Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cooking at Ingredients: Gluten Free

I enjoy taking cooking classes on a variety of subjects.  The less I know about it, the more appealing the class is to me!  

So when I heard Ingredients was offering a class on gluten free meals, I definitely wanted to check it out.  A few years ago we were invited to a small potluck get together and one of the guests was gluten intolerant.  Yikes!  I ended up doing a simple vegetable dish because I didn’t know what else to do. 

The class was taught by Sarah-Jane Bedwell (she taught the “Rev Up Your Metabolism” class I took last winter).  She is now the nutrition blogger for ‘Self’ magazine at http://www.self.com/fooddiet/blogs/eatlikeme   

According to the Wikipedia, “Gluten sensitivity is thought to affect approximately 6% of the general population.   Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include bloating, abdominal discomfort, pain or diarrhea; or it may present with a variety of extraintestinal symptoms including headaches and migraines, lethargy and tiredness, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity, autism and schizophrenia, muscular disturbances as well as bone and joint pain.”  


And even if you are not gluten sensitive, it is starting to be suggested that one cuts back on the amount of gluten products in their diet.  That means wheat and wheat products (bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, matzo, spelt…) of course; but it also means barley/malt, oats, and rye/triticale. 

So what sorts of starches are ‘good’?  A few are beans, corn, legumes, lentils, nuts, peas, potatoes, rice, soy, buckwheat, tapioca, teff flour (Yes!  My Ethiopian injera is good!).  

But it is not as easy as just avoiding certain baked goods.  A cereal may be made out of corn… but has malt for flavoring.  Seasonings in rice mixes might have gluten.  Processed meat.  Non dairy creamers.  Processed cheese.  Dried fruit!!  Some brands of baking powder contain wheat starch.  Sauces might use flour to thicken them.   

You have to read the labels.  

Myself… I want to start avoiding gluten products as part of my weight loss program.  And I am curious if I will feel any physical benefits to cutting back.  (I’m not going completely gluten free but plan to cut back heavily).   

As part of the cooking class, Sarah-Jane used different gluten free products so we could try them out. 

We started with an appetizer of Brown Rice Quesadillas with Goat Cheese.  Interesting.  They are thinner and more delicate than a flour tortilla.  Still haven’t decided if I like them for a quesadilla… but I think they might make a great oven baked chip.

Next was Lemon-Dijon Salad Greens with Herbed Croutons.  Salad was no surprise.  The gluten free croutons.  Meh. 

The entrée was Parmesan Cayenne Baked Cod.  This was a winner!  Found out that a lot of the “shaker” parms have wheat starch to keep them from sticking together!  Use the real thing… it is better anyway. 

And dessert was Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake.  Another winner!  Dense, moist, good!  But you have to make sure you check the peanut butter for allergens!   

Parmesan Cayenne Baked Cod

1 pound of cod fillets (or similar mild white fish)

1 tablespoon of olive oil (enough to lightly coat a baking dish)

3 tablespoons of mayo

1 1/2  teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon minced onion

Dash of ground cayenne pepper (add or reduce to your taste… I would add)

2 oz grated Parmesan cheese (I would probably up that amount…but I love parm!)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon paprika 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Wash and pat dry the fish.  Coat a baking dish with the olive oil, and set the fish inside. 

In a small bowl, combine the mayo, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, and onion.  Mix well and spread over the fish fillets. 

Next sprinkle the fish with the Parmesan cheese, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.  

Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until fish becomes flaky and the top is crisp. 

Serves 2. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Still Life: Scottish Stones

Remember I mentioned that one of our souvenirs from Scotland was 53 pounds of rocks?  In fact, several of you have asked “why?” we would want to bring home rocks.  

Well, it is time to do something with them!  I found some inspiration in a photo challenge from “I Should Be Folding Laundry”, and decided the perfect thing would be to make a still life.

Gneiss, granite, basalt, gabbros, greywacke, and some I haven’t yet identified.

So many were banded.  Some were twisted like a wrung out rag, while others were ruler straight. 

The patterns are fabulous.

A closer look.  Every pattern is natural and goes thru the stone.  Incredible, yes? 

The long one standing upright is longer than my forearm and the big grey one on the left is the size of a small watermelon.  And that is what 50 pounds of Scottish rocks look like (I’ve used some for other purposes – you’ll see them pop up here and there).   

Do you see why we brought them home?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Zero Dollar Decorating Challenge

I’m going to have some fun by combining three of my passions – decluttering, being frugal, and redecorating my home.   Pinterest hasn’t helped curb those passions either!   

