Some people seriously detest Valentine's Day. They think it is mushy, stupid and pointless, but I beg to differ. I find that many of our likes, dislikes and opinions stem from our positive and negative experiences. Early on, I have had some pretty nifty Valentine's Days. My parents made Valentine's Day a family event. I do not remember them going out and leaving us kids at home, or ever being made to feel that the day had to be about romance. My dad left for work in the wee hours of the morning. Every Valentine's Day, my brother, sister and I would find presents from my dad on our pillows, somewhere in our rooms or on the dining room table. You NEVER knew what he was going to have for you. My sister used to be in LOVE with Kern's Apricot juice. So for Valentine's Day one year, he got her a flat of it! My mom would also get us cards and gifts just from her. She would get our favorite candy and write love notes for us. When we would get home from school, she would make steak and lobster for dinner with some type of fabulous dessert. Even when my husband and I were dating, we would still have our family Valentine's Day dinners. I love wrapping things up and giving things to show people how much I care. I do not think that there needs to be a day just for this. This should happen all of the time, but sometimes its fun to do this with a theme, Here are a few last minute gift ideas that I have given in the past. I even have some great and inexpensive Valentine's Day baking tool ideas below to make things easier.
Last year, I made brownies for my co-workers. I baked them in cute liners and place them in these little containers. I used foam heart stickers to decorate them. You can make regular, gluten/dairy free or paleo brownies. I have also made heart shaped cookies. Whatever works best for you!
Even thought this is Christmas themed, I have made these for Valentines day. Soda drinkers love these. All I did was place sodas on a square shaped paper plate. The flower, is actually a pen I made using a silk flower and green floral tape. Quick, easy and fun to give.
I purchased these heart shaped bags from Dollar Tree last year. Forty of them for $1. You just can't beat that. I placed cookies in them for my students.
Cooking for a loved one is also a great treat. For breakfast you may want to try making these little crust-less spinach, sausage egg muffins. These a terrific served with fruit and placing it on something heart shaped can make someone feel even more special. I placed these berries in a heart shaped ramekin that I got from target for $1. This also can be a little appetizer/
Heart shaped things really make things festive. You can really clean up at Target and dollar stores. Have a fantastic, relaxing day! I'm off to watch some 80's movies :).
A Gluten & Dairy Free Paleo-ish Superbowl
Last year, I put together a few gluten and dairy free menu ideas. You can see that post here
. But what if you are avoiding gluten, dairy, legumes, grains, nuts and refined sugar? Hmmm, sounds kind of tricky, but here are few suggestions:
A very fun appetizer, is tuna stuffed deviled eggs. I used the recipe from the Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook, but added more garlic and onion powder and smoked paprika and chipotle powder. These are a big hit. Regular deviled eggs are also a crowd pleaser as long as no one is allergic to eggs.
These little bacon meatloaf muffins from Paleo Girls Kitchen
are delish! I like this recipe because it is great as is, or with a few changes.This time, I did everything the recipe calls for, but I also added 4 cloves of minced garlic, 10 sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic and onion powder. The ones pictured are made with ground turkey and turkey bacon. These are not only easy to make, but they move quickly because they are tasty and easy to eat!
Pulled pork is a great football food. If you are keeping it paleo though, ditch the bun even if it is gluten free and use homemade BBQ sauce. There are tons of recipes on line. These were served with some very tasty kale collard greens.
These Lemon Blueberry Muffins from Diane Sanfillipo's Practical Paleo are really good. I mean, really, really, good. I really like that they are made with coconut flour instead of almond meal. I call these paleo-ish since they are a treat that shouldn't be consumed all of the time. I like having fun treats from time to time.
As always, it is a great idea to have plenty for fruits and veggies on hand. Kale chips
, sweet potato chips or fries, zucchini fries are some great game day snack foods. I hope these few suggestions help you. Tomorrow we will be having some chicken wings! Have a fantastic day!
Seasonal Pot Potpouri
Citrus is in season and even thought the holidays are over, I am still loving the rich and fragrant smells of apple and citrus. One of my favorite things to do is make potpourri in my slow cooker. This is a batch that I made during the holidays. It is a terrific way to neutralize cooking odors as well as natural air freshening. I am pretty sure that there are a number of different ways to do this, but here is what I like to do. My measurements are not exact because I tend to use what is on hand. This is especially good for times when you may have an abundance of produce that you may not get to eat.
