Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gluten Free Girl Scout Cookies

It's finally here!  A buttery, chocolate chip cookie I can eat with no gluten qualms from my amazing fellow Girl Scouting Community.  After 10 years of personally selling the famous array of American Cookies down the streets of my neighborhood and local grocery stores, this gluten free treat gets my vote for the smartest one they've done yet.  Sure, it's no Thin Mint, but for a GF option, it's quite delicious.  No complaints here.  But be careful, they're super addicting (especially after a stressful day).  And my bag was completely empty by day two...  It's been a long week.

I'm proud to see my Girls take one for the GF team.  Hope this one is here to stay!  Five more bags to my order, please.

For more info, click here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Italian Meat Pie

The Irish know what they're doing when it comes to potatoes.  They've got their Shepherd's Pie down to a T.  And whenever a specific dish is considered a staple for a certain culture or country (like the Irish's famous meat pie), I always think, "Well, why the heck don't the Italian make this?  It's delicious!".  Being an American instead of Italian born, it's too easy for me to constantly question this.  I'm not the kind of girl who just eats pasta and bread everyday.  I need some variety in my life.  Otherwise, I'd be bored to death!  I guess for many other cultures, their very specific cuisine is what they grew up with and all they know.  But being fortunate enough to live in a melting pot community, it's fun to be able to taste somebody else's staple and give it my own cultural twist.  An Italian Twist!

Inspired by the ever so filling Irish Pie, this Italian version is made of spicy sausage, typical Italian veggies and herbs instead.  Reminiscent of the ole "meat and potato" days, this layered one pot wonder has just the amount of Italian flare to let you know that this bellywarming meal may be slightly different than the last meat pie you tasted but is just as scrumptious and satisfying.

Serves about 6

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: about 90 mins

What you'll need:

2 lbs fresh ground spicy sausage (I purchased mine from a local Italian deli)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
2 zucchinis (1/4 inch sliced and halved)
1 small package of sliced button mushrooms
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
pinch crushed red pepper
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 - 1/2 cups red wine
3 tbsp tomato paste

Topping: Mashed Potatoes

3 large russet potatoes (peeled and diced)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 - 1 cup low fat milk (warmed)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
light sprinkle smoked paprika for garnish

In a large fry pan on medium high heat, cook the ground sausage until cooked all the way through and broken up into small pieces (about 15 mins).  While that's going, start your veggies in a different large fry pan on medium heat.  Sauté the onions first in the olive oil (about 10 mins).  Once they're clear, add in the garlic and stir (about 1 min).  You don't want to burn the garlic!  Then toss in the zucchini, mushrooms, herbs, crushed red pepper salt and black pepper (cook for about 15 mins), stirring occasionally.  Pour in the wine and let cook for 5 mins over medium low heat.  Turn down to low and let simmer for another 15 mins.  While simmering, add in the tomato paste.  Pour veggie mixture into the pan of sausage and stir until incorporated.  Distribute meat mixture into 6 individualized baking dishes (at least 2 inches deep) or in a large pie dish. 

Mashed Potatoes: (boil while cooking the veggies)

Boil the potatoes until soft for mashing (about 20 mins).  Drain and mash.  Add in the butter, warmed milk, salt and black pepper.  Cover to keep warm until you're ready to layer on top of the finished meat/veggie mixture.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat and sprinkle the top with the shredded parmesan cheese and smoked paprika.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.  Eat while it's hot!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gluten Free Persimmon Cookies

One of my fondest childhood memories is the huge persimmon tree in the backyard of my parents home.  Whether it was its beautiful Fall leaves that would cover half of the entire yard or the accidental squish on your shoe from stepping in one that had fallen to its dreadful fate, despite how careful we thought we were being!  But our golden retriever was smart and would avoid her bathroom area during persimmon season like the plague to avoid any unnecessary mess.  And one year, we told the neighbor's gardener he could take some and we came back home to a completely stripped tree!!  We asked for a few of his bagfuls back.

