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Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Could get Addicted to This "From Scratch" Thing

It amazes me how many dishes I had no clue how to make because we always bought them prepacked or processed.  Now that we're eating healthier, I'm being forced to be creative and come up with homemade versions of family favorites.  Yesterday I made rice pudding for the first time, and it was so ridiculously easy! I'm kind of embarrassed, we hardly ever had rice pudding except as a special treat when I could afford it.  If only I had known how simple (and healthy) it could be!
Then last night I had to satisfy my son's craving for salisbury steak.  Sadly, he became addicted to the Banquet version, back in the olden days.  He finally begged enough that I decided to figure something out.  I googled several recipes for it, but didn't find anything that really worked for us, so I decided to wing it. As I put on my facebook the other day, my new motto is "Make it up as you go along, and hope it doesn't suck."  So, yeah, it wasn't bad!  The only negative was that my husband said it needed more salt. However, that's pretty much my husband's nightly mantra (I don't cook with nearly enough salt to satisfy his tastebuds lol). 
So I'm gonna go ahead and post the recipe and you're welcome to try it, mess with it, make it work for your family.
2 lbs ground beef (the best quality you can find)
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms (I wanted baby bellas but the coop subbed white and they were fine) - divided
about half of a white onion, slivered
1 egg
1/2 cup GF quick cooking oats (I used Bob's Red Mill)
2 cups beef broth
brown rice flour
worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups rice (if you're serving with mashed potatoes, don't do this part)

First, I cooked rice earlier and saved it, then spread it in a casserole dish.
I combined the beef, 1/2 the mushrooms, the egg, oats, and worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Then I sauteed the onion slivers in a large skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil.  While the onions cooked, I mixed the beef mixture and made patties out of it (it made about 16 small patties).  You can make larger patties, I had to make it fit to the dish :)
After the onions looked transparent and smelled sweet, I pushed them to the outsides of the skillet, I didn't take them out, but you can if you want.  Then I cooked the patties (half at a time), turning a few times until they were cooked through and dark brown.  When they were, I removed them to the bed of rice.
Then I made the gravy.  I pushed the onions back to the center of the pan, and scraped all the meat drippings to the middle too.  Then I added the beef broth, the rest of the mushrooms, and salt and pepper.  Once it was all hot and well blended, I whisked in brown rice flour until it was the consistency I wanted.  Then I ladled it out over the beef and rice.  You can then serve it right away. Since we weren't ready to eat just yet, I covered the dish with foil and stuck it in the oven on 200 for about an hour.

SO, hope ya like it.  And I hope you will try something new from scratch that you never tried before and come tell me about it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bein' Real

Sometimes positivity is hard.  It doesn't mean it's not worth it, but sometimes it's much more difficult than other times.  My family has been facing a lot of challenges, most of them health-related.  Those issues are what has prompted me to change our diet and way of life.  I am a firm believer that a positive attitude, a lot of faith, and good, real food will absolutely have an excellent impact on all of us.  But it gets difficult sometimes.

Two weeks into the GF diet, I've gotten frustrated more than a few times. The food is expensive, some of it is just nasty, eating other places is tricky (twice someone has fed my son something they know he cannot have, because they figured it wasn't a big deal), and I've eaten a few things without realizing they had gluten in them until later.  Also, I haven't noticed a big wonderful difference yet, and while I can say all day long that I didn't expect instant results, in reality of course I did. In fact, both of my boys have had issues just this week with their health as well. I've had almost daily headaches (though that could actually still be my concussion).  So it's frustrating and annoying and a little discouraging.  But this is where I stand firm, stick to what I know is true, and try to focus on the positives.  Life is NOT all just roses and sunshine, but even on cloudy days, we have to look for the rays of sunlight to help us through.

Rays of sunlight that keep me going are little things that just mean so much.  This weekend we went to the 2nd birthday party for the little guy I babysit. I didn't expect to stay for cake, and had already told my boys they probably couldn't eat much at the party.  But the mom had actually gone out of her way to prepare an almost all gluten-free spread AND made a special cake to accommodate everyone's allergies (it was soy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free...I will never know how she did it. Also, it tasted good, lol).  I was amazed that she cared enough to do that, and it gave me a little push to keep going when I was feeling down.

I discovered that Noah LOVES my kombucha, and both my boys are becoming way more open to trying new foods than they used to be.  So that really feels good to me, because I honestly thought Nathan was going to be impossible.