Then I found a great idea on the blog "The Thrifty Abode" (http://thethriftyabode.blogspot.com/ ) – “Zero Dollar Decorating”.   Brilliant idea!  I have SO much stuff available to use (lumber, hardware, cloth, etc) that I am issuing myself the same challenge!  I will spend nothing and will completely makeover a room or area.  I have 7 areas (so far) that I want to work on.  I’m sure that list will expand!   

I will make one exception to the no spend rule… paint for the walls.  You can’t make it and it is an important element in redecorating a room.  However, any other paint for furniture, frames, whatever… has to come from my stash.  

Also considered “fair” will be found items, swaps, gifts, or smuggled-out-of-my-parents-house.  (Shhhhh… don’t tell them!)  ;-)    

I’ll tell you my plans for my first makeover on Wednesday!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Picture This... A Clean Garage!

A few weeks ago Donna at Funky Junk (  http://funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com/  )  issued a challenge to get one room of our home “picture perfect”.   

Right now I didn’t NEED a room per se to be perfect… but my garage was a disaster.  I’m going to remodel my hobby room this year and that means everything must come out of a very large room.  And it had to go somewhere.  

That somewhere was the garage.  

Time, energy, and bad attitude combined; the result was chaos. 

For three weeks I plugged away at it.  Two truckloads went to the charity store.   Some was shifted up to the shed (which I’m not concerned with until warm Spring comes!).  The dump and recycling center took a bunch too.  But most of it was just put away more neatly. 

Before:  At least we could still get the truck in.   Tho getting out could be an issue…

After:  All the clutter is up off the floor and nothing pooching out from the shelves.  Crafting stuff is temporarily stored at the end and chairs I’m going to redo are hanging out of the way (with a couple holding some bird houses that I’m going to make look cute). 

“Garage stuff” shelf is looking good.  I can find everything I need and get to it easily. 

Before:  But you couldn’t get out thru the ‘people door’ for the bags of pillow forms and woolens for felting. 

After:  This is my gardening, bonsai and bird feeding area.  That big box in the picture above of the end of the garage is a huge utility cabinet.  Just got to get it put together and it will stand in the corner next to the door. 

Before:   Things were stacked haphazardly.  Even my craft supply shelf was a mess.

After (taken from the opposite angle):  This is my future workshop area.  I’m going to build a 4’ X 8’ workbench that will hold those grey tubs underneath.  The tubs hold bulky and/or heavy crafting supplies.  The white workbench will be repositioned to about where I was standing for the photo to be an extra work space.

My crafting shelf… much more organized.  The plastic drawers will hold my office supplies when I empty that out of my hobby room.  The blank spaces are where things belong that I have brought upstairs to work with.   The right side is my jewelry stuff and the left side space is where my mixed media supplies belong. 

Before:  Behind the shelf wasn’t any better.  Nothing was put where it belonged. 

After:  Everything picked up and put away.

The household storage shelf was culled and organized too.   

It’s not going to be featured in “House Beautiful” but I am very happy with my results. 


Friday, January 27, 2012

Fill In The Blank...

There is a fun link up over at http://thelittlethingswedo.blogspot.com/  called “Fill In The Blank Friday”.  The questions this week are on travel, so of course that caught my attention! 

1.  My favorite place I’ve ever traveled to is Scotland.  

2.  China is somewhere I'd love to go someday.  

3.  I pass the time on a plane (or bus, or car ride or train) by looking out the window… isn’t that the reason to travel – to see something new?  (OK, on a plane I’ll read).   

4.  My three must-haves when I travel are my camera, my travel journal notebook, and my pocket knife.    

5.  My favorite travel companion is my husband.   

6.  The craziest thing that ever happened to me while traveling is in Hungary when we got on the wrong train car.  (there train cars unhook from the main line and are switched to a new train instead of the passengers getting off at a station – which we did not know).  Although no one on the train spoke English, a sweet old man figured out we were expecting to go to a different city.  The resulting uproar as we got this figured out (as I said, no one spoke English) was so funny.  At least to me it was funny, I loved it.  Himself… ummm, not so much!  LOL  We did make it to the correct city.     

7.  The most exotic food I've ever tried while traveling is winkles (sea snails) in Scotland or maybe camel in Kenya… no, it has to be the owl shish kabob in Russia.  

8.  If I could live anywhere else, I'd live in MO near my baby niece and nephew.  If overseas, on Colonsay island in Scotland.    

9.  I have been to 38 states in the U.S.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Impressions of Scotland: Courtesy is a Way of Life

When I started this series on our Scotland trip, I wrote about the good manners I saw in how people used their cell phones. 

That wasn’t the only example.  In fact, it seems to me that on a whole your average Scots are much more courteous than your average Americans.  And it was very refreshing.