It's a funny tree.  For years it would only bloom fruit every other year until this year!  And we have no idea why, but we aren't complaining because this isn't your everyday kind of fruit like an easily accessible apple or pear.  Yes, you can find them in grocery stores when in season (that are perfectly fine to eat and cook with), but they are typically smaller and harder to come by.  So we try to always take advantage of the short few weeks they are ripe and ready to be eaten by the slice or used in bread or cookies.

Gluten free cookies tend to be on the dry side, which is why putting persimmons in your batch make one of the best GF treats.  The entire cup of its pulp that is used in this recipe makes these cookies moist and fluffy!  How often do you hear that about a GF goody?!  And the taste of Fall is prevalent in this dessert with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg that go really well with this apple/tomato like tasting fruit.

What you'll need:

1 cup persimmon pulp
1 stick butter (room temperate)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg (room temperature)
2 1/2 cups GF all purpose flour (I use Trader Joe's)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup walnuts (roughly chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size bowl, beat together the persimmon, butter, sugar and egg.  Then add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg until completely incorporated.  Fold in the walnuts.  An inch apart, drop about a tablespoon of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cook for about 15 mins or until completely cooked through.  Let cool and eat!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Because of Madalene Etsy Shop

Congratulations to Stacey from De Running Mom for winning the Holiday Wreath Giveaway!  I'll be in touch soon.

I've been in the craft mood lately more than cooking.  Can you tell?  I promise to have a tasty Fall treat on here soon!  But maybe it's because it was Madalene's birthday a couple of weeks ago and I've been inspired by the Craft Queen herself to start creating again.  Unfortunately, I never got to see any of her creations, but my mom was lucky enough to wear the clothes Madalene would make especially for her.     I miss those days where crafts were apart of everyday life, whether it was sewing your own wardrobe, making something for the home, etc.  Things were simpler back then.  Nowadays I have to force myself to get home early from work to make something, anything - keep those juices flowin'!  SO, I've been inspired to create my very own Etsy Shop, where I'll be selling these Raffia Wrapped Holiday Wreaths!  

I think the entrance to your home says a lot about you and what's inside, don't you agree?  Dress up your front door this season with one of these homemade wreaths to create that warm, cozy and welcoming feeling that everyone wants for the upcoming Holidays.  Even if you don't get those lights up on the house this year, at least the front porch will say, "Welcome and Happy Holidays".  This decor makes great gifts for that creative mom, aunt, sister or grandma or makes an equally nice treat for your own home.  Come on over and check them out!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Homemade Holiday Wreath Giveaway

Remember last year's Autumn Wreath?  Well this year I've made a Holiday Wreath that will last all season long.  This raffia wreath is inviting, modern and homemade!  The perfect gift for a loved one or for your own door that will make the entrance to your home feel friendly and inviting for the upcoming Holidays.

And guess what?!  I'm giving it away to one lucky winner.

All you have to do is follow one of the below three tasks or all three for more entries:

- "Like" Because of Madalene on Facebook.
- Follow Because of Madalene on Twitter.
- Follow Because of Madalene on Pinterest.

Leave a comment below letting me know what you've liked or followed and provide your email address so I can contact you.

Giveaway ends this Sunday, Nov 10th.  (only accepting US entries)

Good luck!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pumpkin Succulent Garden

And the winner is...

This fun little Halloween project won for the best Pumpkin Carving Contest at work on Thursday!  Sure it only competed against one other beautifully carved one, but I'd like to hope it could have been a real contender if others participated.  Do you remember last year's?  Because there was so much competition a year ago, I felt I had to boost up my game this year, so I went all out!  Ironically, everyone was more interested in winning the free lunch outing for best group costume contest instead.  So the only cash prize being offered for the day was handed to me.  :)

But I loved how my little whimsical Halloween scene came about and it also turned into a fun decor for the home.  And even though Halloween is over, this versatile potting project could also be done for Thanksgiving by using pilgrim figurines or the winter Holidays by using a white cinderella pumpkin and winter scene houses instead.

And because carved pumpkins only last so long, this garden will have to be transported in the next few days.  But if you have a Thanksgiving or Holiday party coming up, this will make a fun conversation piece for the evening.