Jaye Tee's Potpourri
- Allspice berries (You can omitt if you do not have any)
- 1-2 Cinnamon sticks
- Apple slices from 1-2 apples
- Citrus Peel. We had a ton of mandarin oranges from our neighbor, so that is what we used. (I also threw in a couple whole oranges.
- Ground nutmeg
- Bay leaf
- Water to cover the contents of the slow-cooker.
Place everything in your slow-cooker and cook on low. You may start this on high and then reduce to low if you are in a rush to smell the fragrance. I found that using the slow-cooker liners makes things super easy to clean up afterwards.
Oranges from the neighbor. This is just a fraction of what we were given. Fresh organic deliciousness picked just for us! Do you make any type of air freshener? I would love to hear what others do.
Throwing a Gluten and Dairy Free Fall or Halloween Party
Fall is a fabulous time of year! I love throwing a party in October because it is the perfect time of year to throw get together before the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Fall or Halloween parties can be a lot of fun, however food allergies and intolerance can make things a bit tricky. If you have the time, space and the means, I suggest you host a party at your own home, especially if you or one of your family members is new to being gluten or dairy free. The truth is, although people want to be supportive and understanding, it takes quite a bit of time, patience and information before they can truly grasp how involved avoiding gluten and dairy can be. When things are on your own turf, you have more control over them. I am not in any way saying that it is impossible to attend a party! However, sometimes, I just don't have the energy to worrying about cross contamination or explaining why I can't eat such and such to a new crop of people. That may be selfish of me, but I value my health and peace of mind.
If you decide to throw a party, there are a few things that you MUST consider:
- Is your party going to be strictly gluten and dairy free? If you or one of your family members is like me, you may be the only person in the house who must avoid certain foods. It is up to you if you plan to include gluten and dairy filled foods for your guests. When I first went gluten free, I made things for other people and had my foods elsewhere. One of the reasons I would do this is because it can be cheaper when I do not have to buy a larger quantity of gluten and dairy free ingredients, and at the time, I was worried that people were not going to like GF & DF food (which I do not worry about as much anymore because most of the foods I choose to make for company is so tasty that they can't tell the difference). I rarely ever do this now because I try to avoid getting glutened at all costs. If you have children on a special diet, whether your entire house eats gluten and dairy free or not, I definitely think your party should be strictly gluten and dairy free, so that they do not accidentally ingest something that they shouldn't. Many, but not all smaller kids (example 2 year olds) do not always understand why they can not have something.
- Note: If you choose to include gluten and dairy, be mindful that you need to have a special place for the foods that you do not contaminated. You can also make cute little signs labeling your food gluten & dairy free and attach it to your safe foods. Personally, I designate a place in the kitchen that is completely separate from the rest of the food. I cover everything that I am eating with foil, saran wrap or a lid, just in case a crumb makes its way towards my food.
- What type of party do you want to throw? You should consider the type of party that you want to throw and plan accordingly. Some Party Ideas: * Fall or Halloween Open House, a dinner party,
- How far in advance can you start preparing? The earlier you plan a party, the easier your life will be. I literally have a party planning notebook where I write the type of party, menu items, decorations and daily plan of what I need to buy or prepare before the party. If you are like me and live in a town where you can not go to a gluten free bakery or specialty store, you may be preparing most of your menu from scratch, so plan what you need to do. My sister always teases me, but sometimes I start party planning months and months in advance.
- What foods are you going to be serving? Here is the fun part! Think about fun dishes that you can make in advance so that you can enjoy your party! One of my favorite things to utilize for my fall parties are my slow cookers! Just place everything inside and let it do the work for you. Chili is another fun dish, you can check out my Halloween menu idea from last year here. The earlier you plan you menu, the less stressful things will be.
Check back because I will have a few Halloween desserts that you may want to include at your party! Have an wonderful gl
Mini Gluten & Dairy Free Pizzas
We enjoy entertaining! We have also found that sometimes we have the most fun when we pick foods that are simple. Miniature pizzas are fun, elegant and EASY to make! To make these little fellas, all you need to do is make or buy your favorite pizza crust. If you are using a crust that requires you to bake the dough before hand, do so. Remove the crust from the oven and cut out circles using a round cookie or biscuit cutter. Then top these little cuties with your favorite pizza toppings and bake according to the directions that you using for your homemade or store bought pizza crust. I topped these with homemade pizza sauce, onion, bell pepper, vegan cheese, and turkey pepperoni. Since they are smaller, you will probably be able to bake them for less time, so watch them. You can also do this will different shaped cookie cutters. Better yet, have a gluten & dairy free pizza making party! Everyone is always impressed by these. They are also great for controlling portions. If you like smaller sized pizzas, feel free to check out my eggplant pizzas's here
. Have a fabulous gluten &/ or dairy free day!
