Friday, November 20, 2009

It Was A Lovely Evening

It was pretty much a perfect evening. Here's a photo recap:

Today, I made it home from work before 5:00 (gasp!) to this cuddler:

I love the tangy flavor of goat cheese, Joe's not so wild about it. Since he was out for the evening, I had chicken stuffed with goat cheese (keeping scrolling for the recipe) - yum!

Then I was super-productive. I did a load of laundry, painted my toenails bright pink and did some reading for my research paper.

While watching the Office, I made some excellent progress on my Christmas knitting.

And then, this dashing man came home!

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese

  • One chicken breast, butterflied
  • about two ounces of herb goat cheese
  • one clove of garlic, minced
  • one handful of spinach, chopped
  • three basil leaves, chopped
  • two slices of sundried tomato, cut into small pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine the goat cheese, garlic, spinach, basil and tomato in a small bowl. After seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper, stuff it with the goat cheese mixture. Secure with toothpicks, if needed. Cook at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Delicious, quick and easy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If I Blog It, I'll Do It

Theoretically, of course.

I'm well into my second week of training for my first half marathon - 13.1 miles. Which is also, incidentally, the longest distance I've ever raced (5K being the old record) and training for it will mark the first time I've ever run more than 5 miles at once. Gulp.

Disclaimer: I'm not going to run it fast, I'm going to finish it. I never have been and never will be a fast runner.

The plan is to run the New Bedford Half Marathon on March 21, 2010. I'm using Hal Higdon's training regime, with a few repeated weeks since my marathon is more than 12 weeks away. I figured a slow start was a good idea. November has, surprisingly, turned out to be a good month for running. Relatively warm and, so far at least, no snow. So far, I'm really enjoying my training and, of course, the company of my running partner, Joe. November might seem like an odd time to set a major goal like running a half, perhaps better suited to a New Year's Resolution? Well, that's not how I roll. I've found that when I commit to a goal when the mood strikes me, rather than waiting for a prescribed holiday, I'm more likely to keep them. I'm feeling stronger and faster with each run, hopefully this trend will continue!

Things have been very busy the past few days and keeping me away from my blogging, but fortunately . . .

. . . we've enjoyed a series of spectacular sunsets. This one enjoyed from my front steps . . .

. . .and Madison has been supplying plenty of research help. Here she is making herself comfortable on my notes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

His & Hers

Or, gluten-full and gluten-free.

Internet, Joe and I are cohabiting. You may have gathered this from his constant presence in this blog, but now I'm confirming it. The Madison-cat seems to approve of the new arrangements. She enjoys lazing on the sofa, spying on birds and squirrels in our postcard-sized yard and carefully watching dinner preparations from atop the cabinets. A perch she does not expend her energy reserves to reach. Oh no, she informs us of her desire to lounge on the cabinets and we lift her onto the refrigerator - spoiled. She does, however, jump down of her own accord.

Living with someone you aren't related to presents certainly challenges, but the most obvious challenge for Joe and I is diet. And, it hasn't really been all that challenging. When we cook together, it's gluten-free. We have a lovely arrangement where he chops onions and cleans dishes while I handle the more complicated (and more fun!) aspects of cooking. Joe is very conscientious of my special diet needs and eats gluten-free without complaint. Sometimes we're cooking something that can easily be made gluten-free and gluten-full and since some GF products are so expensive (and it's easy, so why not?), I'll make two pots of spaghetti or two pizza crusts. Recently, we used this technique for spaghetti and meatballs. Just be careful to keep your gluten-full cooking separate from your gluten-free cooking!

Gluten-Free Meatballs

1/2 lb ground turkey
GF breadcrumbs (Gillian's are a good choice)
minced onion
minced garlic
very finely chopped fresh parsley
a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
fresh grated Parmesan cheese

No measurements, throw in the amount that looks good to you. Mix until just barely combined - don't overwork your meat! Shape into balls and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Pour a small amount of water over the meatballs and cook for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of your meatballs). Remove from oven and add to a saucepan of simmering pasta sauce. Let simmer 10-15 minutes and serve over pasta. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

Joe's whole wheat pasta version

And my rice pasta version.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Product Review: Schär Pizza Crust

Moms are pretty great.

