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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gluten-free Penne Florentine

Gluten Free Penne Florentine
Since discovering Jovial gluten free pasta awhile back, I am cooking pasta more often. Prior to trying Jovial ,  other brands of gluten free pasta just didn't taste like the wheat variety. Now, even my family can't tell the difference! I usually order Jovial on line, but now can buy it from our newly opened MOM's Organic Market!

This recipe kind of came together when I was craving lasagna. I made this meatless, especially for my vegetarian daughter, but you could easily use ground beef or turkey.

Penne Florentine:

  • olive oil
  • 1 12 oz package penne pasta
  • a couple handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 24 oz jar marinara sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 15 oz.carton part skim ricotta cheese
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • shredded mozzerella cheese
  • dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray baking pan with non-stick spray.
In large saucepan, heat olive oil until shimmering.
Add onions, garlic and green pepper and saute until tender.
Add marinara sauce and simmer (until the kitchen smells amazing!)
Cook penne and drain as directed.
In medium sized bowl, mix 1 egg, ricotta and chopped spinach together. 
Add some parmesan and cooked pasta and mix all together until well combined.
Layer pasta, then a handful of mozzerella cheese in baking pan and repeat once, finishing with mozzerella.
Bake uncovered in oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and heated through.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Feels like winter

Fall came and went swiftly this year and it feels like winter. In years past, my dying annuals would have been pulled out, pansies put in their place, and a huge pile of raked leaves would be accumulating. But I am way behind. The early cold temperatures and bone-chilling wind haven't inspired me to work outside.

Strawberry plants, sweet peas and parsley

Maybe the October trip to the Bahamas set me back a few weeks? Or is it my new interest in watching Sunday afternoon football with my husband? (It is amazing how many hours you can waste sitting on the couch!) Hurricane Sandy was also somewhat of an interference, not bad for our area, but horrific for the folks in New York and New Jersey.

This sparrow was scolding me!

Anyway, today it is cold and wet snow is in the forecast. After an early morning walk out to the compost bin , I looked over at the overgrown and dying garden. I had been putting off this big job of clearing out frost-bitten basil, tomatoes, and pepper plants. It was too late for the basil and any hope for homemade pesto will have to wait until next summer. The cilantro, peas and parsley are alive and well, unfazed by the cold nights we have had recently.

Sweet pea blossom
cilantro going strong!
season's final harvest

I was happy to able to salvage lots of green and light red tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Time to research recipes for green tomatoes...maybe salsa using the jalapenos?


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Berry Applesauce

Berry Applesauce

Cool fall mornings are here and it is apple season. If you like applesauce, try this variety I found in the book, Vegetarian and More, by Linda Rosensweig. It is easy to make and is healthy and delicious. Try it as a topping for pancakes or waffles!

chopped apples, raspberries and strawberries


3 T brown sugar


  • 6 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries, raspberries or strawberries
  • 1/2 cup mixed berry juice blend
  • 3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large saucepan, combine the apples, berries, juice blend, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 20-30 minutes, or until fruit is very tender. ( This made our house smell amazing!)

Transfer to food processor and process until smooth. (If preferred, transfer to large bowl and coarsely mash)

Cover and refrigerate until cold.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Although the calendar says September, the weather is still hot and sunny. But yesterday, it rained and was cooler,  and I could see autumn just around the corner. Every year around this time, I am ready for everything "fall" and look forward to soups and stews, and firing up the crock pot!

I did not use my slow cooker for this recipe, although I am sure you could. This soup was fairly quick to put together and was a hit with my vegetarian daughter! None of the ingredients called for anything with gluten, so it worked for me as well. My son, not a mushroom fan, ate leftovers and fresh garlic bread I made to go with this soup. A tossed green salad would also be perfect.

This recipe came from Vegetarians and More by Linda Rosensweig. I checked this book out of the library and liked the optional meat add-ons it featured. I love to cook, but it can prove difficult accommodating everyone's dietary limitations and preferences!

Creamy Mushroom Soup

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 strips vegetable-protein bacon( I used regular bacon, crumbled it for an add-on)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) reduced fat sour cream 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
In a medium saucepan, combine the broth and potato.
Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
Transfer to a blender or food processor.
Blend or process until smooth.

pureed potato/vegetable mixture

Meanwhile, warm 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the bacon.
Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until browned.
Transfer to plate lined with paper towels.

Warm the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the same saucepan.
Add the onion and garlic.
Cook over medium heat for 4 minutes, or until soft.
Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender.
Stir in the milk, sour cream, thyme, salt, pepper and pureed potato..
Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, or until heated through.

Top each serving with bacon.

I added 1/2 of a zucchini chopped with the mushrooms.

Enjoy anytime or on a cool crisp fall evening!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You win some, you lose a lot of zucchini!

morning glory

Yesterday was Labor Day and the "official" last day of summer. Yes, it is still hot and humid here , but the neighborhood pool closed and the kids went back to school last week.

I walked around my vegetable garden this morning, looking for any ripening tomatoes, picking more sweet green peppers and jalapenos. It has been a good year for peppers! I have had a surplus of peppers from the single sweet green pepper plant and the two jalapeno plants.

The tomato plants are coming back now after looking pretty sad a few weeks back. There are many green tomatoes on the vine and I picked a light red one the other day. I certainly did not have the volume of tomatoes I envisioned when I was hacking back some of the tomato branches in early summer!

It's a jungle in there!