Organizing Gluten & Dairy Free Recipes W/
When you think of recipe cards, you may think of your mother or grandmother and the cute little box that was used to store the cards in. There is something about handwritten recipe cards that make me feel good. For a while, it appeared that people were not using them as much, but they are surely making a comeback! While there are a variety of different methods people use for organizing and storing recipes: on the computer, a box, a recipe binder, a notebook etc. I have binders and notebooks that I use, which I will discuss in another post, but today I would like to discuss recipe cards.
The awesome pros of using recipe cards:
- Small and can travel easily - I bring my fold-able recipe card holder (shown below) with me in case I want or need to make something when I am not at home.
- Terrific for writing down recipes that do not require a plethora of steps or ingredients - This is cool because sometimes I don't want to use a whole sheet of paper for a tiny little recipe :).
- Great way to organize recipes by type. You can use green cards for veggies, pink cards for dessert, blue cards for main dishes etc.
- Perfect for attaching to the hood of your oven with a magnet. You can do this with sheets of paper, but since the cards are smaller they are not hanging down as low, which reduces the chances of causing a fire.
The not so awesome cons of using recipe cards:
- Can get lost if not organized properly.
- Multiple cards are required for longer recipes.
I oftentimes bring blank cards with me when I am visiting family to jot down the recipes of my childhood. You can even print personalized ones from your computer. I also like to include hand written recipe cards when I am giving baking related gifts.
Here are some of the ways I store and organize my recipe cards:
I love this spiral holder because it folds to stand upright. It makes it so easy to prop it up or lay it flat on the counter while I am cooking.
I got this Paula Deen recipe card binder from Michael's last year for $2.00. It has categories and protective sleeves which make organizing a breeze.
Another great and inexpensive way to store recipes is in a photo album. I got this one from dollar tree. These are so inexpensive that you can have a recipe card album for different categories of food: dessert, salads, favorite main dishes etc.
A recipe card box works well too. This is how I originally started organizing my recipe cards. I do not use this system as much because I like flipping through my binder or spiral card holders. However, I do still keep some of the cards that I do not use as often inside of this box. I got the box, cards, and filing folders a couple of years ago from dollar tree. I used my label maker to label the food categories. It is another simple and inexpensive way to organize. You can even laminate the cards to protect them if you decide to use this system.
I place my cards in this little basket so that I can grab them quickly and begin cooking.
As you can see, recipe cards are just one of the many ways to organize your recipes. How do you store your recipes? I would love to hear what works best for you.
Free "Back to School with Jules" e-Book
If you did not have a chance to download this last year, you can use this link
to download a fee copy of Jules Shepard's "Back to School with Jules" e-Book! Hurry, this will not be free forever! It is full of great tips to make going back to school much easier for those who must avoid gluten! There are even some dairy free alternatives.
Gluten & Dairy Free Garlic Herb Kale Chips
Kale Chips are all the rage in the world of health enthusiasts. They are a great way to eat your greens, very simple to make and naturally gluten and dairy free. There are tons of kale chip recipes out there, but if you are looking for something light and crispy with a lovely garlicky herb flavor, give this one a try.
To make this recipe, all you need is some olive oil, sea salt, and Mrs. Dash Garlic Herb Seasoning (GF by the way :). Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. First, you need to wash about 1/2 of a bunch of kale and remove the stems. Next, cut or tear the kale into chip-sized pieces. Make sure that the pieces are a decent size because they will shrivel in the oven. Now you need to dry the kale EXTREMELY well. I used a salad spinner, and then removed the excess moisture with paper towels. Place the kale on the cookie sheet and drizzle 1 -2 tablespoons of olive oil on the kale. Sprinkle with the Mrs Dash and the sea salt. I used about 1/2 teaspoon of the salt (I'm not a huge salt fan, but you can add more if it suits you). Stir the kale or mix with your hands so that the oil and seasoning are evenly dispersed. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Check them after ten minutes because they can burn easily. You know that they are done when you shake the pan and they move around freely.
Menu Planning Board
Making Gluten & Dairy Free Menu Planning A Cinch!
