesy yumminess!  And hey, you can count two veggies for the day :).


Penne Rustica

I do not know what happened to December.  No way did I intend to not do one post!  But there you have it.  I hope your holiday was wonderful.  We got what we wanted -- a new grandbaby on December 5th!  I spent a couple weeks helping out, and then one frenzied week trying to get ready for Christmas, and then one collapsed week recovering from the frenzied week, and now, somehow, it's January 5th.  By the way, I read in the January issue of Better Homes and Gardens (page 119 if you don't believe me) that "January 5 is the most stressful day of the year, according to a British survey of 2,000 people."  Makes you wonder about British surveys, doesn't it?  Somehow, I don't think I'd necessarily pick January 5th as an overwhelmingly stressful day -- I mean, why not the 3rd or the 10th?  I'm just sayin'.  Sooo, back to Penne Rustica.  I may not have been blogging in December, but I'll tell you what, I was eating!  And I ate some great stuff, including this recipe, which I had at a party and immediately asked for the recipe.  The party was on December 19th and I've already made it twice since then, that's how yummy it is.  It is not, however, low calorie, so if you've made a New Year's resolution to lose weight, I'd suggest skipping this recipe until Valentine's Day or you give up on the resolution, whichever comes first :).  I picked Valentine's Day because it would make a very romantic dinner entree.  Frankly, I don't think I can wait that long!

Penne Rustica

Gratinata Sauce:
1 tsp butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 Cup Marsala cooking wine (you can find this in most grocery stores by the vinegars)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
4 Cups heavy cream (I told you it wasn't low calorie)

Saute butter, garlic and rosemary together until garlic begins to brown.  Add Marsala wine, bring to simmer and reduce by 1/3.  Add remaining ingredients, bring back to simmer and reduce by 1/2, stirring often.  Be careful not to scorch.  Set aside.

1 pkg (16 oz) Tinkyada Brown Rice Penne, cooked, rinsed, and drained
2 - 4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, cooled and chopped
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp) butter
3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 - 1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Gratinata Sauce
1/2 Cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided
4 sun-dried tomato halves (the dehydrated kind, not in oil -- you don't really need more oil ;), diced

Cook the bacon.  Remove from pan and clean grease from pan.  Saute chicken pieces in butter until cooked through.  Add shrimp and cook just until pink.  Add salt, pepper, Gratinata Sauce and 1/4 Cup of the grated parmesan cheese and simmer until thickened.  In large bowl, combine shrimp and chicken mixture with cooked pasta, chopped bacon and diced sun-dried tomatoes.  Place in 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Top with remaining 1/4 Cup parmesan cheese and sprinkle lightly with paprika.  Bake at 475 for 10-15 minutes.  Serve immediately.  

A 9x13 casserole feeds 8-12 people, since it's so rich.  I have found that trying to reheat leftovers, either in the oven or in the microwave, causes the cream to separate.  I just mop up the resulting oil with a paper towel and figure I'm now eating a lower fat version that still tastes great.  If you discover a way to reheat it without the separation, please let me know and I'll add it to this post!