I'm especially appreciative of my Mom this week for discovering a new brand of gluten-free pizza crust, Schär is, according to the package labeling and I'm inclined to believe them, the number one producer of gluten free products in Europe. This pizza crust, which I have decided is the best pre-packaged GF pizza I've enjoyed, proves that claim. The crust has good flavor, but doesn't compete with the sauce, cheese and toppings. The texture is also very pizza-like and while it gets nice and crispy in the oven, it doesn't resemble biting into a piece of cardboard smoothered with cheese and toppings. It also gets extra points for convenience: the box includes two individually wrapped, shelf-stable pizza crusts. It doesn't need to be frozen! If you forget to defrost your crust in the morning, no big deal!

Here's a visual to aid your shopping and explore their website, it has great recipes, tips and more information about their products.

I paired it with sausage and fennel and I'm planning another pizza night for next week: carmelized onions, yum!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christmas Comes Early

When I came home from DC and the NCHC Conference, 10 DAYS AGO (how is my life so crazy busy?), I was treated to a very early Christmas surprise: a new, pink laptop from Joe. He figured out and purchased the perfect Christmas gift very early and since I'd been feeling down about the prospect of another round of PhD applications and I hate, hate, hated my old laptop, he decided to cheer me up and motivate me with a brand new laptop - in my favorite color, he's such a good sport about my love of all things pink. So, lately, instead of blogging, I've been playing with my new toy. Can you blame me? Unlike my old machine, it doesn't take an hour to write a blog post. I'm loving my new photo editing software and just installed Endnote! I'm really thrilled with it (come on, it's pink!) and think it will not only motivate my research and grad applications, but also my blogging.

And Joe? I think he's kind of ok.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gluten-Free Baking: It's Not as Scary as it Seems!

Really, I promise.

Gluten-free baking seems so daunting. There's the xanthan gum, multiple flour varieties and the addition of really odd ingredients like vinegar, dough enhancer, and ricotta cheese. I used to be intimidated by it and avoided baking for myself whenever possible. And that was a shame because I love baking and GF baking isn't as hard as it seems.

I was brought back to my former timid GF baker self by our Thesis Coffee Break this past Wednesday. A few of our thesis writers also happen to be GF, since we were serving coffee, tea and gluten-full cookies and I didn't want anyone to be left out, I promised to bring some GF treats. One of our GF writers remarked she rarely had cookies because she couldn't figure out xanthan gum and usually her Mom baked for her. Now I am all for Mom-made GF goodies, in fact, my Mom makes some awesome GF molasses cookies from my great-grandmother's recipe that I never manage to blog about because they're always gone by the time I think to take a picture! Hey, if Mom can do it, so can you!

I made these Snickerdoodles using a recipe from Betty Crocker which I changed so slightly, I can't in good conscience post it here. But, what I did is a great starting point for the novice gluten-free baker: find a gluten-free flour mix that you like and just substitute it for the flour in the regular recipe. Yes, this is more expensive than mixing your own flours, but it's convenient and takes away the guesswork of using xanthan gum. I recommend Namaste's Prefect Flour Blend or Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix. Once you get the hang of things, they're also super-convenient for quick baking (like when you're making a batch of cookies on a Tuesday night and have a paper due the next day).

Some GF baking tips:

  • Embrace xanthan gum. A little goes a long way, most recipes need about a teaspoon. That little bag will last you a long, long time.
  • Use a variety of flours. This, actually, is the secret to good GF baking - the more flours, the better the results! Just rice flour is going to result in cookie crumbs. A good standard combination is rice flour and tapioca flour, but don't be afraid to experiment: potato flour, sorghum flour and cornstarch also produce great results. If mixing your own GF flour is too intimidating, find a mix you love and buy it in bulk on Amazon.
  • Fat. It has to be there. Xanthan gum and a variety of flours can't make up for the loss of gluten (which is mainly what holds baked goods together). The Snickerdoodles have shortening and butter. Many GF recipes call for a TON of butter. Cream cheese, ricotta cheese, yoghurt and sour cream can also work. You're GF baked goods won't often be healthy. Adopt Cookie Monster's revamped motto, "Cookies are a sometimes treat."
  • Experiment! There are so many GF bloggers posting great recipes. Try a few, gain some confidence and starting making your own!
Here's a few GF blogs I follow:
Gluten Free on a Shoestring
Elana's Pantry
Simply . . . Gluten Free
Gluten Hates Me
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