Now that school is back in session, it is important to have an efficient system for planning gluten & dairy free meals!
For a few weeks I have been seeing posts which discuss how to make a menu planning board. I was directed to this post here
, and as a crafter and lover of organization, I fell so head over heels in LOVE with the idea that I just had to make one!
Before, my husband and I used a dry erase board calendar. We would place the weekly meals on it and we did this for a couple of years. The problem that we found with this method, however, was that we still needed to pour over our cookbooks and collections of recipes to decide what we want to eat. I know you are probably thinking "What is the big deal?" Well, sometimes it can be very difficult for us to decide what to eat. We are blessed enough to live in a society where we have plenty of good foods to choose from, but sometimes choices can get overwhelming in a household where one person eats dairy and gluten and the other person does not.
What makes the menu planning board so cool is that you have cards that are labeled with all of the things that you and your family eat most often. On the back are the items that you need to make a particular recipe so that you can make your list with more ease. I also included where to locate the recipes (certain cookbooks with page numbers, or in certain binders etc). I used someone else's template which helped lots. I also did not write every single ingredient. I did make sure to create cards that say "New Recipe" and "Leftovers" to help plan the week more easily
To make this, I used a frame and scrapbook paper that I already had. I used jello boxes for the card holders and covered them with scrapbooking paper. I followed this
tutorial and I was all done!
It may seem like a bit of extra work, but trust me, it was well worth the 45 minutes that it took to make the board, and type up the cards. I was surprised by the enthusiasm that my husband displayed regarding this. He helped me come up with the items for the cards and now walks on over to the board and picks some of the things that he wants to eat throughout the week. Since ideas are right there, it makes menu planning WAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY easier. It is also a cute addition to the kitchen. I hung this with command strips and have not had any problems. I hope this helps and let me know what you think. I would love to hear how you and your family plan your meals.
Pump Up The Produce!
After going gluten free, I have a tremendous appreciation for how food impacts our health. I oftentimes encounter people who say that they HATE vegetables, but do not mind fruit. Here are just a few easy ways to get enough produce into your diet. These are the things that work for me and my family, and I hope they work for you!
Place Veggies in a Marinade! If plain veggies are not your favorite, marinate them. I do this all of the time to enhance the flavor of the vegetables. What is cool about doing this, is that you can grill your veggies, or roast them in the oven. It is also very easy, and keeps things from getting boring.
I meet quite a few people who think that eating more vegetables is tough. My sister for instance, does NOT like vegetables, save a few, but in order to get them in, she juices them. The combination of fruit and vegetables can not only be packed with nutrients, but it makes it easier to consume more at a time. My only problem with juicing, is that some of the nutrients are lost during the process. I am still a huge fan though. One of my favorite juice recipes is a spinach or kale ginger, green grape, pear juice. It is excellent for times when you are having digestive difficulties. Not to mention, it is just plain ole' delicious! Vegetable and fruit juice possibilities are endless! I do not have a picture, but I also absolutely love strawberry/spinach smoothies! I will post my recipe soon.
Throw veggies into other dishes. I throw lots of spinach in pasta sauce as well as, shredded carrots and zucchini into sloppy joe sauce. I also ground up cauliflower in the food processor and stir it into mashed potatoes. I do not make mashed potatoes often, but when I do, I pump it up with cauliflower or broccoli. The added bonus is that people can't really tell the taste difference.
Veggies rock in scrambled eggs, omelets and quiches! I love throwing spinach and/or kale into egg bakes. It is one very easy way to get a veggie fix! You can even use frozen veggies. Just make sure you drain them or saute them so that your eggs will not be runny.
Of course there are salads. One way to keep salads from getting so boring, is by actually adding fruit and nuts to them. Blueberries are high in antioxidants and apples are great for getting fiber. Add them to mixed greens with pecans and herb seasoned chicken breasts and you have a delicious meal. A combination of pears and walnuts with balsamic vinaigrette on a bed of mixed greens is stellar as well!
Portion out Veggies. As I have mentioned before, I love divided containers. They make it really easy to cut up some of the produce that you would like to snack on throughout the day. When produce is easily accessible, you may find it easier to grab the healthy stuff instead of the cookies or chips. Start with the produce that you like, and then try to expand your palette with different types.
These are just some of the things that work for me. I know that I did not mention anything ground breaking or mind moving, but sometimes looking at how others accomplish things can help. Have a delicious produce filled gluten and or dairy free day!