Today is my husband's birthday, and I made him brunch including GF Bisquick pancakes.  They were GOOD, and he said he didn't even notice a difference!  That made me smile, and made me feel like we CAN do this.  Tonight we're going to Outback for dinner - we have a gift certificate AND they have a gluten-free menu :) 

My next adventure is probably going to be freezer cooking.  I may have 1-3 surgeries coming up within the next few months and I need to make sure my family is cared for.  I know some friends will help, but they can't fully support us - and my husband has many talents, but cooking is not one of them LOL  So I will need to find good meal recipes that will keep well and heat nicely.  Whatever I find, I will of course share with you all!

What keeps YOU going when you feel like giving in?

Bisquick Pancake and Baking Mix, Gluten-Free, 16-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 3)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Didn't mean to go a week without a post...

What a crazy week we've had. Hubby and Puppy both had minor surgery, I ended up with a concussion, and the whole past week is basically a blur. Today I (should) find out if I'm going to need surgery on my shoulder, and if I DO, then you'll see a lot of me blogging about prepping GF meals that can be frozen and reheated. :) Any ideas?

Things have gone well so far with our new adventure.  I've bought a ton of dry goods and I've been reading a lot of GF blogs for ideas.  I do wish Godfather's was close enough to deliver, since they're the only local pizza place that makes a gluten-free pizza and the other night we REALLY could have used a pizza night! I think we ended up having cereal or something, I don't know, I had a bad headache LOL

One of my favorite meals that I made this past week was a sort of "shrimp scampi with broccoli over rice spaghetti" concoction that really needs a cooler name than that.  It was yummy. :)

I will totally have to make it again, maybe during a calmer week.  If I ever get one of those. ;-)

Well, I will be updating about what the doctor said if there's any news to share.  In the meantime, I'm off to go figure out something nice for Valentine's dinner.  It's been forever since I got a V-day with my hubby, so I should try to make it a nice one. :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

First day successes and lessons :)

So today was our first day of going completely gluten-free, and I am calling it a success.

I gave away all the "wheaty" foods we hadn't managed to eat, and my pantry is actually looking pretty cool right now.  I've spent most of the day working on a huge stockpot of beef broth, so my house smells wonderful and the dogs are VERY interested in what I'm up to. :)

We've tried a few new products today, and I don't want to turn this into a commercial, but I do have a few recommendations.  The first is The Gluten Free Pantry's Favorite Sandwich Bread.  Nathan is not ready to give up his PB&J, so I had to come up with an alternative for the bread he was used to.  Well, I baked a loaf of it last night and I'm baking another one right now so he'll have some for his lunch tomorrow! Everyone loved it and it was gone at breakfast this morning!  It's really good, though it's a bit denser than the bread I used to make, and it's a bit more expensive too.  But it's a good and quick way to make sure we have bread when I don't have time to make it from scratch.

Tonight for dinner I made rice spaghetti with my Dawnie's sauce.  Now, it was pretty good, but I have to also state that ANYTHING would be good with that sauce!  I am going to have to get better at cooking it, as the package didn't really tell me how to prepare it and I'm pretty sure I didn't do it right.  The texture is going to take a little getting used to as well, so I think I'll probably try something completely different with it next time - maybe put it with shrimp scampi on Thursday!

BUT, one thing that turned out perfectly and amazingly? Our special dessert - BROWNIES!!  Ohhh my gosh, those were awesome!!  Everyone says that when you go gluten-free you're gonna lose a lot of weight, but I am NOT going to lose weight if I keep stuffing myself full of these babies LOL
                                         Oohhhhh, where have you been all my life??
 Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Brownie Mix, 21-Ounce Packages (Pack of 4)

All in all, I am pleasantly surprised so far at the quality of the GF foods we've tried.  I really thought things might be a little less satisfying or taste "weird", but most of this has been delicious and I feel really good about giving it to my family!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My insanity knows no bounds LOL

This has been a fun few days for me.  My friend and I went and bought a LOT of meat from a local farm here: Hunter Cattle (they offer amazing deals and pet scraps too, and their farm store is adorable, if you're in the area, you've gotta check them out!), so we have enough meat for a month!  I'm all set on milk and eggs too, thanks to my volunteer Life Is Good farm hand side job, lol

I've been busy with preparing our house (and the kids) for our new diet, clearing out the old stuff, rearranging the pantry, going slightly crazily obsessive about jars and labels - I loooooove my new label maker!  Before long, you'll see my puppy run past with "DOG" emblazoned on his side. :)  I'm also researching recipes and testing out some GF foods to see what we think so far.  Nathan doesn't care for the flavor of the basmati rice, but I'm thinking we just need different seasonings.  It's different, it almost tastes like popcorn, but he thinks it tastes like eggs - which he hates.  The chorizo spinach frittata I'm planning to make should be interesting with a child who hates eggs! 