For example, think about your last trip to the grocery or a major retailer (you know who I’m talking about).  As you put your items on the belt, the person behind you has their buggy up on your heels and when it’s time to pay, they are practically breathing down your neck as you try to privately enter your PIN number into the machine.  Then before you can even put your receipt away and gather all your bags the cashier is ringing out the next person… sometimes even starting to bag their items!  

EVERY place I shopped for groceries in Scotland, the pace was much more peaceful.  The person behind always left enough space for you to move around your buggy.  When the transaction was completed, the cashiers always waited until you stepped away before starting the next person. 

There are many ‘single track’ roads in Scotland – meaning they are only one lane wide… for two way traffic!  Can you imagine that in the US?  Talk about road rage explosions.  

Not so in Scotland.  Folks who are closest neatly tuck into one of the many passing areas and wait until the approaching car passes.  Then each smile and wave as they go by!  

And if you are staring in confusion at a map or time table, in just a moment someone would stop and politely ask if they could help you to find something. 

Doors were held open, apologizes made when bumped into, we were always asked if we were enjoying our trip or even invited into a home or group to visit.   

Several times people stopped what they were doing in order to show us something, explain something, or give an impromptu tour. 

The few times we had any sort of issue with someone, they were ALWAYS an expat or tourist.  


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pinterest Inspired: ‘Meh’ Painting to Fun Button Tree

You might remember a while back when I took a series of painting classes, only to discover that I am not an artist.  Didn’t get those genes from my great-grandfather… drat it!

In one of the classes we did this winter tree.  Poor sad little tree.  I never really liked it, so it has been sitting in a stack in my hobby room.   

Then I saw “button trees” on Pinterest.  And I knew what was going to become of my sad little tree.

A trip to Hobby Lobby and I had enough buttons for several projects.  There was a bag called “Autumn”.  Perfect since those are the colors in the painting.

After a quick look at my Pinterest inspirations, I started placing buttons. 

It was fun watching it change.

And now I love my button tree painting! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Galloway to Glasgow to Home

Before we knew it, it was time to go home.  We had even extended our stay in Galloway a day by skipping our time in Glasgow.  Neither one of us are much for cities and we decided that Edinburgh was enough this time.   

We had to decide which route we wanted to take to travel up to Glasgow… by seaside or by land.  Since we had been staying in a seaside cottage, we picked the land route up thru the ‘Southern Uplands’.  

Excellent choice! 
The drive took us thru the Galloway Forest Park.  This is someplace we will come back to and spend a few days.  It is a designated “Dark Sky” park… meaning it is far enough from sources of light pollution that you can truly see the beautiful wonders of the night sky.   

The daytime is beautiful too with great mountain views.  The park covers almost 375 square miles, so there is a lot to see.

The forest is lovely.

We saw our third type of deer going thru the park… this is a fallow deer.  He crossed the road in front of us.  I took the photo thru the closed car window before he disappeared into the woods.  The park also has an area known as “Red Deer Park”.  It has a nice hiking trail around it where you can view the deer.

Another area is the “Wild Goat Park”.  They are an ancient breed of goat.  Not sure why they have their own area in the park tho…   

But doesn’t this bad boy have the most fantastic horns?

Another stop was at the Clatteringshaws Visitor Center.  It had a nice picnic area.

There is a small wildlife museum where you can see mounts of animals found in the park.  (The mounts all came from animals that had been killed accidently).   A lot of hands on exhibits made it even more interesting. 

A red deer stag.

There is a small café with wonderful hot chocolate (it was a dreich day and I wanted something warm!) and a wee gift shop.  Can you believe it?  Haggis potato chips!!!  LOL   

We stopped in the town of Hollybush – well before Glasgow, to have our dinner.  We were fortunate to come across the Hollybush Inn restaurant  (http://www.hollybushinn-ayrshire.co.uk/index.htm ).   I highly recommend it!!

I had “ROAST LOIN OF SCOTTISH HIGHLAND VENISON Carved on creamed savoy cabbage, red onion & smoked bacon compote, drizzled with juniper berry jus.”

And Himself had “OVEN BAKED STEAK & ALE PIE:  Served with panache of fresh market vegetables & fries.   

With only a little difficulty we made it to the Glasgow airport, dropped off the rental car and checked into the airport Holiday Inn (literally AT the airport terminal entrance… closer than the parking area!).  

Next morning (if you could call it that – 4:30 am!) we were in the airport for our departure.  We held our breaths a bit as our bags were weighed.  I am absolutely sure there was an angel with his finger under the scale as 2 bags were literally ounces from being overweight!  (Remember all those beautiful rocks in our photos?  We brought home 53 pounds of them!!!  And about 25 pounds of books.)  Dave… the two big ones from Colonsay weighed 23 pounds and 9 pounds!  And they are sitting in our living room in front of a bookshelf. 

My last view of Scotland.

Until next time…