What you need:

1 large cinderella pumpkin
Halloween scene decor (1 house, figurines)
purple lights with battery pack (found at Michaels craft store)
mini succulents (found at Home Depot)
potting soil
mini stone pebbles (found at Bed Bath and Beyond)

Carve a very large hole out of the top of your pumpkin, large enough to fit your entire scene.  Clean out the inside.  Use a pumpkin sculpting tool to create the brick-like carvings on the outside wall of the pumpkin.  Cut a rectangular piece out of the top part of the pumpkin for an interior wall.  Add some brick-like carvings to this, too.  Insert three toothpicks into the bottom of your interior wall piece and place into the pumpkin.  This will stabilize the wall.  Fill the pumpkin with potting soil and layer in your Halloween scene and succulents.  Cover any exposed dirt with the pebbles.  Once you're finished potting, water the succulents.  Transfer a few days later into something else once the pumpkin starts to wilt.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gluten Free Cannoli Sandwich

I love my Italian people, but they can be old fashioned and stubborn!  For instance, if you tell them you're a vegetarian, they'll probably offer you chicken.  And if you tell them you're gluten free, they'll most likely say, "it's all in your head-ah, don't-ah be ridiculous!".  Visiting my favorite Italian deli is something I look forward to every weekend, but they sure do make shopping for gluten free products frustrating.  The only thing they've given us is pasta.  No cookies, no bread, no pizza, no pastries.  I can't just live off of pasta!  Which has resulted in coming up with my own cannoli "shell".  Because gluten free goods tend to be dryer and more fragile, trying to roll this cookie into a cannoli shell was impossible, so a make it work moment turned this treat into a sandwich instead!  :)

There are two types of cannoli filling - super sweet vs. more savory.  I personally don't care for the super sweet kind but you'll find this type everywhere!  Even in Italy we hunted and hunted for the savory ones and came up empty handed.  Mind you this was before any of us had iphones, so I'm sure we'd be able to track the ones we prefer more easily now.  Maybe it's a southern Italian thing, but I was raised on the enjoyment of still being able to taste the natural creamy flavor of the ricotta cheese filling instead of something that just taste like a gob of frosting.  The shell is sweet enough to counter balance the filling.  And to separate this cannoli from being more of an appetizer, is the sweet tang of orange zest and crunchy mini semi sweet chocolate chips!  Throw a handful of some nutty chopped pistachios and you've got yourself an authentic Italian dessert that's easy on the belly.

What you'll need: filling 10 mins

2 32 oz. tubs low fat ricotta cheese
1 - 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (according to taste)
1 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pistachios (roughly chopped)
zest from one orange

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients with a large spoon.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge while you make the cookies. 

What you'll need: cookies (about 5 dozen, about 30 sandwiches) 1 1/2 hours

1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cubes butter (3/4 cup)
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice 
4 tsp baking powder
4 cups sifted GF all purpose flour (add more if needed) I use Trader Joe's GF mix

Note: This is a big recipe so you can easily half this!  In a large bowl cream the sugar and butter together until evenly incorporated.  Mix in the eggs one at a time.  Add in the vanilla extract, lemon juice and mix.  Sift in the baking powder and flour together gradually.  But don't over mix.  You don't want tough dough.  The end product should feel slightly sticky but not to the point where it's not coming off of your hands.  So add more flour if needed.

Roll the dough into 1 in. balls, cover with plastic wrap so they don't dry out and set aside.  I used an electric pizzelle press instead of my grandma's vintage iron this time.  It's faster and makes two at a time!  Plug in the press, let heat up and begin making the cookies!  Spray the press with vegetable oil each time to prevent any sticking.  Place in the balls and close the press.  Let cook for about 45 seconds or until very lightly golden brown.  The first couple of cookies are testers so you can try to get the right timing for the rest of the batch.  Open the press and remove delicately with a fork.  Let the cookie cool completely on a flat plate.  Continue until all the dough is gone.

These can be delicate so layer in the chilled filling carefully.  And if they break, who cares!  It still tastes delicious and who says a dessert can't be rustic.  :)  Serve immediately.

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