The real evidence that my insanity has no limits, however, is that I've also now decided to start making homemade dog food.  For now they'll be getting a 50/50 kibble/homemade diet, at least until I get the hang of it.  I want to be sure they're getting proper nutrition and hydration, and the healthiest diet possible.  It's really not that difficult, I figure if I'm in the kitchen anyway, why not whip them up something as well? So I've spent a LOT of the past 2 days researching different diets and recipes.  I'm also stocking up on all the yummilicious stuff like livers and kidneys and maybe a heart....mmmmm...  You know you want some. ;-)

Here's the thing, my declaration for this year is healing, renewal, restoration.  I truly believe God gave me those words specifically, and that vision for my life.  For my home, for my family.  I think that should include all members.  Our youngest pet is only a year old and already suffers from chronic joint pain and inflammation.  If my goal is to get us ALL healthy and "off the pharmacy", then I need to take it seriously, right?

Incidentally, an update on the meds thing: I'm already off more than half of what I was taking just to function with fibromyalgia and allergy-related illnesses.  Noah is OFF his ADHD meds completely and is considering giving up his sleeping pill as well (we'll see how that goes, as autism and sleep issues go hand in hand), and my little Nathan (the one I'm mostly doing this for, as he's been so plagued with physical and psychological issues from birth) has already stepped down on his ADHD dosage and we're hopeful that by next month he can go off one of his other psych meds!  I attribute this to the healthy eating and the positivity in our environment. I know we're on the right path and doing what God has for us, and it's making everyone happier and healthier already.  So I'm SUPER excited about what's next.  How much more awesome will it be when we're living gluten-free and making conscious healthy choices EVERYday? 

A note: I do want to say that NONE of this would be possible without support and encouragement from our friends.  We've been SO blessed to have people offer suggestions, advice and even just a little "you go girl!" helps so much when this all starts to get a bit scary.  Nathan often goes to a friend's house after school, and her mom has been amazing about asking what snacks he can have, what to avoid, etc.  People, please understand, YOU can always make a difference, with your words, with your attitude.  You can support and encourage, or you can tear down and sabotage.  Think, then speak with love.  It really does matter.

Now, all that said...HAPPY SUPERBOWL WEEKEND, Y'all!!  This may be just football weekend for you, but for us it's sort of like our own version of Mardi Gras.  Our last chance to "pig out" before we go clean on Monday!  I specifically waited for the 7th, because we are going to a Super Bowl party this weekend and while it all sounds DELISH, none of it is friendly to our new diet.  I may be too busy (or too full) to blog this weekend, but I'll be back Monday for sure to share about DAY ONE!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prep Week!!

So this week is an adventure all in itself.  Since we're going completely gluten-free next week, I'm doing a ton of shopping to find alternatives to everything we're used to eating.  Mike and Noah are racing against the clock to eat up everything in the house that is going to be banned as of next week, too, so it's kind of funny.  I've been cleaning out the fridge and I'm still working on re-organizing the pantry too.  All the gluteny stuff is moved to the front so they can eat it up fast!

I'm also starting the process of experimenting. Trying new recipes, trying new things that we've not made before.  I know it sounds funny, but I'm literally making my very first beans & collards meal tonight.  I'm serving it with basmati rice and hamburger gravy.   This is a far cry from the way I used to be - back when we first got married, I knew how to bake chicken & rice, and make Hamburger Helper.  If we wanted variety in our meals, I got different flavors of it. ;-)

Over the years (and thanks to good friends and a stint as a Pampered Chef consultant), I became more comfortable in the kitchen, and eventually got to where I loved being there - especially baking!  But now that we're working toward whole and natural foods, it's a whole new ballgame and I feel like I'm learning to cook all over again.  It feels good because I've become very conscious of what we're eating now, and I love doing it all from scratch so I *know* what's in it.

I'm so blessed to have local farms here with wonderful people who give us good deals on our meat and dairy products, or in the case of Momma Debbie's farm, I get to work for eggs. :)  Today I even got enough nerve up to pet one of her cows LOL  I'm learning a lot as her "farm hand" - learning enough to to realize that I love it and I will always want to be a part of it, but that I never want to own a farm all to myself LOL  As for produce, I get a lot from the local food co-op (check your area and see if you have one, it's well worthwhile!), but I do still get stuff from Kroger too.

Okay, so now I have to go stir my beans again (OMG they smell soooo goooood!!!), but I'll let y'all know how it turned out.  Also, I'll share pics of my pantry if I ever get it the way I want it.  So, maybe never. ;-)