Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quick and easy homemade salsa

Making homemade salsa makes me feel very Martha Stewart-esque. It's one of those things that comes so readily pre-prepared, and I just feel like such a homemaker when I make it myself. Even if it is incredibly easy to make.

I had never made salsa until about a year ago, and I guess the excitement of it has yet to wear off.

I whipped up this batch last week for book club.

1/2 onion, chopped
3 or 4 jalapeƱo peppers, de-seeded and chopped (and when I say chopped, I don't mean finely chopped, chunked might be a better word because it all goes in the food process)
Lots of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
1 chipotle pepper from a can (I only throw this in if I happen to have some in the fridge, usually left over from something else)
Juice from 1/2 lime
Cilantro (as much or as little as you want)
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained (or fresh tomatoes when they're in season)

Put all ingredients in the food processor. Pulse a few times. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and pulse a few more times.

Feel good about yourself for making homemade salsa and enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A very cheery cake

I've never been a Peeps fan, but when I came across this cake on Pinterest I just had to try it.

I made it earlier this week for my book club friends. And while it turned out quite cute (if I do say so myself), it was incredibly easy to make.


1 gluten-free cake mix
1 jar chocolate frosting
20 yellow chick Peeps
Chocolate chips

Bake the cake as directed. Allow it to cool completely.

Frost the cake.

Keeping the Peeps attached to each other, arrange them around the edge of the cake.

Arrange the chocolate chips in the center to look like sunflower seeds. (I went all out and had three different sizes of chocolate chips, staring with the largest around the outside and progressing inward to the smallest).

Note: Gluten-free cake mixes usually make one 8- or 9-inch round cake. Normal cake mixes make two. The original recipe (http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Peeps-Sunflower-Cake) says to make two round cakes and use two jars of frosting to layer the cakes/frost the outside.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A unique blend of flavors

This recipe was a recommendation from my mom. She found it in Sunset magazine and said I had to try it.

I cooked it up for dinner last night, and my mom was right. It is delicious. I really like the unique flavor blend of the orange zest and the spicy cayenne pepper. It's a unique dish and I definitely recommend it.

Chicken, Quinoa and Olive Stew

4 cups water
2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed if canned
1 cup black olives (the recipe calls for pimiento-stuffed small green olives, but I'm just not a fan of those).

Bring water to a simmer in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and lower heat to a simmer. Cook chicken, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through; transfer to a plate. Pour broth into a large bowl and set aside. Wipe out pot.

Add oil, onion, and salt to pot and cook over medium heat until onion softens and is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

Stir in cumin, coriander, oregano, and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add ancho chile powder, cayenne, tomatoes, reserved broth, orange zest, and quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until a white ring appears around each quinoa seed, 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, shred chicken.

Add shredded chicken, chickpeas and olives and heat through.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gardens and compost

Saturday I went to a workshop hosted by Gardens from Garbage, a local Great Falls group that does some cool stuff.

The workshop (or at least the part I attended) focused on gardening and composting. I left and got straight to work on my garden and my first attempt at composting.

The first contents of my compost bin

The composting technique I learned about is called cold composting and it sounds so much easier than regular composting. Basically you put your food scraps in a 5-gallon bucket, add some enzymes, let the enzymes do their work and then bury the scraps in the garden. (Here are more detailed instructions from Gardens from Garbage).

Bokashi is wheat germ and enzymes that helps compost break down

I made a cozy home under my kitchen sink for my 5-gallon bucket. So far I've only composted a couple banana peels, some coffee grounds and an onion skin, but at least it's a start. And hopefully come garden time I'll have some nutrient-rich compost to add to my vegetable garden.

The beginning of my vegetable garden

Speaking of my vegetable garden, I got started on that this weekend too. I planted some tomatoes, peppers, and winter and summer squash in starter containers in the house. I've never started plants from seeds (I've never really done much gardening at all before) and I'm curious to see how it will go. I've been checking my seeds pretty much every few hours to see if any little sprouts have appeared above the dirt. Hopefully that watched-pot concept doesn't apply to plants.

Just in case that wasn't quite enough, I also today arranged with some friends to go in on a community-supported agriculture share, so this summer I should have plenty of fresh vegetables to enjoy. (Even if my garden is a complete flop, which is a very real possibility).

Future tomatoes, peppers and squash

Saturday, April 7, 2012


This recipe is one of the first treats my mom made and sent me after I went gluten free, and it's still one of my favorites.

These bars are gooey with a good flavor (and super easy to make).

My mom found the original recipe on celiac.com. Here's my version:


1/2 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (I used a mix of sorghum, rice and tapioca)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of some combination of chopped dates, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or white chocolate chips (I used 1 cup each of dates and white chips)

Preheat over to 350.

Cream margarine and brown sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until light.

Combine flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. Mix well.

Add the flour mixture to the egg/butter/sugar mixture and blend at low speed.

Stir in dates/nuts/chips.

Spread batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool before cutting into bars.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gluten-free granola

Gluten-free cereal is really expensive. I have a rule that I'll only buy it on sale. Usually I can find it marked-down often enough, that I nearly always have a box around. But lately there have been no sales to be found, so I've been going without cereal.

That's why today I decided to try making my own granola. I used a recipe from Cooking Light that I had made once before for Christmas gifts, but this time I made some pretty substantial changes to it.


2 cups millet
1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chopped slivered almonds 
1 cup coconut
1  tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup pomegranate-cranberry juice (that's what I had in the fridge. The recipe calls for orange juice)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries
Preheat oven to 300.

Combine the first six ingredients (millet through cinnamon) in a large bowl.

In a sauce pan, combine juice, honey, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in oil and almond extract.

Pour the honey mixture over the grain mixture, stirring to coat.

Spread the mixture in a thin layer onto a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 300° for 10 minutes; stir well. Bake another 15 minutes and stir. Repeat this process until the granola turns golden brown. (This may take a while. I got impatient and turned up the oven, which resulted in burnt granola).

Allow granola to cool, then break it into chunks and place in a bowl. Add cherries and mix.

Even though, I burned my granola, I think it's super tasty. This recipe is definitely a keeper, although I'm not sure it's any less expensive than buying full-priced cereal.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry

The other week I had a dinner/movie date with my friend Cassy. Since it was a weeknight, I decided a slow cooker dish was in order, so I wouldn't have to hurry home from work and make dinner.

This chicken curry recipe was a recommendation from my mom out of the "Slow Cooker Revolution" cookbook.

Both dinner, and the movie, "The Muppets," were excellent. (If you haven't seen The Muppets, go rent it. It was brilliant!)


2 onions, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups water
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 chicken breasts
12 ounces plum tomatoes, chopped (I used a can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup frozen peas
Fresh cilantro
lime, cut into wedges

Add oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion, jalapenos, garlic, ginger and curry powder until onions are soft.

Transfer to mixture to slow cooker.

To slow cooker, add chickpeas, water and coconut milk. Stir and nestle the chicken in the mixture.

Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Transfer chicken to a cutting board and shred. Return chicken to cooker. Stir in tomatoes, raisins and peas. Cook about 15 more minutes.

Serve over brown rice or quinoa. Garnish with cilantro and lime.