 The zucchini and summer squash plants were huge in early summer!  I was gloating about the size of the leaves and giving away the extras to friends and neighbors until, of course, the long forgotten squash bug  set up camp! (I did have this problem last summer, but it is amazing how soon I forgot!) According to what I read on the internet, once you see the little critters, it is already too late! But, although I did try the various methods suggested to at least control these insects,
 it was no use. Those silver-backed, armored, mini-tanks, managed to transform  healthy, thriving, green plants to a shriveled, yellow, and wilted mess! (My brother-in-law suggested planting radishes alongside the squash next year to repel the bugs. It is worth a try, since I do not use pesticides.)

space where zucchini/summer squash plants met their fate with the squash bug!

The basil and cilantro grew like gangbusters this summer! I made a lot of delicious pesto ! ( I  added a jalapeno pepper for a little kick) The lettuce fed both our family and my daughter's guinea pigs until mid-August when it could not withstand the oppressive  heat. I recently planted more  lettuce seeds for a fall crop.


I planted snow pea seeds and they have emerged and are growing well. Our spring pea plants did not do as well as last year, most likely because I planted them too late. Along with the lettuce, they are not heat tolerant.

new snow pea plants

I try and take a few photos of the vegetable and flower pots/gardens in late summer. It helps jog my memory next spring when a new growing season is upon us. How did your garden do this year? What were your successes and failures?

Lola...why? just because she is so cute!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chicken Stir-Fry with Mango and Peanut Sauce

Chicken Stir-fry with Mango and Peanut Sauce
This recipe is healthy, colorful and delicious! I really enjoyed the different flavors, salty, sweet, crunchy, and little bit spicy! I clipped this recipe from the Washington Post newspaper in Bonnie Benwick's column. She adapted it from Quick Cook Family Meals, by Emma Jane Frost. We ate this over brown rice.


  • Water
  • 2 medium carrots(or a handful of baby carrots)
  • 6-7 scallions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas
  • 1 Champagne mango( I bought a "regular" mango at Safeway)
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves( about 1 1/2 lbs total)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 3 T chunky peanut butter
  • 2 T soy sauce

  • Boil a kettle of water
  • Peel and trim carrots, then cut into 3-inch long thickish batons. Cut the white and light green parts of the scallions crosswise into thin slices. String/trim the peas. Peel the mango, then cut the flesh into strips or bite-size chunks. 
  • Trim all visible fat from chicken, then cut the meat into bite size pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Swirl to coat.
  • Once oil is quite hot, add the chicken. Stir-fry for about 6 minutes; the chicken should lose it's raw look. Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the carrots and stir-fry for 3 minutes, until they just start to soften. Add the scallions and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add the mango and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce and 2/3 cup of the just boiled water to form a sauce.
  • Return to the wok or skillet to the stove over medium heat. Pour in the sauce, then return the chicken to the wok or skillet. Cook for 2 minutes, being careful to not let the sauce get too thick. If it does seem so, add a few tablespoons of just boiled water to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Divide among plates and serve right away.


Remember to prep all ingredients ahead of time before heating up the wok or skillet. 
Line up the ingredients in an assembly line fashion.
I added "heat" with a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper as well as minced garlic.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gluten Free in the Big Easy!

St. Charles streetcar,  New Orleans,  LA

Is it possible to dine gluten-free in New Orleans? I hoped so, when heading with my family on vacation last week. This city, known for Mardi Gras, Bourbon St. and more recently, the devastating flooding following Hurricane Katrina, has a special place in my heart....or should I say BELLY!

Many years ago, I worked at Charity Hospital as a travelling nurse. Young, fresh-faced and most of all, a Yankee, N'awlins was a culture shock for me. I did not know how to cook,  had never heard of crawfish, but I did enjoy a good meal. Of course, back then, I ate lots of gluten. Cafe du Monde beignets, seafood gumbo and fried oysters. Gluten, gluten, gluten! 

So, before leaving for our trip, I gingerly googled "gluten free New Orleans", hoping I could still enjoy the taste of New Orleans. Muriels, near Jackson Square in the French Quarter, offers a GF menu, so I made dinner reservations for our first night in town. Muriels, though pricey, was the ultimate welcome mat for me, my "normal" eating husband and vegetarian daughter. I had the shrimp remoulade for an appetizer, the yummy fish special for my main course and creme brulee for dessert. It was a scrumptious start to our vacation!

Redfish Grill, was my husband's choice for our second night. Located conveniently in the French Quarter, this place also accommodated me very nicely. The waitress  seemed very familiar with my restrictions, although she did plop down some bread in front of me! Once again, I enjoyed their fish special and it was one of the tastiest meals I had.

We chose Jagar-haus, a German restaurant, on our third night. The waitress was not familiar with gluten free dining, but was very helpful checking with the chef to make sure the food I ordered was safe. I had a refreshing strawberry mojito, followed by a "big salad". After indulging the past 2 nights, this lighter meal tasted just right. I also had dessert ice cream/berry/whipped cream extravaganza that was completely gluten free...except for the chocolate wafer "straw" stuck in the side! Luckily, my observant daughter noticed this and my husband was able to remove it so I didn't have to return this beautiful creation!

On our final day, I insisted we have lunch at one of my favorite places, The Gumbo Shop. I fell in love with gumbo at this restaurant on my first trip to New Orleans, and wanted my hubby and daughter to experience it here. I had resigned myself to having another tossed salad, but the waitress immediately pointed out that I could have the jambalaya as well as a few other entrees! She even brought out their cookbook to go over the ingredients to further reassure me. The jambalaya was to die for....I savored every bite and have been dreaming of it ever since. I also had dessert~ vanilla ice cream topped with a praline sauce! Again, gluten-free!


So, yes, it is possible to dine gluten free in New Orleans. No, you cannot enjoy the beignets or partake in much of the fried seafood, but I did not ever feel deprived. I was able to indulge (a lot) and not worry about getting sick! This was a great vacation and if you go, check out the swamp tour! It was the highlight of our trip!